How Obama talks about religious war without sounding like a douche bag
Posted in Events, Thoughts
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Few days ago president Obama had a speech in Cairo where he discussed Islam’s relations with western countries and Christianity and asked for a new beginning . It was a message of peace, but a message flawed with logical and historical inaccuracies. While I really liked his approach, I admit I smiled at some of his arguments and statements. But I guess that’s the different between an atheist and a politician. We seek the truth above anything else and politicians leave the truth beside in their quest for higher goals (sometimes good, sometimes bad).

If you watched the speech, which I recommend you do, and you haven’t read that much about religion, and Islam in particular, you may ask what were my objections to his speech. Here there are:

On the great contribution of Islam to the scientific world

“As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.” Obama said. He is of course referring to things like: algebra, advancement in medicine and astronomy,  scientific discoveries that cleared the way for the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution in Europe.

This is true. But these things didn’t happen because of Islam. Obama makes a very childish logical mistake: “Correlation does not imply causation “. Just because Muslims discovered great things doesn’t mean that the cause was their religion.  And let’s not forget that religion was not an option. Everyone was a Muslim or a Christian. By following Obama’s logical path we can say that we owe the advancements in philosophy and mathematics to Zeus, because of the religion of the ancient Greek scholars.

Islam is a religion of peace

“Islam is an important part in promoting peace.” Obama said.  We shouldn’t fear Islam because it is in fact a religion of peace. “The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.” Obama said thus gaining standing ovations.

All I can do is smile at his remarks. Obama cleverly decided to quote verse 005-032 from the Koran, but intentionally left aside verse 005-033. Here is the whole passage from the holly Muslim book:

005.032 - what Obama quoted
YUSUFALI: On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.
Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.
PICKTHAL: For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killed a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.
SHAKIR: For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our messengers came to them with clear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land.

005.033 - putting things in context
YUSUFALI: The punishment of those who wage war against/dispute Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;
PICKTHAL: The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;
SHAKIR: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,

“Innocent” gets a totally different meaning now. As nobody who disputes Allah and his messengers is innocent.

And if you think it is just this verse in the Koran that instigates to violence, haltered and crime let me give you more quotes:

“And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush: but if they shall convert, and observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go their way, for God is Gracious, Merciful.” (Sura 9:5).

“And kill them wherever ye shall find them, and eject them from whatever place they have ejected you; for civil discord is worse than carnage: yet attack them not at the sacred Mosque, unless they attack you therein; but if they attack you, slay them. Such the reward of the infidels… Fight therefore against them until there be no more civil discord, and the only worship be that of God: but if they desist, then let there be no hostility, save against the wicked.” (Sura 2:187-189).

Mohammed said, “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” (Hadith Al Buhkari vol. 9:57)

Looking for more. Just read randomly from the Koran. The chances are you will find more verses about killing and slaughtering of “the innocents”.

Islam as an example for religious tolerance

“Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.” Obama continued.

If you compare it with Christian killings and Christian intolerance Islam clearly wins some points. As in the Islam faith Jews and Christians are tolerated believes. To quote again from the Koran:

“Those who believe (in the Koran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians…and (all) who believe in God and the last day and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” The Koran, 2:62

So as long as you are a Christian or a Jew and you pose no threat to the Islamic faith you are almost safe. The problem is all the modern discoveries and technological advancement alongside globalization and wide adoption of human and women rights are seen as assaults to the holy faith, a faith based on ancient traditions. And according to Koran, if that happens, killing is the way to go. What was the case hundreds of years ago when there were no planes and no Internet or TV does no longer applies.

Pacifism is the way

“Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered. ” Obama said.

Very nicely put Mr. President but I don’t think pacifism is something that resonates with the Islamic community as it does with Christians. To better express myself I will quote from Sam Harris’s “The end of faith”:

Pacifism is generally considered to be a morally unassailable position to take with respect to human violence. The worst that is said of it, generally, is that it is a difficult position to maintain in practice. It is almost never branded as flagrantly immoral, which I believe it is. While it can seem noble enough when the stakes are low, pacifism is ultimately nothing more than a willingness to die, and to let others die, at the pleasure of the world’s thugs. It should be enough to note that a single sociopath, armed with nothing more than a knife, could exterminate a city full of pacifists. There is no doubt that such sociopaths exist, and they are generally better armed. Fearing that the above reflections on torture may offer a potent argument for pacifism, I would like to briefly state why I believe we must accept the fact that violence (or its threat) is often an ethical necessity.


Gandhi was undoubtedly the twentieth century’s most influential pacifist. The success he enjoyed in forcing the British Empire to withdraw from the Indian subcontinent brought pacifism down from the ethers of religious precept and gave it new political relevance. Pacifism in this form no doubt required considerable bravery from its practitioners and constituted a direct confrontation with injustice. As such, it had far more moral integrity than did my stratagem above. It is clear, however, that Gandhi’s nonviolence can be applied to only a limited range of human conflict. We would do well to reflect on Gandhi’s remedy for the Holocaust: he believed that the Jews should have committed mass suicide, because this “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.”41 We might wonder what a world full of pacifists would have done once it had grown “aroused”—commit suicide as well?

Gandhi was a religious dogmatist, of course, but his remedy for the Holocaust seems ethically suspect even if one accepts the metaphysical premises upon which it was based. If we grant the law of karma and rebirth to which Gandhi subscribed, his pacifism still seems highly immoral. Why should it be thought ethical to safeguard one’s own happiness (or even the happiness of others) in the next life at the expense of the manifest agony of children in this one? Gandhi’s was a world in which millions more would have died in the hopes that the Nazis would have one day doubted the goodness of their Thousand Year Reich. Ours is a world in which bombs must occasionally fall where such doubts are in short supply. Here we come upon a terrible facet of ethically asymmetric warfare: when your enemy has no scruples, your own scruples become another weapon in his hand. It is, as yet, unclear what it will mean to win our war on “terrorism”— or whether the religious barbarism that animates our enemies can ever be finally purged from our world— but it is all too obvious what it would mean to lose it. Life under the Taliban is, to a first approximation, what millions of Muslims around the world want to impose on the rest of us. They long to establish a society in which —when times are good —women will remain vanquished and invisible, and anyone given to spiritual, intellectual, or sexual freedom will be slaughtered before crowds of sullen, uneducated men. This, needless to say, is a vision of life worth resisting. We cannot let our qualms over collateral damage paralyze us because our enemies know no such qualms. Theirs is a kill-the-children-first approach to war, and we ignore the fundamental difference between their violence and our own at our peril. Given the proliferation of weaponry in our world, we no longer have the option of waging this war with swords. It seems certain that collateral damage, of various sorts, will be a part of our future for many years to come.


I really appreciated president Obama for having the courage to address such big issues and I respect his strategy. But I am skeptical it will be enough. As long as religious faith is what drives men and God is the moral beacon of the world, I fear some nicely crafted speeches will not be enough.

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4 Responses to “How Obama talks about religious war without sounding like a douche bag”

  1. Sorin O Says:

    Pentru musulmani solutia este gasita de mult timp. Este solutia lui Ataturk, statul laic (la ei, garantul este armata).Islamul nu este mai moral decit crestinismul, nici mai tolerant. Asa ca, ce spune Obama sint numai prostioare. Mai recent a mai spus una de genul… USA tara islamica !. Cui foloseste asta ? Bine, prin tata el este musulman. De fapt, Obama ilustreaza cu propria lui persoana ideea globalizarii religioase. Daca vezi ce familie are te lamuresti imdediat. Si daca vezi cum este America din punct de vedere religios, iti dai seama ca el vrea sa fie pe placul tuturor. Simple chestiuni electorale.Dar, mai recent apare si ideea ca Obama este chiar el un fel de Dumnezeu.Ca sa vezi ! Cei trece prin cap unui negru.

  2. vladimir.oane Says:

    Obama nu a spus ca America e tara musulmana ci ca daca e sa ne uitam la cei 8 milioane de musulmani din US, US poate fi considerata una din cele mai mari tari musulmane din lume. Ceea ce e adervarat. Oricum America nu are nici o religie si nu are dreptul sa aiba una prin constitutie.

    Cat despre trecutul tatalui sau, sau faptul ca e negru… nu vad ce legatura are asta cu ceva.

  3. Sorin O Says:

    Musulmanii il cred pe Obama musulman, pentru ca tatal este cel care da religia fiului. Ca despre faptul ca este…afro-american,mai mai ce sensibil esti ! Pe mine chestia asta cu …corectitudinea politica ma enerveaza cumplit, ne schimonoseste grozav vocabularul. Trebuie tot timpul sa fi foarte atent sa nu jignesti pe cineva. Nu vreau sa jignesc pe nimeni, dar sa fiu lasat sa ii spun cum vreau. Nu negritudinea pielii ii reprosez eu astuia, ci negreala din constiinta lui de sclav emancipat, care se vrea Salvatorul lumii.Tara lui este in pragul seccesiunii si el vrea sa ii impace pe crestini cu musulmanii. Ca sa vezi ! Tiganul este tigan chiar daca ii spui rom. Tigania nu se vindeca cu …corectitudinea politica. Ca sa il intelegi pe Barack, trebuie sa vezi fitzele nevestesii, ca sa pricepi cite frustari s-au adunat in timpul istoriei in capul astora, a afro-americanilor.Pe Obama asta il credeam mai modest.De fapt nici un american nu este modest. Si daca mai este si afro….

  4. Cristian Pascu Says:

    Chiar daca nu exista o corelatie directa intre religie si productiile de alta natura (stiintifice, literare, artistice etc.), totusi una indirecta trebuie sa exista. Personal cred ca daca s-ar face o harta a activitatilor intelectuale de-alungul istoriei si s-ar suprapune aceasta harta peste harta diferitelor religii si confesiuni, cred ca ar exista anumite coincidente ca sa spun asa.

    Apartenenta religioasa constienta, benevola si totala are implicatii profunde si complexe asupra gandirii si comportamentului fiecarui individ. Cand o religie este preponderenta intr-o anumita regiune, acea regiune va fi influentata de doctrina si invataturile acelei religii. De la dezvoltarea astronomiei din ratiuni religioase la popoarele antice, si pana la nasterea stiintei in sec. XVII, in forma in care o cunoastem astazi, in toate aceste cazuri vedem influente din partea religiei.

    De multe ori m-am intrebat de ce la noi in Est nu s-au nascut oameni ca Galilei, sau Newton, sau Leibniz, sau altii? Din cauza turcilor care navaleau in mod constant? Nu cred. Cred mai degraba ca scolasticismul catolic a influentat modul de perceptie al naturii si al relatiei acesteia cu divintatea intr-un mod ce a permis experimentul stiintific.

    Totusi nu cred ca numai religia este cea care influenteaza, si nici nu as putea sa dau coeficienti pentru ponderea fiecarui factor de influenta. :-)


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