Historic perspective on violence and religion

Interesting thoughts on terrorism and religious affiliation from Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan, whose blog focuses on the Middle East, history and religion:

Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions. Murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States.

As for political violence, people of Christian heritage in the twentieth century polished off tens of millions of people in the two world wars and colonial repression. This massive carnage did not occur because European Christians are worse than or different from other human beings, but because they were the first to industrialize war and pursue a national model. Sometimes it is argued that they did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined.

He characterizes terrorism as “a tactic of extremists within each religion, and within secular religions of Marxism or nationalism. No religion, including Islam, preaches indiscriminate violence against innocents.It takes a peculiar sort of blindness to see Christians of European heritage as ‘nice’ and Muslims as inherently violent”

Read his full blog post here. And Religion Dispatches features links to a couple of compelling essays about religion’s role in the Boston bombings here.

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