Islam, Religions

Is Islam Violent? – A response to a meme

I do not condone this image nor do I claim rights to it. See post.

I do not condone this image nor do I claim rights to it. See post.

I saw a few friends sharing or commenting on the meme I’ve shared here the other day and thought it was definitely worth a response. Here at the start I want to note that I do not condone the image shared here and think it’s deeply problematic for reasons that will become clear in what follows.

I think that we need to be careful when discussing things like this primarily for two reasons: 1) verses quoted out of context can be used to support anything; for example, I often run into atheists quoting from Joshua and arguing that it means that Christianity is inherently violent or has violent roots; 2) the picture itself doesn’t really do much to make me think any effort was made to understand what is being quoted. See below.

I’m not an expert in Islam, but I have taken a graduate level course on the topic. Moreover, there are some basic problems with this meme. One issue with this picture is that it quotes from “Koran chapter:verse” when the proper term would be “Surah chapter:verse.” Saying “Koran” instead of “Surah” is similar to saying “Bible 12:3:15.” The Qu’ran is one book, so this does not cause distortion of where to find the quotes, but in my reading this method of citation seems not quite proper. [Thanks to several readers for pointing out a need to edit here.]

Another issue is that in the Qu’ran, people aren’t referred to as Muslims but rather believers, etc. Again, this is a fairly basic misunderstanding that would be like putting the word “Christian” into the Bible all over the place when it’s not there.

I took the liberty of looking up a couple of these Surahs. Surah 8:65 is quoted in this picture as “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them” in fact says, according to the Sahih international version of the Qu’ran, ” O Prophet, urge the believers to battle. If there are among you twenty [who are] steadfast, they will overcome two hundred. And if there are among you one hundred [who are] steadfast, they will overcome a thousand of those who have disbelieved because they are a people who do not understand.” Not only does this not have the word Muslims, but it is also much longer, and doesn’t call unbelievers stupid. In fact, a comparison of the major English versions show that almost every one says “without understanding” or “do not understand.” The closest it comes to “stupid” is “without intelligence.”

The alleged quotation of 22:19 is particularly problematic, because it completely rips the verse out of context. According to the picture, it says “Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water, melt their skins and bellies.” Not only is this actually a reference to 22:19-20 but it also is not a command at all. The context of 22:19-20 is the day of judgment and this punishment is that described of for those in hell (see Surah 22:16-17 for more context). Quoting this verse to say Islam is violent would be akin to quoting a passage about weeping and gnashing of teeth from the Bible, turning it into a command to Christians without justification from the text itself and then saying it proves Christianity is violent.

I checked a couple more references and they too not only shortened the alleged “quotes” but also largely took them out of context.

Yet another problem with a picture like this is that it doesn’t account for the fact that in actual practice, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not violent. I’m not sure of the actual number of Muslims in the U.S. alone, but with over a billion Muslims in the world, if every single one were indeed violent, I would imagine that fighting would be occurring in the streets of Dearborn, MI; New York, Minneapolis, etc. Yet I don’t see this happening. Isolated incidents? Yes. A complete totality of violence everywhere? No. I would argue this is because the vast majority of Muslims have a more nuanced approach to the Qu’ran and its interpretation than simply quoting verses out of context allow; just as Christians would argue for nuanced interpretations in much the same way.

I have not entered into a wider discussion of Islam and religious violence, nor is this the place to do so [see some posts in the links]. I conclude simply by noting that the use of memes like this are, I think, deeply problematic. If we as Christians expect to be treated fairly and have real differences among Christian beliefs and interpretations acknowledged, if we think that people unfairly quote our holy texts out of context and that we deserve to have our nuances of thought also conveyed, then we should do the same for those of other faiths.


Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

The Myth of “Religion” – Constructing the Other as Enemy– How has the category of “religion” been used to support the premise of religious violence and making the “other” into an enemy?

Book Review: “The Myth of Religious Violence” by William Cavanaugh– Here is a book which discusses the notion of “religious” violence at length with sometimes startling conclusions.

I am not sure who was the original user that put the image  up, so I can’t cite it appropriately. I make no claim to owning the image and use it under fair use.



The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.


About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


8 thoughts on “Is Islam Violent? – A response to a meme

  1. Thank you for this, J.W. It is always important to speak out against distortions of others’ faiths — not out of any political correctness, but (1) out of what should be a basic human concern for accuracy (but is too often not), and (2) out of our own desire to be faithful to Jesus, who told us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. As a student of world religion in an academic context in college, and then again as a seminarian, I was always surprised and dismayed at the number of my fellow Christians who thought studying another religion, let alone speaking out against deliberate distortions of it, somehow made me a lesser Christian. So I appreciate your faithful work here.

    Posted by Michael Poteet | February 23, 2015, 9:16 AM
    • I absolutely agree. Your second point is extremely important and should be obligatory to all Christians. If we misrepresent others, how can we complain if they misrepresent us? Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 23, 2015, 9:33 AM
  2. Excellent observations. On Saturday I read an article by Saba Ahmed (a Muslim) on The Witherspoon Institute’s ( The thrust of the article was toward the author’s fellow Muslims, encouraging them to go back to a correct understanding (in her opinion) of the Quran: Christians and Muslims should be at peace with each other.

    Personally, I do believe we are involved in a global religious war, but only with a faction of one religion. That one faction, denomination, or what have you, is most certainly attempting to wipe out ALL unbelievers, Christian or not. We must admit, to be fair, that that the religion from which that denomination comes is Islam. If we deny that, as many want to do, how can we address it? Cancer within the body is made up of cells FROM the body; we attack the cancer, but try not to kill the body. Should our (as Christians, as a nation) response to ISIS be the same?

    Posted by Anthony Baker | February 23, 2015, 11:55 AM
  3. Have you thoughts on Graeme Wood’s March 2015 The Atlantic article What ISIS Really Wants? That article gets into different interpretations in what seems to be a fairly non-caricatured way—at least, to the extent one can without writing a tome.

    Posted by labreuer | February 23, 2015, 5:32 PM
  4. This is funny, what religion is this again? Ive never heard of the Koran, also this is all out of context, If you ever read the Quran and understand its meaning, or even just listen to a great reciter reciting, while you look at the translations then you will cry with how beautiful the words are. Honestly people who claim to be muslim, then go out and kill hundreds or thousands of people have no right to call themselves muslims. Not only is it haram (or against the religion and stated not to be done by god) Muslims believe that if you kill one man/woman its like you are killing all of mankind, and if you save one man/woman its like you are saving all of mankind. Islam is not a violent religion, there are just violent people that claim themselves to be muslims. Just look at the last ISIS attack, 3 of them were the worst kind of people that could ever claim themselves to be Muslim. 2 of them were co-owners of a bar… Muslims cant drink or sell anything alcoholic or harmful to people, including things as small as cigarettes. Second they were all on drugs, and had a past record of being druggies… But because they claim to be muslim the whole world can go along with them and say they are muslim. Just join the bandwagon. Islam is not a violent religion, this is coming from a 16 year old, and there are well educated 20+ year olds going around thinking they are funny saying ALLAHUAKBAR! everywhere and thinking they are funny, they are literally just shouting God Is Great! If people dont want to open their eyes and see the truth, thats their problem, just the fact that this picture is in the top results for “Islam is violent” on google images is very misleading, I hope you all aren’t the fools that believe that Islam is a violent religion, I can go to any person in jail that has killed 1+ people and is a christian, and say Christianity is a violent religion. Islam is the 2nd most practiced religion in the world, and really the 1st most practiced because half of the christians if not more that I talk to, say “I don’t know I just call myself Christian, but I’m not very religious.” or “I go to church like once or twice a year” They may have more numbers but Islam is more practicing, also if there are almost 2 billion muslims in the world, and Muslims were all violent… I don’t think there would be 1 extremest group in the world right now, and not only that, the amount of deaths per day would increase, and there wouldn’t be many people living right now… So sorry for the little speech, but I just want people to be more educated.

    Posted by Hamzah Firozi | December 3, 2015, 9:10 AM
    • The points you’re making are in many ways similar to those I made in this post. It is pretty absurd to assume that Islam (or Christianity, etc.) is inherently violent because some tiny portion of people calling themselves members of that faith are violent. Thanks for giving your perspective here!

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | December 3, 2015, 2:19 PM
  5. Never read the Talmud, have you?

    * “If a ‘goy’ (Gentile) hits a Jew he must be killed.” (Sanhedrin 58b)

    * “If a Jew finds an object lost by a ‘goy’ it does not have to be returned.” (Baba Mezia 24a)

    * “If a Jew murders a ‘goy’ there will be no death penalty.” (Sanhedrin 57a)

    * What a Jew steals from a ‘goy’ he may keep.” (Sanhedrin 57a)

    * “Jews may use subterfuges to circumvent a ‘goy.’” (Baba Kamma 113a)

    * “All children of the ‘goyim’ (Gentiles) are animals.” (Yebamoth 98a)

    * “Girls born of the ‘goyim’ are in a state of ‘niddah’ (menstrual uncleanness!) from birth.” (Abodah Zarah 36b)

    * “The ‘goyim’ are not humans. They are beasts.” (Baba Mezia 114b)

    * “If you eat with a ‘goy’ it is the same as eating with a dog.” (Tosapoth, Jebamoth 94b)

    * “Even the best of the ‘goyim’ should all be killed.” (Soferim 15)

    * “Sexual intercourse between the ‘goyim’ is like intercourse between animals.” (Sanhedrin 74b)

    * “When it comes to a Gentile in peace times, one may harm him indirectly, for instance, by removing a ladder after he had fallen into a crevice.” (Shulkan Arukh, Yoreh De ‘ah, 158, Hebrew Edition only)

    * “‘Yashu’ (derogatory for ‘Jesus’) is in Hell being boiled in hot excrement.” (Gittin 57a)

    [’Yashu’ is an acronym for the Jewish curse, ‘May his (Jesus) name be wiped out forevermore.’]

    * Yashu (Jesus) was sexually immoral and worshipped a brick.” (Sanhedrin 107b)

    * “Yashu (Jesus) was cut off from the Jewish people for his wickedness and refused to repent.” (Sotah 47a)

    * “Miriam the hairdresser had sex with many men.” (Shabbath 104b, Hebrew Edition only)

    * “She who was the descendant of princes and governors (the virgin Mary) played the harlot with carpenters.” (Sanhedrin 106a)

    * “Christians who reject the Talmud will go to hell and be punished there for all generations.” (Rosh Hashanah 17a)

    Posted by mshawshank | January 7, 2016, 10:04 AM

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