Friday, December 22, 2006

In looking at relations between the Christian West and Islam, one of the things that has always puzzled me (and many other observers more learned than I) is the dichotomy of thought that many Muslims appear to have about the nature of their religion. This is exemplified by the Islamic world's response to the remarks by Pope Benedict XVI about Islam's violent nature, which might be simplistically characterized as "Islam is a religion of peace, and I'll kill you if you deny it."

This didn't make sense to me until I read an interview with Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch ( author of several books on Islam. In an interview available on the Campus Watch website ( Spencer explained it like this:

"This is a strange contradiction from a non-Muslim perspective, but not from that of a Muslim who believes in traditional Islamic legal directives calling for the deaths of unbelievers who are at war with Islam. From the perspective of such a man, Islam is indeed a religion of peace: the peace that will prevail over the world when Sharia is the supreme law of every land. To bring this about, he believes he is commanded by God to wage war – not undifferentiated mayhem, but war for specified purposes, under specific circumstances and for particular ends. When you invoke the Qur'an and other Islamic sources to make that point that elements of the Islamic religion legitimize and promote violence, you are doing so as an infidel. Even if what you say is correct, you are approaching it all as an infidel and are thus insulting Islam. And this insult must be avenged. It isn't that you are inaccurate, it is that you are critical. You are mistaking what they see as justice for undifferentiated violence" (emphasis added).

And there you have it.

Now, I don't agree with everything Mr Spencer says any more than I agree with everything anyone says, but I think he makes a very telling and perceptive point. Islam is a monotheistic, "fundamentalist" religion. It's all or nothing - you believe in the literal word of the Koran or you don't, and since the Koran is the absolute word of God, perfect in every detail as spoken directly to Mohammed, if you don't believe it, you're a Dhimmi, theoretically free to practice your religion, but under restrictions that indicate you accept submission to Islam (Note: freedom to practice any religion other than Islam not available in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and some other Islamic countries).

The West won the Cold War against the political doctrine of Communism, and now we face another Cold War against another totalitiarian system, this one based on religious belief. During the Cold War we could show, and people could understand, that Communism was a morally, socially, politically, and economically bankrupt system. But in the new Cold War, in which religious, not political, beliefs are the driving factor, we face an opponent utterly unable and unwilling to change a deeply held belief or accommodate himself to another view of the world. You are a Muslim, or you aren't. You believe in the literal word of God as expressed in the Koran, or you don't. And if you don't, it's the job of every Muslim to see that you do, by violence, if necessary. But in a Muslim's view of the world, that violence is perfectly legitimate, because it's in the pursuit of the greater good of the triumph of Islam.

It's hard to get one's mind around this idea, but essential if we are to understand what we are facing at the beginning of the 21st century: an opponent that believes we all need to return to the perfect world of the 7th century.

Which is not a place I care to live.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


1 comment:

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