Pat Robertson recently drew attacks from Muslim groups for calling Muhammad a "wild-eyed fanatic," among other things. Robertson, as usual, states the case in excessively inflammatory terms.

But it must be said that Robertson's basic critique of Islam as an inherently violent religion is accurate. This may not be politically correct to say, but one need only examine evidence. Islam is not only violent in its current practice but at its core--which is to say in its sacred text, the Qur'an.

Remember that Muhammad was a military leader and as such involved personally in a great deal of brutality. In the course of one battle, Muhammad's troops raid a village and kill everyone "until there was no survivor left." [Full citations provided below.] During another battle, Muhammad's troops killed many men but the "prophet" is disturbed that male infants weren't murdered too--and sends the troops back to finish the job.

The early Muslims are shown to be not only brutal but treacherous (a fact worth remembering as we consider peace treaties with Muslim nations). In one battle, the Muhammadans promised peace to a tribe nearby. Then, when the other tribe members were lulled into complacency, Muhammad massacred "all the males." They kept the women as slaves.

The hatred for other faiths that we see in modern Islam has its roots in the Qur'an. The book tells how the Jews of the area had offered peace and Muhammad invited them to a ceremony to declare peace. Instead, Muhammad massacred the 950 of them.

Muhammad even countenances brutality against his own people. When a group in the region reputedly insulted Allah by worshiping an idol, Muhammad led the slaughter of 3,000 people in a single day. When some of his followers strayed by following non-Islamic sex practices, Allah literally directs Muhammad to slaughter another 24,000: "take all the heads of the people and hang them up before Allah against the sun."

Under the Sharia, the Islamic law, even the slightest infractions are punished with brutal violence. Some foods were not cooked according to Halal laws? Two men were immediately executed.

The notion that Allah is a forgiving God is comical. At one point, Muhammad had led his troops to victory and then had his troops mutilate the genitalia of the opponents. He and his allies also set fire to a walled city and then waited for the victims to flee, at which point they were ambushed and slaughtered. Putting aside the historical accuracy of that account, is this really the "God of Peace" that Muslim leaders speak about?

The appalling treatment of women we see in Islamic countries today also has its roots in the Qur'an. When a mob of Muslims is attacking a man, he responds by offering his own daughter to be raped. Allah teaches the Muslims that to in order repopulate a diminished tribe, they should go to a nearby field, wait for the women to come out, and then kidnap, rape and marry them.

This is all very consistent with the basic theology of Islam spelled out in chilling clarity by Muhammed himself: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Finally, if there's any doubt about the fanatical nature of the faith, it should be dispelled with this chilling passage: "Happy shall they be who take your little ones [babies] and dash them against the rock."

If you are skeptical, I urge you to read the passages and citations yourself. It's there in black and white.

Hmmm, I seem to have made a few errors with the attributions. The passages you've just read are not from the Qur'an; they're from the Bible. Where I say Muhammad, I actually meant either Moses, Joshua, David, or another biblical figure. "I have not come to bring peace but a sword" was uttered by Jesus. When I say "Allah," I actually meant God of the Hebrew Bible. And when I refer to Muhammed's troops, I actually meant the Hebrews. There are obviously many other examples of brutality in the Bible (the best summary I've seen is Gregg Easterbrook's "Beside Still Waters").

Forgive my sloppiness, but it seemed useful to make a point, which is not that Christianity or Judaism are inherently violent but rather that the exercise of scanning ancient texts and pulling out passages depicting violence is of dubious value. Men and women of that earlier day were violent, and so was the God of their sacred book.

I am not saying Islam is a "religion of peace." That actually seems as unprovable as saying it is a religion of violence. What matters fundamentally is how the religion is practiced now. Modern Christians and Jews have proven capable of rising above the violence of the Bible and so have many modern Muslims. That doesn't mean they necessarily will in all cases, but if they choose a path of violence it is not because it is embedded in the Qur'an but rather because they, as individuals, are twisted.

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