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Dictates of reason

Reader comment on item: [Hasan Akbar and] Murder in the 101st Airborne

Submitted by Blake Butterworth (United States), Mar 26, 2003 at 11:17

The thing that strikes me is that certain Muslims, whether actually acting upon the teachings of Mohammed and Islam correctly understood or not, will use _any_ means to attain their end. This is manifestly wicked. Apart from the issue of faith, reason (which all human beings hold in common unlike faiths in various religions) tells us that killing women and children, killing oneself, employing wicked deceptions in the conduct of war, targeting civilian non-combatants, etc. is evil. Either these Muslims are not following true Islam or if they are, Islam is a false religion founded on the teachings of man and not God. Western society, which is now mostly post-Christian, politically correct and relativistic in its outlook, cannot understand this as all religions, ideologies, etc. must be treated equally no matter how absurd and many in the Middle-eastern and Islamic cultures cannot either as they are often blinded by religious fanaticism and intolerance at the expense of truth and goodness. Both sides need to step back and analyze the philosophical underpinnings of their views as they really preclude the possibility of true dialogue and the search for truth.

My analysis is based on the teachings of Christian thinkers like St. Thomas Aquinas who acknowledge that the truths of faith must be in harmony with those of reason. While faith cannot be proven by reason, it must be eminently reasonable as both faith and reason find their source and origin in God, the creator of all that is. The division between the truths of faith and reason do not exist in reality, but result from the limitations of human knowledge in this life. This view of faith and reason contrasts with the views of truth proposed by rationalists (reason alone), fideists (faith alone), skeptics (no knowable truth) and proponents of double truth theories (like the medieval Muslim thinker Averroes who held that the truths of faith and reason can contradict each other).

I am not familiar enough with Islam to make a proper judgment about its teachings. I also realize that many so-called followers of various religions commit wicked acts in the name of their religion even though they aren't truly following it. There have been many followers of Jesus Christ who have done evil in his name. Christianity cannot, however, be judged by the actions of its followers anymore than Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, etc. can. Rather a religion must be judged by its own teachings and those of its founder (e.g., in the case of Christianity, the teachings of Jesus and the Church he founded). My question to Muslims and/or others knowledgeable of it is: did Mohammed himself or do the legitimate authorities in Islam promote violence in an evil way?

As background for my concern, let's take the example of just war. St. Thomas states that three conditions are necessary for the prosecution of just war:

1) The authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war.

2) A just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault.

3) It is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil.

Granted the US is not operating on an explicitly Christian ethic, it would still seem that the war with Iraq meets these conditions. One, President Bush is the legitimate leader of the US with the authority to authorize war on its behalf. Second, Saddam Hussein's regime has perpetrated great evil against its people and the people's of other nations. Further he seeks WMDs as a means to bully and intimidate other nations and potentially use or distribute to terrorist networks. Third, the US is seeking the security of its people and stability in the global order. (I believe arguments that the US is colonizing or just in it for the oil are easily dismissable.)

Would Mohammed only support war or violence based on these principles? As a counter fact, isn't it a precept of Islam that non-converting infidels should "die by the sword?" Even if war by Muslims is justifiable against the West, are the means employed by them to attain their end justifiable (e.g., suicide bombing, terrorism, execution of enemy non-combatants, apparent desire for Israeli genocide, etc.)? If not, why aren't more Muslim secular and religious leaders condemning terrorism and the murderous Iraqi regime? I welcome comments.



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