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In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, many people around the world are asking hard questions about the roles played by religions, religious ideologies, and religious persons in acts of violence and hatred. There has been much discussion about whether and how Islam, in particular, contributes to situations of conflict, especially in Arab-Western relations. Frequently, media commentators and public figures have presented the war against terrorism as what Samuel Huntington called a clash of civilizations, in which the democratic, secular, multicultural West is unalterably opposed to the despotic, fundamentalist, homogeneous Arab world. No doubt as a consequence of such views, hate crimes committed against Arab-Americans, Muslim Americans, and those who simply appear to be Arab or Muslim (including those who are neither Arab nor Muslim) were widely reported in the days after the attacks.
This kind of facile analysis leaves little room for debate regarding the role of Islam in perpetuating conflict and violence, and also promotes the myth of the West as somehow post-religious or free of bad religion. Thus, much of what has been spoken, written, and broadcast on the relationship between religion and violence since September 11 has been rooted in the following questionable (and, in some cases, flatly erroneous) assumptions:
Within each of these assumptions is embedded an unspoken complementary or corollary assumption:
Thus, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. Do these assumptions stand up to objective historical inquiry, however? The evidence indicates that they do not, which is why it is vital that educators be aware of the facts in order to refute misguided notions encountered in the vox populi. This essay aims to provide accurate information about the ways in which religion has both legitimated and critiqued the use of violence in the history of three important global religious traditions: Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam.
The question of whether and how Christians ought to participate in acts of violence, especially war, has been a vexed one ever since the dawn of the tradition in the first century CE. Soldiers in the pay of the Roman Empire were among the earliest converts to Christianity, and many, like St. Martin of Tours (c. 316-397 CE), found that their Christian faith disallowed them from participation in military service. Those who opposed war on religious grounds looked to Biblical texts such as Jesus teaching (as recorded in the synoptic Gospels) on non-resistance:
You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Other early Christian pacifists found support for their position in Hebrew scripture (Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself) as well as in the teachings of St. Paul:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. 
Other Christians living during in the Roman era, such as St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), drew upon the traditional Roman concept of justum bellum (just war) to formulate a distinctively Christian version which would influence Western European civilization for centuries to come. According to the just war theory developed by Augustine and later elaborated by St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274 CE), Christians may participate in organized acts of violence, such as war, only when the following conditions have been met:
1. The motivation for the use of force is personal defense or protection of the innocent (not revenge or retaliation).
2. All other resources for remediating the conflict in question have been tried unsuccessfully (war must be a last resort).
3. The application of force or violence must be proportional to the force or violence being remedied.
4. Noncombatants (civilians, aid workers, neutral parties, etc.) must not be harmed.
The European monarchs and ecclesiastical leaders who initiated and supported the Crusades (beginning in 1095 CE and continuing episodically until 1464) claimed justification for their aggression toward Islamic societies and states on the grounds of Christian just war theory, although it is doubtful whether the actions of the Crusader armies truly satisfied this theorys rigorous criteria a continuing source of resentment on the part of many Arab Muslims today. More recently, statements issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops since the September 11 attacks have echoed Thomas formula for defining religious limits on the use of force. On October 9, Galveston-Houston Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of the Conference, delivered the following remarks:
We renew our call that our military response must be guided by the traditional moral limits on the use of force. Military action is always regrettable, but it may be necessary to protect the innocent or to defend the common good. We support efforts to make clear that this response is directed at those who use terror as well as those who assist them, not at the Afghan people or Islam. Measures to insure the safety of innocent civilians are both necessary and important.
While Bishop Fiorenzas words speak from the Catholic Christian tradition, many American Christians, as well as Christians elsewhere, have found the just war theory behind them to be a persuasive rationale for the current military effort in Afghanistan.
At the same time, Christian pacifists, especially members of the peace churches (Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren), have maintained a witness for peace and against war on the Biblical grounds mentioned above. In a joint statement issued on October 10, representatives of four Quaker organizations Friends General Conference, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the American Friends Service Committee, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation repeated an argument for religiously-principled nonviolence which dates back to Christian antiquity and before:
We pray at this time for the people of the United States, Afghanistan, and the rest of the world. We hold in prayer those killed and wounded in the terrorist attacks of September 11, those being killed and wounded by the military strikes on Afghanistan that began on October 7, and all who grieve for them. We regret the decision by our nation's leaders to launch military strikes against Afghanistan, and we call upon them to halt the bombing and other military attacks . As executives of organizations of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), we continue to be guided by our historic testimony concerning God's call to renounce war and seek peace. We commit ourselves to work and pray for the time of justice and peace promised by God when peoples shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; and nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
Thus, from its beginning, the Christian tradition has made a place for both religiously-sanctioned pacifism (the unconditional rejection of all violence, including war) and religiously-sanctioned violence (primarily during wartime). In spite of this historical tension within the Christian tradition, most Christians have generally agreed (in theory, if not in practice) with the New Testament teaching that
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Religion and Violence in the History of Buddhism
At first glance, a discussion of Buddhist attitudes towards violence hardly seems necessary. After all, Buddhists are well known for their commitment to the alleviation of suffering for all beings, nonviolence, and so forth. A well-known verse from the so-called Pali Canon, the earliest known collection of Buddhist texts, claims to summarize Buddhist spirituality as follows:
Avoid all evil,
Cultivate the wholesome,
Purify ones mind --
This is the teaching of the Buddhas.
Buddhists do not believe in the existence of a permanent, individual self. Those who accept this dharma (truth) about reality as it really is are said to be liberated from the kind of self-interest and self-concern which ordinarily drive human beings to commit violent and aggressive acts. Without an I to look after, protect, and aggrandize, one is free to act completely on the behalf of others hence the traditional Buddhist emphasis on radical compassion in matters of human relationships (and relationships with the non-human world, for that matter). From a Buddhist perspective, the ultimate gesture of compassion, of course, is to teach the dharma to other sentient beings, so that they may be liberated not only from destructive and baseless self-interest, but also from samsara (the cycle of birth and death) itself, and thus enjoy unimaginable bliss beyond the realms of suffering. According to the influential Bodhicaryvatra (Entering the Path of Enlightenment) of Zntideva (c. 700s CE), a spiritually serious Buddhist can and should endure suffering inflicted by others, even as she attempts to deliver them from ignorance and thus end their own suffering:
I therefore dedicate this self of mine to the happiness of all beings. Let them smite me, constantly mock me, or throw dirt at me . Let them do to me whatever pleases them, but let no one suffer any mishap on my account . Those who accuse me falsely, others who do me wrong, and still others who deride me may they attain enlightenment!
The Indian emperor A_oka (c. 268-239 BCE), an early and important convert to Buddhism, ruled over the vast, pan-ethnic, multireligious Mauryan Empire in what is now northern and central India. According to Buddhist sources, after inflicting particularly vicious losses on his foes in battle, A_oka was remorseful and thereafter resolved to conquer by dharma rather than bloodshed, thus becoming an exemplar of the peaceful Buddhist monarch.
This lofty ideal of radical altruism has not necessarily led all Buddhists to reject participation in violence or war, however. While compassion is a hallmark of Buddhist ethics, liberation from samsara remains the ultimate goal of Buddhism, and therefore the ultimate criterion for any Buddhist action, at least in theory. Throughout history, many Buddhist thinkers have argued that the goal of saving all beings from suffering through the compassionate extension of dharma can be served best through the alignment of Buddhism with powerful, expansionist empires and nation-states. This turn in Buddhist thought is, perhaps, most dramatic in the case of the history of Buddhism in Japan.
A Buddhist text known in Japanese as the Konkomyokyo (Scripture of Golden Light) not only claims that four guardian deities (the Four Divine Kings) will come to the aid of any ruler who preserves the dharma, but also says that any state which neglects or ignores the teachings of Buddhism may be subject to invasion by righteous Buddhist rulers, who can count on the assistance of the Four Divine Kings. During the Second World War, it was widely believed by pious Japanese Buddhists that Japan could never be defeated by the United States and its allies, because Japan was a Buddhist nation and the Western powers were not blessed with the dharma. Although much of the rationale which underpinned the kamikaze (divine wind) efforts of the Japanese military was rooted in the indigenous ShintMtradition of Japan, the pilots and sailors who sacrificed their lives in suicidal attacks left diaries and letters which leave no doubt that Buddhist notions of self-sacrifice for the sake of the dharma (and the dharma-faithful state) played a significant role in their decision to volunteer for such terrifying missions. Pilots of the Lka flying bomb aircraft often wore white headbands emblazoned with the Buddhist-flavored saying popularized by the medieval Japanese military martyr, Masashige Kusunoki (d. 1336 CE):
Wrong cannot prevail
Nor Truth conquer the Law [dharma].
The most striking counter-example to such examples of religiously-sanctioned violence in the history of Buddhism is the response of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama (b. 1934 CE) to the Chinese invasion and subjugation of Tibet since 1959. In his 1989 Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech, he repeated a refrain that has been familiar to Buddhists since the days of Zntideva and before:
The realization that we are all basically the same human beings, who seek happiness and try to avoid suffering, is very helpful in developing a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood a warm feeling of love and compassion for others . Peace starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us . In the struggle between forces of war, violence, and oppression on the one hand, and peace, reason, and freedom on the other, the latter are gaining the upper hand. This realization fills us Tibetans with hope that someday we too will once again be free.
Thus, while many (if not most) orthodox Buddhists throughout Asian history have opposed the use of violence and have successfully cited authentically Buddhist grounds for doing so others have felt justified in using force and waging war in order to defend territories faithful to the Buddhist tradition or to expand missionary opportunities for the dharma. For such Buddhists, religiously-sanctioned violence has functioned (at least ideally) to ease the suffering of beings and lay the foundation for their final liberation from samsara, the endless arena of suffering through birth and death. Therefore, just as in the case of Christianity, both pacifism and a theory of limited war can be found in the Buddhist tradition.
Religion and Violence in the History of Islam
Unlike Buddhism, which generally is perceived to be a nonviolent faith, Islam suffers from the widespread perception (in the non-Muslim world, at least) that its particular brand of religiosity and acts of violence are intertwined inseparably. From the perspective of the history of religions, however, there is no meaningful distinction between Islam and the other religious traditions profiled here on the question of religion and its relationship to violence. At various times and in various places, Muslims have advocated pacifist views and argued for the limited use of violence. On every such occasion, the basic teachings of Islam have been invoked as support and sanction, whether for peace or war.
Islams reputation among Westerners as a religion of aggression and brutality arises partly from a common misunderstanding of the term jihd. Jihd simply means struggle. Although jihd often is translated as holy war in English and its cognate languages, the term holy war actually arose among medieval Europeans during the period of the Crusades (c. 12th-15th centuries CE) as a description of military activity conducted by Christians under the banner of the Pope. No equivalent for this term is found within classical Islamic literature.
For most Muslims, jihd primarily denotes the sense of an internal spiritual struggle, in which human beings struggle to submit their wills to that of the one supreme deity, Allah. This sense of jihd also is known as major jihd, in order to distinguish it from the so-called minor jihd, which usually denotes defensive military actions undertaken to protect innocent persons and the Islamic faith, and which explicitly prohibits inflicting suffering or loss of life on innocent civilians. A hadith (tradition) records the following exhortation of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632 CE) on the spiritual unity underlying both kinds of struggle:
Strive [jahidu] against the disbelievers with your hands and tongues.
On a separate occasion, the Prophet was asked, What kind of jihd [e.g., major or minor, by hands or tongues] is better? His reply is recorded as follows:
He replied, A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler!
Thus, early Islamic traditions regard jihd as the obligation of all Muslims, but are careful to distinguish the jihd of the heart (self-control and self-improvement in alignment with the will of Allah) from the jihd of the sword (war undertaken in the defense of Islam). Outer or minor jihd, in fact, is said to be ineffective without inner or major jihd, which is understood to be primary, according to the revelation of Allah in the Quran:
Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change that which is in their hearts.
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors.
Reform and renewal movements in later Islamic history both enhanced the status of religiously-sanctioned violence (minor jihd) and suggest new limits on participation in violence, including an Islamic pacifism not found in earlier traditions.
Beginning in the 8th century CE, many pious Muslims began to express their disapproval of the contemporary trend toward worldliness and away from the purity of the Prophets example. In response to the perceived moral laxity and ostentatious luxury of the Islamic world in its second century, Sufis (a name derived from the ascetic skf [wool] garments worn by many protesters and reformers during this period) reconceptualized many of the received ways of being Islamic. Among these reinterpreted concepts was the notion of jihd. For some of these mystically-inclined Sufis, the mujhada (spiritual jihd) not only became superior to the minor jihd of armed struggle, but even replaced it altogether as the only path toward Allah available to the serious spiritual seeker. Later exponents of the Sufi tradition, such as the early 20th century Egyptian writer Ahmad ibn bd ar-Rahmn ar-Rutb+, put it in this way:
It is your duty, my brother, to struggle with the soul, this being the major jihd, to the end that the soul may be delivered from reprehensible attributes through their substitution by praiseworthy ones.
Those who shared the Sufi preference for spiritual combat over physical combat looked to the Quran for inspiration and justification:
If any one kills a person it is as if one kills the whole of humanity; and if any one saves a persons life, it is as if one saves all of humanity.
Do not take any human beings life which Allah has declared to be sacred otherwise than in the pursuit of justice.
If the enemy inclines towards peace, you also should incline towards peace, and trust in Allah.
The declining legitimacy of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled much of the Muslim world from the 14th century until the establishment of Turkey as a secular republic in 1922, continued to fuel the fires of Sufi moral critique well into the 20th century. At the same time, the encroachments of non-Islamic Western powers into dar al-Islam (the territory of Islam, the traditional Muslim term for Muslim civilization), and the failure of the Ottomans attempt to thwart such encroachments, gave new impetus to the classical concept of jihd, and in the process of doing so, helped to enlarge the concepts earlier meaning. Those who invoked jihd against the Ottomans, the British, or the French could locate divine authority for their causes in the Quran:
Fight the aggressors until they revert to God's commandment.
To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to defend themselves], because they are wronged -- and verily, Allah is Most Powerful to give them victory [they are] those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right [for no cause] except that they say, Our Lord is Allah .
More recently, this rhetorical understanding of Muslim-Western or Arab-Western relations as characterized by jihd has been deployed by those involved in a variety of popular causes in the Arab world, including those who disapprove of the presence of American military personnel on Arab soil.
Thus, while some aspects of Islamic tradition have eschewed violence and reinterpreted jihd as a primarily spiritual struggle (in accordance with the recorded sayings of the Prophet), the weight of Islamic historical experience and practice falls behind the notion that, while violence is abhorrent to Allah and those who submit to Allah, religiously-sanctioned violence within prescribed limits is acceptable but only when undertaken in defense of Islam and with regard for the lives of innocent bystanders.
Religion and Violence: An Ambiguous Relationship
The careful thinker who has reviewed the historical facts may find herself frustrated. Are there no clear guidelines provided by religious traditions for regulating believers participation in violence? The answer, of course, is that yes, there are but no single religious tradition provides one single set of guidelines. Instead, most religious traditions provide at least two ways of defining the relationship between religious sanction and acts of aggression: a pacifist definition (in which participation in violence is strictly forbidden on religious grounds) and a limitationist definition (in which participation in violence is strictly limited on religious grounds). Thus, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims all can cite religious sanctions in order to justify their participation in war, albeit war of a limited nature and all of these can invoke sacred authorities in order to critique or reject military activities.
One thing is clear, however: at their roots, none of the religious traditions profiled here permits the slaughter of innocent bystanders (noncombatants or collateral damage). Thus, the actions of those responsible for the September 11 attacks are prohibited in principle by Buddhist, Christian, and Islamic religious authorities, not to mention spokespersons for nearly every recognized religious tradition worldwide. Why? Not only do such actions clearly violate the guidelines established by the pacifist strains in these traditions, but they also transgress the limits placed on acts of violence within each tradition. Hence, it is not merely lip service to power, but a genuine expression of traditional values, that the global religious community is all but united in its condemnation of any attempt to justify the September 11 on religious grounds.
What may yet erode that fragile unity, of course, is the question of how to respond to the events of September 11 and their aftermath. Pacifist voices across the globe have been raised in support of diplomatic, judicial, and humanitarian means of redressing the injuries inflicted by the attacks and resolving the conflicts between the Arab and Western worlds which allegedly motivated the attackers. Simultaneously, religious spokespersons in the United States and nations which support the US campaign against terrorism have offered their blessing for the military assault on Afghanistan which commenced on October 7. Many military personnel who seek counsel from their chaplains have found assurance in traditional limited-war theories from Christian and other religious traditions, as have many civilians who support the war effort. A prolonged military assault on terrorism in Arab countries will, inevitably, bring the two poles of traditional religious conviction on the question of religion and violence into dramatic contrast and conflict.Should noncombatant casualties increase in number as a result of the anti-terrorism campaign, support for the war on limitationist grounds will grow weak. Should the mastermind(s) of the September 11 attacks be apprehended and brought to justice as a result of military actions, those who protest the war effort on pacifist grounds will be ridiculed as naïve and unrealistic, as well as unpatriotic, perhaps.
Whatever transpires in the immediate and uncertain future, it is worth recalling the words of the Israeli novelist, journalist, and political activist:
Let us remember: neither the West, nor Islam, nor the Arab world, is evil or The Great Satan. The Great Satan is personified in hatred and fanaticism. These two ancient mental failings still plague us. Let us be very careful not to be infected.
 See Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).
 See Laurie Goodstein and Tamar Lewin, A Nation Challenged: Violence and Harassment, The New York Times, September 19, 2001.
 See Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).
 For a theoretical perspective which suggests that the opposite is true, see René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977).
 This verse, which suggests that cultural differences are absolute, opens the poem The Ballad of East and West, by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Cursory readers of this poem often seize upon this first line in order to accuse Kipling of bald-faced racism, whereas the following lines suggest that he saw cultural differences as rather less than insurmountable: But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, / When two strong men stand face to face, tho they come from the ends of the earth!
 See T. D. Barnes, The Military Career of Martin of Tours, Analecta Bollandiana CXIV (1996): 25-32.
 Matthew 5:38-39. See the parallel saying of Jesus in Luke 6:29-30.
 Leviticus 19:17-19.
 Romans 12:18-20. In this passage, Paul himself quotes two passages of Hebrew scripture Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21-22, respectively.
 See Augustine of Hippo, Against Faustus the Manichaean XXII.73-79, in Political Writings, eds. Michael W. Tkacz and Douglas Kries, trans. Ernest L. Fortin and Douglas Kries (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), 220-222.
 See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologicae, Part II, II, Q. 40, Art. 1.
 See Jonathon and Louise Riley-Smith, The Crusades -- Idea and Reality, 1095-1274 (London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1981), and Francesco Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades, trans. E. J. Costello (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984).
 The full text of Bishop Fiorenzas remarks may be accessed online at: http://www.nccbuscc.org/comm/archives/2001/01-175.htm.
 See John H. Yoder, Nevertheless: A Meditation on the Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1971).
 The Biblical reference is to Isaiah 2:4. The full text of the joint statement may be accessed online at: http://www.fcnl.org/issues/afghanistan/terrorism/stmt_quaker-orgs.htm.
 James 3:17-18.
 Dhammapada 183. See John Ross Carter and Mahinda Palihawadana, trans., The Dhammapada (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 243-244.
 See Marion Matics, Entering the Path of Enlightenment (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 143-155.
 See Noble Ross Reat, Buddhism: A History (Fremont, CA: Jain Publishing, 1994), 26-28.
 An English translation is available in R. E. Emmerick, The Sutra of Golden Light (London: Luzac, 1970).
 See Roger J. Corless, The Vision of Buddhism: The Space Under the Tree (New York: Paragon House, 1989), 58-59.
 See Ivan Morris, The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan (New York: The Noonday Press, 1975), 276-334.
 Ibid., 279.
 Tenzin Gyatso, The Nobel Peace Price Lecture, in Robert A. F. Thurman, ed., Essential Tibetan Buddhism (Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 1995), 282, 284-285.
 One also thinks of the relationship between violence and Buddhist ideologies in recent Sri Lankan history. See S. J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
 See Annemarie Schmimmel, Islam: An Introduction (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 69-70.
 Some 20th century Islamic modernists, such as the late Tunisian president Habib Bourghiba (deposed in 1987), attempted to reformulate minor jihd in terms of other kinds of struggles undertaken to support the Islamic community, such as agricultural or industrial labor. See ibid., 35-36.
Sahih Ibn Hibban #4708.
 Sunan Al-Nasa'i #4209.
 Quran 13:11.
 Quran 2:190.
 See Kenneth Cragg and R. Marston Speight, The House of Islam, 3rd ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1988), 65-71.
 See J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 139-143.
 Quoted in Trimingham, ibid., 155.
 Quran 5:32.
 Quran 6:151.
 Quran 8:61.
 See Malise Ruthven, Islam in the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 287-300.
 Quran 49:9.
 Quran 22:39-40.
 See Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam: A Reader (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1996).
 The National Council of Churches in the USA has sponsored one such interfaith statement, entitled Deny Them Their Victory: A Religious Response to Terrorism, which can be found online at http://www.ncccusa.org/news/interfaithstatement.html
 It is worth noting that General Pervez Musharraf, the unelected President of Pakistan, has replaced his intelligence chief and other senior officers known for their conservative Islamic views, fearing the erosion of his legitimacy in the midst of the controversial alliance between Pakistan and the United States in the war against terrorism. See Pamela Constable, Attacks on US Drive Pakistan to Crossroads, The Washington Post, October 8, 2001.
 Horror Must Not Infect World With Fanaticism, The Irish Times, September 13, 2001.
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