The Two Faces Of Islam
By Sam Schlorff
Arab World Ministries
CBN.com - Ever since the
barbaric attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we have received
numerous inquiries from people trying to understand Islamic terrorism:
What is there in Islam that would lead someone to commit such atrocities?
Does orthodox Islam sanction such heinous acts? Or are they the aberration
of a few radical Muslims? How can a suicidal terrorist who takes the lives
of thousands of innocent victims be considered a good Muslim? How should
we as Christians respond to the present situation in the light of these
insights? Such are the kinds of questions Christians are asking.
I can understand that Muslims in America,
to try to assuage the fears—and the animosity—of the public,
have been speaking out in an effort to distance themselves from those
who perpetrate such crimes. In recent days, there have been news items
and interviews with Muslims on this topic in the local newspaper, or on
TV, all affirming that "Islam does not teach or approve such actions."
We are told that "Islam means ‘Peace,’ and is a religion
of peace," or that "taking one’s own life is not Islamic and is
I can also understand that our government
feels a need to make a sharp distinction between Islam and Islamic terrorists,
as the President has done in his speeches to the nation. Many of our citizens,
as well as many not-yet-citizens in our workforce, are Muslims, and we
cannot afford to build a wall of alienation between these and other citizens.
And we need to speak out and act decisively
against all forms of vigilantism that lash out at any who look like they
could be Arabs or Muslims. What’s more, the government needs desperately
to maintain peaceful relations with the some 40 Muslim-majority nations
of the world, and to obtain the support of as many as possible in the
war against terrorism. We must work with them, not against them,
if we are to make any headway.
Two Sides to Islam
But where does the truth lie? Does Islam sanction such terrorist acts?
Or is it truly a religion of peace? That is the question. The answer,
however, is not so simple. The truth is that both tendencies exist in
Islam—in conflict with each other. There are two sides to Islam
so to speak, two faces.
On the one hand there is normative Islam,
with which you may be more or less familiar. To a majority of Muslims
this is what Islam is all about. It involves them in believing in the
six articles of Islamic faith and practicing the five required "Acts of
Worship" – from the five ritual prayers that are performed daily,
to the month-long fast of Ramadan, to the pilgrimage made to Mecca at
least once in a lifetime, and so on. Between seeking to fulfill these
and other duties imposed on them by Islamic Law, participating in various
Islamic festivals, and trying to put food on the table, the average Muslim
would seem to have little time for much else.
This is the only Islam that most Muslims
in this country know. I’m told that 42 percent of U.S. Muslims are
native born (of which the vast majority is African American), and the
remainder are immigrants who have come here to find work, get an education,
or escape oppression. But there are those who do know the other
side of Islam, but do not want to acknowledge it, or what is worse, do
not want the truth to be known.
The truth is that there is another side
to Islam, a side that embraces violence "in the way of Allah."
As has often been said, Islam divides the world into two zones, Dar
as-Salaam ("House of Peace"), and Dar al-Harb ("House of War").
Islam is not just a religion, as I have written elsewhere; it is an ideology
with a political agenda.* It holds that all men are created to live in
submission to Allah, as prescribed by Islamic law.
Muslims believe that Islam’s destiny
is to extend its control until the whole Dar al-Harb is subject
to Islamic law in an Islamic state, and this includes the use of force.
The word "Islam" does NOT mean "peace." It is related to the Arabic
word for peace (salaam), but it means "to surrender, to
submit, to make peace by laying down one’s arms in submission."
It has a militaristic connotation. Herein lie the origins of radical
Violence a Historic Element in Islam
It is a fact that killing, violence and terrorism have always been
part and parcel of Islam. This even includes giving one’s life to
advance the cause of Islam. In saying this I do not mean to imply that
such acts have always and uniformly been practiced throughout history,
at least to the extent of the barbarity seen on Sept. 11.
In our modern world, at any rate, most Islamic
nations try to live at peace with other nations and have taken a position
against violence and terrorism, but these have been present to a greater
or lesser degree from the very beginning of Islam. In a word, one cannot
make as hard and fast a distinction between normative Islam and
radical Islam as some would like.
One can readily find passages in the Qur’an
that exhort the faithful to fight and kill the "unbelievers," that is,
to wage Jihad (Holy War). Consider, for example, Sura 2:190-191a:
"Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin
not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever
ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out,
for persecution is worse than slaughter. …" (See also 2:216-218;
8:38-41; 9:5-6 & 29 etc.).
Prophet Killed Others
Other verses promise the shahiid (martyr), who gives his life
"in the way of Allah," the forgiveness of sins and direct entry into Paradise.
Take Sura 3:195b: "So those who fled and were driven forth from their
homes and suffered damage for My cause, and fought and were slain, verily
I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them
into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—A reward from Allah. …"
(See also 3:169; 4:74-77 &100; 22:58, etc.) And then there is the
example of the Prophet himself who, as has been recorded in the Hadith
(Islamic tradition), did not hesitate to have his opponents and critics
One will of course find many apologists who
condemn acts of violence. Claiming that Islam has only been extended by
peaceful means, they maintain that Muslims fight only in "self-defense,"
as the verse cited above seems to indicate. It is amazing, however, how
far "self-defense" can be stretched.
Ossama bin Laden was recently reported as
saying, "The terrorism we practice is of the commendable kind for it is
directed at the tyrants and the aggressors and the enemies of Allah."
(Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 23, 2001, page D4). For such militants,
it is sufficient for a Mulla or radical Muslim party to pronounce a person
or a country an "enemy of Allah" to justify killing. Consider what happened
to President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt! He was assassinated by a fundamentalist
group in Egypt as an "enemy of Islam" because he made peace with Israel.
Islam at War With Itself
One could say that Islam is at war with itself.*** On the one side
are the "moderate" Muslim governments that are trying to run a modern
ship of state within the family of nations, more or less within the framework
of normative Islam. Nearly all have Islam as the "religion of state"
in their constitutions.
On the other side are a number of radical
Muslim movements, usually on the outs with their own governments, which
are usually headed by radical Mullas. These teach that the Muslims are
in trouble because they have forsaken true Islam and that the solution
is to return to pure Islam. To these movements, "the enemy" is mainly
the West, especially the U.S. (the "Great Satan"), but also the "moderate"
(to us) governments of the Muslim World.
One such movement is the Taliban who have
succeeded in gaining control of most of Afghanistan. For the most part,
however, these radical movements operate clandestinely (e.g. the GIA in
Algeria, the Islamic Jihad in Egypt, and so on). Some have front organizations
in the West, and at least one, outlawed in Syria, has established a base
in England from which to propagandize for a return to the Caliphate, a
single Islamic government that rules over the whole Muslim world—and
eventually over the entire world!
Radical Islam Gaining Ground
Between the Muslim governments of the world and the radical Muslim
movements are the rank and file of Muslims who try to live their lives
in accordance with Islam as best they can, but often they are the ones
to suffer the most. But make no mistake. Radical Islam has been gaining
ground for a number of years for various reasons, and the more moderate
governments, more or less friendly to the West, have their backs to the
wall so to speak.
As North American Christians, what then should
be our response to the present situation? First of all pray. Pray that
our government and its partners act wisely in the war against terrorism;
pray that the actions taken do not anger the masses more and precipitate
a rush to the side of radical Islam. Pray also for the terrorists around
the world who have been duped into thinking that if they become "martyrs"
through such acts they go straight to Paradise. Have you ever thought
about what awaits them on the other side? Do we dare to pray that God
would call someone to go to such people with the love of Christ?
Reach Out in Friendship
We should also be reaching out in friendship to the Middle Easterners,
Asians and other aliens in our midst, whether Muslim or otherwise. And
we should speak out against every form of harassment or violence perpetrated
against them simply because they are Muslim, or look like they
could be Muslim.
If you know of a Muslim or Arab family, go
to them or give them a call to find out how they are doing. (A majority
of Arabs in the U.S. are Christians, but they too are harassed because
of their looks.) Show concern for their well being, and stand with or
for them as needed.
In this connection, Christians need to become
much more informed about Islam, especially Islam in North America. Get
your church to hold workshops or seminars on the subject. Some should
consider attending a more extensive or intensive program, such as AWM’s
Summer Institute on Islam (held in Philadelphia every first week of June),
or similar program offered elsewhere in the country.
Churches Must Get Involved
In a word, the churches of North America should begin to become much
more active one way or another in outreach to the Muslims in our midst.
They are everywhere, especially in urban settings, an estimated 6 million
of them. Outreach ministries to Muslims have been launched in a number
of cities, and they are doing an excellent job.
But the vast number of churches have been
content to leave these specialized individuals or ministries do the job,
while they remain uninvolved. We need to see each church involved in some
way in outreach to the Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists in our midst.
Several churches may need to partner together to put together an outreach
team. But let’s get on with it. We have a job to do.
*See my article on Muslim Ideology at: http://answering-islam.org/Christians/index.html#schlorff
**For documentation see http://answering-islam.org/Silas/terrorism.htm
***For a book that documents this fact, see The Struggle Within Islam: The Conflict Between Religion and Politics,
by Rafiq Zakaria. ISBN 0-14-010794-0. NY & London: Penguin Books,
1988, 470 pp
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