This is simply wrong.
Islam until recently was a relatively peaceful religion, and governments based on Islamic Law were relatively benign compared to their Christian counterparts. The Moorish conquests of Spain, for example, were pursued under the aegis of the Caliphate, an organised Muslim empire that eventually gave way to the Ottoman Empire. It was an empire that was nominally based on religion, much as Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire (800-1806 AD) was based on Christianity. But their goals were hegemonic and economic, not religious.
The Moors allowed the conquered Iberian Visigoths to continue to live under their own laws. The Ottoman Empire, the last incarnation of the Caliphate, was also based on Islam and also allowed the free exercise of other religions in those lands it conquered. By contrast, the Holy Roman Empire – indeed every “Christian” empire – forcibly converted everyone to Christianity. Forcible conversion is historically more of a Christian motif than an Islamic one.
Islam itself does not decree war with the “West” — if it did, then the Ottomans would never have allied themselves with the “infidel” Germans and Austro-Hungarians in WWI.
What is happening today is that a group of radicals are leveraging the misery and the ignorance of impoverished and uneducated masses in a region that has been oppressed by the West for generations. The struggle of the Palestinians is a lightening rod and a bellwether for the greater Middle East because it is simply the most recent example of Arabs being robbed of their humanity and their rights. The Palestinians encapsulate the sense of powerlessness that all Arabs in the region feel – because the “West” arbitrarily set up dictatorships that would be friendly to their oil interests.
The problem in the Middle East is not Islam. It is poverty and oppression. The writings and pronouncements of Al Qaeda and Bin Laden always refer to America as the “Far Enemy” – this is because the “Near Enemy” was judged to be the rulers of the Arab world. These ruling dynasties are horribly oppressive and completely undemocratic (look at the House of Saud). They rule by oppression with help and support from the West. And ISIS know that when people – ANY people – feel oppressed, and perceive that they have no say over their destiny, they may well turn to Religion for relief.
John Locke said it: “where the body of the people … is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven…”
That is why so much of African-American society and civic activity revolves around the church. That is why after America’s Civil War, a cohort of the vanquished Southerners created the KKK and burned crosses. That is why the impoverished and oppressed Arabs turn to Islam.
I side with President Obama and others in refusing to acknowledge an inherent connection between ISIS and Islam. It is not “radical Islam” – it is not ANYTHING Islam, and saying so gives them legitimacy.
In short, ISIS have as much to do with Islam as the KKK had to do with Christianity.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the so-called “cradle” of Islam was also the cradle of Christianity and Judaism. The Middle East was one hell of a nursery. All three monotheistic faiths worship the same God of Abraham, and all three have their militaristic teachings — just ask anyone who has sung “Onward Christian Soldiers”,
Some might read that and say this is an exhortation to Christian Jihad or Holy War, as we in the West like to call it.
Indeed, when I was confirmed in the Catholic Church, I was told that through the sacrament of Confirmation I would become a “Soldier of Christ” – the priest repeatedly used this term and it made me a bit edgy — I hoped that there would not be some sort of ecumenical Draft some day.
So let’s be real: religion itself is the culprit. Yes, the modern Jihadis feel that this is a clash of religions, and that they are justified in making Jihad on the western powers because the western powers are making Holy War on Islam. And it is hard to refute that idea. Remember that when deciding to go to war, Bush did not consult with his father, George H.W. Bush, preferring instead to consult “a higher Father”. He told Bob Woodward “I was praying for strength to do the Lord’s will.”
And do I really need to bring up poor old benighted General Boykin ?
I am sure that the refrain from “Onward Christian Soldiers” plays in the heads of the psychopaths in the so-called “Army of God” who blow up abortion clinics and try to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Israeli Haganah and the modern day Jewish settlers are also consumed with a religious exhortation to vanquish their enemies as part of “God’s will”.
In short, there are crazies in every society, and it should not reflect on the whole.
When Cassius Clay became Muhammed Ali he became a “conscientious objector” to the war in Vietnam because his faith – Islam – forbade him to fight. He said, “I have searched my conscience and I find I cannot be true to my belief in my religion by accepting such a call.” While many may have doubted the motives behind his conversion, no one questioned the underlying tenets of Islam that provided the grounds for his resisting the draft.
But then, that was a different time, when our leaders did not rely on God to tell them to go to war, and religion did not play such a big role in politics in general.