God and Government: Islam and West Are Incompatible
Posted by paulipoldie on November 22, 2009
Western policymakers and elites in government, academia, and the media suffer from an extraordinary ignorance about the true nature of Islam. This ignorance was on display following the murder of thirteen American troops at Fort Hood, Texas by Nidal Hasan, a devout Muslim who held the rank of Major in the U.S. Army. Hasan is said to have shouted “God is Great” in Arabic as he gunned down his unarmed fellow troops.
Gen. George Casey opined that if Hasan’s actions caused “diversity” in the Army to suffer, it would be a greater tragedy than the murders of his troops. President Obama stated that “no faith” justifies such actions. And Bob Schieffer of CBS News wondered if Hasan was merely a “nut,” just like many of the “nuts” within Christianity.
These comments reflect a belief that Islam should be treated no differently from the various sects within Christianity. Some people go to Baptist churches, some attend Lutheran services, some attend Catholic mass, some play golf — and some attend their local mosque. After all, we have “freedom of religion” guaranteed by the Constitution, don’t we? Doesn’t that extend to Islam as well?
The truth is that the Constitution’s treatment of religion is premised upon concepts originating from within Christianity that are irreconcilable with the Islamic worldview. The Constitution prevents the “establishment” of a state religion. But the very idea that the state cannot or should not establish a religion is unique to Christianity. There is no parallel for this idea in Islam. The Constitution also prevents Congress from impeding the “free exercise” of religion. But the “free exercise” clause also assumes compatibility with Christian styles of worship — for instance, one cannot engage in ritualistic human sacrifice to appease the gods and successfully claim immunity under the free-exercise clause.
Any honest evaluation of the history of Islam will indicate that it cannot be pigeonholed as if it were merely a different sect that utilizes a crescent rather than a cross as a symbol. Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Western attitudes toward religion and society.
Jesus, the founder of Christianity, explicitly rejected political and military methods to spread his religion. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was not only a prophet, but a warrior and political leader as well. Christianity was formulated as a condition of conscience outside the realm of the state and of politics, while Islam is inherently political and spiritual.
Jesus was born a Jew in Roman-occupied Judea. The Jews understood Israel to be the Promised Land, according to the terms of the Mosaic Covenant in Exodus. They interpreted Jewish history as follows: when in violation of the Covenant, God punished the nation of Israel by sending its enemies to conquer it; conversely, when Israel complied with the terms of the Covenant, God allowed Israel to defeat its enemies and reclaim political control of the Promised Land. During the life of Jesus, the Jews were waiting for God to send a leader to militarily defeat the Roman conquerors.
Jesus rejected this interpretation. He promoted the idea of a New Covenant that included the possibility of salvation for the Roman occupiers. This was a blasphemy of the Jewish religion, so Jesus was executed as a heretic.
Jesus rejected political and military methods because he knew they would be ineffective against the Romans. His tactic was to preach and proselytize, not to seek political power. Rather than choose either religion or politics, Jesus instructed the Jews to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto to God what is God’s.” When the Romans came to arrest him, he instructed his disciples to put away their swords.
From a tactical perspective, history proved Jesus correct. The Jews revolted against the Romans twice, and were crushed both times. After the second revolt, the Jews were exiled by the Romans, and many remained in exile until the founding of modern Israel in 1948.
Meanwhile, Christianity, utilizing Jesus’s tactic of proselytizing, developed as a social system parallel to but independent of political authority. In the fourth century, Augustine theorized that politics was the “City of Man” and religion was the “City of God” — two entirely independent realms with different goals and purposes. Augustine argued that Rome was merely a “great robbery.” Christians should reject the goals of the “earthly city” — power, money, and political overlordship. In Augustine’s view, the only permissible reason for Christians to go to war or to kill was self-defense against an aggressive enemy.
It is from Augustine’s distinction between the City of God and the City of Man that the West came to uphold “freedom of religion” apart from the control of the state.
The origins of Islam could not be more different. Its history is filled with political bloodletting and violence. Islam was founded in the seventh century when Mohammed believed that he was instructed by the angel Gabriel to convert the pagan Arabs and remedy the “errors” of Christianity and Judaism. Mohammed’s preaching failed to make converts, and he was exiled from Mecca. He fled to Medina, raised an army, and returned to Mecca to convert the Meccans by force. Quite unlike Jesus, Mohammed then established himself as a political ruler. Indeed, the term “Islam” is Arabic for “submission.”
Upon Mohammed’s death, fitna, or civil war for control of Islam, erupted between his son-in-law Ali and Ali’s rival Uthman. Both factions formed armies and engaged in open warfare and political assassination. Both Uthman and Ali were assassinated, Ali’s son Hasan was poisoned, and Hasan’s brother Hussein died in battle. The feud created the split between the Sunni and the Shiite factions that exists to this day.
From its origins until the early twentieth century, Islam was an imperial political force, spreading its faith by military conquest. The Abbasid Empire lasted from the eighth to the thirteenth century, spreading Islam from Spain to India. The Ottoman Empire, lasting from the thirteenth century until World War I, conquered parts of southern Europe including Greece and the Balkans; and as late as 1683, only a hundred years before the founding of the United States, the Ottomans laid siege to Vienna, Austria.
The Islamic worldview divides the world into two spheres: the non-Islamic world is the dar al-harb, or the “house of war,” and the Islamic world is the dar al-Islam, the “house of peace.” From the Muslim perspective, “peace” is achieved only once the enemy has been conquered and subordinated to Islam.
Throughout Islam’s imperial reign, no difference has existed between civil law and religious law, or sharia. The distinction between civil and religious law is a Christian, not an Islamic, idea. “Secular society” simply does not exist with Islam properly understood. Apostasy is punishable by death within the Islamic code. Secular rulers in Muslim countries during the twentieth century were a historic aberration, a result of British colonialism. Many, like the Shah of Iran and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, met unhappy ends at the hands of the devout.
A special condition called dhimmitude exists within the Islamic legal code for groups of non-Muslims conquered by Islamic forces who refuse to convert. Some contemporary observers view dhimmitude as an example of Muslim “tolerance,” but the truth is quite the opposite; dhimmitude is a subordinate condition. The dhimmi was not allowed to attempt to convert Muslims to his religion, his house of worship was not allowed to be more conspicuous than a mosque, he was not allowed to hold political office, and he was required to pay a special tax.
(It is for these reasons that the existence of Israel is particularly grating to Muslims. Israel exists within what has historically been the dar al-Islam, but modern Israel is not in a condition of dhimmitude subservient to Muslim political authority).
Today’s Western elites who think that Islamic militants do not represent “true Islam” are dangerously wrong. From the very beginning of the Islamic faith, the good Muslim, following the example of Mohammed, has been called to do battle against unbelievers, reject secularism, and reject any notion of the equality of faiths. In his 1998 manifesto “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders,” Osama bin Laden quoted the Qur’anic injunction to “fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them” and also cited Mohammed’s belief that “I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshiped.” Osama then concluded that “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.” (Even if only 10% of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims heed this call, enemy strength still amounts to 140 million).
The idea that individuals like Maj. Hasan can serve the United States and Islam simultaneously is analogous to believing that one could have been a good communist and still loyally serve the United States during the Cold War — or patently untrue. In fact, Hasan’s business card did not reveal his rank in the U.S. Army, but did bear the inscription SoA — “Soldier of Allah.”
Like Maj. Hasan, an uncomfortably large number of Islamic terrorist suspects in the West are citizens of the very Western nations they seek to subvert. Examples include “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, and Hasan’s radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki. This fact betrays the radicalizing influence of Islam itself. It is time to subject Muslims residing in the West to the same level of scrutiny that was applied to communists fifty years ago.
As these individuals have ably demonstrated, Westerners who make the mistake of treating orthodox Muslims no differently from Lutherans or Quakers do so at the West’s peril. Western policymakers need to start thinking very, very seriously about what will happen when devout Muslims who are inspired by Islam’s heritage of conquest have nuclear weapons at their disposal.