By Danusha V. Goska
of the most important tools humanity needs right now is frank speech
about Islam. Unfortunately, in journalism, on campuses, and in politics,
politically-correct speech codes demonize any analysis of Islam as
"Islamophobia." Speech taboos are obeyed across a wide spectrum. In
September, 2001, after the 9-11 attacks, President George Bush stated,
"Islam is peace." In 2007, his fellow officers declined to take
effective action against U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, even after he
exhibited to them a PowerPoint presentation that cited the Koran to
predict and support his subsequent, 2009 shooting of soldiers at Fort
Hood. As the Christian Science Monitor put it, the Army may
have chosen to "ignore red flags out of political correctness."
Hollywood is also wary. The 2014 Liam Neeson film Non-Stop depicts
an attempt to hijack an airplane. A Muslim is suspected. In fact he is
kindly. The real villain is a 9-11 family member and a member of the
avoidance of analysis of Islam contrasts sharply with the excoriation
accorded Christianity, Israel, and Western Civilization. The Catholic
Church sex abuse crisis has received saturation coverage. Distinguished
history professor Philip Jenkins, in a book published by Oxford
University Press, claims that media coverage distorts the crisis and
contributes to anti-Catholic bigotry. Israel's very right to exist is
questioned and, in high profile media, at times denied. Western
Civilization is depicted as imperialist, racist, and Orientalist. This
politically-correct selective outrage that lambastes the Judeo-Christian
tradition and Western Civilization while emphasizing positive images of
Muslims only serves further to inoculate Islam from critique.
outrage does not stand alone. Politically-correct speech codes
consistently deploy three more tactics: cultural relativism, postmodern
denial of objective definitions of terms, and the threat of mass
first tactic used to suppress speech about Islam, cultural relativism,
has an honorable history. One hundred years ago, scientific racism
dominated American elite thought. Inspired by Charles Darwin, American
scientific racists like Madison Grant applied a hierarchy to human
beings. Some cultures, those of hunter gatherers and peasants, were low
and worthless; others were high and to be valued. Educated, atheist
Anglo-Saxon males occupied the top of the human pyramid of value.
the Father of American Anthropology, became a professor at Columbia
University in 1896. Spurred by his own experience of anti-Semitism, Boas
was determined to overturn scientific racism. Boas argued for the worth
of all cultures.
head-to-head confrontation between scientific racist Madison Grant and
cultural relativist Franz Boas had high impact. Adolf Hitler declared
that Grant's 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race, was his
"bible." Franz Boas died of a heart attack while speaking against
Nazism. Today all American schoolchildren, whether they have heard of
Franz Boas or not, are indoctrinated to repeat that to so much as
question whether any aspect of American culture might be superior to any
aspect of a Non-Western culture is racist and taboo. Even brilliant
ideas from great men rot when they pass from the vivifying circulation
of vigorous debate into the cloying closet of unquestioned dogma.
realities do mark Islam as different from other religions. Among the
five major world faiths, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and
Islam, Islam is unique in its doctrine of jihad, stated clearly in this
hadith, attributed to Mohammed: "I have been ordered to fight against
the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped
but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle, and offer the prayers
perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then
they save their lives and property from me." This hadith is echoed by
over a hundred jihad verses in the Koran, a book that is a fraction of
the size of the Bible.
is established not only in Islamic texts. It is exemplified by action.
Mohammed ordered at least forty-three assassinations and participated in
at least one hundred militarized expeditions. Mohammed is the "perfect
example worthy of emulation."
spread by war, warfare that began in Mohammed's lifetime, and that has
continued in the Muslim world, without significant relief, for 1,400
years. Mohammed died in 632. Muslims reached the Indian Subcontinent by
664 and Spain by 711. Islam's expansion was stopped only at the Battle
of Vienna, September 12, 1683.
the first Jew, was a nomadic herder. Abraham made no converts through
war. Conquests of Old Testament warriors like Joshua at Jericho were
time- and place-specific. Jews' command to conquer was limited to the
land of Israel. The God of the Bible never ordered Jews to war on all
humanity and conquer the entire earth, and Jews never tried. Judaism has
a significant tradition of not seeking converts. Though Judaism rivals
Hinduism as the world's oldest faith, it is the smallest of the top
five. Approximately .02 percent of the world's population is Jewish.
Buddha, founder of Buddhism, was a celibate, nonviolent monk, meditator, and teacher. Buddha made no converts through war.
founder of Christianity, was a teacher and healer. Jesus made no
converts through war. Christianity was outlawed for its first three
hundred years; early Christians were subject to public torture at the
hands of the all-powerful Roman Empire. Christianity's greatest spread
was and continues to be thanks not to the sword, but to the word.
has no historical founder. Its most popular deity is Shiva, a god of
meditation, cannabis use, and tantric sex. Hinduism's indifference to
proselytizing is reflected on world maps. Hinduism is largely limited to
the Indian Subcontinent where it was born.
speech code enforcers, using cultural relativism, insist that violent
acts of jihad committed by Muslims are comparable to a predictable
series of crimes that demonstrate that Christians are just like Muslims,
and that Christianity is just like Islam. Christianity's crimes include
the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and witch trials. One might
hear, "Oh, sure, some Muslims are violent, but look at Catholics. They
murdered millions in the Inquisition. As times goes on, Muslims will
evolve to become peaceful, just as Catholics have evolved."
The charge that the Inquisition is just like jihad is fallacious for the following reasons.
while jihadis kill in obedience to Islamic scripture, the Spanish
Inquisition occurred in defiance of Christian scripture, which does not
counsel violence or forced conversion. A time-and-geography-specific
historical series of traumas conspired to bring about the
Inquisition. Spain had been invaded in 711 by Tariq ibn Ziyad, who, in a
famous speech, promised his Muslim warriors Christian riches to loot
and Christian women to rape. The indigenous people of the Iberian
Peninsula fought back. This is called the Reconquista. Fighting lasted
for seven hundred years, until 1492. Jewish converts to Catholicism were
doing relatively well in the newly unified, post-Reconquista Spain.
Ethnically Spanish Catholics were envious. The Spanish Inquisition was
instituted in 1478. It was a xenophobic manifestation of a land that had
been at war for seven hundred years over identity issues. Given human
nature, the Inquisition's psychological, economic and political roots
are all too understandable.
the Inquisition's limitation in space and time to jihad, which is
temporally and geographically coterminous with Islam. Wherever and
whenever Islam has existed, it has been accompanied by the violence of
jihad. Jihad is not a response to historical traumas. Economically and
socially comfortable people have left placid lives in order to wage
jihad. A prominent example is the multimillionaire, Osama bin Laden, who
left the swank life of a construction magnate's heir in order to live
in caves, eat swill, and pursue death.
those making their case through cultural relativism often say things
like, "A long time ago, Christians were violent, but they evolved; with
time, Islam will evolve, too." In fact, the Inquisition was condemned by
Christians not because time had passed and they had evolved; it was
condemned at the time it was happening, and it was condemned because it
defied Christian scripture.
April 18, 1482, a critic of the Spanish Inquisition wrote, "In Aragon,
Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been
moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust
for wealth." This critic was Pope Sixtus IV.
Pope Innocent VIII also criticized the Inquisition.
Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536),
a Catholic priest, criticized the Inquisition. Estimates are that in
some years between one fifth and one tenth of all books sold in Oxford,
London, and Paris were by Erasmus; he was no lone voice crying in the
wilderness. Regular clergy also criticized the Inquisition.
didn't just verbally condemn the Inquisition. They offered refuge.
Catholic Poland actively invited Jews to settle in Poland, and protected
their rights in the 1264 Statute of Kalisz. These sentiments were
restated in the 1573 Warsaw Confederation. Medieval Poland was
internationally dubbed "paradisus Iudaeorum" or the paradise of the
And, of course, Catholics continue to apologize for the Inquisition, including Pope John Paul II's 2000 apology.
voice of the Christian conscience in opposition to the Inquisition is
reflective of a wider trend. Throughout the centuries, Christianity
produced its own best critics, including famous examples like
St. Francis, Teresa of Avila, Bartolomé de las Casas, and Dorothy Day.
searches in vain for equally unambiguous condemnations of jihad from
Muslims. Rather, one finds an opposite trend. Muslim Turkey, for
example, belligerently denies that its 1915 genocide of Armenian
Christians ever took place. Turkey arrested and convicted one of its
most celebrated sons, Nobel-Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk,
for briefly alluding to the Armenian Genocide during an interview with a
Swiss newspaper. Turks have burned Pamuk's books and attempted to
Muslims have critiqued other Muslims, it has often been to chastise
them for not killing enough infidels. When the 8th-century Arab general
Muhammad bin-Qasim defeated his opponents on the Indian subcontinent
with craftiness, his superior, Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef, demanded that Qasim
commit more massacres. In his next action, Qasim was sure to massacre
are many examples in Islamic history of relatively tolerant Muslims
being replaced by more draconian ones. In Medieval Spain, the more
orthodox Almoravid Dynasty replaced previous more tolerant rulers, and,
in turn, it was replaced by the Almohads, an even more fundamentalist
Islamic dynasty. In Medieval Baghdad, the more liberal Mu'tazilis, who
emphasized reason and argued that the Koran was created, were denounced
and defeated by more strict Muslims. In modern Iran the more
conservative Ayatollahs replaced the Shah. Today the more extreme ISIS
is eclipsing Al-Qaeda, whom they assessed as too moderate. The hope that
time will temper Islam lacks supportive evidence.
as Christians are driven out of their homes in Muslim countries, no
Muslim country steps forward to invite refugee Christians to live, and
no Muslim country offers Christians complete freedom of religion.
third problem with the culturally-relativist argument that "Jihad is
just like the Inquisition" is this. Modern scholars agree that the
Inquisition's evils have been exaggerated for propaganda reasons,
beginning with Catholic Spain's rival, Protestant England. This
continues; one website cites ninety-five million victims killed in the
Inquisition. In fact, between three thousand and five thousand victims
were executed, and they were executed by the state, not the church.
brief analysis shows why the cultural relativists' insistence on
comparing the problem of jihad to the Inquisition is not valid. A brief
essay cannot adequately address the fallacious, politically-correct,
cultural relativist insistence that the Crusades and the witch trials
are comparable to jihad, but the reader is advised to examine these
claims with care. Rodney Stark's excellent, brief, and readable God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades shows
that the Crusades were undertaken, not as PC would have it, to convert
Muslims to Christianity by force, but rather to protect Christians in
the Holy Land. Lyndal Roper's Witch Craze is
one of several recent, revolutionary books that demonstrates that just
about everything PC says about witch burning is wrong.
any case, the above-listed paradigm applies. Christian scripture does
not encourage killing people for the faith. Outbreaks of violence by and
among Christians are most easily attributed to the kind of trauma that
might cause any population to go to war, like the seven hundred years of
identity-fueled war that preceded the Inquisition in Spain, or the
social chaos caused by the Reformation, and the crop failures caused by
the Little Ice Age that contributed to the witch craze. Christians in
the past who lived contemporaneously with these violent outbreaks,
including pontiffs, decried violence as a means to advance religious
ends, and Christian individuals and nations not directly involved in
conflicts attempted to rectify conditions to the extent that they were
able to do so. None of these points apply to jihad. Jihad is coterminous
with Islam, it is approved of, not condemned by, devout Muslims, and
Muslim nations have no significant tradition of aiding the victims of
jihad. Muslim reformers have agitated for a more draconian and violent
interpretation of Islam.
second tactic politically-correct speech code enforcers use to prevent
analysis of Islam is the postmodern rejection of definitions of terms
based on objective reality. The postmodern approach to definition might
best be summed up as "words mean whatever I say they mean." Thus, PC
spokespeople focus on model Muslims who insist that "jihad" means "inner
struggle." They argue that one can interpret the Koran's numerous calls
to violent jihad as referring only to Mohammed's lifetime, and having
no application today. Imam Jihad Turk took this approach on March 15,
2012 at the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance. "I am instructed in the
truth of my religion from people who are not Muslim," Turk protested. I
am a Muslim, his argument ran. If I say Islam is peaceful and tolerant,
then that is what it is.
problem with this approach is that there is such a thing as objective
reality. How can one know the essence, the objective reality, of a
The following criteria might be used to assess the essence of any religion:
What does the critical mass -- not exceptional passages, but
numerically representational ones -- of canonical scripture and
interpretation say? What does the critical mass of practice based on
that scripture look like?
is an example of numerical representationally in texts as reflected in
behavior. Superstar Christian pastors Rick Warren, Tony Campolo, and Jim
Wallis have repeatedly stated that over two thousand Biblical verses
counsel care for the poor; they cite this statistic when spearheading
charities that care for the poor all over the world. Christians and Jews
are exceptional in the energy and resources they devote to care for the
poor. Catholics invented modern hospitals, and the Catholic Church is
the single largest nongovernmental provider of health care services in
the world. Statistics show that American Protestants, Catholics, and
Jews donate significantly more to charity than non-believers, or other
Koran's plethora of jihad verses has already been mentioned. The Koran
also frequently mentions Hell. There is a threat of hell in every 7.9
verses; contrast this with the New Testament, where Hell is mentioned
once for every 774 verses. It is not surprising that a violent text
inspires violent behavior.
2) Difficult passages occur in every document. Is there a mechanism for interpretation?
Cultural Relativists insist that the Koran is just like the Bible. Muslims can interpret the Koran to be a peaceful book.
fact, though, the Koran is not comparable to the Bible. The Koran is
perfect. It is in Arabic, only in Arabic, never to be translated. The
Koran is uncreated. It has existed for eternity. In his article, "The
Uncreatedness of the Quran and the Unity of Allah," Sam Shamoun writes
that merely suggesting that the Koran was created could earn the death
penalty. Scholar Christoph Luxenberg has adopted his pseudonym and lives
in hiding because he wrote a book suggesting that the Koran may have
been first written, not in Arabic, but in the Syro-Aramaic dialect. That
scholarly, linguistic observation was enough to earn him credible death
threats. The belief in the near divine nature of the Koran, and the
threats against anyone who studies it, leave little room for
3) What are the facts on the ground?
correct cultural relativists insist that Islamic gender apartheid is
not significantly different from misogyny in the West. They attempt to
make this point by referring to Christians in the West as "Taliban." For
example, Hobby Lobby, an American chain store that sells arts and
crafts material, has chosen not to cover abortifacients in the health
coverage it provides employees. Opponents call Hobby Lobby the
"Christian Taliban." Books like Michelle Goldberg's 2007 Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and Chris Hedges' 2008 American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America describe
American Christians as genocidal monsters hiding behind the innocuous,
welcoming smiles of megachurch potlucks. In her book, Goldberg reports
keeping her passport handy and her bags packed in case she needs to flee
the United States at any moment.
facts on the ground speak for themselves. Muslim countries are "high
sex ratio" countries. They have more males than females. Females face of
a gauntlet of survival-threatening customs, including sex selective
abortion of female fetuses, the denial of health care to females, child
marriage, subsequent early pregnancy, and honor killing. In
Judeo-Christian countries, females tend to survive longer than males.
on the ground, including sex ratios, female literacy rates, wealth
distribution, publication of scholarly articles, degrees granted,
holding of office and other indicators, give the lie to the cultural
relativist insistence that there is no difference between misogyny in
the West and in Islam.
short, the postmodern refusal to define Islam according to objective
criteria does not withstand analysis. If you stand in front of a moving
train, you will be smashed, no matter how you interpret that train, or
how invincible you tell yourself you are. There are multiple objective
criteria that demonstrate Islam's differences from the world's other
five top faiths. Statistics on gender are just one such objective
final politically-correct roadblock to analysis of Islam is the
paranoid, fear-mongering threat that analysis of Islam will immediately
spark mass hysteria, lynchings and pogroms. For this threat to gain
traction, it must be accompanied by a conviction that Americans are a
mob of frothing-at-the-mouth, knuckle-dragging troglodytes. Only
anti-American bigots believe this. Americans are to be commended for
significantly not scapegoating Muslims after 9-11.
Prize winner Marie Sklodowska Curie said, "Nothing in life is to be
feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more,
so that we may fear less." She is correct.
journalists, and media personalities are wordsmiths. While others work
with their hands, their eyes, and their endurance, wordsmiths' job is to
use words to clarify issues, to comfort the afflicted, to expand minds,
and to find solutions. The world needs wordsmiths right now. Their
articulate analysis of Islam will comfort and enlighten, not inflame,
when talking heads state simple truths, "Most Muslims are not jihadis.
Most Muslims are peaceful. Most Muslims are just like you and I and most
Muslims should not be the targets of our rage," many otherwise good
people, rendered cynical, dismiss these words.
speech is the best friend Muslims have. In the current environment,
unspoken suspicions rankle and conspiracy theories proliferate. We must
protect innocent Muslims from rancor, every bit as much as we must
protect innocent people of all faiths. The best way to protect the vast
majority of Muslims who are innocent and who just want to live their
lives in peace is to tell the truth about Islam, and to publicly,
verbally, fearlessly, and communally hash out solutions to the
challenges Islam presents.