There’s an oversimplified narrative that’s really taken hold of late.
"Islam is to blame for terrorism. Why, have you read their holy book? They’re just doing what the Koran tells them."
There are three problems with this line of thought…
- It’s not useful or valuable information. Even if it were true, what would it mean? Must one billion Muslims, the world over, be exterminated?
- It’s not true. There’s the sticky problem that, unlike car accidents, terrorist attacks in places like Belgium, Paris, and San Bernardino are rare enough to be news. If it was the religion, and there are a billion adherents to it, these attacks should be more frequent than car accidents.
- The claim is too broad to offer useful information. There are different sects of Islam, just as there different sects of most anything that has more than a couple-dozen followers. There are fundamentalist fire-breathing Wahhabis, flower-child Sufis, and everything in between. Is it really Islam that’s the problem? Once again, with a billion Muslims, why aren’t there far more attacks?
Know Your Enemy
It should first be pointed out that, most people who claim that Islam is inherently terroristic haven’t actually read Islam’s scriptures holy books (the Koran and Hadith). Instead, they read excerpts presented by others and shaped by their commentary.
I, as a believer, see how awfully Christians deal with their own scriptures. So I can only imagine how much worse it must be when neocons and other defense establishment lackeys twist books from cultures they don’t even want to try to understand.
To be fair, some of these critics have read the Islamic scriptures. Yet this vanishingly small group has not consulted with a single Islamic scholar or Imam. If these critics did consult a longtime student of that faith, then they would learn that Muslims, the world-over, are bothered by how their book has been perverted to promote violence.
"So what?" the critics cry. "Perhaps these peace-loving Muslims aren’t really living the Islamic faith. The commands of violence and judgment are right there in black and white."
We should avoid special-pleading. Lax standards for judging ourselves versus harsh standards for others are neither moral nor polite. Special pleading also tends to produce irrational if not dangerous outcomes.
Let me illustrate the problems that may arise when a layman, who is not a Muslim, tries to interpret the Koran. I can best do this using a theological viewpoint with which many Americans will be familiar.
Calvinism is a Christian system that argues each person is "predestined" to either salvation or damnation. The damned are built for "destruction," which they bring upon a culture. In other words, they invite God’s collective judgment on entire societies.
Is that a Biblical concept?
The Calvinist quotes a New Testament apostle who speaks of pottery that is unable to question the wisdom of the potter. He designs one container for the honor of serving fine wine at a party and molds another to be a stool receptacle. God is the potter, and that’s just the way it is!
That same apostle explains how these damned are then turned, by God, to a "hardened" state where they embrace immorality. And their abortions, gay marriages, and other sins invite God’s collective judgment on all of us.
The Westboro Baptist Church takes these concepts to their ultimate conclusion. They stand outside military funerals with signs and slogans such as, "God hates fags." They maintain that the deaths on the battlefield are part of God’s judgment for collective national sins. Westboro’s views are disgusting but consistent.
Now, Presbyterians are Calvinists. Most denominations with "Reformed" in the title are too — as are Independent and Southern Baptists. Why aren’t these Calvinists at the Westboro rallies? Is it possible that…
"…these peace-loving Calvinists aren’t really living their faith? After all, aren’t the commands of violence and judgment right there in black and white?"
You see, any justification you’re about to make for why Westboro Baptist’s reading of the Bible isn’t really Christian will be a theological one, beyond the words of the scriptural page. You’d be justified to do such theologizing, but so too would the Muslim who sees the narrow sect of Wahhabism as the perverter of their religion.
Now, much needs to be said about dealing with Wahhabism, which appears to be as much an ideology as a religion. If it’s an ideology, then investigating, identifying, and undermining its arguments should be a strategic focus. Moreover, it’s very important to consider how your so-called government has been an active supporter or protector of both Wahhabism and the foster-parent of the resulting terrorism. But for now, let’s agree that it’s not helpful, accurate, or fair to broadly blame Islam for the terrorism we’ve seen in recent years.