Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Blood of the Martyrs

Last night’s post about Abdul Rahman brought in a rash of comments. Normally I respond to comments with my own comments, but a paticular entry posted by Adaneshju (a frequent and informative commenter) deserves a lengthy reply.

Adaneshju said, in part:

As counterpoints – the first Muslim martyr is as I recall one of the very early converts to Islam (a slave woman – remember early Islam was very often popular amongst the downtrodden) who was tortured and killed (forget the details, but I believe she was baked in the sun..) for her beliefs and refusing to renounce her monotheism. She was killed by the Meccans. This fits your “Christian martyr” definition to a tee.

As another, you better believe that amongst many, many others, the various crusader forces believed in martyrdom. Well, at the least the crusaders MADE plenty of martyrs..

Likewise, Byzantine forceslikewise were told to chant certain prayers as they entered battle, and could expect what if they died? – I’ll leave that to your imagination.

You list the Christian martyrs of Nigeria, Sudan, Malaysia, etc. I wonder, were the many Bosnians and Albanians and Kosovar Muslims martyred by Christians? What about the forced conversions and expulsions of Jews and Muslims in 16th century Spain. Countless Muslims/Moriscoes certaintly died for their beliefs at the hand of the inquisition.

My point is merely, this isn’t nearly so black and white an issue as you make it. However, MORALLY speaking it is. Abrurrahman’s trial is completely ridiculous. However, being morally black and white doesn’t make it a simply CHRISTIANITY IS THIS while ISLAM IS THAT.

First of all, I refuse to be drawn into arguments about the bad things that Christianity did hundreds of years ago. I’ll stipulate to them, and I’ll let historians argue about which religion was the most brutal and bloody in 1000 AD or 1500 AD or whenever.

I’m interested in now. The fact is that right now Islamic states are the only religious polities which imprison and execute people solely for their religious beliefs. The other states which do this are either the Orthodox Atheists (i.e. the Communists) or the ordinary despotic dictatorships.

Christians and Jews and Hindus have their own histories, and all have been guilty of sectarian brutality. But all of them have evolved into modern nation states with a general tolerance of religious plurality.

But not Islam. Wherever Islam is officially established as the law of the land, not being Muslim is punishable by law in one way or another.

Like it or not, the modern tolerant secular state was a creation of European Christendom, channeling the ethics of Judaism. Somehow the Hindus and Sikhs managed to assimilate it and develop their own versions, but so far the Muslims have not been able to.

And this is not a “Christianity is this” versus “Islam is that” issue for me. It is “Civilization is this” versus “Barbarism is that”. The fact that I am a Christian is irrelevant – the political space that I inhabit allows for all religions as well as none. That’s the genius of secular modernism. But each group within the civilized state has to abide by a common set of rules, and this is what Islam appears reluctant to do.

It’s significant that the only possible counterexamples of current Christian brutality that you can cite are in the Balkans, and also from the midst of a very nasty civil war. Those atrocities may be vendettas, reprisals, ethnically motivated, or simple mayhem and banditry. Do you have any proof whatsoever that non-Christians were killed solely for not being Christians?

In any case, a counterexample does not a counterargument make.

I challenge you, or any other reader, to demonstrate via published statistics the case that Christian or Jewish religious atrocities from the last fifty years approach those of Islam.

I’d bet money that deliberate religiously-motivated violence by Muslims exceeds that of all other religious groups combined by at least three orders of magnitude.

Go ahead; prove me wrong. I’m willing to hear it.


William Zeranski said...

In regard to Muslim nations and their intolerance, I direct readers to a “fatwa issued on July 3, 2000 by The Permanent Council for Scholarly Research and Religious Legal Judgment, an organ of the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments” , (MEMIR) regarding the simple act of building a house of worship by a non-Muslim religion:

AndyS said...

You're about a year too early for the 'all' in your statement. The India-Pakistan split which occurred in 1947 was so bloody (upto a million estimated deaths for Muslims and non-Muslims) that it dwarfs the numbers of all other religous conflicts for the last 50 years. Until 2008, the ratio of Muslims to all other victims would roughly be 1:1.

Now if you restricted the 'others' to Christian and Jews only ...

Frank said...

"I’d bet money that deliberate religiously-motivated violence by Muslims exceeds that of all other religious groups combined by at least three orders of magnitude."

With respect, this is silly. I don't know how you intend to quantify three orders of magnitude in the context of a subjective. Having said that, you are probably right.

It is in the nature of Islam itself that the violence is begat. The Koran is in effect the diary of a highwayman who deified violence. It doesn't matter how many "moderate Muslim scholars" try to whitewash Islam and turn the word "war" into the word "struggle" and so forth.

Its like trying to whitewash the Old Testament in light of the can't be done. The walls of Jerico, whether they were "torn" down or "drifted down atop pillows" down, still involved the death of hundreds. Whether the Median Jews were "struggled" against or "warred" against, they still got dead.

I'm not much of a Christian, but I'm damned sure Christ didn't invent a synonym for "Jihad".

Baillie said...

Well, Adaneshju, we could try to figure out whose religion killed more of another religion in the last two or three thousand years and then allot to the losers a few free executions so as to even things up...

If that makes sense to you, then God help us all.

A. Eteraz said...

andy, really?


anyway: is this a baron post? must be: b/c a challenge is being put to the reader. hey baron, is that a sneaky way of having us do your statistics looking up? =)

A. Eteraz said...


Are you sure you want to start talking about 'context' (i.e. when you put the Yugo Bosnian massacres into context)?

Because when you start talking about context you start opening the door to nuances.

Things such as the fact that a lot of Muslim violence has been done in the context of Western encorachment. What was the bloodiest spot on your Bloody Border Project? Iraq. Hmm. I wonder why. Second bloodiest? Kashmir. Hmm, probably related to....Indian occupation and a land dispute going back to 1947. So, I recommend *not* doing a contextual analysis. It doesn't help your position.

By the way, today I was talking to an ex-Serbian soldier and he told me that in the war, they used to set up "rape hotels" such that if you were a serb soldier you could go into a hotel, be greeted by a "concierge" who would then take you to a room where you could find a Bosnian girl. You could have your way with her and then slit her throat. In the next room, same thing.

This guy deserted.

A. Eteraz said...

hey baron

how do i trackback to a post on your blog? it has a trackback button but clicking that doesn't do anything.

you know if i could trackback here i'd 'reply' to a lot more of your posts.

Baron Bodissey said...

Eteraz -- glad to see you back.

You've got me sussed! I have time for very little research, and I love it when other people do it for me. Ik, in particular, is reliable for delivering a load of statistics and a double handful of links.

I don't object to nuance. What I object to is basing arguments about current issues on events that happened a thousand years ago.

I don't mind historical background, or making historical analogies, or watching history repeat itself as farce.

But what I do mind is excusing current behavior, or explaining it, or diverting attention from it, based on events that happened centuries ago. It's not a valid form of argument, and I won't engage it.

It's like the reparations argument -- what happened to anybody's ancestors a hundred and fifty years ago is not justification or reason for anything that happens today.

You grow up, get a driver's license, and open a checking account. After that you're responsible for what you do, no matter what happened during the Second Crusade.

I have a great nephew whose great-great-great-great grandfather (my great-great grandfather) owned slaves, and whose great-something-grandfather was a slave. Does he have to pay reparations, or can he receive them?

Or maybe his left hand should pay his right hand...

Baron Bodissey said...

Eteraz, as for trackbacks, they have me mystified. I know how to do them manually -- go over to someone's blog and make a link back in their comments -- but, other than that, I have no idea.

Things appear in our trackbacks as if by magic. If I understand it correctly, the process involves phlogiston. Or maybe transmigration; I'm not sure.

SC&A said...

This is a very good post- a buffet of ideas, really.

The fact that many Muslims have the need to justify behaviors in the context of comparison is a fascinating look at how deep denial can go.

Lots of fodder here.

al fin said...

It is the muslim clerics--the "priesthood" as it were--that is responsible for stirring up the muslim hatred and violence toward non-muslims. If you could get the muslim clerics to declare fatwas against themselves, and carry them out themselves with a single stick of dynamite up their own posterior sphincter while walking alone on a sand dune under a full moon, the world would be a much nicer place. Unfortunately, they displace their violent impulses on others, and persuade the young, the depressed, and the mentally retarded, to do the exploding among crowds of innocent civilians. Perhaps it is a passing fad among muslim clerics?

Wally Ballou said...

If I could point out a rather obvious irony - your blog is called "Gates of Vienna". It's very raison d'etre is to point out a historical continuity of a Muslim threat to the west. How can you object to people reaching way back into history to contextualize today's events?

The other contradiction that seems to ebb and flow in these postings is - are we down on Islam itself, or just on its radical expression? Do we believe that moderate muslims are phonies or fools? Many of your commenters believe just that, which puts them in the same camp as Osama. I think we should be scrupulous in respecting other people's religion. That obviously does NOT include respecting all their actions which that religious belief may inspire or excuse.

Enzo said...

What a great weblog! Very accurate analysis. Today I can say I have learnt something from you. Congratulations!
BTW...we are all under "fatwa"!

felix said...


You raise very real and accurate concerns. My own take on events is that we are becoming bogged down in definitions: radical islam vs. moderate islam. It is as if we all have to now go become experts in islam--it's history and current and past theology. What a job! Sounds like something the colleges and universities should study, but they are so politically correct that they won't touch it.

So I have concluded that from a public policy aspect the safest and most effective way to deal with radical islam is to legislate that anyone who is a radical islamist cannot be allowed to live in our country (the USA). I understand that if the radical islamist is already a citizen, then that will present legal problems. But otherwise radical islamists should be deported. I am convinced that moving the discussion to the proposition that "it has become too dangerous to allow radical islamists to continue to live here" will go a long way toward achieving homeland security. In other words we would have an operational definition of a radical islamist: someone who can no longer reside in the USA because they have been determined to be a radical islamist.

Baron Bodissey said...


I have no problem with using history in a discussion, as I said. Histtory as analogy, as background for current events, or just for entertainment -- all fine with me.

What I object to is the tendentious use of history.

Examples are using historical bad behavior of one group to justify or excuse the bad behavior a group today.

Another example is using history to deflect an argument. "Look what the British did in Malaya! It's no wonder the Plaestinians are blowing up schoolbuses!" or "America had slavery and oppressed black people! How can you say anything about what Bashar Assad does?"

I may not be able to define the tendentious use of history, but I know it when I see it. Just ask Potter Stewart.

Baron Bodissey said...

Ik -- thanks for the statistics! I was hoping that you'd show up.

Wally Ballou said...

Felix - that logic leaves me speechless.

Baron - you didn't address my second point, one I have made many times before. I guess I should stop trying. Maybe this blog needs a mission statement.

Baron Bodissey said...

Cato, again --

The major problem is figuring out what subset of Islam has to be contained, how to determine its boundaries, and then -- the hardest part of all -- to actually contain it.

There are regular commenters here (notably Mussolini) who believe that all of Islam is the enemy, and that we just have to reconcile ourselves to killing or converting them all.

I'm not one of them. I haven't seen the evidence for that; I consider that reaction to be an emotional one, not grounded in observable fact.

But I also haven't seen evidence to back up the President's assertion that the "vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving people who want to live in freedom." There isn't enough evidence to support that (yet).

But I'm ready to believe it. The jury's still out.

The scary thing is that even if only 1% of Islam is violently opposed to the West and the infidels, that's 14 million people. A sobering thought.

For an interesting and important take on this and similar issues, I recommend Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred: Why I hate Islam.

A. Eteraz said...

Replies to All Commentators,

Baron: Assuming its only 1%, and that's 14 million, what about radical leftists? There's got to be a few million of those. What about China?

Also, Baron, I do encourage you to look into how non-blogger (i.e. wordpress) people can trackback to your posts. You make good "fodder" posts but since there is no way to alert your readers to my reply to them, I never end up replying. This would certainly create more 'to and fro' between our blogs. I have a sentimental attachment to your blog simply b/c this is where my blog was first recognized and where I first actively started commenting.

Cato, Felix, Adaneshju,

I encourage you to visit my blog sometime and perhaps make it a regular occurrence. Your viewpoints would jive really well with my current piece of activism (my most recent post). Although I understand why you'd want to frequent only those blogs where you can make a contention.


Nice research. I, as a Punjabi even, was not aware of that. You are right though, much of Punjabi 'self-definition' is driven by the master-race complex. Funny, it has nothing to do with Islam. It has to do with language. In fact, the entire E. Paksitan v. W. Pakistan thing had to do with: color and language.

Wally Ballou said...

I'm sorry, but I find the post you reference just as muddled. The writer says he hates "Islam", then says he admires and respects a muslim friend and further says that "Islam" has been replaced by a vicious ideology. He seems to be talking about 2 or 3 "Islams" here. This is precisely why I say it is important to constantly make distinctions. It's not trivial, and its not "too much trouble".

Think about this - if we convince just 5% more of the Muslim population that moderation has no point; that we in the west are implacable enemies of them, their culture, family and faith, then we have another 70 million dedicated enemies.

The president is careful to always take moderate Islam into account - to give people of good will in the Islamic world a place to stand. Joe Muslim is not required to prove that "most" muslims are peaceloving in order to be entitled to our respect as an individual.

As for the wannabe brownshirts who frequently comment on this blog - there is nothing new about their attitude, and nothing commendable, either.

There are commenters who attack the character of Mohammed himself. Even if you believe it, this is pointlessly offensive. After all, if you don't believe in the divinity of Christ, then Jesus was just a nut who had a way with words, but I wouldn't scream that in the face of a believing Christian.

Baron Bodissey said...


I thank you for your suggestions. I realize that, with proper diligence, I could increase our blog traffic by the ways you suggest. Unfortunately, my blogging time is severely limited by my circumstances, and I am old and learn new things with difficulty. Thus I haven't been able to acquire all the necessary skills.

I'm hoping that some young and helpful commenter will come along and give me easy-to-follow instructions.

But one thing to note is that Dymphna has stated emphatically that she wants to stay with the Blogger comment setup, and not move to another system. So we have to work within those constraints.

If it's any help, I've been recommending your blog in many places...

Baron Bodissey said...

Cato, I find myself in agreement with everything you say. That's why I say "the jury's still out", and why I welcome reasonable argument from any quarter.

And it's why I value Eteraz. I'll argue with him up the close and down the stair, but I'm glad he's here, and he convinces me that there is an alternative.

His blog, by the way, is Unwilling Self-Negation.

Sigcarlfred's point, I think, was that decent, humane, and honorable Muslims everywhere are being cowed into silence by the radicals, and that's what he hates. He hates the fact that his friend has to live in fear.

Eteraz, don't you have to worry about death threats for what you say? I read your post about how you lusted after those hot Egyptian girls at Friday prayer group. Aren't you risking your head by saying such things?

A. Eteraz said...


I had a friend who was flying with her father (no this is not a hijacking stories for all the hicks who got excited), and their plan started to crash and she said, "dad, we're going to die" and he said, "well, when your number is up."

In other words, if someone wants to come after me, well, they should know I am a member of the NRA.

But also, there is a greater point here. Having dealt with easily offended firebrands all my life, I don't give their promises (whether of hell or death) much weight. Instead, I engage them in a war of words b/c I know all the same sources that they know. The great point I want to make is: this is why I don't agree with what Wafa Sultan did. The response to a monkey's threat is not to run away and say: oh you're right, I'm an indeed a heretic, or an apostate. The thing to do is to say: you know what? If you wanna get jiggy with it, I can prove that *you* are the heretic. Would you like that?

(Obviously if Wafa Sultan really just wanted to leave Islam and doesn't want to be identified as a Muslim anymore, that's totally cool. Still, I kinda wished she would have faked it for a while. It would have been more powerful).

A. Eteraz said...


I'm getting to a point where I have done enought talking. Time for some action.

In the near future I'm going to be launching two real world initiatives geared towards promoting and thereby encouraging more critical thinking within the Muslim community, so look out for the posts that announce that.

I think that each of yours participation will be/can be significant.

peggy38 said...


There is a very important difference between Christianity and Islam which makes all the difference between them.

Yes Christians and muslims have both been guilty of committing acts of barbarism towards members of other religions. Both faiths have been guilty of punishing those who left them or refused to convert to them.

But Christianity does not have one word from Christ and not one line of text in our New Testament explicitly stating that conversion to another faith by a Christian is punishable by death. Not one. You can search and search and not find one case where Jesus tells Christians to give others a choice to convert to Christianity or die. There is not one line of text that gives a Christian wishing to change his religion the choice between going against his conscience or death.

But its written in black and white in Islam. It is incontravertible law that a muslim must die if they renounce islam.

Christianity can overcome the failings of its past because none of that came from our text or from the example of Christ. Islam cannot overcome because there is no denying that barbarity is written into its book and in the records of mohammed's life.

The only way to escape this fact is to reject islam. There is no avoiding the that no muslim is truly free to stay a muslim if even one muslim is forced to stay a muslim against his conscience or else be killed ot runined by the state, his family or his neighbors.

All muslims are slaves regardless of their attitude towards islam. It is a barbaric testament to this faith that any of its members are only so because they fear death or ruin. Its is a barbaric testament to this faith that they are held in it against their will or else are wiped off the face of the earth as some kind of abomination.

Wouldnt it be a better testament is islam could claim that all those who remain in it did so out of free choice?

Unfortunately there is the law that cannot be ignored.

peggy38 said...


You say that the difference in between Christian martyrs and Islamic ones is not black and white. As far as the Baron's opinion I agree with you. It is not a case where all Christian martyrs suffered non-violent deaths for their faith and all muslim martyrs died in battle.

The real difference is that by the teaching of the church, the only real official martyrs are the ones that died for the faith without resorting to violence. In Islam, those who die for the faith while engaged in violence are considered martyrs along with the ones that died without employing violence.

Why this difference? I again refer you to the text. No part of the example of Jesus permits the highest honors going to those who employ violence.

Yes there is a way to interpret a doctrine of just war from the whole text of the Bible. But the ideal is the example of Jesus. Anything that falls short of that example may be forgivable, it may even be considered honorable at times, but it can never be equated with the acts of those who followed the example of Jesus to the letter in some fashion.

In Islam, both violence and non-violence, compassion and cruelty, tolerance and intolerance, freedom and slavery, civilization and barbarity are all mixed up in the example of mohammed. There is no escaping the issue with denial or with selective reading. If there is no separation of these things in the ideal example for all muslims there can be no separation in the lives of ordinary muslims. the muslim that denies this is not a full muslim but more like someone aspiring to be a Christ-less Christian or a half muslim.

The Christian ideal cannot mislead us, even if we sometimes choose to ignore it or deny it.

Solomon2 said...

I’m interested in now. The fact is that right now Islamic states are the only religious polities which imprison and execute people solely for their religious beliefs. The other states which do this are either the Orthodox Atheists (i.e. the Communists) or the ordinary despotic dictatorships.

I commented on this here. It does seem to matter whether you are a Christian or Muslim. "Moderate" Muslims may decry the methods of the militants, but accept the results of their actions. The West recently showed its willingness to enforce "moderation" by going to war against the extremist Christian Serbs who were trying to "cleanse" the Muslims in their midst. Few can imagine Muslims doing the same for non-Muslims - just ask the Assyrians, the Jews kicked out of Arab lands after 1948, the East Timorese, or the Christians fleeing the West Bank and Gaza today. Even in Lebanon, where nationalism is comparitively strong, this is a very big issue.

A. Eteraz said...


Don't know whether you care, but the role that Muhammad played in society was far different than the role Christ played in his.

Muhammad affirmatively became head of state. Christ did not. I think you'd concur with the general point that being a rebel (Christ) is far different than being the President/Sultan (Muhammad).

In his capacity as "Sultan" Muhammad took political measures. However, back then there was no secular, only the religious. As such, his political measures were defined by people's religions. In other words, there were no political parties; religious groups played that role.

So, I don't think your comparison between Christ and Muhammad is apt.

However, if you want to ask me whether I think Muhammad was wrong in killing *some* of his opponents, I would agree with you. I have a post on the matter on my blog ( entitled "Pesky Jewish Poets" that deals with some of these themes.

As a consequence of these unsavory elements of Muhammad's political life, reformists will a) ignore them and emphasize the good things he did, or b) re-define Islam so that it is not as important to look to Muhammad as a model.

There are a lot of people here, I'm sure, who have opinions on the practicality and possibility of such 're-descriptions.' I would suggest that you not listen to them because they are not actually engaged in that re-description. In other words, unless you are a reformist Muslim, or if you are engaged in reforming Islam, please don't give me your opinion as to the practicality or potential of success in this particular venture. I don't need more cynicism in my life. Only assistance.

If you have an interest in affirmatively engaging in re-describing the life of Muhammad using Islamic tools, I would be more than happy to educate you about those tools.

felix said...

What is a radical islamists? I am not just talking about the so-called 1% who are planning or already have committed violent acts. If a muslim is sympatheic to jihad attacks, wants to establish Sharia law in their new host counrty, believes it is correct to kill someone for converting out of Islam, etc., then that person is a radical islamist IMO. Why would anyone in their right mind want to bring immigrants into our country who believe this?

AMDG said...

> What about the forced conversions and expulsions of Jews and Muslims in 16th century Spain. Countless Muslims/Moriscoes certaintly died for their beliefs at the hand of the inquisition.

The jews were give the choice between converting and leaving.

Moriscos were a danger, a fifth column, as allies of the Otomans. They revolted several times. They were transported to Morocco when a peace with England made possible to use ships to do it. It would have been cheaper to disposse them off as Mohamed did to the Jews of Bani Quaraiza...

The Inquisition sentenced to death less than 3000 people in more than 3 centuries. They were all Christians, becuase it had no jurisdiction over non Christinas.

But that is history Mr. Mohamedan, the case of Rahman is present.