Originally published under the title "'Scientific' Claim: Christian Bible More 'Bloodthirsty' than Quran."
Left: Joshua's Victory over the Amalekites (Nicolas Poussin). Right: The Battle of Badr (14th century Alkhanid drawing).
A new data-based study published on Yahoo News, Huffington Post, and many other media, purports to have proven that the Bible—including the New Testament—is more violent than the Quran.
From Tom McKay's article about the study: "Fifty-eight percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Islam" thanks to a "laundry list of misinformation about the faith's holy text, the Quran." He continues:
But a recent project by data analyst and research marketer Tom Anderson turns one common misconception on its head: that the Quran is more consumed by blood thirst than the Christian Bible.... Of the three books [Old Testament, New Testament, Quran], the project found, the Old Testament is the most violent, with approximately 5.3% of the text referring to "destruction and killing" — the Quran clocked in at just 2.1%, with the New Testament slightly higher at 2.8%.... According to Anderson, the findings challenge the popular notion among Westerners that Muslims subscribe to a particularly violent faith. Indeed, he concluded, "of the three texts, the content in the Old Testament appears to be the most violent."
So this study proves what Islam's apologists have long claimed: that the Bible contains more violence and bloodshed than the Quran. Even so, the intelligence and/or sincerity of anyone—including supposed scholars and "thinkers"—who cites this fact as proof that the Quran cannot incite more violence than the Bible must be highly doubted.
Most violence in the Bible is recorded as history; most violence in the Quran is doctrinally significant.
For starters, this argument fundamentally ignores the contexts of all three scriptures. Comparing violence in the Bible—old or new testaments—with violence in the Quran conflates history with doctrine. The majority of violence in the Bible is recorded as history; a description of events. Conversely, the overwhelming majority of violence in the Quran is doctrinally significant. In other words, the Bible has about as much capacity to incite its readers to violence as a history textbook. On the other hand, the Quran uses open ended language to call on believers to commit acts of violence against non-Muslims. (See "Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam?" for my most comprehensive and documented treatment of this tiresome apologia.)
This study also fails to consider who is behind the violence. It just appears to count the number of times words like "kill" appear. Due to this, New Testament descriptions of Christians—including Christ—being persecuted and killed are supposedly equal at inciting Christians to violence as Allah's commandments for Muslims to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them—seize them, besiege them, and make ready to ambush them!" (Quran 9:5). This study sees no difference between the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7-8) and Allah's words: "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip" (Quran 8:12).
Even the claim behind this study—that "Fifty-eight percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Islam" apparently because of "misinformation about the faith's holy text, the Quran"—is a strawman argument. "Islamophobia" is based less on what Americans think about the Quran and more on the violence, terrorism, and atrocities they see and hear Muslims commit in the name of Islam on a daily basis. (Ironically, the whole point of appealing to a strawman argument is that the argument itself is ironclad, even if it doesn't address the real issue. As seen here, however, even the straw argument itself—that the Bible has more potential to incite violence than the Quran—is full of holes.)
This is to say nothing of the fact that Islamic teaching is hardly limited to the Quran; volumes of canonical (sahih) Hadith (words and deeds of Muhammad) equally inform Muslim actions. As one Muslim cleric put it, "Much of Islam will remain mere abstract concepts without Hadith. We would never know how to pray, fast, pay zakah, or make pilgrimage without the illustration found in Hadith..." And as it happens, calls to anti-infidel violence in the Hadith outnumber the Quran's.
Due to its many shortcomings, even Anderson admits that his "analysis is superficial and the findings are by no means intended to be conclusive." So why are several media outlets highlighting the conclusion of a study which readily admits it does not prove what its champions claim?
Because the politically correct conclusion—that Islam cannot be any worse than Judaism and Christianity—is all that matters here, gaping holes in methodology be damned.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Judith Friedman Rosen fellow at the Middle East Forum and a Shillman fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.