Islam and jihad
1) Words to consider carefully
the infidels is our religion, slaughtering them is our religion, until
they convert to Islam or pay us tribute."
Musab al-Zarqawi, 2005
is a rapidly spreading religion because of its cultural and political
appeal and its universal message of peace, temperance and the brotherhood
religion of Islam was begun by a man named Muhammad
in the 600's. It has since split into multiple denominations; each the result
of different beliefs and interpretations of Muhammad's life and sayings.
Islam's practice of jihad is a concept which likewise defies monolithic
definition and has taken different forms.
threats, murders, and international plots being carried out in the name
of Islam and jihad are undeniably a part of why the two are so widely discussed
in the West today. This violence has become so widespread and integral to
the religion (according to terrorists) that it is tempting to let the violence
dominate the debate. However that would be a mistake because there is
far more to evaluating Islam than being swept away by the terror act of
the day, though those must be addressed. And there is much more to Muslim
people than murderous extremists bent on world subjugation, though they
too must be accounted for.
3. Prescribed way of life
4. Governmental system
5. Bedouin culture
Community -- The chief word Muslim apologist Reza Aslan uses to summarize
the many faces of Islam is "community." The welfare of the community,
the honor and protection of the community, regulation of the community,
submission to the community - all have very high importance in Islamic culture.
The word Islam itself means "submission" and submission
to Islamic authority is strictly enforced in many Muslim dominated countries.
It's been that way ever since the time of its roots in desert Bedouin tribes.
From arranged marriages to honor killings, the individual is consistently
held in submission to the community. This stands in marked contrast to the
individualism, freedom, personal liberties and self-rule that typifies and
is cherished by the West.
Entwined with its communal aspect, Islam can also be a very prescribed
way of life. From livestock exchange rates for brides in more fundamentalist
sects, to all the rules concerning what cannot be said, implied, printed,
published, or illustrated about the prophet Muhammad, Islam has a plethora
of civic and social rules; so many that they comprise their own legal system
called Sharia (or Shariah) law.
a highly controlled culture can appeal at all to freedom-accustomed Westerners
is revealed by a Newsweek finding in 2005. It surveyed American and European
women who had converted to Islam. While Islam is a generally male-oriented
religion, the women stated they were attracted to it because under Islam
many aspects of life were "all decided" and little remained for
the individual to have to "figure out."
respondents faulted Christianity and the West as being overly burdensome
in terms of not having well-defined rules in regard to daily living.
These women were more than happy to trade the freedom of choice, or to them
the burden of choice, for the security of rigid rules which, if followed,
yeilded guaranteed acceptance within the community.
Islam is additionally a governmental system, or it can be. There
is disagreement among Muslims as to what Muhammad's exact intent was concerning
the relationship between mosque and state. This has long been a contentious
point between liberal
Islam and conservative Islam.
To those whom
Islam is a governmental system, it is a homogenous mixing of mosque and
state, of religion and politics. A crime against one is a crime against
the other. Defending one is defending the other.
Hussein, for example, is missed by very few people, yet his removal by infidel
(non-Muslim) forces was perceived by some Muslims as an attack on the religion
of Islam itself. That conclusion is misreading the West, of course, or else
is a deceitful attempt to enflame resentment against the West. Understanding
that some Muslims define Islam that way while others do not helps understand
why America is both cheered and jeered across the Islamic world when it
has undertaken such acts.
In another sense, Islam is Bedouin culture redressed in monotheism.
Many Islamic communities or spokesmen still promote the ancient practices
of honor killings, arranged marriages, wife beating, death for converting
to a different religion, death or persecution for being of a different religion,
death for insulting Muhammad, death for drawing a picture of Muhammad, death
for being a rape victim, death for stealing, slavery, mutilation, and on
and on. Seventh century living is the life pattern for believers of this
variety even fourteen centuries later.
Lastly, Islam is a theology, but it's theological underpinnings may
be its weakest point. Consider the defenders of Islamic theology compared
to those of Christianity or Judaism. Establishing Islamic beliefs to be
true and historical seems far less important within Islam than is exacting
violent retribution against those whom it perceives to be rivals or offenders.
Atheists write a book and Christians call for a debate; Salmon Rushdie writes
a book and Islamic clerics call for his head. Some artist mocks Christ and
Christians petition to cut off his public funding; some artist draws Muhammad
and Muslims petition to cut off his life. Such Muslims do not speak for
all, certainly, but their voices are loudest from where I'm sitting here
in 2011 America.
Whatever your definition of Islam, that which Muhammad preached and enforced
with the sword did have at least this benefit: it mimicked the unification
that Christianity was bringing to Europe and portions of Asia, Africa, and
the Middle East. In both cases, Islam and Christianity, people separated
by great distances were nonetheless being united by ideas - shared beliefs,
values, and goals; albeit different beliefs, different values, and different
what's the goal here?
began writing on Islam to facilitate a better understanding of the conditions
which led up to the Crusades. This is a humble enough goal and still of
importance. (The Crusades did not come out of nowhere, and they did not
come from the Bible or Jesus' teachings. They were preceded and largely
precipitated by Islamic jihad; in particular the type that demands the death
or subjugation of all non-Muslims.) Yet the reason I've let this discussion
of Islam and jihad expand into a significant set of chapters is two-fold:
western audiences need greater explanation of Islamic history and beliefs.
Without knowing the basic background of Muslim faith and history, how can
we sort out our own prejudiced illusions from the factual attributes which
truly describe the religion and the people? You know of Islamic terrorists
from the news; you may also know peaceful Muslims from work or next door.
They both describe themselves as Muslim - what gives? I think I can help
too many exposés on Islam simply knock down the straw-man of "violent
Islam" (sometimes called Islamism, a contentious point itself).
Knocking down the straw-man isn't hard to do, and was likely all my first
effort achieved. But addressing radical Islam without accounting for other
variations of the religion missed the chance to shed
light on real quranic Islam; and by extention, missed the chance to compare
it with true biblical Christianity. That is a very valuable comparison;
and one that is key to the subsequent acceptance or rejection of Islam as
the correction/fulfillment of Christianity which it claims to be. I can
help there as well.
are at pains not to fight a religious war. The
trouble is, our enemies are fighting a religious war, and there is nothing
we can do about it."
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