Skip to comments.The evil isn't Islam: Pipes says Muslims can - and must - adapt faith to realities of life
Posted on 07/31/2002 1:45:35 AM PDT by JohnHuang2
"ISLAM IS EVIL." That's the message a U.S. Secret Service agent illicitly left on an Islamic prayer calendar on July 18 as he was raiding a suspected al Qaeda operative in Dearborn, Mich.
His crude graffito sums up a point of view increasingly heard since 9/11 in the United States. It's also one that is troubling and wrong.
Here is the rub: It is a mistake to blame Islam (a religion 14 centuries old) for the evil that should be ascribed to militant Islam (a totalitarian ideology less than a century old). The terrorism of al Qaeda, Hamas, the Iranian government and other Islamists results from the ideas of such contemporary radicals as Osama bin Laden and Ayatollah Khomeini, not from the Koran.
To which you might respond: But bin Laden and Khomeini get their ideas from the Koran. And they are only continuing a pattern of Muslim aggression that is centuries old.
Not exactly. Let's look closer at both points:
* Aggressive Islam: The Koran and other authoritative Islamic scriptures do contain incitements against non-Muslims. The eminent historian Paul Johnson, for example, cites two Koranic verses: "Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers will you find the Jews and Pagans" (Sura 5, verse 85) and "Then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them. And seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them." (9:5).
* Aggressive Muslims: Fourteen centuries of Islam have witnessed a long history of Muslims engaged in jihad (holy war) to expand the area under Islamic rule, from the early conquests of the caliphs to what Samuel Huntington terms Islam's "bloody borders" today.
Yes, these points are accurate. But they are one side of the story.
* Mild Islam: Like other sacred writings, the Koran can be mined for quotes to support opposing arguments. In this case, Karen Armstrong, a bestselling apologist for Islam, quotes two gentler passages from the Koran: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith!" (2:256) and "O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another." (49:13).
* Mild Muslims: There have been occasions of Muslim moderation and tolerance, such as those in long-ago Sicily and Spain. And in one telling example, Mark R. Cohen notes that "The Jews of Islam, especially during the formative and classical centuries (up to the 13th century), experienced much less persecution than did the Jews of Christendom."
In other words, Islam's scriptures and history show variation.
At present, admittedly, it is hard to recall the positive side, at a moment when backwardness, resentment, extremism and violence prevail in so much of the Muslim world. But the present is not typical of Islam's long history; indeed, it may be the worst era in that entire history.
Things can get better. But it will not be easy. That requires that Muslims tackle the huge challenge of adapting their faith to the realities of modern life.
What does that mean in practical terms? Here are some examples:
Five hundred years ago, Jews, Christians and Muslims agreed that owning slaves was acceptable but paying interest on money was not. After bitter, protracted debates, Jews and Christians changed their minds. Today, no Jewish or Christian body endorses slavery or has religious qualms about paying reasonable interest.
Muslims, in contrast, still think the old way. Slavery still exists in a host of majority-Muslim countries (especially Sudan and Mauritania, also Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) and it is a taboo subject. To enable pious Muslims to avoid interest, an Islamic financial industry worth an estimated $150 billion has developed.
The challenge ahead is clear: Muslims must emulate their fellow monotheists by modernizing their religion with regard to slavery, interest and much else. No more fighting jihad to impose Muslim rule. No more endorsement of suicide terrorism. No more second-class citizenship for non-Muslims.
No more death penalty for adultery or "honor" killings of women. No more death sentences for blasphemy or apostasy.
Rather than rail on about Islam's alleged "evil," it behooves everyone - Muslim and non-Muslim alike - to help modernize this civilization.
That is the ultimate message of 9/11. It is much deeper and more ambitious than Western governments presently seem to realize.
Well, the only parallel for such a thing I can think of would be the United States' forced liberalization of Japan after Pearl Harbor et seq. When does the bombing begin?
That requires that Muslims tackle the huge challenge of adapting their faith to the realities of modern life.
There is no compromise in faith. No true religion gives up its absolutes. Regarding Islam, it seems to me that the Sword is Muhammad's favorite tool of conversion when the 'good' prophet gained in age and 'wisdom'. Since conversion is key to the spreading of any faith, it is simply impossible for true believers to ever quit following such a vital belief.
Regarding Christians, giving up slavery was not a scriptual issue. It was an issue of going beyond what our Bible told us, of being even kinder and more respectful of our fellow man than our Lord had demanded of us. Paying interest is an old testament issue, the same as eating pork. So for Christians, it is no great matter to pay interest. But if Jesus had made it clear that we must have slaves, we would still have slaves. Why Jews defy their scriptures is for them to say. I suspect that the Jewish leaders have more respect for Jesus than they officially claim.
Moreover, it is like trying to side with (just as an example) the Jerry Falwells against the Bishop Spongs of the world in hoping that through a RELIGIOUS dominance you change politics. That is extremely hard. I can't think of a historical example where an outside force propagandized an inner-religious debate to cause one side or the other to win. People will believe what they will believe.
And we see the same thing in the Christian churches, right? Quakers are radical pacifists. Baptists, not. CAtholics somewhere in between. I'm not standing up for Islam---because I think that the TRUE Islam and the teachings of both the Koran and Hadith are overwhelmingly violent---but I do think that many Muslims don't, in essence, "believe" the Koran the way it is written. How many Catholics, Arthur, practice birth control?
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