Much Ado About What We Know Nothing About
Is it Islam? Is it Islamic?
I am probably not the only one who is annoyed. What I really see when I think of the Islamic State either of Syria and Iraq or of the entire Levant is not whether or not it is a genuinely Islamic Movement, but that however barbaric, it is also superstitious. I would have to do much more research than I care to, but I think I could prove that at the start of wars, as well as during them, religiosity and the like simply picks up. True enough, there is no way of knowing. God might be in the war or not. To the true believer, He already knows the outcome. He might be telling or not, depending upon whom he chooses to deliver His edict. But extreme Sharia appears not to frighten enemies of ISIS or ISIL so much as appease a rather bloodthirsty deity. If he is not Allah, well then, whoever the god is, he shares something in common -- his name.
When was the last time I was in a mosque? That would be 1967 in the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. I was a tourist then. I am not much more than a tourist now. I am always just passing through. But the real point is that I am ignorant about both the Koran and the religions that tie into it. I would wager that I am not alone. Maybe I even know a little bit more than most. I read a novel about Saladin and one of those slim biographical sketches of the Prophet. I bought a book on the Shia-Sunni split, but I have not yet got to it. In the meantime, I am as stunned as everybody on what is happening supposedly in the name of ideas and ideologies, most of which have a theological veneer, at the very least. The grisliness of the second decade of the 21st century may have taken us by surprise, but no one is so Pollyannish as to think that it is going to easily drift away.
To wit, how does one suddenly become an infidel in one's own homeland? This phenomenon is different than ever before. If I were in Mecca or Medina, I suppose I would be fair game. But that is hardly the case, either here, where I am, or in Paris or Belgium. I am also hamstrung by a new language barrier. The argument that none of these terrorists, however they call themselves, is Islamic, is defensible. But they have somehow linguistically grafted themselves onto a major world religion. I might add that true Islam has no real need of them. Yet we do not hear of influential Islamic calls for their destruction. So, how does one refer to them, singly or en masse, and will it serve any purpose in the long run if verbal sensitivities are applied to divide the meek religious from the jihadist?
From a Cave near Mecca to the World
The above photo shows a mosque in London. The religion, if nothing else, is widespread. Adherents of Islam, from whatever sect, are by no means confined to the usual countries with which our minds associate them. There is talk that mosques are staging grounds for terrorism. Within, Islamicists meet and greet, notwithstanding the fact that they also worship, as is their right and habit. But no one will say for sure what goes on under the domes because no one on the outside, who might or might not be targeted, has a clue. It is also right for Muslims to object to those who paint them violent with a broad, sweeping stroke. It is not true. It is true, however, that enough of them are extremely dangerous, so much so that the free world has to find a way to root them out wholesale.
It was in a cave near Mecca where Mohammad was supposed to have received a series of revelations from God. They are recorded in the Koran. He is also thought of as the last prophet, following all others, including Christ. Hence, he is the most important of the chosen few called upon to convert the wayward to the straight and narrow. This puts him in direct conflict with Judeo-Christianity, which largely ignores the Prophet, though his Sword, as it were, has now become something of an issue. In fact, it is not just swords but anything radical militants can get their hands on.
A Brief History of Early Jihad
The earliest instance of Jihad that I can find on the net is the Battle of Badr in Ramadan, 624. Mohammad led the charge and brought victory. Henceforth, the use of the sword to spread Islam became its chief method of transforming the world from India to the Atlantic Ocean. To be fair, Christ in the New Testament does in fact claim to have brought "a sword" (Matthew 10:25), though it has never, to my knowledge, ever been taken literally.
The second Jihad occurs in 625, during which the Meccans took their revenge on the Muslims, forced to retreat. At Medina in 627, the Prophet dug trenches and achieved a decisive victory. Jewish tribes, caught in the crossfire, who refused to convert, according to one source, were alternately beheaded or enslaved. In 630, Mohammad utterly prevailed upon Mecca, where he punished those who had previously mocked him in song and verse. Again, caution is warranted. Wikipedia is not fully authoritative, just easily accessible.
It is important to note that from the outset, conversions were the result of conquest. Mohammad is no Paul, not an itinerant preacher. In addition, the Prophet confronted a largely pagan population that had somehow lingered into the 7th century AD, still making use of statuary and such in abominable ceremonies much of the ancient world had already dispensed with. Slaughter, or possibly sacrifice, in the name of a false god, seems to have jumped into the mainstream of a particular line of modern religious thought and deed. That is to say, there might be an element of recidivism in today's distorted form of Middle Eastern religious practice.
Today, Muslims number 1.6 billion. Their achievements are numerous and impressive in the arts and sciences. They made technological advances well ahead of the European powers, who would eventually colonize much of the Ummah, or Muslim World. The word itself refers mainly to the people and their communities. A "state", obviously, which could become a common goal of a great many of the current hodgepodge of terrorist groups, is a different matter. It is worth noting how fertile peace, real peace, is, insofar as being able to invent, uplift, and enact progress. It is hard to believe today's followers are of the same breed, however much they can trace their ancestries to brilliant, successful mathematicians, engineers, philosophers, and merchants.
An Old Mosque in Red China
Eastern and Western Differences
"Muhammad himself had stated, “If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” He even went so far as to condemn the “appearance” of homosexuality, when he cursed effeminate men and masculine women and ordered his followers to "Turn them out of your houses." This ruling on homosexuals was naturally adopted by his later successors."
Wikipedia, in this case, WikIslam, as mentioned above, is not always accurate. But from a recent execution of Gays by ISIS shown on television, it pays to bear in mind that what Muslims call peaceful existence and that of their Christian counterparts are two different concepts. No religion condones homosexuality, yet the Western World has pretty much decriminalized it. Not so in the Muslim world -- though there are always exceptions as well as hypocrisies.
China is basically a large trade partner in terms both of goods and bonds. But it has a coterie of militants, perhaps encouraged by the World Trade Center tragedy, who have been over the years casually speaking and writing about how United States power might be permanently undermined. There is no way to accurately gauge how far or realistic their thinking has become, since it is basically unapplied and abstract, with the possible exception of stealing secrets. These militants do not draw a line between cyber-space and the battlefield. To them, fighting against the US entails all its interests, including the best-intentioned, some of which are considered selfless and charitable. They have conceived of an all-out war, no holds barred, making use not only of big guns but modems, too. Something to think about anyway, in collusion with Radical Islam. I cannot help but wonder if China's 1.4 billion atheists now contemplate our demise the way they once contemplated the Buddha.
Knowledge Will Come
I have faith. This is, after all, the information age. Our intelligence communities are gathering many acorns. Eventually, it will all fall into place as to what we must do, if anything, other than express outrage and scorn. As to the present administration's tendency to not be fast on the trigger, to not be trigger happy, and to wait and see rather than hastily involve the full weight of the armed forces, I would not condemn it. Hastiness could cause more harm than good. Something within gnaws at one's guts, however. We have never seen such things in our lifetime with the sole exception of the eye-witness participants in WWII. I suppose the media plays a role, too. Its images are graphic and fresh. While these horrible bearded clerics unfairly sentence men, women, and children to terrible fates, they are also being judged by their contemporaries overseas. The world watches, hoping that this new batch of fiends will find their just deserts until such time as it is deemed advisable to deliver them to their doorsteps.
Not the Eye of a Hurricane
Call it cowardice if you must, but re-read the title. The hub has to do with what most of us, myself included, know nothing about. We see cause for alarm. We see it rooted in a religion few of us have any acquaintance with. But no less than the President of the United States has called Islam a religion of peace. Therefore, I am deferential. Nevertheless, explanations are lacking that would allay concerns. The truth of the matter is that despite silver linings, coming as they occasionally do, mostly on the domestic, economic front, it is impossible to ignore situations overseas that are, frankly, intolerable.
Garland, TX Meeting of the Muslim Conference
- Thousands Protest Muslim Conference in Garland | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Thousands of protesters turn out hours before the conference begins.
- Surat At-Tawbah [9:5] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم
Surat At-Tawbah [verse 5] - And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and
More by this Author
These afterthoughts about the Balkans and surrounding areas, about which I only just wrote, come mostly from foreign magazine articles.
Foreign policy problems should take history into account. From 1923 to 2016, from Hitler to Baghdadi, shocking similarities serve as a warning.
Trying to understand Jihad is a lost cause. As much as we would like our most fanatic peacemakers to intervene, there is no real place for them.