Sunday, September 30, 2012

It Has To Stop

Ever since the release by an American citizen of an anti-Islam film, Muslims around the world have been rioting, targeting American interests in particular. Whether the protests are because of the video or the video is just a pretext for attacks is debatable.

However, it seems that American embassies are not the only things in the cross-hairs. Today in Bangladesh, Muslim protesters burned Buddhist temples and homes after complaining that a Buddhist man had insulted Islam.

This is beginning to get ridiculous. Well, it has always been ridiculous, and I just feel like something needs to be said. The interesting thing is that Islam itself seems to be the main religion most forgiving of blasphemy. According to Leviticus 24:16 of the Christian Bible,
"And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death."
The Bible clearly sets a death penalty for blasphemy; furthermore, it is discussed in multiple places throughout the Bible as being unforgivable:
Mark 3:29 - But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.
Luke 12:10 - And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 
These are just two examples. Judaism has similar teachings; for example, the Leviticus passage is part of the Torah as well. What's more, Israel has current laws punishing blasphemy:
Insult to religion
170. If a person destroys, damages or desecrates a place of worship or any object which is held sacred by a group of persons, with the intention of reviling their religion, or in the knowledge that they are liable to deem that act an insult to their religion, then the one is liable to three years imprisonment.
Injury to religious sentiment

173. If a person does any of the following, then the one is liable to one year imprisonment:
(1) One publishes a publication that is liable to crudely offend the religious faith or sentiment of others;
(2) One voices in a public place and in the hearing of another person any word or sound that is liable to crudely offend the religious faith or sentiment of others.
 Maybe not as extreme as those suggested by Leviticus, but it's definitely nontrivial.

So, you must be thinking: wow, if Christianity and Judaism do that, the Quran must take it to another level. In fact, on the subject of blasphemy, the Quran says...

...wait for it...


That's right, the Quran, the holy book of Islam, says nothing about blasphemy. Furthermore, the hadith, the teachings attributed to the prophet Muhammad, also say nothing on the topic. How can this be? It seems that Muslim jurists created the offense of and punishment for blasphemy, and added it to the Sharia law. Punishment for blasphemy has nothing to do with Islam, and everything to do with the extremists doing everything they can to control the masses. It's easier to control everyone when they are only allowed to think one way.

Unfortunately for many common citizens in the Middle East, this is the only way of life they know. The teaching of the religion is so closely tied into the Sharia construct that it's hard to tell the difference. The radicals in charge are in complete control of the masses; because the "sin" of blasphemy is so ingrained in the everyday Muslim, all the leaders have to do is point to a target to send the masses into a riotous frenzy. The people don't know any better; not only are they used to blasphemy being handled in such a way, but it must go through their mind that if they don't react violently to an offense, will they be seen as sympathetic to it and therefore a blasphemer themselves? And so they riot, and destroy, and kill. It's a vicious cycle that doesn't seem likely to stop anytime soon.

As much as we in America would like to, we can't blame Islam. We can't blame Muslims in general. In fact, the religion of Islam itself is the one thing that can correctly be said to not be a contributing factor to this mess at all. We need to fix the situation in the Middle East, but to do that, we must first understand the situation. We cannot paint all Muslims with a broad brush. The average Muslim is no different from you or I in principle. The line of thought that "all Muslims are terrorists" or "Islam is a hateful religion" only serves to add to the chaos in the world. I write this article so that we can better understand the situation, because without knowledge, we are no better than those we rail against.

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