What Islam "Supports": A Discussion
Hi OSBERT JOEL C! How's it going?
Thank you for the question: "Does the religion of Muslim support violence?" That is to say: Does Islam, somehow, support violence?
You go on to say: "Many Muslims are turning into jihads and talibans. On the other side people claim that Muslim is a religion of peace. What exactly Muslim is?"
That is to say, something like: Many Muslims engage in "jihadist" operations and join such anti-progressive organizations like the Taliban, for example. On the other hand, there are those who claim that Islam is a religion of peace. What exactly is Islam? Is it a religion of peace or one that supports violence?
First of all, OSBERT JOEL C, please forgive me. I am not making fun of you. I see that English is a second language for you (I hear many people say that it is among the hardest to learn) and I am just trying to help you out. Let me say that your English is far superior to my.... any other language in the world!
Okay, let us proceed with the question: Does Islam, somehow, "support" violence? Before we get started, let me make this small footnote: I am confining my remarks to a perspective of a native-born citizen of the United States of America --- those are the parameters of this discussion.
First of all, I daresay, that there probably are not five people in all of the United States of America, outside of Muslim theologians and religious scholars and practicing Muslims --- who are, in any way, prepared to say what the religion of Islam "supports."
I doubt that there are five people, outside the categories I have mentioned, who have even read the Koran cover to cover; and I include myself in this doctrinal ignorance.
But let's take the average, every Sunday church-attending American citizen. Let's call him "Mike." Now, I'll bet you "dollars to donuts"---whatever that means---that if we asked Mike what Christianity "supports," his responses would run something like this...
- He would begin with a list of nouns like, "peace, justice, charity, 'being a good Samaritan,' etc...
- Then he might say something like, "Well, my church is involved with..." and he would talk about the admirable charitable and other activities his church is involved in...
- He might cite publicly prominent Christian individuals and/or organization and their civic-minded activities....
- At some point, Mike is likely to contrast this with what he perceives Islam to "support.'
- And as far as he would have been able to tell, from news headlines, both in print and on television (perhaps including the Internet), Islam, he will say "supports" terrorism.
- He is also likely to contrast "Islamic Terrorism" with the good works he perceives Christianity to "support."
Stay with me.
All of Mike's talk will not have answered the question about what Christianity "supports."
Because his answer did not come from a doctrinal understanding of what the faith requires, as taken from at least the main text of Christianity, the Bible. One thing that complicates matters is the fact that so much has been left out of the Bible; I'm speaking of those books known as the Apocrypha.
Mike's understanding of what Christianity "supports" comes from what he sees people who call themselves Christian, are doing. It also comes from the commentary of his pastor, the folks in his Bible study group, and other people whose judgment he trusts.
Its kind of like the question of belief (in "God"). Do you believe in God, or do you believe in believing in God because you trust in a number of people, a community of people who profess a belief in God?
Having no independent means of verification, how could it be otherwise?
If it were so simple a thing as to identify what Christianity "supports," then why are there so many different versions of the faith? Do they "support" different things? If they all "support" the same things, then why was there the need for so many, separate and distinct denominations or versions of Christianity?
And mind you, all of these varieties, more or less, spring from, more or less, the same foundational text.
Since it is indeed the case that no Christian alive today is in a position to say what "CHRISTIANTIY" actually "supports," how can outsiders hope identify what Islam "supports" or stand for?
Understand me: For the purposes of this essay, I am not claiming anything about what Islam "supports," one way or another. I am claiming that nobody knows what Islam "supports."
However, when we talk about Islam and its supposed connection to violence, we are talking about the globalization of Islamic insurgency, which became Islamic Terrorism.
The question we're really asking is: What is the deal with Islamic Terrorism? Why is the phenomena been so persistent for the past decade and a half?
If we acknowledge that Islamic Terrorism has been a world problem for the past decade and a half, which I do, we might ask if there is something inherent about Islam that sprouts the phenomena of terrorism like a fountain.
But to state such a question is to instantly see its nonsense, I hope. Does being a Muslim, sooner or later, drive the adherent to acts of terrorism?
A few points
- There is virtually no one who can tell us what Islam "supports."
- When we talk of "Islam" "supporting violence," we are, in fact talking about what is called political Islam.
- In answer to the question (Does political Islam support violence?), we have to say that violence is but one of a spectrum of techniques it uses. The comparison that suggests itself is the IRA struggle against England.
- What we can say, therefore, is that violence is but one of a spectrum of techniques used by, what we might call political Irish Catholicism.
Let's take this discussion to a new phase
But before we do that, it is useful, I think, to compare the situations faced by political Irish Catholicism and political Islam.
- In the case of the former, we're talking about Ireland, which, incidentally, may be considered Western Europe's very first colonial possession.
- Also in the case of the former, England has always been readily identifiable as Ireland's principal antagonist and adversary. This makes for a very tight focus for action.
- When we speak of "Islam," of course, we are talking about the religious creation of the Arab people, native to the "Middle Eastern" region of the world.
- When we speak of the Middle East, we are speaking of more than one Arab predominant country.
- Because of the Middle East's more complex history of relations between itself and Europe, Japan, and the United States --- political Islam could never just focus on a single adversary. Its exploitation, from, say the end of World War One, to the present, has been global, or at very least, international --- the response of "political Islam," including the violent retaliation of its paramilitary wing, has been global.
- I'm sure it goes without saying at this point, that I am talking about oil...
We have now asked the question: Does political Islam support violence?
The answer I have given is this: Violence is but one of a spectrum of techniques used by political Islam, in the same way that violence was but one of a spectrum of techniques used by "political Irish Catholicism" in the IRA's struggle against England.
When we speak of political Islam's "support" of violence, we are really talking about political Islam and "terrorism."
When we speak of political Islam's "support" of terrorism, we are really talking about the globalization of various, national political Islamic insurgencies.
Question: What is the origin of political Islamic global terrorism?
Answer: It is what happened when the various, national, political insurgencies were hit with the force of "Globalization."
Question: Why has political Islamic global terrorism persisted for the past decade and a half?
Answer: Because once you have created a Frankenstein monster, he cannot be called off or shut down very easily.
Question: What do you mean?
Answer: There happens to be a substantial amount of professional scholarship about the role of the United States in creating the monster of political Islam's global terrorism; about America's role in turbo charging Islamic "radicalism," to use as a weapon against the Soviet Union, specifically in Afghanistan in the 1980s --- with Zbigniew Brzezinski's (President Carter's National Security Advisor) fondest hopes that this embroil the U.S.S.R. in its own "Vietnam," and thereby signal the death knell of the Communist power.
But the most accessible source I can think of is an excellent documentary film called The Power of Nightmares, produced for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) by Adam Curtis. I believe you can still watch it in its entirety on YouTube.
The film covers an aspect of American political and cultural history from the second half of the twentieth century to, roughly the present.
The title comes from the foundational premise of the three-hour film: The state, having lost its ability to deliver economic prosperity for its people must play the fear card in order to stay in power; the state's power comes from its promise to protect us from nightmares.
The "nightmare" that the film focuses on is Al Quaeda and the global terrorism of political Islam in general.
The film makes the connection between the assassination of Egypt's President Anwar Sadat, by Islamic revolutionaries who thought that he had basically "sold out," as it were to Western financial interests and Israel ---- and the Soviet-Afghan war. Egyptian prisons were emptied and all of those who had not been executed for Sadat's assassination were sent to "liberate" Afghanistan.
Basically, we see the pan-Islamic imperative, if you will, coming not from the ground up, from Arab Middle Easterners --- but imposed top-down by the United States in the interests of its Cold War against the U.S.S.R.
The film also talks about the role of U.S. intelligence in, perhaps, even creating Al Quaeda.
Anyway, in brief, this is the relevant history I am referring to, when I speak of "Globalization's" transformative effect on national, Islamic-sponsored insurgencies, which had previously been pursuing merely national goals.
As for the Taliban of Afghanistan
From what I understood from the news coverage of past years, the Taliban should not be confused for or inflated with Al Quaeda.
While the Taliban may indeed be "violent" when necessary, to uphold it mores of its deeply conservative ideological community, it does not function internationally. In other words, the Taliban functions as an ultra orthodox Islamic feudal-like paternalist order. Therefore it is not actually engaged in global terrorism.
As for jihads...
If you're talking about the various covert actions engaged in by global terrorists of political Islam (sabotage, "suicide bombings, etc.), it is probably more clear and helpful if we just think of them as "operations."
Furthermore, since there is virtually no one who can tell us what Islam "supports," we owe it to the worldwide Muslim community not to be loose and sloppy with Islamic vocabulary we may not be quite clear on.
If one Googles the word jihad, the very first entry provides a definition. As you will see, there are at least two definitions of jihad.
- As a noun, (among Muslims), it is a war or struggle against unbelievers.
- This is an overlooked definition. As a noun once again, jihad is a spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.
What is Islam exactly?
It is a monotheistic religion, just like Judaism and Christianity. Doctrinally, Islam sees itself as the completion and perfection of the divine revelation began by the Jewish prophets, then carried forward by the Christian prophets. Islam considers itself to be a continuum of Judaism-Christianity-Islam, which the Muslim religion thinks of, as a whole, as The Book.
Doctrinally, Islam sees Jews and Christians as People of the Book. For Muslims, Abraham ("Jewish") was the first prophet... Jesus was a prophet in the line, although Muslims do not consider him divine... and Muhammad was the last prophet of God, through whom divine revelation had been completed and perfected.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share many of the same holy sites. That is, there are many sites that all three religions consider to be Holy.
There's more to say, but for that you should consult experts and scholarship.
Thank you for reading!