There is plenty of misunderstanding about the nature of Islam – deliberate or otherwise. One only need turn to the speech US President Obama made on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks for yet another example of this. He used his speech to once again seek to placate Muslims.
He said in classic appeasement style, “It was not a religion that attacked us that September day. It was al-Qaeda. We will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust.” Oh, so Islam had nothing to do with 9/11?
And al-Qaeda has nothing to do with Islam? That of course is the usual spin which apologists for Islam make time and time again. But it is not what the leader of the free world should be making. Indeed, he should know better. But this is just the latest in dozens of things Obama has said or done which make so many Americans wonder what exactly his religion is.
It is possible he is not even sure what it is. It certainly is not biblical Christianity. Indeed, he seems to know little about either religion. And his speech is just another example of unhelpful moral equivalence concerning the two religions.
It is the sort of muddled thinking which cannot even begin to make moral and theological distinctions. It tends to blur boundaries and results in a jaded view especially of what Christianity is all about. It repeats the foolishness that if Islam is bad, and/or has its bad elements, well so too does Christianity.
And that somehow is supposed to be the end of the story. But it isn’t. A perfectly valid case can be argued that the so-called excesses and extremes of Islam are in fact a direct outcome of Islamic beliefs and teachings. On the other hand, violent excesses done in the name of Christ can be seen to be completely unrelated to genuine Christianity.
Consider the issue of violence and its promotion in the two religions. Anyone with a smattering of understanding about both will know that there is a world of difference between the two. I have written about this issue before, showing the very real contrasts, eg.: billmuehlenberg.com/2004/11/25/a-closer-look-at-religion-and-violence/
A new article assessing these differences has just appeared in the US and is worth promoting here. Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam closely examines the two religions on the issue of violence. His findings are revealing.
He begins his piece this way: “One of the most frequently used arguments heard in the defense of Islam is that the Bible is just as violent as the Koran. The logic goes like this. If the Koran is no more violent than the Bible, then why should we worry about Islam? This argument is that Islam is the same as Christianity and Judaism. This is false, but this analogy is very popular, since it allows someone who knows nothing about the actual doctrine of Islam to talk about it. ‘See, Islam is like Christianity, Christians are just as violent as Muslims.’
“If this is true, then you don’t have to learn anything about the actual Islamic doctrine. However, this is not a theological argument. It is a political one. This argument is not about what goes on in a house of worship, but what goes on in the marketplace of ideas. Now, is the doctrine of Islam more violent than the Bible? There is only one way to prove or disprove the comparison and that is to measure the differences in violence in the Koran and the Bible.”
After defining what he means by violence – and concentrating on the issue of political violence – he notes that both quantitatively and qualitatively there is a very large difference indeed between the Koran and the Bible. In the Koran such political violence is called ‘jihad’ or fighting on behalf of Allah.
Warner notes the threefold authority structure in Islam: “Islam has three sacred texts: Koran, Sira and Hadith, the Islamic Trilogy. The Sira is Mohammed’s biography. The Hadith are his traditions – what he did and said. Sira and Hadith form the Sunna, the perfect pattern of all Islamic behaviour.
“The Koran is the smallest of the three books, the Trilogy. It is only 16% of the Trilogy text. This means that the Sunna is 84% of the word content of Islam’s sacred texts. This statistic alone has large implications. Most of the Islamic doctrine is about Mohammed, not Allah. The Koran says 91 different times that Mohammed is the perfect pattern of life. It is much more important to know Mohammed than the Koran. This is very good news. It is easy to understand a biography about a man. To know Islam, know Mohammed.”
Warner then lays all this out in a series of helpful charts which I cannot reproduce here, but see the link below to see the entire article plus charts. His first chart deals with the amount of text devoted to jihad: “It is very significant that the Sira devotes 67% of its text to jihad. Mohammed averaged an event of violence every 6 weeks for the last 9 years of his life. Jihad was what made Mohammed successful.”
His second chart deals with the life of Muhammad and the growth of Islam: “Basically, when Mohammed was a preacher of religion, Islam grew at the rate of 10 new Muslims per year. But when he turned to jihad, Islam grew at an average rate of 10,000 per year.”
His third chart deals with the actual number of words devoted to political violence in the three monotheistic religions. “When we count all of the political violence, we find that 5.6% of the text [of the Hebrew Bible] is devoted to it. There is no admonition towards political violence in the New Testament. When we count the magnitude of words devoted to political violence, we have 327,547 words in the Trilogy and 34,039 words in the Hebrew Bible. The Trilogy has 9.6 times as much wordage devoted to political violence as the Hebrew Bible.”
But then there are qualitative differences as well. “The political violence of the Koran is eternal and universal. The political violence of the Bible was for that particular historical time and place. This is the vast difference between Islam and other ideologies. The violence remains a constant threat to all non-Islamic cultures, now and into the future. Islam is not analogous to Christianity and Judaism in any practical way.”
He concludes as follows: “It is time for so-called intellectuals to get down to the basics of judging Islam by its actual doctrine, not making lame analogies that are sophomoric assertions. Fact-based reasoning should replace fantasies that are based upon political correctness and multiculturalism.”
That is equally true of American Presidents as well. Until he begins to understand the true nature of Islam, as revealed in its trilogy of sources, he will never understand the war we are in and who the real opposition is. Until that time comes, the US will continue to lose the war against terror.