Friday, April 22, 2011

Islam vs Christianity: A Travelog

More than periodically we are confronted with the claim that Islam is a violent religion. Two issues seem to drive this response: violent jihad and honor killings (or other forms of "justice"). I have had to confront this in my own Sunday school class.

My first thought is always that honor killings, at least, are not a part of Islamic culture but are a hang over from the tribal culture in some areas where Islam predominates. I strongly suspect that violent interpretations of Jihad can be traced to the similar sources. This is not to deny that Muslim writings do not contain verses that can be used to support of atrocities. They may even be more common than in Christian writings. However, there are enough calls to stoning or polygamy in the Christian scriptures that the fact we manage to ignore them indicates that human kind is not in thrall to Law. We pick and chose. Which parts of the Quran are ignored in Indonesia or Nigeria?

Given that Islam grew and evolved within certain cultural milieu, how has Christianity's historical path affected its current "culture"? Was there a specific difference between spreading through the cultures of 7th/8th C North Africa, Middle East and Asia Minor versus spreading in 1st-4th C Roman Empire? A difference between conquering local populations versus "co-opting" the Imperial machinery?

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