I've briefly mentioned in past posts that I listen to, watch on television, and read message boards/websites/blogs from numerous right-wing convervative sources. It's also probably not too difficult to infer from some of my posts that, politically and socially, I'm pretty left-leaning. I'd like to think I'm open to a lot of different points of view; while I may not agree with their positions, I can actually understand a lot of the arguements made by right-wingers. I try to not dismiss them out of hand (not to digress too much, but one example includes abortion: I don't know where I stand on the issue "morally" but I KNOW it's not as cut-and-dry simple as a lot of people would like to believe. But anyways...)
I read one prominant Fox News personality's web site and message board frequently. A lot of the discussions there obviously deal with the war in Iraq, 9/11, terrorism, etc. Quite a few -- I would guess a majority, certainly a majority I read, at least -- of these discussions quickly devolve into "Islam is bad." As I mentioned earlier, I can understand a lot of the right-wing arguments even if I don't agree with them. The war, for example. I'm not really "for" it but at the same time I don't think war in and of itself is a completely ridiculous notion. But I just don't understand how one can equate all of Islam, and therefore lump any of its followers, as being inherently "evil."
The most common tactic these people use is to quote the Qu'ran. There are a lot of passages recommending war, killing of infidels, etc. But I can quote a lot of bloody, gorey, horrific passages from the Bible as well. There's quite a bit of wholesale slaughter of innocents in there. I've argued with my parents before, and you know what the OT prescribes for that? That I be put to death!!! Talk about barbaric! But, these people who quote the Qu'ran with such anger defend their own holy book by trying to explain away these brutally violent passages. "Well, we don't really mean that..." or, "that's taken out of context..." Yet anytime a Muslim poster raises the same defense of the Qu'ran, the Bible-thumpers counter with "but it says so right there in the Qu'ran!!! Obviously you are lying."
The second common tactic used to unfairly characterize Islam is to disparage Mohammed himself. They constantly refer to his war-like ways, and especially the alleged "fact" that he married Aisha, his wife, when she was still a child. They refer to Mohammed as a pedophile. It seems to me this is taking the book and it's stories out of any historical context whatsoever. When the Jews were heading to the Promised Land they sure kicked some serious ass in Canaan. They did not fuck around. And you know why? The OT says God helped them, but also they were a fairly small group of people in a dog-eat-dog world. If they didn't win, they would have been wiped out. Why do we not hold them to the same standards? And regarding the circumstances surrounding Aisha: it was common for women to be married the moment they had their period. How can we use today's standards to judge the actions of someone in a totally different time and place? I know most tribal cultures -- of all religious affiliations -- had marriages at extremely young ages. The Bible advocates slavery, yet we don't condemn Moses for being a slaveowner. Why disparage Mohammed as a pedophile? It was a culturally acceptable and understandable behavior at that time.
I have no dog in this fight. I could care less what prophets one follows or what god one worships. I just find the hypocricy and double-standard to be a little absurd. Are beheadings barbaric and savage? Yes. Are the people who do them barbaric and savage? Yes. Are the people who quietly smile when they happen barbaric and savage? Yes. Does this mean the entire religion is barbaric and savage? That's quite a leap to make. Desperate people do desperate things; look at Chechnya and Ireland and even America during the Civil Rights movement -- and this is not to excuse any terrorist at all, but rather to point out how when people's backs are up against the wall, they react badly. And it has nothing to do with a specific religion. It has to do with people.