I’ll say something that is not politically correct in the slightest, something that a number of people may disagree with, and then I’ll take a bit of time to explain why I think it is true. Let me invite you to set aside all of your current conceptions about Islam for a few moments—you can easily take your previous ideas up again afterward if I’m wrong. If you are willing to give my claims and concepts a fair trial and to read to the very end, important footnotes and all, you may agree with me when I say that the problem with Islam is not Muslim “extremists”, nor is it “radical” Muslims. In fact, the problem with Islam is not Muslims of any kind. It is far deeper than that.
The problem is that Islam is not just a religion. Islam is also a terrorist ideology.
Let me be clear from the outset that none of what I will say below is about individual Muslims. Well, except Mohammed, I do mention him. Modern Muslims, like all other people, exist in the usual varieties—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Recently I spent four hours talking to an intelligent, charming Muslim man. And I spent an hour today immersed in the oceanic Islamic poetry of the Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi. In short, I am well aware of the multitude of contributions by individual Muslims to medicine, science, mathematics, poetry, astronomy, and many other fields. So as you read through this analysis, please be clear at all times that I am discussing the ideology, nature, texts, strictures, history, laws and rules of Islam itself; I am not discussing any individual follower of Islam. With that as a prelude, let me return to the question.
Why do I say that Islam is a terrorist ideology? The biggest and most visible reason is that worldwide, Islam is the greatest single force oppressing, subjugating, raping, belittling, excluding, enslaving, torturing, repressing, and killing women around the planet … and that is the very definition of terrorism. Here are some Islamic beliefs and how many Muslims believe them:
It surprises me to see people who still believe that Islam is just Christianity in funny hats. It is not. Sharia Law, which is the written embodiment of the Islamic legal rules as spelled out in the Koran, specifically authorizes and legalizes some combination of the following barbaric abuses of women:
• wife beating
• unilateral instant divorce declarations (by men only, of course)
• reduction of women’s rights to inherit
• spousal rape
• women’s testimony only counting half as much as men’s testimony in court
• honor killings of women, including those whose only “crime” was to have been raped
• imprisoning women in their own homes, unable to leave unless accompanied by a man
• death for adultery, often by stoning (for both women and men, but rarely applied to men)
• infant marriage, and consummation at nine years of age
Not only that, but as the Pew Forum worldwide Muslim poll results above show, Sharia Law is the expressed preference of about 70% of Muslims worldwide. This means that the barbaric 7th-century laws authorizing inhumane abuses of women are NOT extremist Islamic views.
Those legalized Islamic abuses of women are the stated preference of a majority of Muslims worldwide.
In the Muslim world, those egregious violations of women’s basic rights are not unusual or fanatical views. They are not a “radical interpretation of the Koran”. They are not held by some mythical “extremist minority” of Muslims. I say again:
The various barbaric and ruthless repressions of women specified in the Koran and codified in Sharia Law are the clear preference of Muslims worldwide.
How is it that the women of the world have not risen up against this oppressive Islamic terrorist ideology? … well, I guess I’ve just answered my own question. It’s dangerous to “rise up” against a terrorist ideology. Both women and men have stayed silent because Islam is not just a religion—it is also something to fear. From the days of Mohammed to this very day, followers of Islam have hurt and terrorized and bullied and bombed and killed women as well as men, in order to get their way. And that terrorism starts against women in the home.
So it’s no surprise that women are unwilling to speak out against Islam. Here’s a small sample from the Koran to help explain why Islamic women don’t protest against their mistreatment:
Qu’ran 4:34—Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them;
The Koran says if your wife is “disobedient”, meaning if she disagrees with you about something and won’t follow your orders, you are to confine her to her bedroom and there, hidden from public view, where no one will help her or answer her screams, the Koran says to beat her into submission, and don’t stop until she obeys you … call me crazy, but on my planet we don’t call that religious instruction—we call it terrorism.
That verse of the Koran might as well be called “Domestic Terrorism For Dummies“. It is a training manual for terrorism in the home, a way to silence all protest. I implore you to look carefully at what the Koran is teaching impressionable young Muslim men, and think deeply about the subtext. Here is what that verse of the Koran is actually saying:
Qu’ran 4:34—Don’t beat your wife at random whenever you feel angry or had a bad hair day, you simpleton! That will just make her constantly frightened, unsure, and afraid to act. If you do that she’ll be useless to you. Instead, only beat her when she disobeys you, and stop as soon as she obeys you … that way, she will be your perfect servant—obedient, submissive to your every wish, and permanently terrified of not pleasing you. Go and do likewise.
So we should not be surprised that the Pew Trust poll results above show that 80% of Muslims worldwide said women must, not should but must, obey their husbands. Like I said … the Koran is not just a religious manual—it is also a training manual for terrorists. Islam is not just another religion as we understand religions in the Western sense. It is also a terrorist ideology, and tragically, the main victims of Islamic terrorism are and always have been women.
Does this mean that all Muslims are wife-beaters? Heck, no, that’s crazy talk. Some Muslims are incredibly gentle and spiritual human beings. Remember, I’m talking about Islam itself and not about individual Muslims.
However, in this context, it’s worth noting that most women in many Islamic societies have internalized the rules and thus they submit to the outrageous mistreatment without protest … so there’s no reason for their husbands to beat them. Tragically, for many of them, generations of Islamic terrorism have silenced them effectively and perhaps beyond redemption … we can only hope for their daughters.
ORTHODOXY AND EXTREMISM
While researching and contemplating this subject, I got to thinking about the idea of “orthodoxy” and orthodox religious views. Me, I’m a shamanist, and all religions are of interest to me. Google provides the following definition:
Orthodoxy (from Greek orthodoxia – “correct belief”, “right opinion”) is adherence to correct or accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion. In the Christian sense the term means “conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church”.
Orthodox believers are those who follow the creeds of the early churches. Now, the opposite of orthodox views are what might be called “extremist” views. An example of Christian extremism would be a white supremacist interpretation of the Bible, of some type that would allow someone to justify violence against their so-called “racial enemies”.
One clear guide to the orthodox/extremist divide are the stories of the lives and actions of the prophets and holy men of the various religions. For example, suppose someone today wants to live like Jesus, devoting her or his life to helping the poor, befriending the neighbors, working with the community on barn-raisings, and perhaps occasionally even attempting unsuccessfully to water-ski without either skis or a boat.
I would call that an orthodox view of Christianity, not an extremist view. It is certainly the view reflected in the creeds and practices of the early Christian churches.
For the modern variant of orthodoxy, in the US you see bumper stickers that say “WWJD?”. This stands for the question, What Would Jesus Do? It is a question that some Christians ask themselves to clarify the original Christian view of some modern situation. This is not extremism, nor does it lead to bombing a church or shooting black people. It is orthodox Christianity, a return to the fundamental teachings of Christ.
Similarly, if someone wants to live like the Buddha, sitting under the Bodhi tree in silent meditation, working for the emancipation of all mankind, contemplating their omphalos and striving to hear the sound of one hand clapping, I would call that orthodox Buddhism. It is not an extremist view of Buddhism. And again, if you are someone who asks “WWBD?”, what would Buddha do, it doesn’t lead you to start blowing up buildings.
But when we do the same with Islam, we get into trouble right away. Here’s why:
Many people were shocked when it was revealed recently that the men of ISIS, the terrorist organization also known as Daesh or ISIL, were routinely raping the women that they captured in the conquered regions and keeping them permanently as sexual slaves. Included among the sexual slaves have even been some Western women tragically caught up in the fighting. And although I have read over and over that ISIS is following an “extremist” interpretation of Islam, or that this sexual slavery is based on some alleged “radical” reading of the Koran, nothing could be further from the truth.
For me, this ISIS re-run of the same bad Islamic war movie came as no surprise, because I’d read the book … the Koran, that is. When I was young I read what I came across of the various “holy books” of different religions. And in reading and researching the Koran years ago as a young man, I’d come across the interesting story of how the Koranic law regarding raping female captives of war came into existence. But to explain it, I’ll have to take a bit of a long way around, so you might grab a cup of coffee. After all, Islam has been here for a while, so as you might expect, it doesn’t fit into a 140-character tweet … it’s a convoluted tale involving an obscure but fascinating bit of history.
Now, as I noted above, asking “WWJD?”, thinking about what Jesus would do in a certain situation, is a way of clarifying ethical and moral choices for Christians based on their religion. It highlights the difference between the orthodox and the extremist views of the religion.
In Islam, just as in Christianity, there are folks who figuratively ask themselves “WWMD?”, meaning, “What would Mohammed do?”. And that is the core of the problem and the heart of this story of ancient and modern wars. Because when we ask ourselves “What would Mohammed do with female captives of war”, the answer is clear.
Mohammed would rape them and keep them as sexual slaves. No question.
We know that for a simple reason—because that is exactly what Mohammed did in his own lifetime, and it is also what he told his companions to do. Which means that raping female prisoners of war is not an extremist misinterpretation of Islam. It is not “radical” in the slightest. Keeping female war captives as sexual slaves to be raped at will is an Orthodox Islamic belief taken straight from the Koran. It was a tenet of early Islam, and more to the point, it was practiced by Mohammed himself. You can’t get more orthodox (or more terrorist in this case) than by following the lead of the holiest man in the religion.
TALES OF WAR
How does the holy Koran fit into this story? Several verses of the Koran say that men are forbidden from having sex with anyone but their wives and their slaves, including women taken captive in war. (Prisoners of war and slaves are referred to in the Koran as “those whom your right hand possesses”, meaning that they are your property. “Made lawful” in these verses means lawful for sex.) The Koran says you can have sex with slaves and captive prisoners in several different verses (emphasis mine).
Qur’an 23:1-6—The Believers must (eventually) win through—those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or those whom their right hands possess—for (in their case) they are free from blame.
Qur’an 70:22-30—Not so those devoted to Prayer—those who remain steadfast to their prayer; and those in whose wealth is a recognized right for the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking); and those who hold to the truth of the Day Of Judgment; and those who fear the displeasure of their Lord—for their Lord’s displeasure is the opposite of Peace and Tranquility—and those who guard their chastity, except with their wives and those whom their right hands possess—for (then) they are not to be blamed.
And specifically regarding civilian prisoners of war:
Qur’an 33:50—O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war …
Of course since slaves, and women taken prisoner in war, and wives (up to four) are all the property of some man, there is never a question of what here in the West is called “spousal rape”. In the Islamic view expressly spelled out in the Koran, sex with your property can never be rape. Ever. The very concept of spousal rape does not exist in the Koran or in Sharia Law. A man is always entitled to have sex with his own property whenever he wants, whether his property agrees or not. Oh, it’s a charming ideology, all right … but it’s hardly a religion as we understand religions.
Now, I can hear you thinking … why on this lovely verdant forgiving green Earth would a so-called “sacred religious holy book” even discuss raping female captives, much less say that it is absolutely OK to rape them and hold them in sexual slavery forever?
Funny you should ask.
This tale of war occurred in Mohammed’s later life, during a time when what would someday become the verses of the Koran were still being revealed to him one by one. During that time, in addition to being the religious leader of his people, Mohammed was a warlord who led his comrades-in-arms in sporadic raids on the surrounding towns and villages. The Koranic verse about women taken prisoner during a war was revealed to Mohammed during this time, in order to solve a very practical and urgent real-world problem involving one of his military campaigns. Here’s the backstory:
One unfortunate day about fourteen hundred years ago, Mohammed decided that some of the people in a nearby Jewish village called Banu Qurayza were aiding his enemies. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t—Muslim historians are emphatic that the villagers were betraying Mohammed, but at this late date nobody knows. Nor does it matter.
It doesn’t matter because in either case, in best Islamic fashion, Mohammed solved it by the sword, and wholesale. He gathered his raiders, and they armed themselves and besieged Banu Qurayza. After several weeks the villagers surrendered, and the Muslims took all the Jews captive.
When the battle was won, Mohammed lined up all of the survivors in the village. He made all of the males pull their pants down. Right there on the spot, he gave the order to his men to kill every male that had pubic hair, dozens and dozens of them. And to close the deal, once all the men were dead he gave all the women and children to his followers as spoils of war, reserving some for himself of course. These are well-known historical facts, not basically disputed even by Muslims, discussed in the Hadiths. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger.
Of course, because Mohammed was their holy spiritual leader as well as their warlord, his followers asked him what the deal was with the female prisoners he’d just given to them. Under their new religion, what were the rules? Could they have sex with these women? … meaning of course, could they rape these women whose husbands they had just brutally executed? It appears that the question hadn’t come up before, and now it was urgent because of the number of captives involved.
Well, since Allah is all-wise and generous (but clearly not fond of women), you gotta know that Allah had his main man Mohammed’s back. Allah stepped up. Sometime in the night, right there in that blood-soaked village, Allah gave Mohammed the divine revelation of the Koranic wisdom about how sex with female war captives was perfectly fine and dandy.
So in the morning, Mohammed announced to his men this new Koranic revelation that he’d gotten from Allah, that they could rape their captives to their hearts’ content, and guess what?
His men were all perfectly fine and dandy with it being perfectly fine and dandy to rape their captives at will and keep them as sexual slaves forever. Who would have guessed? We can safely assume that Allah was a very popular god that day … well, popular with everyone except the women …
And of course, this was also perfectly fine with Mohammed, since along with his men he’d taken his share of the women, including a “recently widowed” pretty young Jewish woman he had his eye on. And meanwhile, Mohammed was accompanied on this military campaign by one of his favorite wives, a 12-year-old whom he had married three years earlier. Again, tragically, historical facts, discussed in the Hadiths, don’t shoot the messenger.
Anyhow, that’s why the Koran says it’s OK to rape female captives. And whether that tale has been amplified somewhat over the centuries in the telling, I think you’ll agree it is both a curious and a disheartening tale indeed, given that we are now in the 21st century and Muslims still believe in and practice that kind of peculiarly Islamic barbarous kind of sexual slavery while calling it a sacred tenet of their religion …
IT’S CERTAINLY EXTREME … BUT IT’S NOT EXTREMISM
Here’s what most folks don’t understand about ISIS. People think that ISIS is made up of “Islamic extremists”, or that ISIS represents “radical Islam” in some form. Nothing could be further from the truth. The men of ISIS are orthodox Islamic adherents of the purest kind. I read a description of Orthodox Judaism the other day. It said:
Orthodox Judaism is distinguished by its maintenance of the traditional forms of worship in the Hebrew language, and of the traditional observances as prescribed by the Torah.
The men who make up ISIS are assuredly Orthodox Muslims. They maintain the traditional forms of worship and the traditional observances in the traditional language to the very letter of the law.
ISIS is not the face of some imagined “Islamic extremism”. ISIS is not a “radical Islamic sect”. ISIS is not a “fanatical minority”. They aren’t inventing their own rules. They are not wild-eyed bomb throwers with no guidelines or limits. In many cases they are very observant Muslims and devout students who spend hours studying the Koran. ISIS is orthodox Islam to the core, unchanged for centuries. It is the brutal face of the Koran itself. The men of ISIS are not an oddity or an outlier. In Islamic terms they are neither extreme nor radical. The men of ISIS are Orthodox Muslims, living exemplars of what the Koran specifically requires and allows among its followers. They are doing their best to faithfully follow the dictates of the Koran as closely as possible, by waging war on unbelievers, spreading their Islamic faith by the sword, establishing Sharia Law, praying, fasting, and of course, raping and oppressing women along the way, just as Mohammed did, and just as the Koran says that good Orthodox Muslims are supposed to do.
And just as is prescribed in the Koran, and just as has happened many times before over the centuries, the men of ISIS have established the latest incarnation of the “Islamic Caliphate” ruled by Sharia Law, a glorious country wherein thieves lose their hands, people who try to leave the “religion” are killed, and women are abused, raped, and stoned to death.
Sadly, at this point they have a huge advantage. The advantage is that they are clear that from their perspective this forever war is a fight to the death between Western modernism and 7th century Islamic ideals … and meanwhile, the West hasn’t yet even begun to grasp that particular nettle. For example, you’ve heard of “Boko Haram”, the Nigerian group that kidnapped the hundreds of schoolgirls to keep them as sex slaves? Well, “Boko Haram” means “The Ways of the West Are Forbidden”.
You can’t get much clearer about the goals of your ideology than that … but despite many detailed declarations of war against the West, the Western leaders have great difficulty even stating the obvious, much less acting on it. Here’s the bizarre current situation:
It is indeed true that the West is not at war with Islam, as many insist … however, it is equally true that Islam is indeed at war with the West, and has been for fourteen centuries.
Western ideals are totally antithetical to Islamic beliefs, and they know it. As a result, since the time before Mohammed died they have waged war to try to wipe out Western beliefs and believers completely.
Tragically, as has been the case hundreds of times over the last 14 centuries, this anti-Western Islamic militarism is once again recurring in various forms in various countries all around the Islamic world. Why? Because that is exactly what the Koran exhorts the faithful to do. Violent jihad is not an extreme view of the Koran. It is a plain reading of what the Koran tells the faithful to do, quite clearly and literally. And this jihad has been the guiding dream of much of Islam for fourteen centuries of endless war by now—to conquer the entire world at the point of the sword and establish a global Caliphate for the greater glory of Islam.
Let me close this section with a quote from Winston Churchill’s book “The River War” (1899), wherein he said:
The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. … Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die: but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.
Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
I agree with Churchill, and I note with concern that since his time, the West has become less and less the only group “sheltered in the strong arms of science”.
As Churchill said, individual Muslims indeed show splendid qualities. I know some Muslims myself and I can testify that like people everywhere, some are good, decent people. I understand that fact, however, not as a testament to Islam, but as a testament to how the indomitable human spirit can rise above even one of the most warlike, twisted, misogynistic terrorist ideologies known in either ancient or modern times.
Finally, is Churchill being “Islamophobic” in his views? No way. A “phobia” in this sense is an exaggerated, unreasoning and unreasonable fear of something that may actually be harmless. Churchill is being as realistic as the Romans were in the year 846, the year Islamic armies sacked the Holy City of Rome and vandalized the tombs of the saints.
On the other hand, what Churchill had, what I have, what the citizens of Rome had in 846 and what the citizens of Brussels and Paris have today is a very reasonable and reality-based fear of Islam for a simple reason—because historically and currently, plain old Orthodox Islam violently rejects and tries to stamp out all other views and all other religions. In particular, they’ve tried for centuries to extirpate Western ideals such as equality of the sexes, human rights, and separation of church and state. The fundamental tenets of Islam are antithetical to the fundamental Western views and ideas of life … and as the newspaper shows every day, Islam continues to be an ongoing threat to world peace. We are fools if we do not have a healthy fear of such a perennially destructive and endlessly resurgent force.
WE RETURN TO THE STARTING QUESTION—ISLAM: RELIGION, OR TERRORISM?
The fact that the men of the armies of ISIS rape female war captives and keep them as sexual slaves is among the many reasons that ISIS is recognized worldwide as a terrorist organization. And rightly so, because the rape of helpless women prisoners is clearly an example of terrorism at its worst.
Remember, however, that this authorization to rape female captives of war and keep them as sexual slaves is not a local minority view. It is not something modern. It is not an idea that ISIS dreamed up. Nor is it a tortured or “extremist” or “radical” interpretation of the Koran. The tragic reality is that keeping women as permanent sexual slaves is a crystal-clear Islamic rule, spelled out in detail by the Koran verses quoted above, practiced by Mohammed himself, and with further support in the Hadiths. There is no wiggle room, no place for differing interpretations.
The same lack of wiggle room is true about what happens if you leave and you speak out against Islam, like say Ayaan Hirsi Ali has done. The Koran says quite clearly that you should suffer one of four fates: execution, exile, crucifixion, or having one hand and one foot chopped off … on opposite sides of the body. Truly. Opposite sides of the body. No way to “interpret” that. Again, no wiggle room.
People sometimes think I make this sick stuff up. Here is one of what Salman Rushdie called the “Satanic verses” of the Koran. This is the “apostasy” verse that deals with what should happen to people who leave Islam and speak out against Islamic practices, like Ms. Ali and Mr. Rushdie …
Qur’an 5:33—The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;
And again, far from being an “extremist” view, the Pew Poll results above show that just as the Koran commands, about half a billion Muslims worldwide think people who leave Islam should be killed. Let me say that again. There are about half a billion Muslims who think anyone who leaves Islam should be killed … and as a result, a brilliant woman like Ayaan Hirsi Ali has to live with bodyguards.
When half a billion people believe something, it is not an extremist belief of any kind—at that point it is dangerously orthodox.
Now, I said at the start that by the end of my account, you might agree with me that Islam is a terrorist ideology. So to determine if that is the case, here are my questions regarding Islam:
• Is a system that sentences women to a lifetime of ownership by men and to inescapable second-class citizenship, an ideology that deprives women of civil and human rights and subjects them to legalized beatings, rape, and honor killings to keep them in submission 1) a religion, or 2) a terrorist ideology?
• Is a system that explicitly permits the raping of female civilian prisoners of war and keeping them forever as sexual slaves 1) a religion, or 2) a terrorist ideology?
• Is a system that sentences women convicted of adultery to be buried up to the neck in the ground and slowly killed by stoning them to death with specially chosen small stones to prolong their agony 1) a religion, or 2) a terrorist ideology?
• Is a system that mandates that its followers kill, crucify, or cut the hands and feet off of people who leave the group and speak against the group 1) a religion, or 2) a terrorist ideology?
• Is a system that sentences artists and cartoonists to death for drawing pictures of their founder 1) a religion, or 2) a terrorist ideology?
I ask because orthodox Muslims practice all of those things today, not by chance, but because those terrorist acts are explicitly ordained and authorized in the Koran, the Hadiths, and Sharia Law. They are not extremist views. Those acts are Orthodox Islam to the core.
All of these horrific abuses have been actively practiced for fourteen centuries, and what is more, all of them are being actively practiced today, with the specific blessing of the Koran. Which is why I say that the problem is not some fancied Islamic extremism, nor is it “radical” Islam, nor Islamic refugees, nor individual Muslims of any kind.
Instead, the problem is that plain old generic orthodox Islam itself is not just a religion—it is also a terrorist ideology.
When a group kills people for drawing cartoons of their leader, they are not just a religion. They are unabashedly terrorists, using fear to try to make people change their ways.
When a group chops off the hands and feet of people trying to leave the group, they are not just a religion. They are terrorists frightening the membership to keep them in line and submissive.
When a group sets off bombs in Paris and Brussels, they are not just a religion. They are terrorists … good, old-fashioned orthodox Islamic terrorists once again attacking Western ways and Western ideologies by spreading terror throughout Europe, following the explicit instructions of the Koran just as they have done for centuries.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
All of which brings me to what is the most important point of this tragic tale. We are engaged in the most recent reincarnation of the continuing fourteen-century-long fight against a terrorist ideology whose clearly stated and oft-repeated goal is to destroy the Western way of life. Our overriding need, the most important goal, is to not to lose our own humanity in this struggle. To do this we need to be clear that we are fighting the ideology of Islam, not the people of Islam.
It’s the old ideal about “hate the sin, but love the sinner” … my dad was really good at doing that. He loved his eight kids deeply, even though he was a Victorian gentleman who was deeply shocked by how we lived and what we did, and he couldn’t abide and violently disagreed with what we believed in.
But he still supported all of us wholeheartedly and loved us dearly.
In the same manner, we need to distinguish between the ideas of the Koran on the one hand, and the followers of the Koran on the other hand, and learn to hate the sin and love the sinner … but dang, when the men of ISIS burn prisoners of war alive in cages, and chop Christians’ heads off on the beach, and keep sex slaves, and post the videos online, it is mighty tough to distinguish between the sin and the sinner …
However, if we are not able to distinguish between the sin and the sinner; if we sink to the level of hating the sinner and not just the sin; if we insensibly grow to wish upon them the same brutality they inflict upon us and others, then we would be no better than those we oppose. We face the hoary problem that you tend to become what you fight. We definitely need to work, as Churchill said, “until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men” … but we need to do it while being clear that we oppose Islam itself, and not the followers of Islam.
So how can we best fight this fight? Sadly, as ISIS shows, we have to fight Islam at all levels including militarily. However, the more important fight will involve changing attitudes. To begin with, people in the West need to realize that whether or not the West notices that it is at war with Islam, Islam is certainly at war with the West and has been for fourteen centuries. This is a fight where the supporters of seventh century virtues and ideals are doing their utmost to wipe out modern virtues and ideals … and the previous President couldn’t bring himself to utter the words “Islamic terrorism”.
The most important battleground in all of this, however, is not military. It is the battleground of ideas. As George Orwell remarked, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. The crucial first step in this war is to start being honest about Islam, and stop this universal deceit about how Islam is just another religion, one among many … it is not. Unlike the other major religions, it is also a brutal and barbaric seventh century creed of terror, war and vengeance. The single most important thing we can do to win this struggle is to acknowledge the truth about Islam:
Islam is not just a religion. Islam is also a terrorist ideology.
I gotta say, when I was a kid in the fifties, I expected the 21st century to be all Buck Rogers and jet packs and robots and flying cars … and the last thing I expected was that a resurgent militant Islam would turn it into yet another of the endless centuries of Islamic religious wars. I mean, Brussels as a hotspot of Islamic jihad in 2017? Who saw that coming?
I’ll discuss further issues and steps we can take to discredit the violent parts of Islam in a further post. [UPDATE: That post is here.]
So, best wishes to all, Muslims and Buddhists, Sikhs and Shamans, Sufis and Zoroastrians, Christians and Hindudes, Jains and Janisaries, inlaws and outlaws, sharks and dolphins, we all have to learn to share this marvelous world …
IMPORTANT FOOTNOTES: COMMENT POLICY, DATA, HISTORICAL COMPARISONS, AND MY CARTOONS DONE DURING THE ISLAMIC CARTOON WARS
Comment Policy: This is a fractious and divisive issue. I have done my best to treat it fairly and with due respect to my Muslim friends, and with deference to that part of Islam that actually IS a religion. Please keep the comments courteous. I invite you to join me in restricting your comments to the issues of Islam and the Koran, and leave comments about Muslims to the side. If anyone starts in on “ragheads” and “camel jockeys” you’ll get frowned upon from a great height and it might get nautical. We have very different ideas about these issues, but that doesn’t make any of us bad people. So please, discuss people’s ideas, and not the people themselves.
Further: When you comment, please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE DISCUSSING so we can all be clear on your subject.
Data: The version of the Koran I quoted from above is here. In addition to having seven different expert translations, if you click on the Arabic text it provides a word-by-word translation of the original Arabic Koranic verse. Fascinating.
Historical Comparisons: I keep hearing the argument that the Koran is not alone in advocating horrible things, that other holy books contain such verses. And that is true … but the other religions gave those practices up millennia ago.
For example despite the clear instructions in Exodus 35:2 which say (emphasis mine), “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death.” nobody has been killed for that for centuries. According to the Bible (Numbers 15:32-36) the Jews of the time stoned a man to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath for his fire … but they gave up killing people who work on Sunday. And by the same token, Christians and Jews haven’t stoned many people to death for anything since Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
The reason for these changes is that over the years there have been “reformations” in Judaism and Christianity, during which they shed the savagery of earlier times.
But sadly, Islam has never had a reformation. Islam and Islam alone continues these savage barbarities into the 21st century … and an Islamic reformation is unlikely. Baha’u’llah was the last person to try it, and his followers, the Baha’i, have been ruthlessly hounded and brutally killed by Muslims ever since. And that is exactly how the Koran says such people should be treated—the Koran is clear that they should be killed for leaving the true faith and speaking against Islam. Tends to make reformers nervous …
Islam is so comprehensive and so interlinked and intertwined that from the time it took its modern form, not one verse of the Koran has ever been disavowed. To date it has proven to be impossible to reform even one little verse, much less a bunch of big verses. In any case, for whatever the reason, such a reformation has never occurred—the Koran is literally and figuratively carved in stone, and speaking of which, the stonings and lopping off body parts and other barbaric practices have endured to this day without the slightest change either.
And to this day, all branches of Islam still claim to believe the Koran literally, and all branches profess to follow it absolutely … and in fact it’s hard to take a complexly intertwined and mutually reinforcing set of laws and punishments any other way but absolutely literally. When Allah in the Koran says men can keep their female captives of war as sexual slaves and rape them at will, there’s no confusion, no mixed message, no room for change or interpretation. Nothing you or I say can ever alter its meaning. It is quite clear and explicit, and it is certainly taken literally by the observant Muslims of ISIS and Boko Haram among many others throughout history. The Koran is the law, and an observant Moslem has to buy in to all of the parts of it. An observant Muslim is not allowed to pick and choose which verses to believe. You can’t say “I’m good with praying five times daily, but fasting is just soooo Seventh Century, I’m gonna give that a miss like totally!”
Well, actually you can say you don’t believe certain verses of the Koran … but you may not like the results. Salman Rushdie tried that with his book, “The Satanic Verses”. It was based on an ancient Islamic myth. The story goes that years after the death of Mohammed, during the period when the Koran was being written down and codified from the various oral versions, that Shaitan his demonic self inserted some false and misleading verses into the Koran, called the “Satanic Verses”. They were verses designed to spread strife and sorrow in the world.
Of course, if such “Satanic verses” do exist, then Muslims would be justified in ignoring some laws of the Koran, just as Christians ignore the law in Exodus 35:2 to kill people for working on Sunday. Seems simple, right?
However, Islam doesn’t work like that. It is a terrorist organization. For merely suggesting the possibility that orthodox Muslims might be able to reject and condemn say the verse about beating your wife or the verse about how it’s OK to keep sexual slaves, Salman Rushdie had a death sentence put on his sorry fundament and he had to live with bodyguards for decades.
So while the Bible does indeed contain savage laws and primitive rules, people in the West got over that. Christians and Jews don’t keep sexual slaves in the 21st century. Christians and Jews don’t kill women for marrying outside the religion. Christians and Jews don’t try to kill innocent people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali for leaving the faith … but Muslims do, so she has to live with bodyguards.
So please, spare me the argument that “Christianity and Judaism are the same as Islam because the Bible has barbaric laws in it too.” Since we don’t follow those laws any more, and haven’t for millennia … so what? I’m interested in ending stoning and sexual slavery today, not a thousand years ago.
Declaration of Conflict of Interest: I do have “a dog in this fight”, a personal stake in this struggle. During the Islamic Cartoon Wars of 2006, a number of orthodox Muslim leaders published “fatwa” death sentences on the heads of the twelve Danish cartoonists who published their cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, Islam is a terrorist ideology. But to be fair, I didn’t expect that the Cartoon War would go world-wide.
As a result of the fatwas, other orthodox Muslims rioted in many countries. Muslim mobs burned the Danish flag, attacked Embassies, and killed two hundred people around the planet, including some poor dang Swede who had nothing to do with cartoons or Islam at all. And meanwhile, Muslim imams and religious leaders were busy approving of the violence and the deaths … it’s not just a religion, folks—it is also a terrorist organization.
Now, along with many other personal failings, I’m a cartoonist myself. So I felt that this was a fight I had to take part in. For me, freedom of speech includes the freedom to draw cartoons of whatever I damn well please. So to honor the twelve cartoonists, I drew twelve cartoons of Mohammed and sent them around to my friends. Wasn’t much, but solidarity is important and I felt I had to do something.
I’ve appended those cartoons below, so that if you are interested you can see if they are worthy of a death sentence. (Admittedly, the sentence might be for either religious or artistic reasons.)
Now, if cartoons of Mohammed offend you, then please do not look at my cartoons. Close this page right now, and go look at something more agreeable to your spirit. It’s as simple as that. What follows are cartoons of Mohammed. It is not my wish to offend anyone, nor to push the cartoons in anyone’s face. It is your choice, and if you now choose to read further, it’s on you, not on me.
Am I concerned about publishing these cartoons? It’s not likely to lead to anything untoward, because my cartoons were done out of kindness and laughter and not out of hatred, but you betcha … I’d be a fool not to be concerned about some kind of reaction, and that’s not Islamophobia of any kind. That’s realism. A couple of the Danish cartoonists are still under police protection. My only consolation is that if some Orthodox Muslim had killed me in 2006 for drawing cartoons of the Prophet and trying to end the Cartoon wars, I’ve lived as joy-filled, marvelous, full, and exciting a life as any man has been offered.
And what’s more, in the extremely unlikely chance that happens, you can bet that my cartoons and this particular piece of my writing will live forever … the writer and the cartoonist’s reverse Faustian bargain.
So … if you do choose to look at the cartoons after being clearly warned, then your outrage or your laughter is your own. With that clear warning, viewer discretion is advised, on your head be it, the twelve cartoons are below, one in honor of each Danish cartoonist …