War and Religion: Islam’s Embrace of Violence


Remember the old story about the Emperor? His tailor presented him with a marvelous new outfit, telling him that the cloth was so special that only a righteous person could see it.

The Emperor saw nothing, of course, but in order to save face, admired the quality and cut of the material he could not see. His acquisition was promoted throughout the land, and on his next public procession through the city, the population, also seeing nothing, of course, openly and enthusiastically admired the invisible material. That is, until one young lad who didn't know better exclaimed, “The Emperor has no clothes!”

We hear daily that Islam is not our enemy; instead we are told that Islamic fundamentalists – religious fanatics who don't represent any part of Islam – threaten our safety. While I agree that the vast proportion of American Muslims probably wish us no harm, we are hugely mistaken if we believe the same is true for worldwide followers of Islam.

Examine for a moment the tenants of Judaism. The ancient Israelites were a warring people, of this there is no doubt. The Torah and other holy writings of Judaism, however, do not prescribe violence against anyone. Judaism does not contain the seeds of Holy War. Vocal supporters of modern Palestine try to couch the current conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups as a righteous reaction by the Palestinians against marauding Israelis, but the simple fact is that the Israelis are reacting to terror attacks by the Palestinians. Judaism fundamentally is a peaceful religion.

Examine the tenets of Christianity that differ from those of Judaism, in particular the New Testament. The command is to turn the other cheek. There is no call to battle under any circumstances. In the Middle Ages, Christianity found a way to justify violence against non-Christians, but this concept has long since ceased to be a part of Christian dogma. In effect, Christian scholars determined that there was a better way to accomplish the Christian mission, and they changed the basic understanding of Christianity to conform to this benign view. Bottom line: Holy War is proscribed; “Christ comes in peace.”

Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Ba'hai: Holy War is absolutely not contained in any of these faiths. True, from time to time in the past, violence has played a part in the development of some of these religions, especially among the Hindus. Even today, there are some elements of Hinduism that turn to violence, but generally, a Hindu is identified with non-violence. Holy War is not a part of these world religions.

A myriad of lesser-known beliefs support the faith of millions of followers around the world – but none of these contain a call to Holy War either.

Now examine Islam: While it is true that the Koran teaches it is evil to do violence to innocent people, the Koran contains a general call to arms against Infidels. Unlike any other world religion, Islam encourages the Jihad – the Holy War.

Only Islamic clerics can call the faithful to arms in defense of the faith. Jewish rabbis cannot do this, Catholic priests and Protestant ministers cannot do this, Buddhist monks cannot do this, nor Hindu holy men, nor any of the others. Only in Islam can this happen.

When we speak of Christian fundamentalists, what commonly comes to mind is someone who believes in the literal words contained in the Judeo/Christian Bible. This individual will generally appear as a proselytizer for his faith, perhaps strong-willed, with a desire to make his faith a general part of his society. What you do not find, however, is a person who advocates violent actions against those with different beliefs. When a rare Christian fundamentalist crosses over this line, as has happened in the struggle over abortion rights, nearly all other Christian fundamentalists condemn such actions, especially the Christian fundamentalist leaders.

Islamic fundamentalists, on the other hand, are all identified by their universal calls to violence against non-believers – Jihad, Holy War. Unlike Christian fundamentalist clerics who go to great lengths to eliminate violence in their ranks, Islamic fundamentalist clerics are the very ones fomenting this violence.

As the Western world moved from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, the Catholic Church, which represented organized Christianity, went to great lengths to distance itself from the violence of the Crusades. In effect, Christian leaders restructured the tenets of Christianity to eliminate violence as a righteous means to a religious end.

Any argument that points to past Christian violence as justification for current Islamic violence misses the point. Although not so ancient as Christianity, Islam has been with us for a respectable one-and-a-half millennia. Unlike Christianity, however, Islam has not left its violence in the past. Islamic violence is as real today as it was twelve hundred years ago.

It's time to call it like it is: The Emperor is a Terrorist. Islam is inherently and fundamentally a threat to world peace. You can't argue away the Jihad; it is built into the system. You can only rid the world of Jihad by ridding the world of the system that creates Jihad.

It is time for Muslims of good will to change their system. Christians did it. Muslims must do it as well. Muslim clerics of all Islamic persuasions must renounce violence. Jihad must become a thing of the past.

The bottom line is that if Islam won't change itself, eventually we will have to. There is no doubt in my mind how such a Holy War will end.