Monday, August 01, 2005

An Anglican's perspective on Islam

This looks familiar to me. I thought I saw it somewhere. Amy Welborn's perhaps? Oh, well. I digress. VirtueOnline-News offers a perspective on Islam by Patrick Sookhdeo here. Rev. Sookhdeo refuses to see Islam strictly as a "religion of peace":
So the mantra "Islam is peace" which we hear repeated in the media so often is almost 1400 years out of date. It was only for about thirteen years that Islam was peace and nothing but peace. From 622 onwards, it became increasingly aggressive, albeit with periods of peaceful co-existence particularly in colonial times, when the theology of war was not dominant. For today's radical Muslims - just as for the medieval jurists who developed classical Islam - it would be truer to say "Islam is war". One of the most radical Islamic groups in Britain, al-Ghurabaa, stated in the wake of the two London bombings, "Any Muslim that denies that terror is a part of Islam is kafir." A kafir is an unbeliever (i.e. a non-Muslim), a term of gross insult.
While many individual Muslims choose to live their personal lives only by the (now abrogated) peaceable verses of the Qur'an, it is vain to deny the pro-war and pro-terrorism doctrines within their religion. Could it be that the young men who committed suicide were neither on the fringes of Muslim society in Britain, nor following an eccentric and extremist interpretation of their faith, but rather that they came from the very core of the Muslim community motivated by a mainstream interpretation of Islam?
I don't think he's proven his controversial thesis. All he has done is demonstrate how easy it is for agents of Evil to manipulate religious tradition to justify their master's commission. As he correctly points out, many Christians, in the past and present, have done tremendous evil in the name of God. He also demonstrates that many Muslims refuse to see that Islam may contain inherantly violent traditions, defying their claims that islam is "100% peace". However, he fails to elaborate on the historical and socio-political realities that Muslims face today.

Islam has always had a tradition of Mosque and State. Mohammad preached the Qu'ran and led armies in battle. His descendents ruled as the first Caliphs of a united Muslim world. However, the complacency of their own success contributed to the demise of this Empire. Outside pressure would prevent this unity from being restored. Seljuk Turkish incursions in the Holy Land caused the Byzantine Empire to call on Western Europe for aid. The Crusades followed. Extreme arrogance on the part of a Muslim governor of a Muslim state in present-day Iran brought down the wrath of Ghengis Khan. The shattered remains of the once-proud empire withdrew within themselves for far too long. They then endured the humiliation of being ruled by non-muslims. Meanwhile, the religious unity they enjoyed under the Caliph had long passed into history.

Thus, muslims faced the modern world under the dominion of non-muslims, and they had no central authority from whom they could receive aan authoritative interpretation of the Qu'ran. Today, many muslims live under the dictatorship of regimes that, for better or worse, served the interests of the United States. These regimes have not allowed their subjects to voice any opposition to them; on the contrary, they permit--even encourage--their malcontents to blame the Great Satan and vent their rage at him. Saudi Arabia, for example, had reached accords with their own religious extremists--the Wahabists--while improving relations with the US. Many wahabi imams have preached hatred of America and still enjoyed the support of the State. Meanwhile, US military stayed in Saudi Arabia with the blessings of the Royal family.

For religious muslims that desire to see a Muslim state with a central Muslim authority, such petty regimes must appear blasphemous. However, with no central figure to offer a final interpretation of Islam, such religious Muslims may find Imams that appeal to their sense of outrage. These Imams may manipulate their believers with interpretations of Islam that exort violence and Jihad.

In fact, much of this already takes place. Osama Bin Laden appeals to the desire of the Muslim on the street that wants a muslim ruler and religious leader to reign once more. He therefore issues religious directives that he has no authority to make. He leads murderers into mass homicide and calls them holy warriors. In short, he manipulates the traditions of Islam to serve the ends of his master. Such has often been Evil's way throughout history.

This does not mean that a majority of muslims believe Osama Bin Laden represents the normative path for all Muslims. Westerners should not paint all Muslims with such a brush. We don't need to fight a war against a billion people! While I want some Muslims to wake up and breath the free air of truth regarding the behavior of their co-religionists--and whatever potential interpretations of Islam enable them--I don't believe we can accomplish this by waving a few quotes and summaries of how Islamic scholars interprete. I find it Ironic that Reverend Sookhdeo criticizes muslims for this behavior in defense of Islam by engaging in it himself.

Islamo-fascists, one of Evil's principal agents, are the enemy. Not Muslims. I pray that more of us come to understand this. Before we engage in a war that we all lose.