The True Nature of Islam

Islamby Bill Kassel   7/9/14
What is the true nature of Islam — peaceful, or warlike? That’s a reasonable question which has been asked many times in the years since 9/11, though I don’t think it’s been decisively answered.

The responses most often given have a defensive edge — something like:

Most Muslims want to live in peace.

…or…

Don’t assume all Muslims are terrorists.

And that’s true enough. I accept that most Muslims want to live in peace. And I know all Muslims aren’t terrorists. Indeed, I assume that only a very small number of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world engage in or provide material assistance to acts of terror. And I’m aware that there’s a debate throughout the Muslim world on the proper understanding of jihad.

Still, the question remains: What is the true nature of Islam?

Rather than how many Muslims are terrorists, perhaps it would be more relevant to ask: How many Muslims would agree with the characterization of America as the Great Satan?

The answer to that would be quite pertinent, it seems to me, since Muslims constitute about 23 percent of the world’s population (Islam being the second-largest religion, after Christianity), and an estimated 3.5 million currently live in North America. Knowing their attitudes toward us might help provide a clearer picture of what portion of our Muslim community would be sympathetic or supportive to some organization mounting a serious terror campaign on U.S. soil.

It’s not easy to get a handle on Muslim attitudes. Last year, the Pew Research Center found that in the Middle East, favorable feelings toward the U.S. in majority-Muslim nations ranged from a high of 47 percent in Lebanon to a low of 14 percent in Jordan.

A lot of things have changed in a year. I wonder where we stand now.

Surveying Muslims living in the U.S. back in 2011, Pew found the majority (64 percent) feeling there was little support for terrorism among their co-religionists. On the other hand, the survey also found:

“A significant minority (21%) of Muslim Americans say there is a great deal (6%) or a fair amount (15%) of support for extremism in the Muslim American community.”

Which is rather disquieting.

There was a just-about-even split on the question of whether or not U.S. moves to combat terrorist activities were sincere (43 percent agreed; 41 percent didn’t). Of course, that’s kind of an abstract question. What would we have to do to demonstrate sincerity in this context? More to the point, what is it they see as insincerity? Do they suspect that counter-terror activities are a cover or for anti-Muslim discrimination?

According to the Pew study, 56 percent of U.S. Muslims say they believe assimilation into mainstream American life is a desired goal among their people. Only 20 percent say Muslims prefer to live in a distinctive, separated way.

This is encouraging — though it’s somewhat belied by the occasional burka-clad woman I encounter even in my part of rural Michigan.

I would imagine that the most vexing problem for Muslims who reject extremism is that the radical elements within the Muslim world claim to speak authoritatively for Islam. Those claims — reflecting the concept of violent jihad, the progression to ever-more barbarous acts, and the stated intention of bringing the world under Muslim domination — are dramatically conveyed to us by the international media. Little wonder they’ve succeeded in striking fear into the hearts of non-Muslims who wonder if the radicals’ claims are true.

Is Islam an inexhaustible fount of violence? Does it promote an unquenchable thirst for blood and conquest?

Muslims themselves are concerned about how their attitudes toward extremism are perceived. Pew reported that:

“Many Muslims fault their own leaders for failing to challenge Islamic extremists. Nearly half (48%) say that Muslim leaders in the United States have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists; only about a third (34%) say Muslim leaders have done enough in challenging extremists.”

Actually, they think individual Muslims are doing a much better job:

“…68% say that Muslim Americans themselves are cooperating as much as they should with law enforcement.”

But then, how much is…should?

Another ambiguity.

The so-called Islamic State — that ultra-violent faction that has coalesced out of the Syrian civil war and thrust into Iraq — has declared the rebirth of the Caliphate, the worldwide united Muslim authority that once dominated the Mediterranean basin. They are demanding that all Muslims recognize it and submit to its leadership in a great jihad to regain territories Muslims once controlled or penetrated.

This has met with mixed reactions throughout the Muslim world, and may very well spark the region-wide sectarian war long feared. Since the Islamic State is Sunni-led (being related to al Qaeda), its staunchest opponent is Shiite Iran. The Saudis are also opposed to this Caliphate — Sunni though they are — since the Royal family is seen by many radicals as an accommodationist, Western puppet regime that happens to control Islam’s most sacred sites, primarily Mecca. Saudis know that the House of Saud is in the radicals’ sights.

Not everyone is against the Caliphate, however.

In an article in the Express Tribune, an international outreach of The New York Times, Safa Hussein Al-Sheikh, Iraq’s deputy national security adviser, observed that:

“‘Many Sunni leaders inside and outside Iraq have criticized or derided al-Baghdadi’s [the IS leader’s] declaration of a new caliphate, but it will have a deep appeal for millions of young Sunni men for whom the political and economic status quo promises nothing but joblessness and poverty.’

“Sheikh said the establishment of the caliphate would increase ‘the recruitment of jihadis’ into ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria]. ‘They will get more recruits from abroad.’”

No doubt including from the U.S.

Numerous young American Muslims — including American-born Muslims and converts to Islam — have felt themselves drawn to Islamist radicalism. Some have gone to join in the fight; some have been interdicted while preparing to do so. The so-called Islamic State will no doubt provide inspiration to others, whether or not it is ultimately validated by the Muslim world as a whole.

Why are these young Muslims attracted to violent jihad? Does it merely reflect specific conflicts or deficiencies within individual lives? Is there a more general sense of alienation among young Muslims raised in the West, a recoil from our highly secularized culture?

Or does it speak of some underlying reality within Islam itself?

Which brings us back to the question again: What is the true nature of Islam?

Perhaps there is no single, all-encompassing answer. The Muslim world is vastly complex, with many more divisions than just the main Sunni-Shiite split. But as we enter a new phase of our great global crisis with the proclamation of this so-called Caliphate, understanding Islam isn’t just a matter of cultural interest. It’s a matter on which may hang the fate of humanity.


BillKasselBill Kassel is a writer, communications consultant, and media producer based in Michigan. His essays and random rants can be found online at www.billkassel.com. • (2928 views)

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31 Responses to The True Nature of Islam

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Muslims, like adherents of other religions, don’t always obey their religious moral/ ethical codes. Partly this stems from the fact that they consider the only proper Koran to be one written in the original classical Arabic, which probably resembles the many forms of modern Arabic much as Anglo-Saxon resembles English. Thus, they often don’t know precisely what it says. When some jihadist-sympathizing imam (paid for by Wahabi money from Saudi Arabia) tells them what it says, many “reasonable” Muslims turn violently jihadist. This is why I refer to Koranic Islam: Those who follow its strictures believe in jihad and Shariah law.

    • David Ray says:

      Well said Tim, but it gets worse . . .
      Brigitte Gabriel informed her audience that the Korans we buy here in the USofA are sanitized for western readers. The real “top shelf” material (that properly invokes our anger) is for the “true” Muslim practitioners.

      (She gave a website over the radio, but I lacked a pen.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Brigitte Gabriel informed her audience that the Korans we buy here in the USofA are sanitized for western readers.

        I can confirm that. When I put together the material for the piece below, I used three different translations. The oldest was the 1974 revised edition of a 1956 translation published by Penguin.

        The second was a 1990 printing of a 1984 translation published by Princeton University Press.

        These two translations were similar.

        The third translation had verses which were completely different from the first two. And the verses were those verses which would make a Westerner’s hair stand on end. It was clear that the translator was sugar coating things, i.e. lying.

        http://www.stubbornthings.org/quotations-for-the-koran/

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Someday I want to check out the Koran and Haditha in order to verify for myself the inflammatory quotes I’ve seen reported. Thanks for reminding us that we need to make sure any translation is old enough to be honest rather than politically correct.

  2. Kathy says:

    I’ve avoided the issue for years, out of intellectual laziness. But no longer! I’ve picked up the book recommended by Hugh Hewitt, “The Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright. The claim is that will finally understand 9/11 after reading the book. Hewitt considers it the seminal work on the topic, and I trust his judgment.

    I shall report on what I’ve read as soon as I get to reading it. I’ve a few things ahead of it on the list.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Kathy, I look forward to your book review if you get a chance — or if you just want to post a few thoughts. As a conduit for that, and as a way to add this book to the “suggested reading list,” I’ve made an entry for it in the Bookshelf.

      • David Ray says:

        Brad: Just FYI, but I consider your “bookshelf” format top-notch. (I’ve perused through it many times, and am thankful for that asset.)

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Thanks, David. That reminds me to put one of the books that you suggested up there.

          The Bookshelf is a way to share the best of the best and, frankly, it sort of works as my own private reading list which otherwise I would probably lose. Once in a while I’ll dig around in a drawer and find a list of books written down that I had forgotten about.

          It’s nice to have some feedback on the site, good or bad.

    • David Ray says:

      Good choice, Kathy. Looming Tower is a damned good book worth reading twice. (When I read a 2nd time, I pull out my 3 high-lighters and mechanical pencil.)

      BTW! What the hell is KSKY660’s problem yanking Hugh off the station!??

  3. ronlsb says:

    If only 10% of the worldwide Muslims adhere to the radical tenants of their religion, we’re talking about 130,000,000 potential jihadis, intent on the destruction/subjection of the West to their religious/political/social system. That’s a lot of antagonists intent on our harm. How does one make peace with a religion that justifies any lie be told in order to defeat the infidels. Makes one question how accurate these polls are you quote when one considers they feel justified in telling any lie in order to further their cause.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      How does one make peace with a religion that justifies any lie be told in order to defeat the infidels. Makes one question how accurate these polls are you quote when one considers they feel justified in telling any lie in order to further their cause.

      Expertly and intelligently said. Yoo’ze no useful idiot!!! 🙂

    • David Ray says:

      Gets much worse, ronlsb.

      The other 89% support that 10% with quiet submission (actually that 10% is more like 15 to 25%). That 89% is what lends fertile ground for those jihadist seeds to flourish . . . if not flash burn. (Examples flourish: Danish cartoons, rumors of flushed Qurans, Coptic Christians falling like flies, Yaser Said’s “honor” killing his daughters here in Dallas, etc, etc, etc.)

      In short: When Brigitte Gabriel says the Muslims that “speak out” can be numbered on her right hand . . . she’s not exaggerating. (One who spoke out was frequently on Bill Bennett’s show, but he recently died.)

      • Timothy Lane says:

        An interesting aspect of the Danish cartoons incident is that when the murderous mullahs sought to rouse riots in the Muslim world over the issue, they initially failed. So they fabricated some worse cartoons, which did the trick. When they returned, they should have been deported (or, ideally, charged with murder). And, of course, many in the West gave in — refusing to show the cartoons out of “respect for religion” (even though many were quite happy to print even worse material about Christians). Yale did a book on the subject — without the cartoons. And a Seattle cartoonist made her own Mohammed parodies — and has disappeared into some sort of protection program for jihadist targets. (Maybe she and Spencer are shacking up together.)

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          That’s a very good summation, Timothy. We should never forget who the good guys are….and it’s not those on the Left. How a soul becomes so alienated, poisoned, and corrupt to call the bad good and the good bad, I do not know. But it seems to be a fever that is catching.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The other 89% support that 10% with quiet submission

        I believe that to be absolutely correct, thus the myth of the “moderate Muslim” is just a myth. If most Muslims (or even a tenth of them) were moderate, there would be daily outrage about how supposedly their religion is being hijacked by extremist elements. But it’s not a hijacking. These people are riding in the back of the van.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Do you mean F. Ajami? He was a very interesting man. I have a couple of his books.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    To fanatical Muslims, I believe “peace” equals the absence of any opposition to Islam. Once they obtain full earthly power they will be able to impose “peace”. The peace of the grave for their opponents.

    I don’t believe most Muslims think this way, but I may be wrong.

  5. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    Bill – I hate to say it, but I think the jury is in, and it finds that while there may be many moderate Muslims, there is no such thing as a moderate Islam. For us in America, Islam presents essentially two problems:

    (1) It is not solely or perhaps even primarily a religion, but rather a totalitarian political system with an associated spiritual component. There is no such thing as the separation of mosque and state to anyone who takes the Koran literally because the two are one. (Yes, I know the First Amendment was not intended to erect a “wall of separation” between church and state, but then this wasn’t necessary in the early days of the American republic even where states had established churches, because no American would have confused state with church or church with state).

    (2) That political system, Sharia law, is entirely incompatible with the precepts of American law, from our Constitution with its strict limits on the power of the government, to our enacted legislation with the principles of equality, objectivity, and clarity (i.e. precision). A detailed brief in support of this assertion would be too lengthy to present here, but two obvious examples may suffice for the moment. “All men are created equal” is incompatible with the inequality of male and female, or Muslim and non-Muslim, under Sharia. And “crimes” such as blasphemy, harshly punished under Sharia, would never be allowed under our current system where a criminal statute must be clear enough that the individual can know his contemplated conduct will place him in violation of that statute (the “Void for Vagueness” doctrine). When I read the law that says I may not spit on the sidewalk, I know that if I spit on the sidewalk I will be breaking the law. When I read the blasphemy law, I can’t know whether some particular conduct, such as a speech suggesting Mohammed may not have existed, is blasphemous or not. And of course, blasphemy laws are utterly incompatible with a more basic principle, that of freedom of speech.

    I would suggest, then, that to gauge the danger presented by the Muslims in our midst, a better measure might by how many support the imposition of Sharia on non-Muslims (which of course can only be accomplished by brute force). This Pew Poll unfortunately does not seem to have any figures for America or Western Europe, but the numbers in other countries are revealing – and alarming:

    Iraq – 91%
    Pakistan – 84%
    Egypt – 75%

    True, many of those polled said that Sharia should be the official law of the land but not applied to non-Muslims – an impossibility in practice that to me suggests they’re either lying or simply ignorant of the workings of government. Wish I had the figures for Western nations, but I couldn’t locate them quickly enough for this reply.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Excellent summation, including the difference between moderate Muslims (who do exist, somewhat) and moderate Islam (which doesn’t exist). Moderate Muslims are those who don’t really follow the Koran properly. So Moderate Islam is basically an oxymoron, since it means Islam that doesn’t follow its own precepts.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I could live with that overall definition and distinctions.

      • ronlsb says:

        I agree with your summation wholeheartedly. A similar parallel can be found within Christianity. A whole segment of “Christians”
        no longer accept the deity and exclusivity of Christ nor the miracles of the Bible. They can call themselves “Christians” until the cows come home, but that doesn’t make it so.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Sadly, this group includes the Episcopalian leadership, which is why their top American archbishop referred to Christians as “they” when discussing comments by Pope Benedict on Islam (Submission) a few years ago.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          …no longer accept the deity and exclusivity of Christ nor the miracles of the Bible.

          Personally I have no problem with skeptics regarding this. After all, it is a rather large claim.

          But I wonder if it’s really doubt that drives this unbelief. I hear that in the Church of England, for example, it’s pretty much standard that all the Divine attributes are taken for granted as not being real.

          One could say that science has had something to do with that. But I think the real reason is what John Horvat writes in his book, “Return to Order.” He calls it a “frenetic intemperance.” Others call it “radical materialism” or “conspicuous consumption.” I would call it making a God of manna. It could also be called being victims of our own success regarding how productive the free market is. We now simply view life as the satisfaction of every desire. And we are not running out of fine-toothed desires.

          All that taken into account, it means that we now have a completely hedonistic-based orientation to life. The philosophical, spiritual, and religious sides are considered just so much baggage to get in the way of sating any and every pleasure, including emotional pleasures, thus the rush to “non-judgmentalism” by so many inside and outside the church. Nothing is more of a killjoy to the party crowd (or to the very large self-anointed crowd of the “compassionate”) than someone saying “Thou shalt not.”

          And it would perhaps be misunderstanding the case to say that this is religion vs. secularism, per se. Being more traditionally religious as a culture would be a good thing. But even so, there are so many other things, what we might think of as non-religious elements, missing from our culture, whether we consider it a “secular” culture or give it some other word. We are missing just plain class and decency. We are missing honor and truth-telling. We are missing true tolerance (not the PC fake kind). We are missing politeness and general reasonableness. These last two have been replaced by a culture that is not only crude but is bombastically unreasonable and irrational regarding even the simple stuff (see: Libertarians, for example).

          If someone would like to say that all these good traits are the fruit of Christian religion, properly practiced, I would have no argument about that. But there is reason to have doubts in this world. But even so, such doubts do not give justification to the vulgarity, stupidity, and irrationality that so soils our culture from top to bottom. There is something to be said for just being a respectable human being at the first level — the baseline, as it were. And if we all wish to pursue even higher standards of conduct and a spiritual life, all the better. But that first level is missing. It is being tattooed and baggy-pantsed out of existence.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            It occurs to me that Christians are made worse by not following their church’s strictures, whereas Muslims are made worse by following theirs. Perhaps that’s the ultimate difference between Christianity and Submission.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Ditto. This is something that many people cannot comprehend. They were taught as early as Sesame Street that (sing it with me) One of these things is not like the other.

              They learned to tell that there was a fundamental difference between a banana and a baseball. But when they grew up, they lost this ability to make distinctions, primarily because of the propaganda they’ve been fed regarding “tolerance,” non-judgmentalism, and multiculturalism. But the fact is, Christ is diametrical opposite to the butcher, warrior, and villain of Mohammed.

            • ronlsb says:

              A good thought, Timothy, but not quite right as to the differences. The ultimate difference between Christianity and ever other religion on the face of the earth, including Islam, is this simple point. Christianity is the only religion that is predicated on the belief that everything necessary to satisfy God’s justice and bring peace between He and us has been done by someone besides ourselves–Jesus Christ. Islam, like all others, teaches what its adherents must do to accomplish this. In it’s case, one must acknowledge Allah is god, Mohammad is his prophet, make a trek to Mecca at least one time in your life, pray five times a day, and give alms to the poor. In other words, do this, this, and that and maybe God will accept you into his Heaven. In Christianity, all has been done for me by Christ. By simply believing the gospel, a double imputation occurs–my guilt is transferred to Christ who received my just punishment for breaking God’s law, and Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to all those who trust in Him. Simple concept yet exceedingly hard to accept for most of the human race. Why? Because it strikes at the very heart of our pride–there MUST be something I can do to make things right with my Creator. Nope, not according to the gospel.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s an interesting article on the general subject: Naming and Fighting Terror:

    Reuters, for example, has a policy against using the word “terrorist” because it believes it is opinionated or judgmental. Soon, Reuters will replace “bank robbery” with “large withdrawal.” CNN often uses the term “militants,” as in: “Israel launched an offensive against militants in Gaza, killing scores of militants who responded by shooting primitive rockets at Israel.” This is also a classic example of getting who, what, when, where, why, and how all wrong in one sentence.

    Militants, like “gunmen” or “fighters,” is a term used to avoid calling murderers and terrorists by their rightful name. “Militants” should be saved for college students who sit-in at the dean’s office, whining about not having the Pass-Fail option…

    And…

    Arab Spring: This is a euphemism coined by superficial journalists and Western leaders to cover up for wishful thinking masquerading as cold analysis. From Fareed Zakaria of CNN and Time to Barack Obama of the White House, prominent pundits/politicians claim to see a huge democracy movement in a region drowning in autocracy. In fact, they are witnessing struggles between rival ideologies, religious sects and tribes in the Arab-Islamic sphere, from Tunisia to the Gulf. The heart of democracy is regular elections and possible change, along with minority rights.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      To be fair, the “Arab spring” was a reasonable term when things got started and it was possible that things would work out well. To continue using it after they definitely didn’t (except in Tunisia, at least so far according to people who’re eager to see good news) is idiotic — or dishonest.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Hmmm….I would have thought that “Arab” and “spring” were oxymoronic. There’s noxious Islam and not-so-noxious Islam, of course. But I saw absolutely no reason to suppose that any “spring” was possible or likely.

  7. strong aingel says:

    There are 53 surah (57 ayat) detailing what Islamic peace is. The 3 ayat relevant to non moslems do not offer them Peace. One of these “Peace” ayat is the nearest reference to “asylum” for non moslems; there is none. By contrast 4 verses dealing with asylum for Moslems fleeing the Peace initiate strife in nations migrated to, and are so designed to do. A religion (classified cult) based on the creation of a civilian war machine is not Peaceful, and never will b2 .. Get over it ..

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