Comparison Cultures In Class Essay Exam



Define the following terms:










Prospective #1: Terrorist groups pervert Islamic faith to promote their violent political goals and should not be considered as “true believers”. Islam is a religion like any other. All religions contain extremists that carry out atrocities, however the majority of the people that follow the Islamic faith are peaceful, tolerant and open minded. To think other wise is Islamophobic.

Prospective #2: More than other religions Islam is radical, violent and intolerant. This is evident in the treatment of women, the LGTBQ community and the terrorist violence committed throughout the world. The true measure of the intolerance in Islam is the views held by the “so called” moderates in many prevalent Islamic communities.



Understanding Islam as a Religion of Peace

Catherine Larsen

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the media inundated the West with information concerning the Middle East. This influx of information was not a new concept, since the West had previously seen nightly news reports on the conflict in Iraq and Kuwait in Desert Storm and had read newspapers filled with stories concerning hostages taken in Libya. However connected to daily life those incidents may have appeared to be, their existence did nothing to arouse Western attention as did the events of September 11. With its limited and misconstrued understanding of the Middle East, the West now had to reform its opinions in an attempt to make peace with, or at the very least know how to defend against future attacks from, the terrorists. The West looked to Islam as the nemesis, the reason for the violence, [1] claiming that the Islamic concept of jihad had somehow been used to justify the deaths of over three thousand people from several countries.

However, in direct opposition to the view of the West, Muslim scholars argue that Islam, when properly understood, encourages peace and that peace was the original intent of the Prophet Muhammad. [2] While it is true that certain Islamic fundamentalist groups may perform their actions in the name of Allah, Islam does not advocate senseless killings and brutal destruction but rather the peaceful coexistence of people of different races and religions. [3]

In her address to the University of World Economy and Diplomacy at Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on April 17, 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright declared:

It is essential to distinguish between people who advocate or commit criminal acts and those who are simply expressing their religious faith. There is no more fundamental right in any democracy than the right of a person to be judged by his or her actions rather than by assumptions about his or her beliefs or heritage or ethnicity. For instance, it would be a terrible mistake for any government to treat peacefully practicing Muslims as enemies of the state. Many Islamic leaders are playing a very constructive role in helping this region adjust to the demands of the new era. [4]
Coming to an understanding of Islam’s approach to peaceful conflict resolution and coexistence enables skeptics of the Middle East to see that any act of terrorism performed in the name of religion is misguided and is strictly political in nature. In general, Muslims may not approve of Western approaches to the Arab-Israeli conflict or to peacekeeping strategies with Iraq, but they do approve of peace and they desire to live in harmony within and outside of their own culture.

Millions of Muslims live peaceably throughout the entire world. The unfortunate reality is that they suffer from a bad reputation commonly accepted because of extremist activities performed in the name of religion: “The action of misguided individuals or a small minority are too often equated with the religion of Islam and obscure the reality of the broader Muslim community.” [5] As a result of this negative attention, Muslims may try to maintain a low profile so as to avoid being identified with this minority. But political events such as oil embargos and assassinations have forced them either to be on the defensive or, occasionally, to denounce their religion. [6] Only in extreme cases would nonfundamentalist Muslims attack the government or the leaders in the name of religion. Their religion does not justify such behavior. Instead, they have endured religious adaptation [7] and adopted their own councils to help make the adjustment from living under Islamic law (Shariah) to living under the laws of the lands. [8]

Viewing Islam from a historical perspective shows that it encourages peace. From the inception of Islam, Muhammad sought to peacefully coexist with Jews, simulating their praying experience in facing Jerusalem. [9] He differentiated between the monotheistic People of the Book (ahl al-kitab) and everyone else. He taught tolerance concerning the People of the Book: “Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians—any who believe in Allah, and the Last Day, and work righteousness—on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [10] Muhammad perceived the People of the Book as being allies of Islam, thereby granting them protection. Some scholars argue that this protection came with special rights and opportunities and that it offered better treatment than that received by religious minorities in Europe for centuries to come. [11] Some scholars, such as Abu’l-A’la Mawdudi (d. 1979), Pakistani founder of the Jama’at-i-Islami, claim that Muslims and non-Muslims essentially shared equally in their duties but that since Muhammad founded the Islamic state upon ideological principles, only those who adhered to those principles received the rights that arose from the state. [12] For example, non-Muslims were not allowed to fight in the military. While this rule may seem on its surface to be exclusionary, it actually proved to be generous because non-Muslims were allowed to pay a tax rather than be required to fight for the cause of Islam—a cause in which they did not believe. [13] While the People of the Book may not have experienced complete equality with Muslims, they enjoyed most civil liberties and peacefully coexisted in the area. [14]


“The problem is that moderates of all faiths are committed to reinterpreting, or ignoring outright, the most dangerous and absurd parts of their scripture—and this commitment is precisely what makes them moderates. But it also requires some degree of intellectual dishonesty, because moderates can’t acknowledge that their moderation comes from outside the faith. The doors leading out of the prison of scriptural literalism simply do not open from the inside. In the twenty-first century, the moderate’s commitment to scientific rationality, human rights, gender equality, and every other modern value—values that, as you say, are potentially universal for human beings—comes from the past thousand years of human progress, much of which was accomplished in spite of religion, not because of it. So when moderates claim to find their modern, ethical commitments within scripture, it looks like an exercise in self-deception. The truth is that most of our modern values are antithetical to the specific teachings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And where we do find these values expressed in our holy books, they are almost never best expressed there. Moderates seem unwilling to grapple with the fact that all scriptures contain an extraordinary amount of stupidity and barbarism that can always be rediscovered and made holy anew by fundamentalists—and there’s no principle of moderation internal to the faith that prevents this. These fundamentalist readings are, almost by definition, more complete and consistent—and, therefore, more honest. The fundamentalist picks up the book and says, “Okay, I’m just going to read every word of this and do my best to understand what God wants from me. I’ll leave my personal biases completely out of it.” Conversely, every moderate seems to believe that his interpretation and selective reading of scripture is more accurate than God’s literal words. Presumably, God could have written these books any way He wanted. And if He wanted them to be understood in the spirit of twenty-first-century secular rationality, He could have left out all those bits about stoning people to death for adultery or witchcraft. It really isn’t hard to write a book that prohibits sexual slavery—you just put in a few lines like “Don’t take sex slaves!” and “When you fight a war and take prisoners, as you inevitably will, don’t rape any of them!” And yet God couldn’t seem to manage it. This is why the approach of a group like the Islamic State holds a certain intellectual appeal (which, admittedly, sounds strange to say) because the most straightforward reading of scripture suggests that Allah advises jihadists to take sex slaves from among the conquered, decapitate their enemies, and so forth.”
Sam Harris, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue


“The great liberal betrayal of this generation is that in the name of liberalism, communal rights have been prioritized over individual autonomy within minority groups. And minorities within minorities really do suffer because of this betrayal. The people I really worry about when we have this conversation are feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, ex-Muslims—all the vulnerable and bullied individuals who are not just stigmatized but in many cases violently assaulted or killed merely for being against the norm.”
Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue


“One of the problems with religion is that it creates in-group loyalty and out-group hostility, even when members of one’s own group are behaving like psychopaths.”
Sam Harris, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue


“We’re currently faced with two entirely different challenges – facing down Islamism and jihadism on the one hand, and advancing human rights and democratic culture on the other.”
Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue