By Kim Petersen
But if they incline to peace, you (also) incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.
— The Noble Qur’an, Al-Anfal, 8.61
The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of self.
The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr.
– Sayings of the Prophet
July 16, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "Dissident Voice" - Respected writer William Blum understands US hegemony and imperialism on a global scale. In his important book Rogue State, he provided a comprehensive account of US imperialism around the world.
Recently, Blum wrote a trenchant article that compellingly ridiculed the nonsense that Donald Trump is a greater evil than Barack Obama. Blum tore the veneer off the Democratic Party and corporate media’s hypocritical demonization of Trump. As a clincher, Blum finishes his piece with sarcasm: “And if you like Barack Obama you’ll love Hillary Clinton.”
Trump, Obama, and Clinton are three evils. Of the three, Trump is the lesser evil. What is important is that come election time, the ballot is not confined to a lesser-evilist choice. The Green Party’s Jill Stein is not evil.
In the otherwise excellent piece by Blum appears a paragraph that I find superficial, void of historical validity, and above all, it seems to be repeating indoctrinating patterns typical of Islamophobia:
Obama’s declaration that ISIS “has nothing to do with Islam”. This is standard political correctness which ignores the indisputable role played by Islam in inspiring Orlando and Long Beach and Paris and Ankara and many other massacres; it is the religion that teaches the beauty and godliness of jihad and the heavenly rewards of suicide bombings.
Does Islam play a role? Blinkered proponents of US and Israeli imperialism consistently blame Islam for the commission of terrorist acts. Blum is not such a proponent. However, framing Islam as “the religion that teaches the beauty and godliness of jihad and the heavenly rewards of suicide bombings” decidedly opinionated and pre-restructured approach that deliberately ignores the Islamic teachings of peace.1 If Islam is the motivating source for terrorism, then how does Blum explain that there was not any act of so-called jihadist terrorism in the period 1945-1967 (from the end of WWII until the Israeli war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan)?
Logically therefore, Arabs, be they mixed Christian and Muslim (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine once lead by the late the Christian Orthodox George Habash; the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine led by the Catholic-Marxist Nayef Hawatmeh) or predominately Muslim (such as Hamas and Hezbollah) have all used violence as counter measures to the US and Israeli violence. To call their violence “terrorism” while calling western and Israeli violence a “responsibility to protect or humanitarian intervention”2 is an utmost act of malediction.
As for the word “jihad” [used to express a struggle for anything (life, work, family) — including, of course, the early Islamic struggle to spread the word of Allah (God Almighty in Arabic)] — there is a story to tell. After the defeat of the crusaders in Syria in 1187, the word was used sporadically by the Ottoman Turks to recruit Muslims for the conquest of Europe. Politically that word generally disappeared from the popular usage (except from national movements seeking to use Islam as a rallying cry of battle as in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighting the occupiers of Palestine) until former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and the Wahhabi Saudi regime resurrected it to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Surprisingly, unmentioned in Blum’s piece is the “teachings” of violence by Blum’s people3 in the Torah or the Bible’s teachings of violence. For example, do the teachings of Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim that it is okay to rape Gentile womenrepresent an indisputable role of Judaism that teaches the beauty and godliness of raping non-Jews or does it represent individual extremism based on lopsided interpretation?
I am very familiar with the greetings exchanged by Muslims: “As-Salaam-Alaikum” (“peace be upon you”) and “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” (“and peace upon you”). I know peace to be emphasized by Islam. However, just like in the Bible where one finds invocations to peace, one also finds commands to commit violence. I asked if Blum had read the Qur’an, but he did not reply to this question. I asked if he had lived in a Muslim land? To this he did not reply either. I humbly submit that I have read the Bible, Qur’an, hadiths, and The Life of Mohammed among other texts. I have lived a number of years in Muslim countries. In Jordan and Egypt, Muslim people proudly recited stories to me of the prowess, tolerance, and virtue of the Muslim sultan and military leader Saladin who defeated the Crusaders, retook Al Quds (Jerusalem), and showed great mercy to his Christian and Jewish opponents. However, I am far from an expert on Islam.
I wrote to Bill Blum.
Kim Petersen: I just have to add since you took on Islam that your article would have read less tendentious if you had noted that the Bible’s God smites first born children, urges God-fearing people to commit genocide, condemns homosexuals, etc, etc — the point being that Christianity has nothing over Islam; they are both vile.
William Blum: But one is carrying out horrible terrorism today, even as we speak, threatening you and I. The other is ancient, ancient history. If in fact it ever happened.
KP: With all due respect, are the predominantly Christian nations not carrying out horrible terrorism today? And does not state terrorism dwarf retail terrorism?
And to be clear, it is not a religion carrying out acts; it is supposed adherents of the religion carrying out the acts in the name of their god/allah/yahweh. All are deplorable.
Blum responded in the email separately to each of the above preceding paragraphs.
WB: The Christian nations are horribly violent, but they do not purposely bomb crowded restaurants, or behead people, or purposely destroy ancient buildings, or ban education for women, sex and music.
It’s the teachings of Islam that inspire the Islamic terrorists to carry out jihad and suicide bombings. Why else are they doing these things? If they hate US foreign policy why don’t they attack US military installations and American embassies, not people and targets with no connection whatsoever to any government. That’s terrorism by definition.
KP, additional comment: “If they hate US foreign policy why don’t they attack US military installations and American embassies”: They do, for example, the 1983 bombing of a US military installation in Lebanon demonstrates, but it does not matter what the target is: any act of resistance to the primordial acts of violence, even by a foreign interloper will be labeled terrorism. This is a label that is not applied by the same corporate media to the aggression of the US or its western acolytes.
Moreover, Blum seems in contradiction with himself. Earlier he blamed US violence rather than Islamic teachings for terrorism.
Why do terrorists hate America enough to give up their lives in order to deal the country such mortal blows? Of course it’s not America the terrorists hate; it’s American foreign policy. It’s what the United States has done to the world in the past half century — all the violence, the bombings, the depleted uranium, the cluster bombs, the assassinations, the promotion of torture, the overthrow of governments, and more. The terrorists — whatever else they might be — are also rational human beings; which is to say that in their own minds they have a rational justification for their actions. Most terrorists are people deeply concerned by what they see as social, political or religious injustice and hypocrisy, and the immediate grounds for their terrorism is often retaliation for an action of the United States.4
It is assessment with which I agree.
Next, I respond sequentially to each of two preceding paragraphs where Blum writes 1) that Christians do not purposely commit horrible acts and 2) Islamic teachings serve as a fillip to terrorism.
KP: Christian nation nations do not drop nuclear weapons on civilian cities (Hiroshima and Nagasaki)? Do not firebomb civilian cities (Tokyo, Dresden)? Do not place a city under siege and bombard it (Fallujah)? Lynch and scalp non-White peoples? Purposely destroy hospitals (Afghanistan), the cultural heritage of a country (Iraq)?
Christianity and its teachings, as self-servingly interpreted by zealous western Christians, are deeply permissive and supportive of the West’s capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism that have caused far more destruction and death than a revanchist Islam that rose in resistance to western hegemony and terrorism. Based on available literature, it is known that Al Qaeda is a response to US military in Saudi Arabia and US support of Israel’s slow motion genocide (state terrorism) against Palestinians and their neighbors. Daesh was spawned by US militarism against Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
I could have listed plenty more examples of murderous US imperialism, but I am talking to the expert on the topic. See Blum’s Master List.
Moreover, persuasive evidence suggests that Daesh is a US creation to further discredit Islam thus giving US imperialism more pretexts to attack Muslims.
I am in solidarity with the bulk of what Blum writes. He is exceptional when it comes to perfidious American policy and actions abroad. However, blaming Islam for the acts carried out by people is misdirection. Accounts vary somewhat, but in general, Muslims believe the Qur’an is Allah’s word relayed by the archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) who enabled the illiterate prophet Mohammed to read Allah’s message. Each person derives the meaning of the verses through his own interpretation or acceptance of another’s interpretation.
I agree that religion can inspire people to evil. Islam is not unique in this regard; this applies equally to Christian-inspired evil or nationalist-inspired evil. It is entirely possible that Islamic “teachings” can be bent to inspire/manipulate men into violent acts, but it is entirely possible that benevolent “teachings” of Islam can draw people toward peace. There are several ideologies that can be warped to untoward ends among susceptible people.
However, in the absence of imperialist evil wreaked against them, would these people professing to be Muslims have been inspired/manipulated into violent reprisals?
And why is religion or an ideology being used to spur people to violence? If the radicalized teachings are a reaction to injustices against a people, it seems unreasonable to focus blame on a religion rather than the injustices that brought about the radicalized teachings.
Nonetheless, whatever is cited as a motivating factor, the acts are solely the responsibility of the perpetrators of the acts.
People who claim to be Christians have launched crusades, set up Inquisitions to fight heresy, wrote Papal Bulls to allow dispossessing non-Christian Indigenous peoples of their territory, and started world wars, among other grave crimes. People professing to be Christians continue, to the present day, to wreak genocidal wars throughout the world.
I have no intention to indict any religion because the main issue is those who use religions as alibis for their actions and policy.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are beliefs. People choose to adhere to whichever one of these monotheisms (or other theisms) based on faith — or are more likely believe they were divinely led to the true belief. All three of these monotheistic religions contain “teachings” of violence and peace. Thus, to ascribe terrorism solely to the “teachings” of one religion is biased and wrong; and it leads to questions as to what is the interior motive driving such summary judgement without addressing the basic issues that generate terrorism.
To iterate, it is plain wrongheaded to criticize Islam – and Islam exclusively among religions – for spurring terrorism. To gain understanding, it is crucial to put terrorism and violence in proper context since terrorism against the West did not arise out of a vacuum. Neither does the Qur’an instruct Muslims to attack friendly nations. So-called jihadist terrorism is in response to the far greater preceding terrorism and unremitting oppression from the Christian West and the Jewish Israel. By way of simple analogy, if someone punches you in the face without reason, and you punch that person back, yes, you used violence, but who deserves greater condemnation: the initiator of violence or you who responded to the violence with violence? Or should you and the initiator of violence be equally condemned? And if you had turned the other cheek to the person who first punched you, what lesson would that impart? Would the perpetrator be deterred from punching you again?
Finally, among religions, it is predominantly — and unquestionably — the nations and people that profess Christian beliefs that have wreaked and spawned the most horrific terrorism throughout history, including today. Nonetheless, I do not believe Christian “teachings” have much to do with US genocide against Arabs. US elitists are spurred by greed for control of resources, territory, information, and power. When elitists use religion, nationalism, and terrorism against other peoples to kill, rob, occupy, humiliate, and oppress them, why place the culpatory focus on the violence in resistance to the initial violence of forces manipulated by western elitists? The victims of violence, of course, must be accorded the right to resist violence.5
- See Peter Standring, “Koran a Book of Peace, Not War, Scholars Say,” National Geographic Today 25 September 2001. Karen Armstrong, “The True, Peaceful Face Of Islam,” Time, 23 September 2001. 
- To be clear, Blum does not mislabel western interventionism. 
- In Blum’s recent article, he writes “… in the immortal words of my people — a schmuck!” Emphasis added. 
- William Blum, “Why Terrorists Hate America,” Third World Traveler. Daesh are terrorists, yes? 
- I explain here: “Progressivist Principles and Resistance,” Dissident Voice, 27 September 2010.