by Qassim Rashid
A man whom The Economist calls “one of America’s best scholars on religion” has just released his latest book, “Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses.” Author Philip Jenkins presents a perspective about Christianity, Islam and Judaism that forces readers to think critically about religious violence, rather than bask in the comfort (and danger) of stereotypes.
To be sure, I did not necessarily agree with Professor Jenkins on every conclusion. I do, however, admire his work immensely. Indeed, my points of disagreement are minor in comparison to the numerous powerful arguments — with which I do agree — he makes throughout his book.
For example, Jenkins argues that few true pacifists exist either among Muslims or Christians. To qualify this claim, he examines the Qur’an, a book commonly and incorrectly charged as a scripture that promotes violence. Jenkins instead argues that the Qur’an deserves respect for how its attempts to legislate the rules of war — particularly in its strictly defined permission to fight in a defensive struggle against external aggression. Interpretations that are used as excuses to justify private terrorism, acts against civilians, and vigilante justice are as abhorrent to one faith as they are to another — Islam being no exception.