What’s Wrong With: The Great Neocrusade?

A depiction of a battle of Jerusalem that never was. The painting was commissioned in 1846 following French rumors that depicted Jacques Molay as having captured Jerusalem in 1299. In reality, after Jerusalem was lost in 1244, it wasn't under Christian control till 1917, when the British Empire took it from the Ottomans. By Creator:Claude Jacquand (French, 1803-1878) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsBack in 2010, I started blogging about a wing of the Religious Right movement here in the US, that I’ve called a Neocrusade (that is, a latter-day resumption of the medieval Crusades). It’s dedicated to removing Islam utterly from the country … and once they’ve done that, from the planet. The premise of this movement is that Islam is simply too inherently violent and dangerous … and Muslims, by extension, too prone to extremism … to allow it to continue existing.

The problem with this philosophy should be obvious from the outset: In the US, we have this thing called “religious freedom.” It’s not possible just to outlaw a particular religion. Even Neocrusaders themselves realize this, which is why some of them have gone as far as to define Islam as “not-a-religion” in order to be able to justify abolishing it. (The claimed rationale for this is that Islam is a political philosophy in addition to being metaphysical. This conveniently ignores the political engine which Christianity has become in the US.)

Granted, not every Neocrusader will just come right out and say s/he wants Islam outlawed or all Muslims thrown out of the country. No, what a lot of them do is take sidelong swipes at it. For instance, they propose and often pass legislation forbidding shari’a or Islamic law — even though there’s no point in doing so, since “freedom of religion” already prevents Muslims from imposing their own religious law on anyone else. They also have been known to put up advertising denigrating Islam as inherently violent and brutal. As though insulting Muslims in as public a manner as possible is going to force them to knuckle under or leave the country.

Neocrusaders frequently point out that the Qur’an and the Hadiths contain passages encouraging violence, as though their own scripture doesn’t. They also often condemn Mohammad, Islam’s founder, as a vicious war-monger, contrasted by Jesus the founder of Christianity, whom they paint as an absolute pacifist. The problems with both of these positions are numerous. First, while it’s true that some Islamic sacred text passages do call for violence, others call for restraint. Ultimately the record here is a conflicted, and therefore mixed, one. What’s more, Christian and Jewish scripture contains many passages describing and even calling for violence on a sometimes-massive scale, including orders of genocide (for instance, of the Amalekites, as described in 1 Samuel). Second, Jesus was hardly the utter pacifist the Neocrusaders would like us to believe; while he did say to “turn the other cheek” and that “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,” all four gospels report, in addition, that he cleared the moneylenders from the Temple, and furthermore, that he did so violently. So on this score, too, we have a conflicted record which presents us with yet another mixed bag.

At this point I’d like to be clear that I’m no friend of Islam. That religion has, incontrovertibly, spawned an immense amount of violence and terror. There’s been so much of it over the last few decades, I hardly need to cite examples. I only need mention “9/11” to make that point. Also, much of the Muslim world is clearly infantilized and seething with extremism, as I’ve documented quite often. Clearly, there is something within Islam that causes this kind of crap to arise. I can’t really say what it is … but that it exists is undeniable. To say it doesn’t, is a lie.

That said, the solution is hardly to outlaw Islam completely or wipe it out. There are, equally obviously, a lot of Muslims in the world who aren’t sanctimoniously-enraged murderous rioters or terrorists. In fact, there are many more of the non-terrorist type of of Muslim than militants … by a few orders of magnitude. To want Islam eliminated entirely is an incredibly unjustifiable and extreme solution to a problem that might well be achieved in a better, not to mention more Constitutional, manner.

Furthermore, religious violence can erupt from within just about any system of metaphysics. As it turns out, Christianity is no exception to that rule. As much as Neocrusaders may refuse to acknowledge it, there really is such a thing as Christian terrorism. If we’re to condemn Islam for the violence it triggers, should we not also condemn Christianity for the extremes it leads to, as well? As an Agnostic, I say “yes”! By all means, let’s examine each religion, and rip from it whatever extremes it generates. But the solution is not simply to outlaw them all; in addition to being impractical, in the US at least, this is unconstitutional.

If I may get down to the kernel of the matter … what’s going on is that Neocrusaders — a few of whom, like Pam Geller, are Jewish, but the majority are Christian — view Islam as a threat because, on a global scale, it’s the chief rival of Christianity (which remains the largest religion in the world). That very well might change, though, in the next few decades, which no doubt alarms the Religious Right. Hence their reflexive response, which is to want Islam gone so they don’t have to worry about it any more. All the rhetoric about terrorism and scriptural violence and comparisons of religious founders is really beside the point, and merely part of a pretext. It’s the rivalry between religions which is the primary motivator here. It’s really childish to be enraged over the fact that a rival religion exists and to be incensed that people choose to belong to it, rather than to one’s own. In this regard, Neocrusaders are showing themselves to be nearly as infantilized and immature as many of the Muslims they’re going after. That makes them hypocrites.

It’s time for Neocrusaders to clean up their act, stop their juvenile bellyaching that they have to share the world with people whose religion they despise, and stop pitching fits over it. Instead of wailing about extremism in other faiths, they should concern themselves with the integrity of their own religion and stop the terrorists that exist within their own faction.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.