Philip Jenkins, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses (New York: HarperOne, 2011), 320 pp., $26.99.
Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can't Ignore the Bible's Violent Verses A DECADE after the national trauma of 9/11, a rude chorus swells in the homeland, calling for restrictions on American Muslims’ rights to free assembly and free speech. The controversy over the Islamic prayer center in Lower Manhattan—characterized as “the victory mosque” by Islamophobes, who labor under no abrogation of their First Amendment rights—is a notable but hardly isolated effort to deny Muslims access to public space. Anti-sharia measures, already the law in three states and being considered by a dozen more, serve as warnings to any Muslims who would dare advocate for legislation consistent with Islamic norms. Such morality-based, religiously inspired speech is, of course, as American as apple pie. But no matter: Muslims, whether natural-born or naturalized citizens, are today’s “traitors” of choice for the new McCarthyites.
The critics of Islam, whether secular conservatives, evangelical Christians or Zionist defenders of Israel, now inhabit not only the blogosphere and sensationalist media outlets but also some local churches, state assemblies and even the halls of Congress. How do they justify the bigotry evident in proposals and policies that deny (or would deny) full civil rights to some of their fellow Americans? By framing Islam as an inherently violent religion and portraying Muslims as closet jihadists harboring sympathy for al-Qaeda and other jihadist networks. This canard is reinforced by the claim that the Holy Koran is, in the final analysis, a terrorist manifesto.