My friend Kev, with whom I solve the problems of the modern world whilst consuming alcohol, recently advised me to read some of the writings of Andrew Bostom, a conservative author who recently edited the book The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims.
Conservative in nature, prodded by the events of 9/11, he takes the position, quite common these days, that Islam is... well... bad. I think Kev made me read him due to my oversimplification of Kev's position, after our last inebriated discourse, putting words in his mouth that Islam, is, well... bad.
Historically speaking I think the author makes the error of assuming that any war in which Muslims were involved is tantamount to Jihad. That's like calling World War I and II Christian Crusades since the nations that fought them were ostensibly Christian. Wars of conquest that had nothing in particular to do with religion, and more to do with power and greed really don't cut it.
Here's the thing... sure, horrible atrocities have been committed in the name of Islam. I readily grant that. But horrible atrocities have been commited in the name of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and every other -ism you can pick. Fundamentally, any religion, ethos, -ism or philosophy that espouse some form of selection, some form of innate superiority, is prone to abuse.
Because people are, on occasion, amoral, vicious and power-hungry bastards who want to impose their will on others. Religion, philosophy, politics, these are all just excuses to do so.
IMO, all religions tend to be horrible, evil enablers. It's just that now is Islam's time in the spotlight, as it were.
The #1 book cited by most mass-murderers and serial killer? The Bible.
Does that mean the Bible is somehow innately "evil"?
It pains me to admit it, ex-Catholic that I am, but no, it's not. What you choose to emphasize in the Bible determines it's effect on you. And what you choose to emphasize depends on you. It's a vicious cycle of self-reinforcement. But the fault lies not in the religion itself. The religion is just information. How you process that information, what that information means to you determines it's worth.
Religious books of all kinds are such a hodge-podge of conflicting platitudes and ideas that you can find support for any opinion. If you're a Christian you can choose forgiveness and loving your neighbor as yourself or you can stone witches and homosexuals to death while keeping kosher. If you're a Muslim you can strap explosives on you in the name of Jihad or you can instead follow the Koran when it states "There must be no coercion in matters of faith!" (2: 256)and forgo revenge for charity (5: 45) and respect Jews and Christians, the "People of the Book," who worship the same God (29: 46).
Rationalizations, not religion, provide the excuse for violence.
Okay, maybe the rationalization OF religion. I'll grant that. But that's certainly not unique to Islam.
The idea that any particular religion itself is somehow to blame is short-sighted. Ideology of any stripe lends itself to fanaticism and intolerance. Their are millions of people of all faiths who live peaceful, normal lives because their interpretation of that belief-set emphasizes that. But it's the fanaticism and intolerance that's to blame, it's the people who choose that path... The problem isn't religion, the problem is people. Religion is just the excuse.
Now I'm depressed and need a drink.
Hell, you want to "defeat" Islam... carpet bomb them with satellite TV, McDonalds, porn and MTV. That'll do the trick. Or at least relegate religious fanatics preaching austere religious lifestyles to the side, like they've mostly been done in the states...