Even before the whole terrorism thing, Islam had a reputation in the West for violence. Part of it has to do with how abruptly Islam was all up in everyone's face. For instance, while Hinduism took about 1,000 years to spread through India, and Christianity took about 400 years to go from persecuted cult to the state religion of the Roman Empire, Islam went from one guy's epiphany to the dominant political and religious force in the Middle East and North Africa in about 100 years.
So a lot of people have reached the conclusion that the religion spread like holy wildfire for one reason: the sword. The next logical leap from this viewpoint is that as a people, Muslims must be violent and barbaric conquerors. Even before 9/11, you saw this portrayal in popular culture all the time:
Muhammad laid out some pretty progressive rules of warfare, and medieval Muslims out-niced the Christians in battle by a landslide. Especially since Muhammad personally issued "a distinct code of conduct among Islamic warriors" that included:
And no kicking with cleats on, Jeremy.
In short, Muhammad wanted his armies to fight like freaking hippies. During the fucking Dark Ages. And they did.
But the biggest territorial gains were made after Muhammad's death, right? Maybe that was when Islam earned its bloodthirsty reputation? Not exactly. His successor codified the existing rules and made them the standard for his army. Which probably explains why the Muslim army conquering Europe "exhibited a degree of toleration which puts many Christian nations to shame," in the words of one expert.
Plus, they built all sorts of nifty buildings.
So while Christian crusaders were beheading enemies and tossing their heads like oversized hacky sacks, their Muslim counterparts had a whole honor code that led them to feed the armies of their defeated enemies.
There are really three big negative stereotypes about Islam -- that it hates women, that it's violent and that it hates any kind of scientific progress. We've covered the first two already, but how can you argue against the third? Their governments are based on ancient religious texts! And what diseases has Iran cured?
You guys could at least take out herpes or something.
In the same way that not all Christians are Young Earth Creationists, plenty of modern Muslims see room for interpretation in the Quran. In fact, 45 percent of American Muslims in one poll said they see evolution as "the best explanation for the origin of human life on Earth," which isn't so shabby, considering only 24 percent of evangelical Christians believed the same. The percentage of Muslims embracing the scientific explanation for the origin of life was about the same as Americans as a whole (48 percent).
If they only knew how to communicate their views like we do ...
And historically, they have a hell of a track record. Science and math as we know it wouldn't even exist without Islam. The Islamic Golden Age caused a revolution in virtually every field of human thought, during which they fucking invented algebra -- and advanced everything from geography and exploration to the arts, architecture, philosophy, urban development, medicine and health.
The Muslims actually came pretty damn close to sharing all this brilliance with the truly ass-backward kingdoms of Christian Europe, since the Islamic caliphates blanketed every country they conquered with schools, libraries, public works and the most comprehensive system of social welfare on the planet. In fact, the case has been made that if the caliphates succeeded in conquering all of Europe an Italian Renaissance would have been unnecessary.
It would have saved us all a lot of dong-staring, too.
So, there's that.
All right. Now we look forward to a completely civil and logical group of article comments.
For an astute analysis of all the arguments you're about to read in the comment section, check out 10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (And Must) Agree On.
And stop by Linkstorm because spending as much time on the Internet is totally healthy for you.
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