These are puzzlements!
-- King Mongkut of Siam (allegedly)
How is it that Christianity and Islam are both sources to claims of peaceful intent and despicable savagery? Jesus Christ is regarded by some as the “Prince of Peace,” yet the religion bearing his name spawned the Crusades, the Inquisition, the usages and practices of the Malleus Maleficarum, and too many other atrocities to count. Muslims worldwide declare that Islam is “a religion of peace,” yet violent organizations from Al Qaeda and the Taliban to the Islamic State do not blink when they associate themselves with Islam and assert that Muhammad himself would approve of what they do. The contrasts and contradictions could not be more glaring if they were rendered in midnight black and bleached white, not just begging but screaming for an explanation. As with many such things, the explanation is at once simple and not so simple and may be found in both cases by going back to the source.
The problem with Islam is the same problem with Christianity – a foundation which can be read to get anything out of it the reader wishes to get, which is to say, their respective holy books. Both the bible and the quran can be painted with the same brush as it comes to this and followers of either book cherry-pick in similar fashion to reinforce mindsets already established in their own heads. When the practitioners of both these religions can have the courage to acknowledge that their source material is seriously flawed, self-contradictory, and in need of revision, I'll feel like genuine progress is being made. Sadly, the only ones who seem to be doing so to this point are those who have abandoned their faiths for atheism.
David Silverman said it in his book, Fighting God: “All religion is cafeteria religion,” and the evidence backs up his claim. If a believer’s natural inclination is toward peace, verses or surahs which speak of peace, goodness, and universal brotherhood are easily found. If their bent is toward conflict, us vs. them, and war, there is no shortage of quotes available to support their position. Thus these holy books become all things to all people. All that is necessary to complete the process is a touch of willful ignorance of the other side of the coin. Jesus’ admonition about being neither hot nor cold in Revelations appears to get no traction here either, though really no one should be surprised. Those dedicated to a given side in this business are less than likely to acknowledge the validity of the other:
A man hears what he wants to hear,
And disregards the rest.
-- Paul Simon, “The Boxer”