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Violence in the Bible and the Quran: A fundamental difference

Date Published: 
Saturday, 3 November, 2018


Of course not all Christians have always interpreted Christianity in a peaceful way, and not all Muslims have interpreted Islam to be violent. Both religions have very long histories, spread across continents and complicated by racial, political and cultural factors that have influenced adherents’ interpretations of their scriptures. But the undoubtedly true observation that every major human institution will have people whom future generations regard as cruel or compassionate, wise or foolish, noble or corrupt, heroic or villainous, does not mean that Christianity and Islam do not have distinct credos. They do, and in the case of Christianity and Islam the two approaches to violence are fundamentally different. All branches of Christianity treat the stories and laws of the Old Testament – as the name suggests - as a former imperfect revelation requiring an interpretation consistent with Jesus’ perfect example of loving kindness. It is simply unimaginable that the Jesus described in the Gospels might, in different circumstances, have organised his followers to rob, kill, torture, enslave, maim and rape in the way that Mohammed did. By contrast when the Quran instructs beheadings, lashings or the amputation of fingers, hands and feet, these instructions, when given, were intended to be applied to real necks, backs and limbs. No branch of Islam has ever taught other than that this was how the Quran was intended to be interpreted when Mohammed announced it, nor that this was how Mohammed himself, as the perfect example of Islamic values, applied it, and intended it to be applied forever.