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Does Anyone Remember The Irish?

The good folk of the Emerald Isle offer an important historical lesson for Americans today

THERE'S A LOT OF EFFORT BEING EXPENDED BY CERTAIN MANIPULATIVE TYPES to drum into Americans' heads the notions that Islam is a fundamentally-violent and aggressive faith. We are also encouraged to imagine that hostility by Muslims toward Americans, Britons and the French is due to that fundamental cultural barbarism and a "hatred of our freedoms".

The purpose of the cognitive assaults demonizing Islam is to keep folks from thinking about possible alternative explanations for the very real hostility that does indeed exist in certain quarters. This is because consideration of alternative explanations for the hostility might lead to an end to that hostility, and that would remove from the playing field what has been a very useful pretext for the luxurious growth and maintenance of the "national security state" apparatus and all its beneficiaries. Can't have that!

Well, actually, most of us would love to have an end to both the hostility and the hugely expensive, rights-trampling apparatus that it is cited to justify. Therefore, against the idiotic "there is terrorism because Islam is inherently violent/it's a religious war/they hate us for our freedoms" drumbeat I invite America to remember the Irish.

TO BEGIN WITH, LET'S REMEMBER that the Irish are NOT MUSLIM. Certainly during the 20th Century which is the focus of this reminiscence there were precious few Muslims in Ireland, even as immigrants from other places. So, again, the Irish are NOT MUSLIM. Nonetheless...

Throughout a portion of the 20th Century groups of Irishmen (and possibly Irishwomen) made their way into England and places Englishmen could be found and committed acts of violence and terrorism, even though they were NOT MUSLIM. Irish hostility toward England was implacable and embedded in the entire community, as this letter found by a friend in the attic a few years ago makes clear:

Pretty hostile, isn't it? If you just did some word substitutions, this letter could be one of the writings presented by the national security apparatus as evidence of the radical extremism of any Muslim terrorist suspect of the last twenty years. But the Irish are NOT MUSLIM. So, what was going on?

The Irish were NOT MUSLIM, but their lands WERE occupied by a militarily-superior invading force from another country which was imposing its will upon them for its own purposes. And THAT'S the reason they struck back, in the only way they could, until the invader gave up and withdrew from all but a small portion of the island.

Since that withdrawal there has been NO IRISH TERRORISM.* And this is so even though the religion of the Irish didn't change and the freedoms of the erstwhile target of Irish hostility remain the same.

Think about it. 

THIS MID-EDITION UPDATE IS MY LAST POST BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and I'm going to take the occasion to ask all of you for a Christmas present: As you visit with family and friends from around the neighborhood and around the country, please remind everyone about the Irish.

Urge thoughtful reflection in place of mindless drumbeats. The former is much better suited to the spirit of the season than is the latter.

***

*Violence associated with disagreements between inhabitants of Northern Ireland, the portion of the island which remains in British hands by majority vote of its inhabitants, does not qualify as "Irish terrorism" as used here, however much it might be called "Northern Ireland terrorism". That said, the violence by disaffected Northern Irelanders-- that is, those whose portion of Ireland remains under British control-- really makes the same point as the history of the Republic of Ireland, however much the clarity of the situation is complicated by the transplanting of British loyalists into that district over the last several centuries.

***

P.S. IT SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD that this article isn't about whether Islam is or isn't violent. It is simply to observe that current expressions of hostility toward the West by some folks who happen to be Muslim have motivations that need no religious component and can be explained without any reference to religion. By reference to the historical record-- specifically, the history of Irish hostility and violence, and its causes and cures-- it is clear that those non-religious motivations are sufficient, and removing them ends the violence that they engender.

That said, let me also say this, however: The argument that Islam is inherently violent and compels its adherents to war on "infidels" falls to another aspect of the historical record, in my opinion.

I think it is axiomatic that any creed which did demand pro-active aggression from its adherents would within a few centuries either conquer the world or be rendered extinct. Islam has been around for 1400 years. Yet in all that time its adherents have neither conquered the world nor perished on the spear-points of those their religion supposedly compels them to attack.

I am aware that those clinging to the demonization of Islam and its adherents sometimes quote things said by folks like the Barbary Pirates and other aggressive historical Muslim figures who used religious citations to justify bad behavior. But those citations were just that-- resorts to religion as a justification for bad behavior.

EVERY aggressor of ANY faith has ALWAYS used religion-- either of the scriptural variety or the nationalist-- as an incentive for the troops and a balm for the fears of those whose loved ones were being marched, some of them, to their deaths in service to the ambitious general. See a few relevant words by Mark Twain here. Such callous resorts do not mean that the religion itself actually demands aggressive war from its adherents.

Other demonizers claim that the words of the Quran itself directly require violent war upon non-believers by Muslims. I find these claims hard to credit.

Translations of the Quran are just that: translations. As I don't read Arabic, I am not in a position to directly rebut what others who claim to do so might say they derive from the text. But the historic record is clear-- Muslims do not maniacally attack all infidels under any compulsion from their faith. Were they to do so, every one of them would be dead long since, or would be dying in regular endless waves breaking on the rocks of the superior military might of the infidels with which they are surrounded, year after year-- and every single year of the last 1400, as each generation reached the age of requirement or ability.

This endless wave of unilateral and unanimous attacks does not happen, and has never happened. Thus, whatever some translator might say, it is clear that actual Muslims do not find themselves compelled by their religion to attack infidels.

Further, the translated portions purportedly advocating violence, even as presented by the demonizers, are nuanced in ways that merit close attention. I have seen the following supposed excerpts from the Quran presented by those who attack Islam as inherently violent and aggressive:

2:191 And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.

2:193 And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.

2:216 Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not.

2:244 Fight in the way of Allah, and know that Allah is Hearer, Knower.

5:33 The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.

But I have also seen the following pointed out by other students of the subject:

The true definition of an infidel from what I researched and read about within those particular verses is anyone who is an oppressor, terrorist, or a violent instigator upon a society. Infidel DOES NOT refer to anyone who's a non-Muslim, which seems to be an interpretation of what an infidel is today by many in the west. If that were so, then the Quran would be contradicting itself because it preaches to respect anyone, no matter the race, creed, or political system. Unfortunately, many Islamic governments don't live by this ruling and treat any non-Arab or non-Muslims as 2nd class citizens and don't respect their individuality and freedoms. The corruption is within the leadership from most Middle Eastern countries, for whatever reason, and that's why there's a civil unrest between the citizens and their respective rulers.

and,

The verses cited (e.g. 2:191-193) do NOT advocate killing infidels simply because they are infidels. Nowhere in the Quran does it say to kill all infidels. In fact, the Quran explicitly forbids killing except in defense against an enemy which seeks to destroy Islam or make war on Allah, or someone who has attacked one's home or family. These are the "them" to which 2:191-193 refers.

Looking at the specific language of the "demonizing" citations, it seems to me that these rebuttals fit. In the verse 5:33 cited, for instance, the reference to the target of violence is "those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land". This is by no means "all non-believers", or even any non-believers simply because they are non-believers. Rather, the verse speaks of a defensive response to aggression against the believers or against Islam generally (that is, an effort to extirpate Islam), and a corrective response to corruption by [whoever: government officials; imams; the neighbors...].

Similarly, the language cited from 2:191 and 2:193 unquestionably refers to defense and holding ground, not aggressive war: "drive them out of the places whence they drove you out" and "fight them until persecution is no more."

The statement in 2:216 that: "Warfare is ordained for you" seems most likely an acknowledgement that Muslims can expect persecution and to be made war upon (as is true of every new faith to arise amidst established competitors). The only difference between this declaration and the others cited and what is found in much of the writings of Paul, and other early Christians is that the Quran apparently doesn't give Christ's instruction to "turn the other cheek." This makes it a faith less accepting of anticipated abuse and persecution, but not one of aggression, and in that, simply closer to the Judaism expressed in the Old Testament than to the Christianity of the New.

Further, let's look at the stuff that is omitted from presentations of portions meant to be taken as evidence of aggressive and violent exhortations, such as those above. I'm going to insert in red what comes before and between the first two excerpts above:

2:190 Fight in the Cause of Allah those who fight you, and do not transgress limits [begin not hostility]: For Allah loves not transgressors.

2:191 And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.

2:192 But if they cease, Allah is Forgiving, Most Merciful

2:193 And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.

Then there is this instruction, which the purveyors of the aggressive/violent/slay-or-convert-all-infidels myth about Islam never share:

2:256 Let there be no compulsion in Religion, Truth stands out clear from error; Whoever rejects Evil and believes in Allah [God] has grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks.  And Allah hears and knows all things.

I find the latter portion of this admonition of acceptance to be in the spirit of C.S. Lewis's depiction of divine perspective in 'The Last Battle', when Aslan declares that all good that is done, even when done not in His name but another, is nonetheless done in His service, and is so recognized.

Finally, let me add this caveat to my words above about the historical record: There ARE minor heretical offshoots of Islam, such as Wahabism, that are (or seem to be) maniacally militant. But they are not representative of Islam generally, in my view.

In closing, I want it understood that just as my main article about the evidence to be gleaned from the history of the Irish and the British occupation was not intended to be a commentary about Islam or its character, but only a lesson that violence by people in the positions of many Muslims can be attributed to motivations having nothing to do with religion, so, too, this extended follow-up note is not intended to be a defense of Islam, or an authoritative analysis of that faith. I am not Muslim, nor am I an Islamic scholar.

But I am a lover of truth and clear-thinking. I hate spin, and I hate agenda-serving myths drummed out into the public square-- especially myths on the widespread adoption of which will be based policies for which I and mine will be called upon to pay, in one way or another. I also hate myths designed to marginalize or demonize anyone. Such myths are pure evil, and to not speak out against them is a moral crime, as I see it.