Raymond Ibrahim, an American born expert on the Middle East and Islamic affairs claims to have debunked the idea that the Bible is more violent than the Quran, remarking that the Bible describes historical events, whereas the Islamic text is doctrinal, and has “open ended” clauses calling followers to action.
Anti-Islamisation protesters have been criticised for suggesting that Islamic terrorism is inspired by the Quran, with the book’s defenders arguing that the Bible is just as bloodthirsty, if not more so. But their opponents say context is everything: the bloodshed in the Bible is presented purely as history, not as doctrine.
Speaking to the Independent, Dr Ed Kessler, the founding director of the Woolf Institute of interfaith relations has criticised organisations such as the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) for claiming that the Quran incites terrorism.
“It’s not the text itself that generates violence, there is Jewish and Christian scripture you can read into to find the same,” he said. “You read the texts through interpretation.”
“There are violent extracts in the Quran as there are in the Old Testament and New Testament,” he said, but he argued that where Salafist Muslims take a literal interpretation of the Quran, Christians and Jews have over the years reinterpreted or dismissed passages which call for capital punishments and violence.
“We tend to overlook those bits because we don’t like them, or interpret them to be more acceptable and relevant to the modern day,” he added. “Interpretation can be used for good or evil, or fundamentalism or liberalism.”
Dr Kessler is not the only scholar to be invited by the Independent to make this argument. Last week Mariam Hakim wrote an article for the paper in which she criticised the sharing of a video in which a female scholar who said that it is permissible for men to rape female prisoners of war to humiliate them.
“That narrative [that the Quran promotes violence] … has mainly been promoted by Donald Trump supporting anti-Muslim bigots, far-right extremists and people who’ll easily believe anything bad about Muslims,” she argued, adding: “Those sharing the video usually make unfounded claims that the ‘North African/Arab’ men accused of the Cologne assaults were motivated by a ‘Muslim background’.”
Similarly, research surfaced in February by software engineer Tom Anderson who ran the texts of the Quran and The Bible through text analytics software to find out which was the most violent.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering The Bible is a good deal longer than the Quran, he discovered that The Bible contains more violent passages, and also that The Bible scores higher for anger and much lower for trust that the Quran.
“Of the three texts, the content in the Old Testament appears to be the most violent,” Mr Anderson said.
“Killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament (2.8%) than in the Quran (2.1 percent), but the Old Testament clearly leads—more than twice that of the Quran—in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3 percent).”
He did concede that the results have no bearing on proving whether Islam “is more violent than other religions”, and that Islam, Christianity and Judaism all have further texts which contribute to religious doctrine, but that didn’t stop The Independent and other left wing media outlets such as the Huffington Post eagerly reporting on his findings.
The study – and similar criticism – was comprehensively debunked by Raymond Ibrahim, an American born expert on the Middle East and Islamic affairs, who wrote for PJ Media: “citing this fact [that the Bible is more violent] as proof that the Quran cannot incite violence more than the Bible is doubtful. For starters, this argument fundamentally ignores the context in which violence appears in all three scriptures.
“Comparing violence in the Bible — both Old and New Testaments — with violence in the Quran conflates history with doctrine. The majority of violence in the Bible is recorded as history; a description of events. Conversely, the overwhelming majority of violence in the Quran is doctrinally significant. The Quran uses open-ended language to call on believers to commit acts of violence against non-Muslims.”
“Critiquing the study specifically, he added: “This study also fails to consider who is behind the violence. It simply appears to count the number of times violent language appears. Due to this, New Testament descriptions of Christians – including Christ – being persecuted and killed are supposedly equally inciting to Christians as Allah’s commandments for Muslims to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them – seize them, besiege them, and make ready to ambush them!” (Quran 9:5).
“This is to say nothing of the fact that Islamic teaching is hardly limited to the Quran. Volumes of canonical (sahih) Hadith (words and deeds of Muhammad) equally inform Muslim actions. […] As it happens, calls to anti-infidel violence in the Hadith outnumber the Quran’s.”
Mr Anderson lamely concluded: “I must also reemphasize that this analysis is superficial and the findings are by no means intended to be conclusive.