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Armstrong on Islam

Reader comment on item: The Evil Isn't Islam

Submitted by Irfan Khawaja (United States), Aug 23, 2002 at 18:08

I don't see that the quotes from Karen Armstrong really show that Islam is
"mild" on the subject of jihad. It's true that there is no coercion for purposes
of conversion in Islam, and it's also true that there are injunctions to
tolerance of other peoples and creeds. But neither of those prescriptions
contradicts the fundamental imperative to establish shariah everywhere on
earth. Nor does it contradict the imperative of establishing shariah by force
if necessary. Both precepts Ms. Armstrong quotes are to be applied within a
regime of shariah, not outside of it. The question is not whether Islam mandates
forcible conversion; it explicitly rules that out. Nor is the question whether Islam
is consistently hostile to Christians or Jews. It isn't; it's a mixed bag on that
issue. The question is: what are the *limits* on the means by which shariah is to be established on earth by Muslims?

The Quran tells us that jihad is justifiable to remove "obstacles" to the establishing
of Islam. OK--but what constitutes the sort of obstacle that justifies a recourse to
force? The competing interpretations run the gamut from "use jihad strictly in self-defense" (Wahiddudin Khan) to "use jihad to conquer the world and re-establish the caliphate" (Syed Qutb). The problem is, I don't see that Islam has the philosophical resources for deciding between these interpretations. Why it doesn't is the real root of the problem.



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