Brutality and Dictatorship: How Islam
By Marvin Olasky
CBN.com - World Magazine -- These
basic differences in theology have implications not only for individuals
but for society as a whole. Let's look at five in particular.
Christianity by its very nature is about the one and the many, monotheism
with a trinity. Muslims think there is a tension in holding firmly to
both, and they are right. That tension has pushed Christians to build
a society that emphasizes both unity and diversity and in that way reflects
Muslims often find diversity suspicious. For example, they are suspicious
of the many different authors who produced the Bible over a period of
more than a thousand years. They look amiss at the story of Christ's
life and death being given in four separate Gospels: If there are four
separate accounts they must all be false. The Quran, seen as having
come through one mediator over 23 years, is much more credible.
The emphasis on tawhid-making everything united-has huge cultural implications.
Abraham questioned God about the destruction of Sodom, but the word
islam means "submission," period. This carries over into a reluctance
to accept the legitimacy of critics. Salman Rushdie had to hide to preserve
his life, and a host of other critics of Islam have been shot or knifed.
Concerning intellectual liberty in Muslim countries, Hisham Kassem of
the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said, "It's not safe to think
in this part of the world."
Although the Quran states that "there is no compulsion in religion,"
Islamic states often interpret that to mean that "there is no competition
in religion" within their borders. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia,
Sudan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kuwait, and Egypt are among the countries
blasted by the State Department's year 2000 Report on International
Religious Freedom. In hard-core Muslim countries, any Muslim who violates
tawhid by becoming a Christian may forfeit his life, family, or property.
In several "moderate" Muslim countries, churches are allowed behind
walls within which Bibles and church bulletins must remain.
The emphasis on unicity also has governmental implications. Without
a sense of original sin, Lord Acton's idea that (among humans) power
corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely does not arise. A system
of checks and balances seems redundant, and dictators abound. Originally,
Islamic countries had no separation between religious and civil law,
between Islam and the state, and that is the way radical Muslims want
things to be once again. According to this thinking, Islamic societies
should not shape laws to fit their specific histories; they are to submit.
Because Islam in many ways trains people not to govern themselves but
to be governed by dictates, Muslim countries almost always are run by
dictators. Those rulers have had much in common with the rulers of Marxist
countries. It's not surprising that Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and other
countries in the 1960s turned away from the United States even though
the United States successfully pressured British, French, and Israeli
forces to withdraw from the Suez Canal in 1956. It's not surprising
now that terrorists from Marxist remnants and radical Islam work well
The father-son relationship that exists between God and redeemed man
in Christianity, as opposed to the master-servant relationship of Islam,
also has its tensions. Fathers face conflicting impulses: Do you hug
a child with a mild injury or do you tell him to be a man? That leads
to a creative tension between soft and hard in Christianity, a tension
that comes out in the compassionate conservative goal of being tough-minded
but tender-hearted, a tension between God's holiness and God's mercy
that is resolved through Christ's sacrifice.
That tension does not exist in Islam, with its master-servant relationship.
Nor does Islam understand compassion-suffering with the poor-in the
way that Christianity does. Jesus tasted hostility from men and knew
what it was to be unjustly tortured and abandoned, to endure overwhelming
loss, and to then be killed (see my column on p. 66). Muhammad encountered
opposition but died in his bed, with wives ministering to him.
In Christianity, the church is the bride of Christ, who gave His life
for her; husbands are to love their wives enough to die for them. The
husband-wife relationship in Islam also mirrors its theology, which
means marriage is in many ways a master-servant relationship. Men can
beat their wives, although Muslim apologists say only a light tap is
socially correct. Men get four wives and keep the kids if they divorce
one; Muslim apologists defend polygamy by pointing to American adultery
and trophy wives, but our cultural embarrassments do not justify institutionalized
humiliation. Genital mutilation, although not in the Quran, is practiced
on one in five Muslim girls.
Different understandings lead to very different laws. Here's one of
the best-known: Under Islamic law, according to the Quran and the hadith
(sayings of Muhammad), the right hand of a thief is cut off at the wrist.
Even if the thief makes restitution and pledges never to steal again,
his hand is to be cut off. That's very different from the Bible, which
has a thief paying back what he has stolen and asking for forgiveness.
(What has to be paid back depends on what he stole, whether he has already
disposed of the item, and whether he shows repentance. The amount given
in the Bible is 1.2, 2, 4, or 5 times what he stole, but never is he
marred for life.)
The Muslim penalty not only seems cruel but somewhat unusual for a
creator-god to decree. Hands are such an incredible result of God's
creativity. They are marvels of engineering and movement. Why would
their creator ordain their destruction for the theft of property, when
alternative ways of doing justice abound? God in the Bible ordains as
a maximum penalty an eye for an eye and a hand for a hand, but not a
hand for a thing. The one-handed person is not only marked for life
but unable to work at many jobs. That doesn't speak well for the all-compassionate
Christianity is the religion of the second chance. With Islam, it's
often one strike and you're out. Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery,
after he has shamed those who might have condemned her publicly, "Go
and sin no more." One hadith tells about a woman pregnant by adultery
coming to Muhammad: He has her treated decently until she gives birth,
and then has her stoned to death. Islam teaches that Allah loves the
righteous, but Christianity teaches that "While we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us."
In a religion of grace we do not have to be worried about being zapped
at any moment if we freelance unsuccessfully. Muslims, though, try to
sleep, eat, drink, and even dress as Muhammad did. They try to repeat
the special prayers he uttered upon going to sleep and waking up, or
even upon entering and leaving the bathroom. Islamic scholars have developed
an enormous list of what to do and what not to do-and that raises the
question of what happens to those who break some rules.
Many Muslims are relaxed about that, content that the "five pillars
of Islam" (daily prayer, a pilgrimage to Mecca, etc.) will cover over
a multitude of sins. But some become frenzied when they break the rules-and
there are so many to break. Among some, that leads to a search for a
"get out of jail free" card-if there is such a thing.
Those who have investigated the last days of the Sept. 11 hijackers
found that some took advantage of America's freedom to break lots of
Quranic rules. But on the day of their death, according to notebooks
of two of the suicide-murderers, the plan was to "purify your heart
and clean it from all earthly matters. The time of fun and waste has
gone.... You have to be convinced that those few hours that are left
you in your life are very few. From there you will begin to live the
happy life, the infinite paradise." There's the "you will be entering
paradise" pass, with one fiery ending purportedly making up for a multitude
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