What does Islam say about Terrorism?

[COMMENT:  In the interest of honest debate, here is a Muslim source claiming that Islam is really a peaceful religion.  From the '877 - Why Islam' website (The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) )  The assertions below are not persuasive for the reasons I insert below in the text.  

See also second rejection of violence by Muslims below  E. Fox] 

   
877-WHY-ISLAM Brochure.    
One of the distinctive characteristics of the times we live in is the overwhelming presence of violence in our societies. Whether it is a bomb going off in a market place, or the hijacking of an aircraft where innocent people are held at ransom to achieve political ends, we live in an age, where the manipulation and loss of innocent lives has become commonplace.

Such is the all-pervasive nature of indiscriminate violence, that “terrorism” is considered as one of the prime threats to peace and security in our societies.

The word terrorism came into wide usage only a few decades ago. One of the unfortunate results of this new terminology is that it limits the definition of terrorism to that perpetrated by small groups or individuals. Terrorism, in fact, spans the entire world, and manifests itself in various forms. Its perpetrators do not fit any stereotype. Those who hold human lives cheap, and have the power to expend human lives, appear at different levels in our societies. The frustrated employee who kills his colleagues in cold-blood or the oppressed citizen of an occupied land who vents his anger by blowing up a school bus are terrorists who provoke our anger and revulsion. Ironically however, the politician who uses age-old ethnic animosities between peoples to consolidate his position, the head of state who orders “carpet bombing” of entire cities, the exalted councils that choke millions of civilians to death by wielding the insidious weapon of sanctions, are rarely punished for their crimes against humanity.

[COMMENT:  The above paragraphs are on the money.  Almost all civilizations have done horrendous things.]

It is this narrow definition of terrorism that implicates only individuals and groups, that has caused Muslims to be associated with acts of destruction and terror, and as a result, to become victims of hate violence and terror themselves. Sometimes the religion of Islam is held responsible for the acts of a handful of Muslims, and often for the acts of non-Muslims! 

[COMMENT:  There may be a small handful of Muslims doing the dirty work, but the outcry from the alleged peaceful majority can hardly be heard.  There are without doubt many Muslims who are ashamed of the terrorists among them, but they are, probably fearing for their lives, at any rate remaining largely silent.  The debate in Islam is hardly heard. 

Undoubtedly many of the Muslims would be ashamed to know that they are being manipulated by their media and clergy.  We Christians need to learn how to respond and start being faithful to the Way of the Cross, following Jesus.  Sadly, that is no more common among Christians than peacefulness among Muslims.  So we are getting what we deserve.]

Could it be possible that Islam, whose light ended the Dark Ages in Europe, now propound the advent of an age of terror? Could a faith that has over 1.2 billion followers the world over, and over 7 million in America, actually advocate the killing and maiming of innocent people? Could Islam, whose name itself stands for “peace” and “submission to God”, encourage its adherents to work for death and destruction?

[COMMENT:  To be honest, yes, they could. 

I have no clear idea of what Muslim scholars contributed to the end of the Dark Ages, but it can be said that Islam contributed considerably to its rise.  Islam marched by the scimitar, not by peaceful persuasion, around the Mediterranean Sea in well under two centuries.  That happened not only because Islam was young and vigorous, but also because Christian civilization had grown spiritually weak and soft. 

The Muslim conquest can be contrasted to the Christians conquering the Roman Empire, never raising a sword, but simply refusing to stop saying that "Jesus is Lord", and refusing to stop loving each other and the pagans as well -- even in the face of their own death. 

Islam could not have contributed much to the end of the darkness in Europe because there was an adversarial relationship between Christian Europe and the Islamic world.  It is true that enemies copy each other, and that happened in the wars of the Crusades.  But to claim that the light of Islam ended the Dark Ages in Europe is insupportable.  Events were going on in Europe which raised economic levels leading to the development of universities and other cultural infrastructures quite independently of Islamic input. 

Muslims had warred among themselves with the same ferocity prior to invading the Christian West (and still do).  It was military expansionism wedded to a religious mandate to rule the world.  (An excellent resource is the DVD's on the Crusades from The Teaching Company, which so far as I know has no ax to grind, and shows no partiality to any religion.  They do an excellent job of describing the conflict, beginning, middle, and end, looking in detail at both sides.)   I know of no example of genuine freedom based on truth, righteousness, and love emerging in any society dominated by Islam.  According to Islam, Islam must have the upper hand.  Only then can it be "compassionate" to the conquered. 

It appears to me that the rise of Islamic scholarship during the Middle Ages was like the rise of the Hellenic age just over a millennium before, full of vigor and life, and then died because it did not have a worldview, a theology, a philosophy of life which could sustain the focus on balance and beauty.  (See The Five Stages of Greek Religion by Gilbert Murray on the Hellenic situation.)  The Islamic world does not have the true Biblical God who brings order and loves His creation and His creatures.  The Islamic picture of God is closer to deism than to theism.] 

For too long, have we relied on popular images in the media and in Hollywood films, for answers to these pertinent questions. It is now time to look at the sources of Islam, and its history to determine whether Islam does indeed advocate violence.

SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE

The Glorious Qur’an says:

“…take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.”
[Al-Qur’an 6:151]

Islam considers all life forms as sacred. However, the sanctity of human life is accorded a special place. The first and the foremost basic right of a human being is the right to live. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“…if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”
[Al-Qur’an 5:32]

Such is the value of a single human life, that the Qur’an equates the taking of even one human life unjustly, with killing all of humanity. Thus, the Qur’an prohibits homicide in clear terms. The taking of a criminal’s life by the state in order to administer justice is required to uphold the rule of law, and the peace and security of the society. Only a proper and competent court can decide whether an individual has forfeited his right to life by disregarding the right to life and peace of other human beings.

[With all these thoughts, Christians can hope to agree.  But it can also be said that such thoughts have quite a different impact, depending on one's view of the nature of God and of how God communicates with His creatures.  There is a worldview of difference between the Bible and the Koran on those matters. 

The Muslim worshipper is never guaranteed salvation by any means.  Not even, when all is said and done, by jihad suicide bombing.  God is inscrutable and silent.  We do not get to know God Himself, only His will. 

The very fact that suicide bombing or killing an enemy is even thought of as, not just a way, but the way, to heaven speaks worlds about the nature of Islam and its view of God.  Winning is everything, justice and righteousness are, in the end, measured by winning, with no thought given to the effects on the human race except to subject it to Sharia law.  Islam could never say, as one early Christian father: "The glory of God is in man fully alive," or still less with Jesus, "The law (sabbath) is made for man, not man for the law".

The Judeo-Christian God reaches out personally to introduce Himself and His plan for our lives -- "Come, let us reason together..."  An invitation to honest dialogue in order to create a freewill covenant.  God is not asking us to vote on what His law will be, but he does give us a choice as to whether we want to submit to it.  We then live out the consequences of choosing God, the only source of life in the cosmos, or choosing our own resources, which have no capacity to give life.  (An excellent extra-Biblical description of this is The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis.).  Islam has no parallel to that kind of relationship with God.  That alone makes it difficult to see Islam as a peaceful religion.]

ETHICS OF WAR

Even in a state of war, Islam enjoins that one deals with the enemy nobly on the battlefield. Islam has drawn a clear line of distinction between the combatants and the non-combatants of the enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet are as follows: "Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman"[1]. "Do not kill the monks in monasteries" or "Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship."[2] During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed: "She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?" Thus non-combatants are guaranteed security of life even if their state is at war with an Islamic state.

      [COMMENT:  The Prophet may indeed instruct his warriors in that way, but that tells us nothing about why Islam thought it right to conquer the Mediterranean shore of Africa by violent conquest, around into Spain, and then from the other direction, up into the Baltic regions.  All done by the sword.  The Crusades, maligned by current writers, were defensive responses to the continuing progress of the Muslim pincer movement up into Spain and the Baltic, and were attempts to open the Holy places of Palestine again to Christian worshippers.  They were not in any reasonable sense of the word planned as empire building. 

        However, long wars, according to a Chinese proverb, make enemies indistinguishable.  And this process happened in the Crusades where the Christians behaved as badly as the Muslims.  And at least one Muslim leader was admired by even the Christians as the most noble of all the leaders.  But coerced conversion is never in the Bible considered a legitimate means to bring a people to God. 

      Islam used such methods from its very start to the present day.  It is nonsense to talk about a peaceful Islam without dealing with these facts of history.] 

JIHAD

While Islam in general is misunderstood in the western world, perhaps no other Islamic term evokes such strong reactions as the word ‘jihad’. The term ‘jihad’ has been much abused, to conjure up bizarre images of violent Muslims, forcing people to submit at the point of the sword. This myth was perpetuated throughout the centuries of mistrust during and after the Crusades. Unfortunately, it survives to this day.

     [COMMENT:  This is historical nonsense.  The the growth of Islam was done consistently by violence.  To imply that the Christians had been unprovoked in their Crusades is either open deceit or inexcusable ignorance.  There was nothing peaceful about the expansion of Islam.] 

The word Jihad comes from the root word jahada, which means to struggle. So jihad is literally an act of struggling. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that the greatest jihad is to struggle with the insidious suggestions of one’s own soul. Thus jihad primarily refers to the inner struggle of being a person of virtue and submission to God in all aspects of life.

Secondarily, jihad refers to struggle against injustice. Islam, like many other religions, allows for armed self-defense, or retribution against tyranny, exploitation, and oppression. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“And why should ye not fight in the cause of God and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? - Men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!"
[Al-Qur’an 4:75]

Thus Islam enjoins upon its believers to strive utmost, in purifying themselves, as well as in establishing peace and justice in the society. A Muslim can never be at rest when she sees injustice and oppression around her. As Martin Luther King Jr. said:

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Islam enjoins upon all Muslims to work actively to maintain the balance in which God created everything. However, regardless of how legitimate the cause may be, the Glorious Qur’an never condones the killing of innocent people. Terrorizing the civilian population can never be termed as jihad and can never be reconciled with the teachings of Islam.

       [Again and again, Muslim advocates will quote the appropriate verses from the Koran or other Islamic literature out of context, or ignoring their track record, including the track record of Mohammed himself, which was filled with violence.] 

HISTORY OF TOLERANCE

Even Western scholars have repudiated the myth of Muslims coercing others to convert. The great historian De Lacy O'Leary wrote:

"History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims, sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated."[3]

Muslims ruled Spain for roughly 800 years. During this time, and up until they were finally forced out, the non-Muslims there were alive and flourishing. Additionally, Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan all have significant Christian and/or Jewish populations.

This is not surprising to a Muslim, for his faith prohibits him from forcing others to see his point of view. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.”
[Al-Qur’an 2:256]

        [I have not heard of De Lacy O'Leary, and know nothing of his reliability.  Other religions did indeed live under the Muslim 800 year rule, but not as equal citizens.  Sharia law does not allow that.  Minorities indeed survived, but almost always at a great disadvantage, and often enough under persecution.  And the writer above does not mention how Islam came to rule in Spain (not to mention the whole of North Africa).  There is no case anywhere, I believe, of a Muslim government anything like our American Constitution, which was written to provide a valid and true pluralism, a genuine intellectual, moral, and spiritual freedom -- precisely the plan of the Judeo-Christian God.  Both our personal and our corporate political freedom come under the rulership of Jesus, the Son of God -- precisely the vision of the American founding fathers.] 

ISLAM - THE GREAT UNIFIER

Far from being a militant dogma, Islam is a way of life that transcends race and ethnicity. The Glorious Qur’an repeatedly reminds us of our common origin:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
[Al-Qur’an 49:13]

Thus, it is the universality of its teachings that makes Islam the fastest growing religion in the world. In a world full of conflicts and deep schisms between human beings, a world that is threatened with terrorism, perpetrated by individuals and states, Islam is a beacon of light that offers hope for the future.

        [COMMENT:  I believe the facts are otherwise.  Christianity, not Islam, is the fastest growing religion.  And where Islam is growing, it is always by violence, fear, terrorism against its competitors.  The only exceptions are, I think, in the decadent Western, formerly Christian, countries, especially Europe, who have no stomach even for survival, let alone resistance.  But, Islam is no match for a living Christian faith. 

        We must honor any reasonable rejection of violence by Muslims, but must put their assertions to an honest test. 

        That leads to the question:  What are Western Christians going to do about this?  See also the Islam Library.]

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[1] Narrated in the collection of traditions of Abu Dawud
[2] Narrated in the Musnad of Imam Ibn Hanbal
[3] Islam At Crossroads, London, 1923, page 8
 

[COMMENT:  Here is another positive reply from Muslims.  We MUST honor their attempts to reach out, but must ask the relevant questions, and must ask for clear behavior to prove their sincerity.    E. Fox] 

(New York, 7/7/2005) - The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and 877-Why-Islam are shocked and horrified at the several attacks on the people of London during the rush hour mass transit. We join everyone in condemning such acts of terror and senseless violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones at this tragic moment. We trust that the authorities will determine those responsible for these barbaric acts and bring them to justice quickly.

Islam holds the sanctity of human life at the highest regard, and shedding the blood of innocent people is considered a most heinous crime. As Muslims we condemn the killing of innocent people for any reason. This is an attack on all of us, and all communities of faith need to stand together in calm and resolute purpose against terrorism, hatred and extremism.

We urge the people of England to remain calm. As citizens we also hope innocent people will not be targeted in backlash following this terror attack. Learning from experience after 9/11, we also express the profound hope that civil liberties will not be a further casualty of this tragic event, in the Great Britain or around the world.

Here in the US, we urge Muslims to remain cautious and in communication while continuing their daily work, to avoid fear and confusion and remain measured in response, and above all, to put our trust in the Mercy of Allah, All-Mighty, which will sustain us during the coming days, Insha Allah.

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