Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reactions to my article about Muslim fundamentalist terrorism

I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that there was a mixed response to my article yesterday about Muslim fundamentalist terrorism.  Many people have already made their minds up about that issue, and don't wish to reconsider their position.  Others waver, wanting to think the best of people, but afraid that the all-too-many examples of Muslim fundamentalism are sufficient to warrant a stronger response irrespective of other considerations.

I'd like to make just one observation.  My response to any issue in the world is, first and foremost, rooted in and grounded on my Christian faith.  If you aren't Christian, fair enough - you'll approach the issue from a different moral perspective, so I suggest you skip the rest of this article.

I take the Golden Rule as a command endorsed by Christ, not something optional or conditional (as in, "Sure, I'll do unto you as I want you to do unto me - but you've got to do it first!").  Jesus attached no conditions.  He told us to do it.  End of story.  Remember the famous prayer of St. Ignatius, sometimes ascribed instead to St. Francis Xavier?

Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.

That's the Golden Rule in action, right there.

That reality means that any suggestion of eradicating Islam, or nuking Muslim states, or waging 'total war' against that religion, is simply off the table.  Can you really see Jesus, who once said “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven”, approving of even the thought of wiping out an entire nation - including its children - because of the faith of their parents, which they can't even understand at their young age?  He gave us the answer to our problem in the Great Commission:  "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations".  That does not include nuclear weapons as an aid to evangelization.

There are those who claim that Islam is very well suited to manipulation by the Devil.  I can see why they would say that.  It's been distorted very often over the centuries to justify this group destroying that group, or whatever.  Unfortunately, precisely the same accusation can be leveled against Christianity!  It, too, has been used to justify murder, mayhem, massacre and all sorts of crimes that must make Jesus wonder whether it was all worthwhile.  (To cite just one well-known example, "Kill them all - God will know his own!"  Want another one?  How about the sack of Constantinople?  No, not the one when the Muslims conquered it in 1453 - the [equally savage] one perpetrated by Christians in 1204.)  As soon as we start saying that this religion, or that religion, is somehow less 'Godly' or 'moral' or 'legitimate' than ours, we put our feet on the slippery slope to perdition.  There's no other way to put it.

Our job as Christians is to live up to the example of Christ and observe the way of life he taught us, both by example and with his words.  That doesn't prevent us defending ourselves if and when attacked;  but it does mean that we aren't allowed to flout Christ's law in our response to threats.  If we do that, we no longer have the right to call ourselves Christian.  That may not be a very comfortable thought, but it's reality - and Christ didn't come to make us comfortable, but to challenge us.

The majority of Americans profess to be Christian in one form or another.  I wonder how many of them have thought through the implications of their faith for their attitudes towards Islam and Muslims?


EDITED TO ADD:  A couple of readers have commented that Christianity's 'dark moments' occurred centuries ago, whereas Islamic savagery occurs to this day.  This is partially correct (although there are areas of the world where Christians can be as savage - see Rwanda in 1994, or the situation in Nigeria at present).  Nevertheless, an important factor to bear in mind is that Western civilization went through the Renaissance and Reformation (including the great wars of religion), followed by a few centuries of development, before it could reach that stage.  Islam has not yet experienced such influences.

What's more, a large part of the blame for that can be placed (IMHO) on the colonial powers who occupied Muslim countries for decades, even centuries, but made little or no effort to educate the locals and precipitate a Muslim Renaissance or Reformation when they had the chance.  That neglect is now coming back to bite all of us.

Just a few additional thoughts.


Thomas said...

Didn't read Bracken's article did you?


Peter said...

@Thomas: I read it. I have a different perspective, that's all. I don't want to get into polemical debates with those who won't change their minds - that does nothing to produce light instead of heat. Suffice it to say that Mr. Bracken's mind is made up. I doubt whether my words will be able to change it.

Rolf said...

The offer the choice of "convert, submit, or die." Why can we not offer them the same?
Would that not be treating them as they treat others?

Peter B said...

Peter, you have put your life on the line for what you believe in. I have not, and many of us have not and therefore are less sure how we would behave if our time came to face that choice. I respect the course you have chosen. That said, you are making a category error when you refer to our "legitimate outrage at 'terrorism.'"

ISIL is following a historically well blazed path in Islam; most caliphates arose in such a way and became accepted by the Ummah because of their military success. Once a caliph initiates jihad, what you referred to as "terrorism" becomes acts of worship for devout Muslims, and supporting jihad becomes a very important direction for "charitable" (a bad translation of zakat) donations by non-fighters.

"Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His" was, allegedly the statement of a papal legate... nine centuries ago. While that is still a part of human nature, is it a current part of Catholic doctrine?

Under Islamic law – and stricter adherence to that law is a prominent feature of the current revival movements in Islam (actually, there is some debate about whether what we are seeing with the salafis and their ilk is "reformation" or "revival;" if reformation, reflection on the Thirty Years War is not reassuring) as well as the ones in past centuries – once a caliph has instituted non-defensive jihad,* there is no legitimacy to non-Shariah law, including international law, none to national boundaries and no concept of the sanctity of human life until that human (and here Rolf is slightly in error) makes one of two choices (if that person is considered to be a non-believer, such as Hindus, Buddhists and, as we see in the headlines, Yezidis,) namely "convert or die." "Convert, submit or die" is the choice given to Christians, Jews, and other "Peoples of the Book."

Certainly there are Muslims who spiritualize jihad, but the primary meaning has always involved bloodshed.

Certainly there are Muslim scholars who acknowledge that the Jewish people has the legitimate claim to the Holy Land, but they are in a tiny minority.

Ultimately, it is G-d's will that will be done. It is certainly true that we can make things worse, but making Islam "better" is not in our hands, and it is egotistical to think that that is up to us. We must mind our own conduct and thoughts.

*Hamas' tunnels into Israel and terror campaigns there are considered to be defensive jihad. According to some of the most respected Sunni legal authorities, while Sharia prohibits killing innocent women and children, Israeli women and children do not fall into that category.

Able said...


I respect your opinion and I concur in having 'some difficulty' (to say the least) with the 'kill them all and let G-d sort them out' approach (usually voiced, let's be honest, by those who've never had to face a real, as opposed to an imaginary 'mall' enemy, personally I’d say seeing the elephant has made me both more ruthless, and entirely less likely to ever 'be' ruthless).

I have to say the 'well we Christians used to be just as bad' is, to me at least, still a straw-man. Every culture/religion/society has at some point committed atrocities in its name (although I’d suggest there is sufficient evidence that the atrocities over the centuries committed by Christian countries/societies were committed 'despite' them being Christian, as excuses for other 'more mercenary' reasons in reality. Well, that and the 'history' books have a remarkable ability to paint anything done by Christian/Western nations/cultures in as bad a light as possible, even whilst defending themselves, whilst all the other cultures/countries get painted in as good a light as possible – Africa/Native-American/India/etc. eg. were all 'nature loving', peaceful, gaia worshipping exemplars before the white man ruined them … I was in Bosnia, so I have some knowledge of what I speak), the point being that Islam has always, 'and continues to this day' to act in this way. If you could point out a single instance of an Islamic country, region, community or even sizeable gathering of individuals which 'did not' act in this way, to this day, I'd be grateful, as I can't find a single one. (comparing Christianity of a thousand years ago with Muslims of now? Are we to give them another thousand years to 'grow up'?).

I've found your opinions and approaches to personal self-defence to be as sensible as any I've read (rational, reasonable, well thought out and realistic), and so …. a question only, how do you square the difference in approach, if there actually is one, between the personal approach you've demonstrated/recommended and the, here, conflict between cultures? To put it in the perspective of the personal, here is an 'individual' Mr. Muslim who has always (in every circumstance) attacked, subjugated, raped, murdered and committed genocide against all and sundry (even his own relatives). He's repeatedly demonstrated that he's quite happy (pretend?) to act as a law-abiding citizen when meeting you out with a group of friends (outnumbering him), but as soon as the opposite occurs (or you lower your guard) he will rob, abuse and murder you (and do much worse to your loved ones) and if caught claim it was because you'd oppressed him in some manner/it wasn't him/you'd attacked him/he wasn't there.

Are you really suggesting we should not only, give him (for the millionth time) the benefit of the doubt, but actually invite him (and as many of his friends/relatives as he can think up an excuse for) into our homes (countries)? Turn a blind eye to his depredations? Not defend ourselves?

(In case you're wondering, I feel it is a legitimate argument, the personal/national/cultural exchange, just as in every situation of alleged racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. I try to exchange the participants to judge the validity of the argument. So ask yourself, if we as disinterested observers saw Christians acting towards Muslims in this manner …. As an aside, replace 'Islam' with 'Fascism/Communism' , the similarities are … startling … and)

Just interested in your perspective.

Peter said...

@Able: No, I'm not suggesting we "invite him into our homes". A wary caution in our relationship with Muslim nations and individual Muslims is entirely in order. I think the Marines have a good perspective in their, "Be polite, be professional, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet". It's not intended to be official policy, but I've applied it in my life, and it's saved my butt a few times!

There's nothing wrong with hoping for the best, but being prepared for the worst. "Si vis pacem, para bellum" is the old way of putting it, and it's as true today as it ever was. However, that works both ways. When fools on our side of the fence burn the Muslim sacred book (which to us is just a book, but to Islam is a whole lot more), why are we surprised and outraged that this produces such vitriolic anger that it sometimes explodes in violence? From our perspective it's ridiculous. From theirs, it's worse than blasphemy.

I can't prescribe to individuals or nations how they should behave. I can only conduct myself in a way that satisfies the moral standards I've learned from many sources (including practical application) over the years. As I said, mine begins from the standpoint of Christianity, and has a healthy dose of hard-earned experience to "winnow the wheat from the chaff", as it were. Some will doubtless disagree with it, and that's their right.

Howeve, I'm not Caspar Milquetoast. I've defended my life, and the lives of others, on more than one occasion in the past, and I remain fully willing to do so again. Trying to apply the Golden Rule does NOT mean abandoning preparations to deal appropriately with someone who doesn't reciprocate.

Coconut said...

Rolf - that's called the 'Iron Rule', I believe. Doing unto others as they would do to you and doing it first.
The problem is that they have no problem 'faking it' until you turn your back.

For my part, I'm all for the Golden Rule.
If I were to house a murderer, for example, I'd fully expect his victims, having found me out, to come along and teach me a lesson.

If I were to shoot missiles at a man's house, I wouldn't be at all surprised when he fired some of his own back at me.

People talk about 'turning the other cheek', but that's about insults. It's about making sure a person you think is slighting you genuinely IS behaving insultingly, not sitting quietly and allowing theft, rape and murder to happen before your eyes.

I'm not for glass-topped parking lots either, incidentally. I believe non-apostate muslims are inherently untrustworthy and that we should live in our countries and they should live in theirs- which they stole from us in the first place -and neither should visit the other.

Formerly Great Britain and Sweden wouldn't be in trouble if they hadn't allowed muslims to establish enclaves in their cities in the first place; they did, and now they're faced with an invasion from within.

Able said...


Thanks for that clarification – an eminently sensible perspective I can agree wholeheartedly with (and … yeh, me too).

As an aside, or as an illustration, the most recent furore over yet another atrocity (the barbaric and heinous murder of a journalist) by a 'British' Muslim who, no doubt, will when he has had his little bit of fun (more likely when the opposition catches him) demand (and probably get from the leftards here) protection as British citizen (and will then return for his 'free' legal aid, benefits and council house) is a perfect example – I can almost guarantee he was seen/acted as a 'sweet/lovely/peaceful/moderate Muslim until … he wasn't (if similar to other well known examples he will have been educated at our expense, probably to university level, will be well off and probably is employed by either a council, government dept. or the NHS – and yes, I'm serious).


'We' didn't (in the UK) 'invite' them in, the Labour government did that precisely to “rub the rights nose in it”, to “fundamentally change British society” and to gain a captive voting block (much like the Dems are doing with the US and the 'invasion' from Latin America, no? “Let he that is without ...”, or “living in glass houses”? We here don't say “the country that was formerly the 'United' States”. Much like in the US, if you ignore a few of the cities where real British/Americans are non-existent or a decided minority then the country is safe/clean/crime free and staunchly patriotic. All I'm saying is don't judge us by sensationalist media rhetoric because we don't judge the whole of America by what's happening in NY, Detroit, Chicago, LA and Washington – imagine if we did. Just sayin').

Paul said...

Yes, the golden rule says do unto others, but I am also reminded of the times Jesus met evil and he never shirked from doing battle with evil. No one knows what happened for 40 days of dueling in the desert with the devil. I doubt that was touchy feely.

We are putting some much emphasis on one part of his message we totally miss the other.

Do not allow evil to flourish.

I weep for us if we stand by and allow those savages to destroy Israel, which is the end game of all this.

Anonymous said...

Not really much to add, other than to observe that anytime a religion is an arm of the state, or vice versa, neither the religion nor the state come out of the relationship well.


Peter B said...

The main colonial power with "centuries" of occupation was the Ottoman Empire, whose near conquest of Europe and prolonged grip over the Balkans should probably be considered an underlying cause of WWI. And again, there are those who hold that the sweep of Salafism and related movements across the Islamic world is their Reformation.

As to the Koran burning: what offends Muslims the most is when a Koran is burned by uppity dhimmis who don't know their place.

ISIL has burned thousands of Korans, destroyed dozens upon dozens of mosques – and Muslims flock to its flag. said...

Thought provoking as usual. I increasingly find myself at odds, with myself, over on one hand 'be polite, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet' vs the two great commandmants: "Love the Lord with all thy heart, soul, and mind; and the second is like unto it: Love thy neighbour as thyself. On these hang all the law and all the prophets"... The first is a statement about our natural tendencies as man. But it is the latter command that I have sworn to live by, just not sure always how!
For it is awfully hard to love someone in theory who wants to behead you, and it is (seems?) impossible in reality.
But then, just what is love? It isn't all hugs is it? I seem to recall some notable comments about bringing a sword and throwing people quite literally down the stairs.
There is a reason that the medieval theologians got tied in knots about the nature of just war!

SJ said...


as an aside: last night, I had a chat with a friend.

He's a medical doctor, and lives in Qatar. (Part of the Middle East oil-belt, but a small country with few internal or external troubles.) He also just married a Canadian woman who teaches at an International School in Qatar.

He and his new wife have much freedom to live and dress as Westerners. (As long as they hew to local laws about passports, access, and proselytization. And the wife's shoulders are covered...)

However, any road trip through Saudi Arabia requires the wife to dress in a full-cover garment. (Even if they don't leave the car.)

Like you say, there are variations in that part of the world. Some of the variations are harder to deal with than others.

And it would be good to have some sort of cultural rapprochement. They can live as they wish, but any terrorist activity exported result in a reign of death for the government that supported/encouraged the terrorists.

I guess this would be a variation on T. Roosevelt's policy about speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

PeterW said...


I believe it to be a weakness in your argument that you start by articulating very clearly and firmly the command of Christ, then entertain without obvious demur, the claim that people who have clearly, flagrantly and repeatedly disobeyed that command, are followers of His.

If we place any value on the scripture " by their fruit you shall know them", we must argue that such people were not Christian,, despite paid-up membership of some group bearing the name. They are among those of who. Christ said, that they call him "Lord, Lord" but do not the things that He commanded.

Now it must be pointed out the Christ and Mohammed are not equal in this regard. A Muslim does not have to twist, distort or outright disobey the teachings of Mohammed in order to undertake violent jihad.

titflasher said...

Thank you Peter. I have long thought that the "kill them all" brigades on both sides of the fence were just mirror images of each other.

Those who believe that we can wage war in foreign lands without a response are fools. If the tables were turned and we were being bombed, what would our response be? What was America's response to 9/11? How well did that work out?

Hate and mistrust simply beget hate and mistrust. I grew up amongst and around Muslims. Because of this, I don't fear them. I don't see them as "other" or "foreign" or having "stolen land from us" - does no-one remember what so-called Western society did during the Crusades, to Muslims, in their countries? Does anyone not recognise what we are doing now, to Muslims, in their own countries?

I do wonder whether any of the people who have commented on this thread have taken the time to read the Koran? Or the bible? Both contain histories of tribes and both have more than enough verses to incite violence if that is what a person takes from it.

What I fear, on the whole, is extremism. Extremism is borne out of fear and hate. And it is found on both "sides" and is very sadly inherent in so many comments on this thread and your original post. Muslims are no more and no less trustworthy than Christian people. They are no more and no less violent than Christian people (for every "honour" killing in Muslim communities, I can show you a murdered Christian domestic violence victim). They are just people.

Bombing and trying to "wipe out" a group of people is a form of genocide. It is borne out of hate and fear and it solves very, very little. What it does do very well, is create extremism and hate.

And this can be seen in the terrible example we now have - ISIS. A decade ago, maybe two, ISIS would have got nowhere, because the circumstances in which this evil was born did not exist. The more we hurt others, the more we will be hurt ourselves and there will be no end to the pain.

Please people, stop scapegoating a religion and a culture just because it's easier than facing the hate and fear in your own heart.

Coconut said...

titflasher - Poitiers, the Reconquista. The Crusades weren't just justified counterattacks, they were unsuccessful ones.
Until fairly recently hardly any Europeans cared about them and none of the Musulmans did.

Mohammedans have never been well behaved.
The difference between ISIS now and the various islamic states back then is that now, when the Musulmans murder a bunch of people pour encourager les autres, the rest of the world can see them do it.

EgregiousCharles said...

It seems to me the "glass parking lot" thinking is a sin good, devoted Christians have been committing for a long time.

Luke 9:51-56, ESV

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”e 55But he turned and rebuked them.f 56And they went on to another village.