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Flying Hijacked Planes into Glass Houses

A response to the American Muslim article:
Throwing Stones at the Quran from a Glass House


In an article entitled, “Throwing Stones at the Quran from a Glass House”, The American Muslim claims that the verses of violence and war in the Bible can be misread in “exactly the same way as some verses in the Qur’an” (emphasis ours).  In other words, the on-line magazine alleges that, like the Quran, there are Biblical verses with open-ended commands to violence that are not bound by historical context within the passage itself. 

Our first clue that this probably isn’t true is the scarcity of Christian terrorist groups.  Not too many people are losing their heads to fanatics screaming praises to Jesus (or Moses, Buddha or the many Hindu gods either) as they are to shouts of “Allah Akbar!”  That there are so many Islamic terrorist groups composed of fundamentalists (or purists) of the Muslim faith is enough to impress any reasonable person that there is something far more dangerous about Islam. 

Nevertheless, to support their claim, The American Muslim quotes sixteen of the worst passages that the Bible has to offer in the way of violence.  Others are alluded to as well, but delving into these particular verses should be a large enough sample to expose whatever sophistry might be at play.

Their first try is a passage from Deuteronomy that might appear to command present-day believers to take a city by force and slaughter the inhabitants on order from God: 

“When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword. Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you. Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:10-17 - As quoted by The American Muslim

Except for the part about sparing women and children, this sounds similar to a verse from the Qur’an:

And when We would destroy a township We send commandment to its folk who live at ease, and afterward they commit abomination therein, and so the Word (of doom) hath effect for it, and we annihilate it with complete annihilation. (Quran 17:16)

But, in fact, the Biblical passage is not an open-ended command to "kill anything that breathes", but instead, a story of history bound within the text.  Having trouble seeing this?  That’s because the author of The American Muslim piece cleverly left out this part of the passage:

“Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you”

These are the discrete targets referred to in the last part of the quoted text.  The rest of the passage is bound by context as well, given to "Israel" (verse 3) and those "brought out of Egypt" (verse 1).  These would be specific instructions to the ancient Israelites, which is why today's Christians and Jews do not treat these verses as present-day imperatives.

Strategic omission is just one way that Muslim apologists manipulate Biblical passages.  (In this case, The American Muslim editors did not even include an ellipsis in place of the omission, since it may have raised the suspicions of the reader).

The next passage that The American Muslim claims promotes violence is from the apostle Paul, who writes:

“Hymenaeus and Alexander I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”  (1Timothy 1:20)

The violence in the passage is not exactly evident from this reading.  In the context of the previous verse, these two men “suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith,” but there is nothing to indicate that they were physically harmed as a result.  It was the practice of the early Church to excommunicate apostates, and there is every reason to believe that this was the “fate” of these two individuals.  They were expelled from the Church by Paul.  The Christian Church does not advocate killing apostates.

Contrast this with the words of Muhammad:

"Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'" (Bukhari 84:57)

Not much ambiguity there.  Abu Bakr, the first caliph and several other Muslims testified that Muhammad had indeed put Muslim apostates to death.  For this reason, the practice is coded in Islamic law.

The next passage that is supposed to inspire Christians to violence is the recounting of David’s victory against the Philistines:

“This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, Then David ran and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath, and killed him, and cut off his head with it.... And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armor in his tent. And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.”  (1 Samuel 17:46 - As Quoted by The American Muslim)

This is actually parts of verse 46 through 54.  We won’t waste much time here, because it is apparent that this is a recounting of an historical event.  The omitted passages from within the text make it even more obvious.  

Compare this to the word of Allah in the Quran:

“I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.”  (Quran 8:12) 

There is no historical context to mitigate this Qur’anic exhortation either in the verse or in those that surround it.  (The American Muslim actually makes a monumental effort to bring historical context to the verse from sources external to the Qur’an in this article, which contains several inaccuracies regarding the timing of the “revelation” of the verse, the justification for attacking caravans, and the fate of hostages taken in battle, some of whom were actually put to death).

The next five passages quoted by The American Muslim, in trying to make the case that the Bible can be used to command violence, all suffer from the same problems as above:

“Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.”... And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim; but when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, saying, I will not put you to death with the sword.’ Now therefore hold him not guiltless, for you are a wise man; you will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.”  (2 Samuel 16:9, 1 Kings 2:8)

“ When they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him. They took his head, and went by the way of the Arabah all night, and brought the head of Ishbosheth to David at Hebron. And they said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.”  (2 Samuel 4:7)

"That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David; give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab." (2 Samuel 20:21)

"at Jezreel by this time tommorrow...And when the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons, and slew them, seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent them to him at Jezreel. When the messenger came and told him, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons,” he said, “Lay them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.”. (2 Kings Chapter 10 verse 6) “God has now fulfilled the prophecy of the prophet Elijah. So Jehu put to death all who were left of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, as well as all of his close friends and priests, until he had left not one single survivor.” (2 Kings Chapter 10 verse 10) “He put to death all of Ahab’s house, who were left there and so blotted it out, in fulfillment of the word which YAHWEH had spoken to Elijah." (2 Kings Chapter 10 verse 7)

"When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you. And when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them." (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

No doubt this was not the best of times for Shimei, Ishbosheth, Sheba or Ahab, but they obviously aren’t around anymore to complain.  Same with the tribes mentioned in the passage from Deuteronomy.  This is history, of course, not some open-ended instruction like:

“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are ruthless to the Unbelievers, but merciful to each other.” (Quran 48:29)

At this point, The American Muslim pulls two verses out of the New Testament Gospels.  The first is quoted as if they are the words of Jesus:

"I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence."(Luke 19:26-27)

But, in fact, this is the tail end of a parable being told by Jesus.  The words actually belong to one of the characters in his story. 

Again, contrast this with the actual words of Muhammad:

[Allah's Apostle said] "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him." (Bukhari 52:256)

We don’t have to play the same games here that The American Muslim does to try and convince Christians that they should kill based on the words of a parable.  Not only are these Muhammad’s own words, but there are many Muslims at this very moment who are trying to kill Jews in Israel.  Their religious leaders quote this passage to inspire them.

Moving along to the second New Testament verse that supposedly advocates violence:

"Do not think that I have come to send peace on earth. I did not come to send peace, but a sword. I am sent to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Matthew 10:34-35)

Though not quoted in the article, the passage actually goes on to say, “Your enemies will be the members of your own household.  Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. “

Obviously, Jesus is speaking of the impending hardships that will be suffered by Christians (ironically, the worst abusers eventually turned out to be Muslims).  Even Pope Urban, in his call for the Crusades, never quoted this passage, as it is obvious that the “sword” is a metaphor for the persecution against believers, not an admonition for them to take up arms. 

If Jesus were speaking literally, then he would have produced the sword of which he was speaking.  In fact, the only time one of his followers produced a sword in his presence (to defend him), Jesus issued a harsh rebuke against immediate and general violence.  In keeping with his pacifist teachings, none of his disciples formed an armed militia of any sort despite tremendous persecution.  There were no armies claiming to be “Christian” for many centuries - and well after the church structure had been co-opted by the government, in contradiction to what Jesus taught.

By contrast, Muhammad was a military leader who killed people in battle, executed captives and enslaved women and children.  When he said that “Jihad in the way of Allah elevates the position of a man in paradise” (Sahih Muslim 20:4645), his followers knew what he meant.  They engaged in warfare following his death, which continues to this day.

The American Muslim then moves back to the Old Testament:

“I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.” (Exodus 23:27)

Is this an open-ended imperative for present-day Christians and Jews?  Hardly.  Here’s the next verse:

“I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way”

Again, not a good time to be a Hivate, Hittite, or a Canaanite… but who is these days? 

By contrast, the Qur’an speaks ill of Christians, Jews, “unbelievers” and “pagans,” and commands its readers to “slay the infidel wherever ye find him.”   The historical context of the verse is apparently not all that conspicuous, judging by the fact that so many Muslims are trying so hard to kill these people in the name of Allah.

The American Muslim tries again:

And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.  At God’s instructions, the Israelites “utterly destroyed the men, women, and the little ones” leaving “none to remain.”  And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain. (Deuteronomy 2:33-36)

At this point, you can probably guess that there is something being left out.  If you look at the original passage, you’ll find that it refers to the Battle of Jahaz and even says “at that time” (emphasizing that this is history - not edict).

Next is this passage from Joshua:

Joshua said to the people of Israel, “The Lord has given you the city of the all silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: They shall come into the treasury of the Lord.  The people utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. (Joshua 6:21-23 as Quoted by the American Muslim)

The manipulation of the original passage is so extensive that the verse is barely recognizable.  The author employs both omission and juxtaposition to try and emphasize that the city in question was destroyed.  In fact, the original does say that not everyone within the city was killed.  Even so, this is still a violent passage… but it is not open-ended instruction. 

The city in question was Jericho, and the verses tell of the battle between the ancient Israelites and the inhabitants therein - and the subsequent massacre.  It is obviously a historical passage, and it no more inspires violence than reading an account of the Japanese slaughter of the people of Nanjing in 1937.

The American Muslim then pulls a verse from the Old Testament that it says can be interpreted to mean that apostates should be stoned:

"And he should go and worship other gods and bow down to them or to the sun or the moon or all the army of the heavens, ...and you must stone such one with stones and such one must die." (Deuteronomy 17:3-5, as quoted by the American Muslim)

What does the ellipsis leave out, you may be wondering?  Well, it turns out that this was yet another specific command handed down to a specific people at a specific time:

“If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the LORD gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars in the sky, and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death” (Actual text)

No Christian in their right mind would kill someone for worshipping a different god based on this passage.  While it's true that Christian apostates have been killed in sporadic and rare historical incidents, it was not the example of Jesus, nor is it a part of Christian teaching.

As we have already pointed out, however, Islam’s most reliable Hadith mandates the execution of apostates from Islam.  It is firmly established in Islamic law, since it is the example set forth by Muhammad himself.

The American Muslim then submits a rare New Testament verse as proof that Christians can interpret the Bible as a command to murder in the way that Jihadis wage holy war:

"Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:20-32, as quoted by the American Muslim)

It is unclear why the author cites verses 20-32 but quotes only the last verse.  The full text of the passage actually contains a rebuke against killing and it assigns judgment to God alone.  The next verses in sequence confirm this:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere human, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?” (Romans 2:1)

God is the judge, and not man, according to the context of this passage.  How anyone is supposed to interpret this to mean exactly the opposite - that they should kill another human being - is a leap of logic that escapes this writer (and generations of Christians as well, apparently).

Muhammad’s own words, however, contain no such cryptic message:

“Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” (Quran 2:216)

Now, at last, The American Muslim pulls out the grand finale – the famous passage from Numbers that is quoted so enthusiastically by the detractors of Western religion:

"Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:17-18)

From the way this is quoted, it sounds as if God is telling today's Bible-thumpers to kill every man within reach and enslave their women and children.  What a horrible world this would be if Christians took this fragment literally and killed the nearest person.

So why aren’t the Jews and Christians of today doing this?

Well, it's most likely because there aren't any Midianites around, since that was the unfortunate tribe on which this vengeance is specifically commanded - as is obvious from the surrounding verses.  Again, this is a historical narration that clearly refers to an obscure tribe, unlike many of the open-ended passages of violence against unbelievers,  “idolaters,” polytheists, Jews and Christians found in the Qur’an (verse 9:29 tells Muslims to fight and subjugate non-Muslims simply on the basis of their disbelief)

Contemporary Islamic apologists, such as the author of this American Muslim piece, apparently borrowed the research of secular critics of Christianity, who use passages such as these to make dark insinuations about the character of the god of the Bible and thus bolster their rejection of all religion. 

This certainly makes for some strange bedfellows, given that most atheists would concur that the god of Muhammad is far more violent than the god of the New Testament.  (Those who may not agree are free to travel to a Muslim country and see how publicly denying Allah there compares to Christian "intolerance" at home, but they may want to make out a will beforehand).

We’ll leave it to the theologians to respond, since the character of God and the nature of progressive revelation falls outside the scope of this discussion.  Our only interest here is in the argument that Muslims are trying to make by citing such passages.

Since Muslims do not argue the point that Muhammad commanded the slaughter and enslavement of others at various times in his last ten years (a practice that his followers faithfully apply, even to this very day), their logic here is quite tenuous.  At best, these apologists appear to be trying to bring other religions - particularly Christianity - down to the level of Islam.

What makes this noteworthy is that Christians and others do not act as if they need to bring Islam down to their religion of choice.  The reason is that no other religion regularly kills members of every other faith explicitly in the name its god.  And, on the rare occasions when this does happen, the response is anger and denouncement rather than the general indifference that Muslims have for Islamic terror (aside from the 15% or so who openly endorse it).

Islamic terrorists wage holy war on a daily basis because it is the literal command of the Qur’an.  Western Muslim apologists (concerned solely with the image of Islam) window-dress these violent passages through a complex series of appeals to a patchwork of external Muslim sources.  Then, after delicately arranging the products of this Herculean charade in such a way as to convince the rest of us that these Qur’anic verses of violence are not what they appear, the apologist steps back, wipes the sweat from his brow and says, “See how clear it is?  No Muslim could possibly interpret this command to kill as a command to kill.”

Well, why are these verses in the Qur’an at all, then?  If they are supposed to be history, then why do they appear as imperative?  Why isn’t the context right there in the text as it is in the Old Testament?

After all, this is supposed to be Allah’s perfect book.  How is it that it is so vulnerable to the worst sort of "misinterpretation"?

Lacking a decent answer to these questions, Muslims attack the Bible instead.



See also:
Comparing Islam and Christianity, Muhammad and Jesus

Also: The Political Violence of the Bible and the Koran by Bill Warner in the American Thinker.  This article points out that about 67% of the Sira is devoted to Jihad.  The Islamic trilogy (the Quran, Hadith and Sira) contain 9.6 times as much violence as the Hebrew Bible (there New Testament has none). 

The difference, as we point out in this article is not just quantitative, but one of quality as well.  As Warner puts it:  "The political violence of the Koran is eternal and universal. The political violence of the Bible was for that particular historical time and place. This is the vast difference between Islam and other ideologies. The violence remains a constant threat to all non-Islamic cultures, now and into the future."

 

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