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Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

Reader comment on item: Sudden Jihad Syndrome – It's Now Official

Submitted by gary fouse (United States), Jan 6, 2008 at 22:32

* There is a great video on the Internet from Dubai TV. It is a debate between an Arab woman on one hand and an Islamic cleric on the other. The conversation is in Arabic with English sub-titles. In the debate, the woman (whose name I don't know) harshly condemns Islam (she apparently does not subscribe to any religion.)for its hatred and violence. She makes the point that neither Christianity nor Judaism engages in this kind of barbaric behavior. The man accuses her of being a heretic. This video can be found on;


One of the first things I did in the wake of 9-11 was to check out an English-language Koran from the library. The question had been growing about the true nature of Islam even before 9-11 since Islamic terrorism had already been active in the world for several decades. I should concede here that the Koran, like the Bible, can be open to different interpretations in many areas. Since then, we have continued to witness the War on Terror and inumerable acts of terror committed in the name of Islam. So the question remains- what is the true nature of Islam? Is it a peaceful religion that is being hijacked by fanatics? Or is Islam really a religion that preaches violence against those who refuse to accept its teachings?

When I read the Koran, I noted that much of its prose resembles that of the Bible. It preaches the love of God (Allah) and love towards other Muslims. It is the writings directed toward non-Muslims that I found troubling. Some passages that critics point out to prove a message of violence are disputed by Muslims as being open to other interpretations. Yet what struck me was that in virtually every Sura (chapter), indeed on countless pages, there are references to non-believers burning in Hell. Now I must point out here that, according to Christian doctrine, non-Christians will go to Hell as well. The difference here is the constant reinforcement of this doctrine in the Koran. Is it any wonder that so many Muslims don't respect other religions?

I have also read about the life of the Prophet Mohammed. It is not meant to be an insult in pointing out that Mohammed was a warrior-a military leader who spread Islam at the point of a sword. He personally brought about the death of thousands. Muslims simply cannot dispute that as historical fact.

Before I get to the obvious issue of terror and killing, I should also point out that my own religion (Christianity) has engaged in this practice in history. First, we have the Crusades. (I don't know which side was right and which side was wrong-nor do I much care.) Second, we had the Inquisition. There is no escaping this fact, and there is no defending it. There was also considerable corruption in the Church (Vatican) that led to a Reformation.

What is important, however, is that in the past several centuries, Christianity (and Judaism) have not been involved in organized violent campaigns. Scandals? Of course. The biggest example today is the pedophile priest scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church. We have also seen instances of Christian-based cults, such as the James Jones Church and the Branch Davidians, both of whom engaged in mind-control and violence.

But it is undeniably Islam that, in recent decades, has witnessed countless acts of violence, intimidation, murder and outright terror-worldwide. It is not necessary to recount 9-11 and all the others. They are out there for all to see. The question is- how much of the Muslim world subscribes to this?

Before dealing with that question, it is useful to ask-how did this all explode upon the world in the late 20th Century? Was Islam merely aleep for several centuries? I am no expert on Islamic history, but it seems to me that the Muslim world has basically never experienced freedom or democracy. When certain parts of the Middle East became fabulously wealthy due to oil, the ruling classes managed to expropriate most of it for themselves.

Then came the creation of Israel and the Palestinian issue. That has enabled the Arab rulers to blame Israel and the West for all the problems affecting their peoples. Add to that the growing exposure of Muslim societies to the Western world-and all its vices and temptations. Indeed, the growing fundamentalism of Muslim mosques and madrassahs have found a fertile field of resentment against this Western culture that they see as a threat to their own traditional culture.

So here, in the 21st century, we find ourselves threatened with the rise in worldwide Islamic fanaticism and terror. We see it not only in the Middle East, but in immigrant Muslim communities in the West (principly Europe). Violence and hate are being preached, plotted and carried out by Muslim clerics and their followers, almost everywhere that Muslims have immigrated to. Here in the US, we have congratulated ourselves on having a more educated and assimilated Muslim community than European countries who imported manual laborors without trying to assimilate them. The violence in France and the UK far overshadow our problems here in the US.

Yet, it is undeniable that US Muslims are feeling increasingly disaffected in US society since 9-11. They feel that Americans hold them in suspicion. They hear and read about the attacks against Islam among Americans and Europeans. Most seem to be critical of our Middle East policy. Most seem stridently against Israel. On our college campuses, Muslim Student Unions organize demonstrations against Israel, often bringing in radical Imams to speak. Many of them preach a message of hate-not only against Israel, but against Jews and America as well. (I cite my own campus, University of California at Irvine as a prime example.)And occasionally, our law enforcement agencies have broken up terrorist plots to be carried out on our soil.

More to the point; are most Muslims involved in terror? Of course not. Do most Muslims sympathize with the Jihadists. I don't think so, but we really don't know how most Muslims feel. We watch the news on TV and every day, we see images of Muslim mobs in the streets of Pakistan or some other Muslim country burning flags, torching cars, fighting the police and calling for someone to be killed. What are we supposed to think? We hear about the car bombs, the suicide Palestinian bombers in Israel and what are we supposed to think? We hear about Muslim clerics preaching hatred and the worldwide imposition of Islam. What are we supposed to think? It is pointed out that there are some 2 billion Muslims in the world and that most are simply trying to go about their normal lives and live in peace with others around them. But what if one-half of 1% are ready to join the Jihad? That would be a lot of people we need to worry about.

It is clear that Islam is facing the greatest crisis in its history, at least since the Crusades. As yet, we don't know who will win control of the religion-the so-called peaceful moderates or the Jihadists. After all, in the final analysis, a religion is only what its believers and leaders say it is. Certainly, we should do all we can to assist and encourage the peaceful elements. People like the woman on Dubai TV, Nonie Darwish, Irshad Manji and Ayaan Hirsi Ali must be supported, encouraged and protected. Yet, I feel strongly that the moderates, if they are to prevail, will have to resort to violent means to defeat those who preach hatred and terror. (And I really don't much care.)

We also need many more voices like the names I listed above. Sadly, they seem to be few and far between. It is not enough to simply argue that most Muslims are non-violent and should not be stigmatized or discriminated against. I have argued in the past that Muslims should indeed defend their religion-not against non-Muslims or critics-but against those Muslims who are engaged in hatred and terror, thus destroying Islam's name in the eyes of the world.

But why are so many Muslims-otherwise decent people-unwilling to stand up, speak out and take action against the Jihadists? There are some possible answers.

First, many obviously are afraid to stand up and subject themselves and their families to violent retribution.

Some, I am sure, while not engaged in Jihad, probably sympathize with their goals and methods.

Some, while not agreeing with violence, don't want to engage in actions against other Muslims-on behalf of non-Muslim societies.

There is one other possible reason- and I am merely speculating here-after having read the Koran and the life of the Prophet Mohammed. Is it possible that many Muslims, while personally rejecting violence, feel that based on the Koran and the life of Mohammed, they simply cannot win a theological debate against the Jihadists?

gary fouse- fousesquawk


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