Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: Is Islam a religion of peace? |

Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: Is Islam a religion of peace?

Last week, ABC’s “20/20” took a brief, though relatively detailed, look into the question of whether Islam is actually, as many of its American members insist, a religion of peace.

They opened the discussion quoting a passage from one of the holy books demanding, among other things, that if a woman is not a virgin before marriage, or if one (man or woman) happens to believe in a different god, then the penalty for such is death by stoning.

After the TV audience presumes to feign shock and dismay, it is revealed the passage comes from the Book of Deuteronomy in the good ol’ American Bible.

Ahem …

However, this was immediately followed by an Islamic “scholar” who announced that the actual translation of the Top Shelf Awards for martyrdom is 72 “raisins” as opposed to the always popular, and for some bizarre reason beyond my comprehension, six dozen “virgins.”

The point being, of course, that it is interpretation of so-called holy books that separates saints from savages, and this elucidation is what’s needed to at least attempt to properly understand one another’s creed.

In effect, what’s the difference between radical Islam and radical Christianity or even radical Buddhism (if there is such a thing)? Well, as the joke goes, a moderate Muslim is one who has run out of ammunition, but the humor is lost entirely when the other side bombs an abortion clinic or the unfortunate reality of pedophile priests is brought to light.

Diane Sawyer asked, philosophically (I hoped), who was going to be the Gandhi of Islam. After the discussion of how Muslim men treat women as chattel, I concluded they need an Islamic Gloria Steinem, as well.

Either way, the show left me with many more questions than answers, and I felt cheated for having the discourse be relegated to yet another my-god’s-better-than-your-god-type argument, as opposed to the unbiased approach the subject certainly deserves.

Lo and behold, an answer lay inside the pages of the Vail Daily, where a friend pointed out an ad about a live debate to be held between the Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan (dubbed the “Muslim Martin Luther”) and American intellectual (via England) Christopher Hitchens, where they will tackle the exact question: Is Islam a religion of peace?

For this hopefully enlightening evening, the debate is not one of theist versus non-theist but an intellectual contest of sorts over perception versus reality for one of the world’s most practiced supernatural belief systems.

Although Hitchens is known worldwide for his anti-theist views, his vast knowledge of organized religions itself can provide for a far better debate than 99 percent of the populace.

Thanks to B’Nai Vail and the Vail Symposium, locals could actually join as the two debate – live via satellite – this past Tuesday when the peaceful smack down transpired at 6 p.m. at the Vail Interfaith Chapel.

Whether a believer or not, most agree that any religion can be perverted because each has extremists who will twist words to meet objectives, so the last thing this debate will be is boring.

It’s also free.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at Comment on

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