From The National Review
The conflict that has now erupted has been gathering for a long time. Its roots lie deep in history. To be brief and blunt, the Muslim world has never known exactly how to respond to the West, whether to adopt its values or to reject them. A logic arises: The West is powerful; power is arrogant; we are proud people; therefore we must overpower and humble the West. False as the logic is, it locks in high emotion. It also raises for Muslims an existential question of identity: What sort of people do we think we are?
For the past half century and more, the Muslim world has been free and independent, with every opportunity to organize as it wishes. And this is the heart of the issue: The Muslim world is a political and social disaster for all to see. With the arguable exception of Turkey, it consists of a series of despotisms, each with an absolute ruler whose ultimate justification is his strength and will. A family or a clique gathers around the ruler under the protection of the state apparatus of secret police and military repression. To the powerful, the spoils; to the weak, submission. No rights, no freedom of expression, no loyal opposition, no rule of law, no redress except through violence, conspiracy, a coup, and ultimate civil war.
Whose fault is this? The huge majority of Muslims understand that they are responsible for themselves. They know what they have to put up with. Describing the daily corruption and injustices of despotism, they ask the aching question, "What can we do?" Muhammad Haikal was once the spokesman of Gamal Abdul Nasser, the ruler who set Egypt back for decades. Haikal was no friend of the West either, but he could write: "The Arab and Muslim world is completely naked. [None of us] can claim any more that he is independent. We have proved we are not modern. We have proved that we are not religious in the real sense of the word. We have proved that we cannot afford democracy." Today Ahmad Bishara, a prominent Kuwaiti, says that Arabs and Muslims "should engage in deep soul-searching" about their institutions and culture.
To write like that requires protection at the highest level, as well as personal courage. There are such men, and women too. It is a moving experience to sit in rooms and cafés in Cairo or Beirut, and even Gaza and Ramallah, and listen to their clear and rational analyses of the faults of their society. They are the equivalent of Soviet dissidents in the old days, and if there is hope for the Muslim and Arab world, it lies in their example. Like Soviet dissidents, they are only saying what almost everyone knows to be the truth. For most Muslims have answered the existential question for themselves the way the populations under Soviet rule did: They want what those in the Free World have.
Muslims by the millions already live in the West, wherever they can find refuge and opportunity. This in itself defies the doctrine of Islam, whereby Muslims are prohibited from living among unbelievers. Muslim publications abroad make it clear that integration is under way, bringing with it problems - all soluble - concerning dating of non-Muslims, rejection of arranged marriages, correct manners in a multicultural society. The news reaching home countries confirms that life in the West is good. With the news comes money for medicine and education. Jamia'at Ulema-e-Islam is one of the most extreme Islamic movements in Pakistan, and its leader - a ferocious old man with a white beard - is currently summoning the faithful onto the streets to overthrow the government of President Musharraf and launch a holy war. But two of his sons are studying in the United States. He says that they will be better able to understand their enemy. This humbug reveals the inner ambiguity common to his kind. He knows, and we know, that he is supplying them with a brighter future, as any father would.
In the first months of 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Iran. He was a Muslim equivalent of Lenin. He gave a quite different answer to the existential question of Muslim identity. Muslim society was a failure, he concurred with secular critics like Haikal, and one cause of this was the people's abandonment of their faith. Islam had made its believers great and powerful in centuries past, and it would do so again. But there was another overriding cause of the general backsliding. Over the long term, Khomeini held, the West had had the cunning and deliberate intention of destroying Islam. Why the West would have such a wanton and malign ambition he did not explain. But he crystallized a mindset with revolutionary implications: Muslims were not responsible for their plight, it was all the fault of the West, to be rectified by war.
So mosques in Iran, and then elsewhere, began to resound with cries that America was the Great Satan, and crowds burned the Stars and Stripes. The emotional logic hardened into a series of syllogisms: Islam is righteous; America is imperialist; therefore unrighteous America is uprooting Islam. Or again: Good Muslims must kill Jews; America helps Jews; therefore America is killing good Muslims. Yet again: America is arrogant; Muslims are proud; therefore suicide bombers are giving America what she deserves.
A fantasy is loose in the world, the fantasy of an Islamic supremacy destined deservedly to triumph everywhere. Like Communism before it, this Islamic fantasy aims to impose its vision on others - and call it peace. In an unexpected form, here is another totalitarian movement with the usual murderous belief that the ends justify the means. Latching on to local or regional issues everywhere, Islamic supremacy has been developing its cause: condemning Salman Rushdie to death for supposed apostasy; holding Americans hostage in Teheran; killing Marines in Beirut; sponsoring suicide bombers; threatening pro-Western rulers in Muslim countries with assassination and civil war; preparing for the genocide of Jews in Israel. The false syllogisms of the Islamist mindset have hardened into axioms supporting one outrage after another. As in the old Soviet Union, everything political becomes a metaphor for war and apocalypse. If there is no room for Muslims, the extremists declare with passion, then there is no room for anybody else either. This failure of intellect could hardly be more complete.
Except for one thing: The Left throughout the West picks it up and fans it. Demonstrations against President Bush and his response to the suicide attacks have occurred in most major cities of Europe. In the media, even in the United States, people have jumped forward to blame the suicide attacks on America and its policies, rather than on the actual terrorist perpetrators. Here comes Susan Sontag, for example, to sneer that this attack on "the world's self-proclaimed superpower" was as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions." Barbara Foley of Rutgers University believes that America's "fascist foreign policy" over many decades is to blame for the attack. Harold Pinter, playwright of the absurd, writes to the press to say that it is President Bush who is fanning the flames of intolerance.
The Taliban exemplify the Islamist fantasy. They are tribalists of a medieval brutality. They forbid women to have an education or a job, and bury a woman suspected of adultery up to her shoulders before stoning her to death. They kill suspected homosexuals by collapsing walls onto them. They have driven millions of desperate fellow Afghans into exile, and leave the remainder to face destitution and starvation. Their honored accomplice is Osama bin Laden, who for the last ten years or so has been telling everyone who can listen that the United States is the source of all wickedness and he intends to destroy it.
The Left blamed the United States for the Cold War and the division of Europe, and for unrest in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere. Whatever happened, the Soviet Union was innocent and peace-loving. This same Left - in the Sontags and Pinters, these same people - follows an unbroken line in its attitude towards extremists in the Arab and Muslim world. Happy to leave millions at the mercy of Communism, they are happy to leave millions at the mercy of Islamist terror, so lining themselves up as ever on the side of oppression and lies. Their intellectual failure probably does not matter much here, where long exposure has shown that their opinions have foundations in psychopathology rather than reality. But it plays well in extremist circles, where assorted fanatics can now say, Look, the West is wicked, their intellectuals tell us so.
In the event of liberation from the general Islamist fantasy and the suicide bombers in particular, most of the Muslim world will feel a grateful relief that can only surprise and shock the Left as much as the joy of those liberated from Communism did. Should America fail to rescue them for whatever reason, though, Muslims will know that the Islamist fantasy is coming true, and they will have to endure it for a very long time to come.
The Bankruptcy of Islam
"...we know that "all of us possess knowledge." "Knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him....we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"--yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge." (First Corinthians 8:1-7)
We should be under no illusions about our struggle against Osama bin Laden and the cultists and terrorists arrayed around him. Although we control the sea lanes and skies of that Arab-Muslim world, he appears to hold sway over the streets of a thwarted civilization, one that sees him as an avenger for the sad, cruel lot that has been its fate in recent years.
A terrible war was fought between rulers and Islamists; the regimes in Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt won, but the insurgents took to the road, and vowed to return as triumphant conquerors after the dynasties and the despots were sacked. Rich, famous, free and young, bin Laden taunts the rulers of a silent, frightened Arab world seething with resentments of every kind. He and his lieutenants cannot overthrow the Arab ruling order, so they have turned their resentments on us.
Consider the three men who taunted us in the video that came our way on Oct. 7, courtesy of the Qatari satellite channel, Al-Jazeera. In it, bin Laden is flanked by two lieutenants. The older one, a man of 50 years, is an Egyptian physician, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, a sworn enemy of the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Twenty years ago, he had been picked up in the dragnet that followed the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He was tortured, and imprisoned for three years. He drifted to Pakistan, then made his way to the Sudan and Afghanistan, and took to the life of terror.
The younger man, spokesman for bin Laden, is a Kuwaiti theocratic activist by the name of Sleiman Abu Gheith, who hails from a quaint, stable principality, with generous welfare subsidies and an American trip-wire to protect it against a predatory Saddam. Abu Gheith had been an employee of the Kuwaiti state, an imam of a government-sponsored mosque, and a teacher of Islamic studies. Those who know him tell of a man who had become fanatical in his view of Islam's role in political and social life.
A foul wind had been blowing in Arab lands. The rulers had snuffed out endless rebellions and the populace had succumbed to a malignant, sullen silence. It prayed and waited for the rulers' demise. It dreamt of an avenger and a band of merciless followers who would do for it what it could not do for itself.
It is no mystery that reporters from Arab shores tell us of affluent men and women, some with years of education in American universities behind them, celebrating the cruel deed of Mohamed Atta and his hijackers. The cult of the bandit taunting the powerful has always been seductive in broken societies. Bin Laden and Zawahiri and Abu Gheith and Atta did not descend from the sky: They are the angry sons of a failed Arab generation. They are direct heirs of two generations of Arabs that have seen all the high dreams of Asr al Nahda (the era of enlightenment and secular nationalism) issue in sterility, dictatorship and misery. The secular fathers begot this strange breed of holy warriors.
A suffocating hate separates the ruler from the ruled in Arab lands. The former own those lands, they have closed up the universe, and their dominion stretches as far as the eye can see. Their scions stand at the ready to claim the good things of the earth. Imagine the way Arabs read the ascendancy of the sons of the dictators of Syria, Egypt and Iraq in public life; a trick has been played on them. Under their eyes, the republics have metamorphosed into monarchies in all but name. Alone, in God's broad lands, it seems to them, they are to be excluded from a share of today's democratic inheritance. The rulers can't deliver to us these sullen, resentful populations and -- shrewd men -- the rulers know it. They have ducked for cover as America blew in asking them to choose between the terrorists' world and ours.
We were "walk-ons" in this political and generational struggle playing out in Araby. America and Americans have a hard time coming to terms with those unfathomable furies of a distant, impenetrable world. In truth, Atta struck at us because he could not take down Mr. Mubarak's world, because in the burdened, crowded land of the Egyptian dictator there is very little offered younger Egyptians save for the steady narcotic of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. The attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center was Atta's "rite of passage."
In the same vein, bin Laden and Abu Gheith can't sack the dynastic order of the Gulf. (Were they to do so, they would replace it with a cruel reign of terror that would make the yuppies of Jeddah who have been whispering sweet things in the ears of foreign reporters about bin Laden yearn for the days of Al Saud). So the avengers come our way. Our shadow, faint and mediated through hated rulers and middlemen, has fallen across their world. They struck at the shadow, but it is the order that reigns in their lands that fuels their righteousness. And it is the sense of approval they see in the eyes of ordinary men and women in their societies that tells them to press on.
The military campaign against bin Laden is prosecuted, and will surely be won, by the U.S. But the redemption of the Arab political condition, and the weaning of that world away from its ruinous habits and temptations, are matters for the Arabs themselves.
A darkness, a long winter, has descended on the Arabs. Nothing grows in the middle between an authoritarian political order and populations given to perennial flings with dictators, abandoned to their most malignant hatreds. Something is amiss in an Arab world that besieges American embassies for visas and at the same time celebrates America's calamities. Something has gone terribly wrong in a world where young men strap themselves with explosives, only to be hailed as "martyrs" and avengers. No military campaign by a foreign power can give modern-day Arabs a way out of the cruel, blind alley of their own history. (October 16, 2001)
In recent weeks a lot has been said about the religion of Islam. Undoubtedly, some of what has been said is for the purpose of creating political alliances and a climate of tolerance. Islam has been described by some as "a religion of peace." In fact, it has been pointed out the word "Islam" itself means "peace." We are told that the acts of the Islamic terrorists are an aberration of the true Muslim faith. It has been said that, "The terrorists are to Islam what the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity." Is this really the case, or are the terrorists acting within the borders of an Islamic worldview and an interpretation of the Koran believed by many of their clerics?
Let us begin with the word "Islam." It is an Arabic word that is etymologically related to the Hebrew word "Shalom," which is translated as "peace." In the Western world, our understanding of "peace" differs to a great extent from that of the Middle Easterner. To the Middle Easterner, "peace" connotes the idea of "having your foot on your enemies neck" i.e.; "surrender" or "submission." To the Muslim, peace can only come when there is a surrender and submission to Allah. I dare say, this is a far cry from what most Westerners mean by "peace." The noted historian Paul Johnson, writing in National Review, makes this comment, "The word Islam does not mean peace but submission." He goes on to say that Islam is "an imperialist religion, more so than Christianity has ever been and in contrast to Judaism."
We, in the Western world, are far too ignorant of the second largest religion in the world. We are naive regarding the intentions of Islam and ignorant of its history. The very "root" of Islam is in military conquest, and the "fruit" we observe today springs forth from this root.
Here is a little history lesson. Muhammad, whose name means, "highly praised," was born approximately 570 A.D. in Mecca. He lived a rather unremarkable life until, according to Islamic tradition, the angel Gabriel visited him at 40 years of age and called him into the service of Allah. Judaism and Christianity probably influenced Muhammad, along with the folk religions of the region.
As he sought to propagate his new religion, he was met with opposition. Town after town rejected Muhammad, as he sought to establish himself as Allah's messenger. Finally, the little town of Yathrib invited him and his small band of followers to take up residence. The town later changed its name to Medina ("the prophet's city") to honor him. Muhammad's move to Medina is called "the Hegira," meaning the "breaking off of one's own tribe." Today this marks the beginning of the Muslim era: September 622 A.D.
With the Hegira began a period of Muslim expansion. The people of Mecca who had rejected him became Muhammad's enemies; and in the name of Allah he began to prepare a "holy war" (Jihad) against them. Arming his followers, Muhammad conquered one village after another, building strength for an assault on Mecca. In 630 A.D. he entered Mecca as a conqueror and ordered the over 350 idols worshipped in the chief shrine, Kaaba, be destroyed. He declared that no unbeliever should enter Mecca again.
Two years later, having returned to Medina, Muhammad became ill and died at the age of 61 on June 8, 632 A.D. By this time he had conquered most of Arabia.
As I trust you can see, from its very beginning Islam was spread by the edge of a sword. The history of Islam is replete with violence and warfare, from its birth to the present day. When the Muslims invaded Spain, it took over seven centuries to drive them out. The Muslim Ottoman Turks slaughtered a million Armenians in 1915-16 (a fact still ignored by much of the Western world). Today, in the Sudan over two million Christians have been slaughtered, and many more sold into slavery, all under the direction of the Islamic General Umar Bashir. In Indonesia, Muslims have killed over 300,000 East Timorese Catholics since 1975.
Please understand I am not ignorant of the Crusades, the Spanish conquistadors, or other deeds done in the name of Christ. I am well aware of the abusiveness of "Christianity" over the centuries and find it repugnant. But I do not find conquering by the sword the standard M.O. of Christianity. Unlike Muhammad, Jesus and His followers did not initiate the spread of their faith by military force.
What does Islam teach regarding the concept of jihad? One finds many injunctions with in the Koran exhorting believers to defend and spread the faith. The character of this defense is determined by how one interprets the doctrine of jihad ("struggle for the faith"), which is discussed in numerous verses in the Koran. In one sense, it is understood as the individual's struggle with his own nature to follow the precepts of Allah. But one cannot deny that it also calls for one to literally fight for his faith. Philip K. Hitti, in his book entitled Islam in the West, describes it this way:
The doctrine of jihad ("holy war") divided the world into two realms, the abode of peace and the abode of war, and made it incumbent upon the believer to keep on pushing the wall between the two until the whole world is Islamized - reminiscent of the modern communist theory. He who fell on the battlefield was promised immediate entry into Paradise.
Allow me to quote from the Koran. From reading its injunctions, it is quite easy to see the justification the Islamic terrorists find for their actions.
O believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find firmness in you. (Sura:9, Ayat:123)
Fight those who believe not even if they be People of the Book until they have willing agreed to pay the tribute in recognition of their submissive state. (Sura:9, Ayat:29)
You will be called to fight a mighty nation; fight them until they embrace Islam. (Sura:48, Ayat:16)
Then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them. And seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them, in every stratagem (of war). (Sura:9, Ayat:5)
Is Islam a religion of peace? The actions of Muhammad, its history, and the words of the Koran seem to say otherwise. Therefore, the real answer to Islamic terrorism will not be found in physical weapons of war. It is a religious system which will continue to produce followers, who will faithfully wage jihad against the "infidels." They will not play the game of "leave us alone and we will leave you alone." It's against their religion. The real answers is in converting them to Christianity (as the Celts did the barbarous Vikings) and, thus, transform the Islamic nations into Christian ones. Is that not what the Great Commission tells us to do? To disciple the nations and teach them to obey Christ's commandments (Mt. 28:19-20).
It maybe that the current situation is part of God's strategy
to open the Islamic world to Christian missionaries in an unprecedented
way. I pray that this is so, because I know of no other hope for
the world apart from the Prince of Peace and His gospel.
Don Walker is the pastor of Christ Covenant Church, located in Kansas City, Missouri. For over 20 years Don has served the Lord in various capacities, in addition to pastoring, he has been a Bible college instructor, counselor, radio Bible teacher, and conference speaker. He has served on numerous mission boards and has ministered around the nation, in addition to several foreign countries. He is currently directing The School of Applied Theology and Church Leadership, located in Santa Rosa, California. Don and his wife June have four children. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Chalcedon Inc., PO Box 158, Vallecito, CA, 95251