Closer to the truth, but still sanitised

John Stackhouse

John Stackhouse

The Australian has the courage to publish an article by John Stackhouse which explores some uncomfortable truths about Islam, and which will therefore no doubt be labelled ‘Islamophobic’ before too long.

Whilst there are some very good points, there is also some unfortunate sanitising of the worst bits:

First, Islam is indeed a religion of peace, but in a crucially qualified sense. The root word of both “Islam” and “Muslim” is “s-l-m”, which is also the root for “salaam” or “peace” — but it most basically means “submission” (to God).

So peace will be achieved by the rule of God extending over the world. It is the peace of a single ideology and a single regime, the peace of an empire united around one God and one faith. That global peace has not arisen yet, because the world is still divided into two realms: dar al-Islam, where people live in submission to God, and dar al-Harb, the abode of war, where non-Muslims do not yet submit to the beneficent reign of Allah. Once Islam triumphs over the whole world, humanity will have global peace.

Second, Islam’s scriptures forbid forcible conversion. “There must be no compulsion in religion,” says the Koran. Unbelievers are always given a choice: exile or conversion.

The author regrettably omits the third option, and the one most often forced on infidels by groups like IS or Boko Haram, death.

(Christians and Jews, “people of the book”, traditionally are given the choice to remain under Muslim rule and to remain in their traditions, albeit as second-class citizens. But not all Islamic regimes have extended that privilege to them.)

Second-class citizens is putting it very mildly. Dhimmis have virtually no rights against the ruling Muslims, and are restricted in almost every aspect of their lives. They also have to pay the Islamic taxjizya, and ‘feel themselves subdued’. Nice. (See this PDF for more.)

Third, Islam’s scriptures not only allow for, but in some places encourage, the use of force. The so-called sword verses of the Koran in particular encourage believers to fight to defend the faith and the faithful community, and subdue enemies of the faith. Muslim scholars have long disputed the interpretation and application of these verses. At one extreme are those who preach them as the chief duty of Muslims who feel embattled or aggressive. At the other are liberal Muslims who doubt their authenticity, particularly in the face of many other verses in the Koran that advocate peace. But every educated Muslim knows that the sword verses are there.

Again, nice try, but there really isn’t any dispute on interpretation due to the principle of abrogation. The peaceful verses generally came from the earlier period of Muhammad’s life, when persuasion and coexistence were the only way to go to build up the nascent religion. The violent verses generally came from the later period, once Islam had enough weight behind it not to bother with the niceties of coexistence any more. The later verses abrogate (repeal) the earlier ones…

Fourth, the general expectation of Islam since Muhammad’s day is that the reign of God (which is to say, the reign of Islamic regimes) would extend steadily over the whole earth. And that ­extension, again since Muhammad’s day, was achieved sometimes by diplomacy and persuasion, yes, but also sometimes through military action. One cannot understand Islamic history without acknowledging the frequent resort to armed force in extending the “house of Islam”.

Wait for the shrieks of ‘Islamophobia’ at that! Unfortunately it then goes downhill, with the author claiming an entirely false relativism between Islam and other religions:

… almost all of the major world religions have offered legitimations and even incitements to violence: from ancient Israel conquering Canaan to Constantine and Charlemagne ruling Christian empires in the Middle Ages, with Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims fighting each other in South Asia while priests of various religions have blessed Chinese, Korean and Japanese armies.

And, lest the New Atheists draw any comfort from such a summary, let’s recall that secularist regimes were largely responsible for the bloodiest century on record, the last one. So, surprise, surprise: human beings find impressive banners under which to fight wherever we are, whatever our objectives.

It’s a shame the author didn’t have the courage to single out Islam, rather than lump it together with other religions, as if they are all as bad as each other. The reality is that Islamic violence exceeds that of all other religions combined by several orders of magnitude.

I wish it were not the case, but the ‘banners under which to fight’ are, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, invariably the banners of Islam and jihad.

John Stackhouse’s website is here.


  1. Simon Colwell says:

    I highly recommend this site for further reading:


  2. I think the biggest weakness in his peace is that in talking about peace coming about by submission of the rest of the world to Islam, he ignores that the majority of Muslim jihad deaths are Muslim v Muslim wars by the various factions.


%d bloggers like this: