As rioting and violence once again erupt across the Muslim world in response to a perceived insult against their Prophet, the usual apologists are taking to the airwaves assuring the public that despite appearances to the contrary, Islam is a religion of peace. No scholar of Islam myself, I can only take these individuals at their word. I am certain I speak for many Americans however, when I say that I can't help feeling a bit skeptical about Islam's supposedly "peaceful" nature. If, as the Good Book tells us, "By their fruits you shall know them," then what do the seemingly endless riots, protests, mobs, and murders tell us about this religion?
We are told that the current mayhem unfolding across the Middle East is the result of a movie mocking Islam that is, in the words of our Secretary of State, "disgusting and reprehensible." While anger at having one's religion insulted is certainly understandable, the violent backlash that inevitably results after an episode like this tells us that "turn the other cheek" is not a principle that holds much sway with Muslims. When Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses was published in 1989 violence erupted across the Muslim world, death threats were made, a fatwa was issued, and the "blasphemous" book was banned in several Muslim countries. Filmmaker Theodore Van Gogh was murdered and nearly decapitated by a Muslim avenger for making a film critical of Islam's treatment of women. His collaborator Ayaan Hirsi Ali still lives under threat of death for daring to criticize Islam and Mohammed. The Muslim response to Pastor Terry Jones' "Burn a Koran Day" was violent and bloody, resulting in the death of dozens.
It is hard for Westerners to wrap their minds around such things. America is the land of "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." For American Christians, this means enduring all manner of insults and denigrations of our faith, from a crucifix suspended in urine being publicly funded as "art", to an elephant dung smeared Mary, to a play depicting Christ and his disciples as gay lovers. And I hardly need list the history of insults and atrocities committed against the Jewish faith.