Re: Bigger Than Watergate



On 2 Nov 2005 10:14:06 -0800, "Iron Mask" <ironmask59@xxxxxxxxx>
wrote:

7 Myths About Islam
By Timothy R. Furnish

Mr. Furnish, Ph.D (Islamic History), is Assistant Professor, History,
Georgia
Perimeter College, Dunwoody, GA 30338. Mr. Furnish is the author of
Holiest
Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden (Praeger,
2005).

One of the few positive effects of 9/11 has been renewed American
interest in
Islam and the Middle East. Unfortunately, much of the information
disseminated
in the media about those topics is ignorant and misleading. This is
unfortunate because any hope that the predominantly-Christian West and
the
Muslim world might transcend conflict requires that the former be
accurately
informed about the latter (and vice-versa, but that?s an issue for
another
column). There are in particular seven myths about Islam and Islamic
history
that have been repeated so often in the media that they?ve achieved
conventional wisdom status.

First, it is untrue that Islam is the world?s fastest-growing
religion.
(Mormonism and Scientology also claim this, but few outside of Salt
Lake City
and Hollywood believe it.) As Philip Jenkins of Penn State University
demonstrates in his work Christianity?in particular Pentecostalism?is
the
world?s most-rapidly growing faith. Currently there are 2 billion
Christians
and 1.3 billion Muslims (out of a world population of 6 billion), and
in the
21st century Christianity will maintain its lead, thanks to explosive
growth
in sub-Saharan Africa and China.

Second, despite the claims of even President Bush in a number of
public
statements, Islam is not solely a ?religion of peace.? Yes, there are
verses
of toleration in the Qur?an: Sura(chapter) al-Baqarah:256 says ?there
shall be
no compulsion in religion;? Sura al-Furqan:65ff says that Allah will
be
merciful to those who repent and do good works; and Sura al-Nisa?:19ff
enjoins
Muslim men to provide financially for wives and ex-wives. But verses
such as
these are arguably outweighed by others: Sura Anfal:12ff and Sura
Muhammad:3ff
command the beheading of unbelievers; Sura al-Nisa?:34ff allows for
beating of
one?s wives and in verses 74ff and 94ff, promises great reward for
those who
die fighting for Allah; Sura al-Ma?idah:51 says ?Believers, take
neither Jews
nor Christians for your friends.? Of course there are violent sections
in the
Bible?or at least in the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament (Joshua and
David
were military leaders as much as religious ones). But no one denies
that, as
many?both Muslim and non-Muslim?deny these violent and misogynistic
passages
in the Qur?an. Many arguments can be made against such verses (they
must be
contextualized, they are applicable only to that time, they are
metaphorical,
etc.) but one cannot say they do not exist. Someone who simply rehashs
that
?the Qur?an teaches peace? obviously hasn?t read it. No doubt most
Muslims do
not read the passages about decapitation as a blueprint for today. But
just as
some Christians take literally, for example, the command of to Christ
handle
poisonous snakes (Luke 10:19), some Muslims take literally the
injunction to
behead unbelievers. And the latter practice is a bit more injurious to
other
folks than the former.

Third on the misinformation parade is the allegation that jihad does
not mean
holy war. This falsehood crops up often in text books and in the
media, where
the politically-correct tirelessly repeat that jihad actually means
only
?striving to be a good Muslim.? This is half-right. But early on in
Islamic
history, jihad came to mean fighting against unbelievers in order to
expand
the territory under Muslim rule. al-Bukhari lived in the 9th century
CE and
was the most authoritative compiler of sayings attributed to the
prophet
Muhammad; he mentions jihad many times as meaning ?holy war.? Jihad as
?Muslim
piety? is mainly the province of the Sufis, the mystics of Islam, and
has
become a minority view today. Furthermore, Islamic history is
chock-full of
leaders declaring jihads against their enemies?even the moderately
Muslim
Ottoman Empire declared a holy war against the French, British and
Russians in
World War I!

Fourth is the whopper that Islam spread peacefully from Arabia, as if
the
followers of Muhammad went door-to-door ringing doorbells and handing
out
brochures. From the mid-7th century CE Muslims militarily overran
regions and
then pressured the conquered to convert. (Yes, Christian kingdoms did
the
same?but, again, no one denies that!) Muslim Arab armies destroyed the
entire
Persian Empire (modern Iran), replacing its official Zoroastrian
religion;
about the same time they invaded the surviving Christian Roman
(Byzantine)
Empire and within a few decades had taken half its territory. In 732
CE a
Muslim army from Morocco was in France! By 750 CE Muslims ruled from
the
Iberian Peninula to India. And Muslim armies would stay on the
offensive for
the next millennium, with only two exceptions: the ?Reconquista? in
Iberia and
the Crusades.

The fifth tiresome myth is that the European Catholic Crusaders
started the
war with Islam and that for eight centuries Muslims have been brooding
over
the horrible injustices thereof. Actually, the Crusades, 1095-1291,
were
simply the first time that European Christians managed to take the
fight to
their enemy?s territory. And besides: why are the Crusades being
constantly
used as a club with which to beat the West?remember the scathing
attacks on
President Bush when, not long after 9/11, he referred to a ?crusade?
against
terrorism??when the Muslims won? Usama bin Ladin?s constant references
to
Americans as ?Crusaders? is thus a perfect marriage of historical
illiteracy
with keen psychological insight into his enemy?s self-hate.

Another fairy tale about Islam is that poverty produces terrorists.
This hoary
myth tells us more about the worldview of its American adherents than
it does
about the ranks of the Islamists. Most of the 9/11 and London bombers
were
university-educated and at least middle-class. The same is true for
Palestinian suicide bombers and most likely those in Iraq. Naive
Americans
take their domestic paradigm about poverty and crime?that the former
causes
the latter?and apply it to a context where it doesn?t fit Regarding
the recent
London bombings, a British terrorism expert said that ?socioeconomic
background does not appear to [have] play[ed] a role.? Poverty may be
necessary, but it is hardly sufficient, to explain Islamic terrorism.

And finally, we have politically-correct mendacity number seven, which
even
British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently repeated: that Islam has
been
?hijacked? by terrorists. In this view Bin Ladin, the ayatollahs in
Iran, the
former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the Saudis with their Wahhabism
(a
particularly puritanical brand of Sunni Islam)?all are twisting a
?moderate?
religion to suit their purpose. The ?Islam = peace? brigade
essentializes
Islam as peaceful. UBL essentializes it as jihad. Although there are
Qur?an
verses, and sayings of Muhammad, on both sides, many do support Bin
Ladin and
his ilk. Also, Islamic history is replete with Muslim scholars whom
the modern
Islamic fundamentalists draw upon. The most famous is Ibn Taymiyah
who, 700
years before George Bush said ?you?re either for us or against us,?
divided
the world into the domain of Islam and that of war. The only good
ruler is a
Muslim ruler, asserted Ibn Taymiyah. And by that he meant one that
enforces
shari`ah, or Islamic law. Most Muslims do not agree, but some do. (And
only 10
percent of 1.3 billion is 130 million.) But it is no use pretending
that the
UBLs of the world have falsely ?hijacked? Islam. Indeed, their view of
the
faith?however intolerant and violent it may seem?has a basis in
Islamic
theology and history.

Islam is where Christianity was before the Thirty Years War
(1618-1648) and
then the Enlightenment led the West to divorce religion and state,
thereby
removing (mostly) the threat of religious-based warfare. As a fellow
monotheist with Muslims, I pray that the moderate strands within Islam
win out
over the more fundamentalist ones, allowing that civilization to
follow suit.
And for we in the West to help with that, we need to open our eyes to
the
reality of the harsher aspects of Islam and Islamic history. Anything
else is
simple?and dangerous?self-deception.


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