Violence has erupted in the Arab states. The violence has come from Muslims and is motivated by their angst against America and Americans. Friends, let’s be honest; this is tough to talk about. Muslims — both here in America and abroad — are highly suspicious of America’s intentions in the world, and some Americans see every Muslim as a potential terrorist. There are obviously reasons behind both of these perceptions, but this only means that we must work harder at communicating clearly and not allowing perspective to be blinded by passion. As is Intramuralist principle, we will distinguish between fact vs. fiction and what we know for sure. Why are the Islamists protesting?
Initially some made mention of the Muslims being motivated by a YouTube video. Noting that the violent behavior began on 911 in multiple places — and that the 13 minute trailer was first posted on July 1st — the notion that the mayhem is solely about the movie minimizes the reality. A summer of 2012 Pew Research poll found that fewer than 1-in-5 Egyptians, Jordanians, Pakistanis, and Turks possess a favorable view of the United States. Many Muslims dislike America. Some call it hate. Why?
Since each of the above governments have significant Islamic leaders — and noting that Muslims have little familiarity with the concept of separation between church and state — we must evaluate the core of Islamic beliefs. Note that this analysis is similar to the Intramuralist’s previous analysis of Scientology, and it will also be evident in our future dissection of Mormonism (as requested by popular demand).
Often argued is that radical Muslims are no different than radical believers of any religion. With embassy attacks now in multiple Islamic countries, many confidently proclaim that the problem is not Islam, but the religious belief of any type when taken too seriously. That claim leads us to the question: is there something inherent in Islam that makes it more likely to resort to violence than other world religions like Christianity or Buddhism?
While it’s important to admit that all religions have adherents that are willing to use violence to achieve what they believe are justified ends, it doesn’t follow that all religions teach equally the legitimacy of violent means. People have committed horrible atrocities in the name of Jesus Christ, from the inquisitions to the slaying of abortionists. However, these actions can’t be justified from the actual teachings of Christ. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus teach that one should kill for the sake of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, or to defend the honor of Jesus himself.
What about Islam and the actual teachings of Muhammad? According to The Oxford History of Islam, from the beginning, Muslims “saw their mission as jihad, or militant effort to combat evil and to spread Muhammad’s message of monotheism and righteousness far and wide.” Although many argue that jihad primarily refers to a struggle or striving for personal righteousness, a significant number of others proclaim that jihad is an armed struggle against “infidels” — the term utilized for unbelievers.
Numerous passages in the Qur’an refer to this violence. A surah titled “The Spoils of War” states, “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you… they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding.” Another says, “O ye who believe! When ye meet the Unbelievers in hostile array, never turn your backs to them…” It adds that those who do will find themselves in hell, a significant incentive to fight on.
So do all Muslims see jihad in the light of conquest and warfare? My sense is a strong ‘no,’ although many have been seemingly slow to denounce the current violence. Similar to others professing faith in varied religions, we at times alter our interpretation of the proclaimed holy words for various motives — perhaps because we deeply disagree or it’s incomprehensible or simply because it’s inconvenient. Truthfully, sometimes my heart hurts for those who do view Islam as a call for peace — especially for American-born Muslims. I wonder how they must feel with the deep tension between 2 people groups with which they identify. I wonder how they feel when they are stared at, scorned upon, or treated poorly in this country. That is also tough to comprehend.
Friends, this analysis is by no means complete. There are aspects and tangents that many will pounce upon to passionately prove their perspective. Many will still shout that “Islam is a religion of peace!” I would only respectfully add that such an argument is also incomplete.
Hence, I leave you with this… Nearly every major religion in the world teaches a variation of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Islam does not include this. Instead, it makes very definite distinctions in the way Muslims are to treat believers and unbelievers. That fact should not cause us to stare at, scorn upon, nor treat poorly any who are different. It should instead humble us, teaching us to communicate truth more clearly — and not be blinded by passions that are easier to embrace.