Philip Jenkins studied violence in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and found that the Bible is ‘far more violent.’
This conclusion is obvious to anyone who seriously studies the two scriptures. The NPR article quotes someone named Bostom who claims that violence in the Bible has a context but in Qur’an is commanded to be ongoing. This is an extremely ignorant comment and completely untrue.
The passages in the Qur’an that command fighting pertain to the early Muslims’ struggle with the militant pagans (kafirun, kuffar) of ancient Mecca. The mercantile Meccan elite dominate lower Red Sea trade and worshipped star goddesses; they determined to wipe out the new religion of Islam as it gathered converts through the 610s and set up as a city-state in Yathrib/ Medina in the 620s CE. As I have pointed out before, a careful study of the word kafir or infidel in the Qur’an will show that it never is used in an unadorned way to refer to non-Muslims in general. It implies paganism, or alliance with paganism, and often has overtones of militant hostility to Muslims and Islam. In contrast, the Christians are called ‘closest in love’ to the Muslims, and the Children of Israel are repeatedly praised. There is a passage referring to those who commit kufr or infidelity from among the people of the book (i.e. Jews and Christians) [2:105]. But this diction demonstrates that the word for infidel does not ordinarily extend to those groups. The ones condemned probably had allied with the pagans who were trying to destroy Islam and kill all Muslims, against whom the Qur’an advises believers to wage defensive war (“kill them wherever you find them” [2:191]– i.e. defend yourself against the fanatic pagans trying to kill you).
There are fundamentalist Muslims who use the word ‘kafir’ to refer to all non-Muslims, but the Qur’an does not support this usage. Anti-Muslim bigots in the US use these simplistic ideas of fundamentalists to condemn Islam and all Muslims.
All you have to do is look at the fate of the conquered Canaanites under Joshua (who were to be wiped out in a biblical genocide) and the fate of the Meccans when the Muslims overcame them (almost none were killed and they went on to flourish in the Islamic empire despite their earlier attempt at mass murder aimed at the prophet and his followers), to see the difference between the two.
Jenkins goes on to caution that Jews and Christians are not more violent than Muslims, despite the differences in scripture.
Actually I figure Europeans polished off a good 70 million people in the 20th century, whereas Muslims probably killed no more than 2 million (mainly in the Iran-Iraq War and Afghanistan, the latter of which a European power provoked). But this vast difference is not because Christian-heritage Europeans are such worse human beings than Muslim Middle Easterners. Rather, Europe industrialized warfare first, and also had the political independence to launch wars.
My experience is, people are people. They’re all equally capable of the same good and evil, across religions and cultures, and how much of each they commit has to do with both their opportunities and their character at any point in history.
The amazing thing is that the West has managed to convince itself that all its wars and killing were someone else’s fault (even though it was mainly elements of the West fighting other elements of the West that produced the charnel houses of the twentieth century).
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