Imagine how millions of peace-loving Christians would react if they saw a subway advertisement during their morning commute showing cherry-picked Bible quotes such as “I come not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34) or "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled" (Luke 12:49-51), trying to wrongfully portray Christianity as a religion of violence. I think it would be fair to say that most fair-minded Americans would be able to see right through the sinister veneer of these blatantly ridiculous advertisements. Now imagine that we are talking about Islam instead of Christianity.
Controversial anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller has just purchased new advertising space in several subway stations in the New York area so she can display her newest anti-Islam message. According to The New York Observer, Geller’s latest slate of anti-Islam ads seem to “feature a panorama of the sky the moment the World Trade Center burst into flames [on September 11], accompanied by a quote from the Quran that reads ‘Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers.’” Geller is no stranger to Islamophobia.
Geller is clearly trying to cherry-pick a verse of the Quran out of context in order to stoke anti-Muslim fears amongst ordinary Americans. First of all, her cherry-picked quote from Quran 3:151 above actually refers to the famous Battle of Badr, where the Prophet Muhammad had to defeat back attacking pagan Arab idolaters. Most importantly, this verse (and most other verses dealing with historical battles) refer to hostile pagan idolaters who attacked Muslims and they do not refer to Christians or Jews (who are referred to as “People of the Book” or Ahl Al-Kitab in Arabic) who all believe in the same monotheistic god of Abraham as Muslims believe.
Geller recently came to many Americans’ attention in September 2012 when she bought her first round of anti-Muslim subway ads which stated, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." The controversial advertisements were roundly condemned by most people around the country, including by prominent national Jewish organizations who were quick to call out her Islamophobia.
To those like Geller who think that Islam is more of an ‘inherently violent’ religion than other major world religions, Professor Philip Jenkins, author of the book Jesus Wars, once said during a March 2010 interview with National Public Radio (NPR) that, "By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane." He continued: "Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide." Professor Jenkins even went so far as saying during his March 2010 NPR interview that, "Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible."
But none of us should cherry-pick. Our holy books all have plenty of messages of tolerance, which we should use to help bring people together and not let fear-mongering bigots like Geller rip us apart as a nation.