I've had more than one conversation recently in which a sincere and devout Christian has argued that Islam is inherently violent and that Christianity is not. Each has pointed to Koranic verses that advocate violence, and to current events that demonstrate Muslim violence.
This line of argument I find unconvincing: Christian history (Crusades; conquest of the New World, etc.), current events (Rwanda genocide; IRA; Christian-Muslim clashes in Nigeria and Indonesia), and a reading of the Old Testament ("Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones [Babylonian babies] and dashes them against the rock!" Psalm 137:9) can hardly be dismissed with a wave of a hand.
And anyone who is aware of Muslim perceptions of Christians knows how unfortunate this entire argument is. Read, for example, "Muslim Violence, Christian Non-Violence: People in Glass Houses Should Not Throw Words" by Sheila Musaji, editor of the website The American Muslim. Ms. Musaji is hardly a radical. She is, in fact, extremely moderate–if moderation can be so described. Admittedly, her argument is not tight, and there is some confusion of categories, but it is her perceptions of Christians that is crucial to note, and to note that this perception is grounded in a great deal of fact.
Instead of us worrying about Islamic violence, perhaps we should take the log out of our own eye and ask, "Is Christianity inherently violent?" I don't think it is, but I'd have a hard time proving that to a lot of people, especially Muslims.
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