SUMMARY: Islamic faith based religious violence is statistically insignificant, compared to many other occurrences of violence. But it makes big news, because of its dramatic nature, just like plane crashes compared to automobile accidents. However, Muslims should not be apologetic about it – but rather to clarify them clearly about the bias as well as the framing effects of the media, which aggravates the perception of the masses. Islam always stood on its principles, which is against injustices (Al Fitnah) – by Muslims or non-Muslims alike. Violence is the effects, but not its roots; injustices are.
The question I posed above: whether religious violence, such as ISIS of Syria & Iraq, Al Qaeda, the so called religiously “linked” violence is on the rise – begs us to dig a bit deeper into the subject matter. Furthermore, these violence seems to point out to Islamic belief as the source of these violence. First question is: is it true that violence is on the rise? Second question is: is it due to Islamic faith? Let us try to address this “scientifically” – which means that I will base my arguments based on statistical analysis, and secondly based on fundamental analysis.
Let me start with statistical analysis.
I would use studies in a recent paper by Cirillo & Taleb “The Decline of Violent Conflicts: What
Do The Data Really Say?” [Nobel Symposium 161: The Causes of Peace, June 15-18, 2016, Bergen, Norway, (Nobel Foundation)]
First, statistically we have to rely on longer historical data, say of about 50 years or more, and better still 100 years or even more. Then only, we could make statistical statements that are meaningful (which means unbiased) and “statistically correct”(which means scientifically proper). The answer to this is clear: violence is statistically speaking violence had been on a significant decline over the last 100 years, and religious violence represent statistically “insignificant” percentage of the total violence that occurred [adjusted for the number of the world population, since 100 events based on 1 billion people is different than ones based on 6 billion people]. In another word, the World had become a safer place to live than say 100 years ago.
Secondly, religious based violence had been even on a lesser scale, as they represent statistically insignificant percentage of near 0%. The largest percentage of violence is war between nations (i.e. other reasons than religion); and war’s occurrence is considered to be “anomalies” within the data (that is it occurred in less frequencies but with devastating casualties).
Now let us address the issue of religion as the source of violence. First we cannot deny those who commit violence and claimed that it is because of religion (such as ISIS). Anyone who commits anything based on his claims to act on his religious faith – has to be taken on that “face value”. We should not say that they are wrong “religiously”. In another word, if someone claims to act based on Islamic faith – we should not be apologetic to say that they are “NOT MUSLIMS”. This is clear from Al Quran that we can’t deny anyone who says the Syahadah (the verse which refers to one Sahabah who was admonished by Ar Rasul (saw), when he killed a Musyrik who uttered the Syahadah). We have to stop at that point – not to deny a Muslim as a Muslim. What’s in their heart is between them and Allah (نحكم بالظواهر ولا بالخواطر, we judge on the Dzahir (known) and not the Khawatir (unknown)). But whether their acts are in conformity to Islamic principles is another thing altogether – as this is the domain of Islamic scholars to interpret such matter. And in the case of ISIS, majority of big scholars clearly says that what they do are Islamically wrong.
Statistically speaking, violence comes from many sources – and religion is the least and the most insignificant of them (at least over the last 100 years of human history). But why does religious violence, in particular, the ones related to Islamic faith is so highly propagated (such as the 9/11 events, the ISIS, and many other spates of violence in the West)? I would analyze this similarly to the case of “airplane crashes”. The probability of airplane crash is extremely small (i.e. statistically insignificant), but the occurrence (even rarely), make big news. Why? Because despite we have millions who died yearly from automobile accidents, they are non-dramatic; but plane crash, even if it kills 300 people, is dramatic. Our human minds are biased towards dramatic events.
What makes it worse is the framing approach of the media. This framing effect magnifies the subject, and create the perception which dominates the front lobes of human brain. A such, I found many non-Muslims friend of mine views that Muslims are violent. The Muslims have to encounter this by no other way (I disagree on denial approach as explained above – that these people are NOT MUSLIMS; they are Muslims) – except first to accept that Islam stood for its principles – that is to remove injustice ( يقاتلوهم حتى لا تكون فتنة) . If injustice still dominates, and some people reacts to those injustices – it must be understood that it is the root cause of those violence. We do not need to apologize, as Ar Rasul (saw) and the Sahabah never apologizes for their actions. This is what I am trying to correct, since I saw many Muslims are apologetic to these events. What we have to say is that, factually and scientifically speaking (hence based on rational scientific argument), that these events are insignificant and it is distortion of the actual reality.
That is my view on this matter. Wallahu A’lam.