A Short Note on Islam and Violence: Russian Edition

Many notable, and many more unnotable, commentators will swear by Islam’s “violent penchant.” They don’t care for nuance. They don’t care for facts. Instead, they adhere to the old principle of repeating something often enough until it becomes true.

I think there is an issue with Sunni Arabs and cultural chauvinism (the Qur’an is supposed to be memorized in the Arabic language only, for example) masquerading as religion. I think religion itself is mentally and emotionally abusive. Yet I am confident in stating matter-of-factly that there is no penchant for violence in Islam. Each instance of violence perpetrated by an Islamist can be explained by his or her political, or better yet institutional, situation. Islamism is, after all, a relatively new political paradigm that has arisen only with the advent of the nation-state in the Middle East.

Incidentally, these same detractors – the ones who repeat themselves over and over again – are also hawks when it comes to Russia. If I am not mistaken, Russia is a Christian nation (with a few exceptions along its peripheries) and unofficially a Christian state (did anyone catch the Patriarch’s recent speech to the Duma?). The Russian state is violent and aggressive. Russian society is violent and parochial. Moscow routinely violates individual rights. Because the vast majority of Russian citizens support the aggressiveness of both the Russian state and the Russian communities in post-Soviet space, this means that all Christians are violent and aggressive, right?

2 thoughts on “A Short Note on Islam and Violence: Russian Edition

  1. Yes, I agree. Its unfair to compare a rich Christian nation (e.g. the US) with a poor Muslim country.

    I wonder what we’d find if we compared poor Christian nations with a poor Muslim country. Would one be more violent than the other? It should be possible to make a study, but to be honest a part of me doesn’t want to see it answered.

  2. Thanks Michelangelo.

    For a study, it might be better to look at a country with a significant portion of both religions, like Nigeria or Ghana, instead of doing a cross-national study.

    My point wasn’t trying to be about fairness (I’ll work on my diction!), but rather about the illogicality of trying to use religion as a variable for understanding the world (think about doing a study on the Christian and Muslim regions of Nigeria, for example; how does a variable like religion stack up against variables like federalism, path dependency, or natural resources?). If you ask 50 Christians what it means to be a Christian you’ll get 50 different answers. Same goes for Muslims, Buddhists, etc. With that kind of variety, trying to use religion to explain things like violence, poverty, or authoritarianism is a task more suited for demagogues and charlatans than for scholars and statesmen.

Please keep it civil

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