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Islam: A Religion of Both Peace and War
It is commonly asserted that Islam is a religion of peace—a fundamental belief for all of those faithful residing in the dar al-Islam (house of peace). However, the remainder of the world‘s population is believed by Muslims to live in the dar al-harb (house of war). Those peoples outside the dar al-Islam are, according to the administration of Islamic law, under an enduring jihad (struggle) with the faithful until all come into submission to Allah. “Any community which prefers to remain non-Islamic—in the status of a tolerated religious community accepting certain disabilities—must submit to Islamic rule and reside in the dar al-Islam or be bound as clients to the Muslim community.”42 Such a worldview leads those outside of Islam to be skeptical and uneasy concerning Islamic intentions.
No single teaching of Islam has engendered more misunderstanding, mistrust and outright confrontation than the idea of jihad.43 Muhammad is thought44 to have initially developed the concept of jihad to redirect Arab society‘s predilection for raiding and marauding into a religious duty supporting the spread of Islam.45 “He developed and amplified this concept with the expansion of his political ambitions until it became a rallying cry for world domination.46 The Prophet subordinated his culture‘s mindset with a moral and religious vision for a utopian future. “From the first Arab-Islamic Empire of the mid-seventh century to the Ottomans…the story of Islam has been the story of the rise and fall of universal empires and, no less important, of never quiescent imperialist dreams.47
Muhammad died in June 632. His followers immediately began the work of religiously motivated world conquest that within 12 years overthrew the Iranian Sassanid Empire and seized Syria and Egypt from Byzantium. Islam‘s empire grew in the early eighth century, encompassing central Asia and India to the frontiers of China, consumed North Africa, even laying siege to Constantinople.48 “The Arab and Moorish surge west and north only ended at Tours in 732”49 and at India‘s Indus River on the east. Incomplete world domination brought with it the unanticipated issue of relations with non-Muslim communities. This was thought to be a temporary state of affairs that would be resolved when Islam finally became the one world religion.50
The early Caliphate‘s ruling class used Islam as a tool for legitimizing their efforts of building and unifying empire. Over time, the later Caliphs demonstrated less interest in inculcating the faith51 within the empire and little appetite for expanding Islam. In the modern era the Islamic mission passed by default from rulers to political activists, marking the rejection of traditional authority and the rise of Islamic individualism. “The Islamists, by contrast, modeled themselves on Islam‘s early conquerors, and aspired to nothing less than the substitution of Allah‘s universal empire for the existing international system.52
Conflict continues between the tectonic plates of Islam and Christianity to the present day. In response to centuries of Islamic aggression, a series of Roman Catholic Crusades during the 11th to 13th centuries reclaimed the Holy Lands for Christianity. Ottoman Turks (14th – 17th centuries) countered by restoring the Levant to Islam then capturing Constantinople, seizing the Balkans and, in the process, twice attempting to reduce Vienna, in 1529 and in 1683. In recent times, the frontiers of Islam have increasingly been areas of bloodshed.
On the northern border of Islam, conflict has increasingly erupted between Orthodox and Muslim peoples, including the carnage of Bosnia and Sarajevo, the simmering violence between Serb and Albanian, the tenuous relations between Bulgarians and their Turkish minority, the violence between Ossetians and Ingush, the unremitting slaughter of each other by Armenians and Azeris, the tense relations between Russians and Muslims in Central Asia….”53
Islam has not only contended with European Christianity. In Africa “the other great antagonistic interaction of Arab Islamic civilization has been with the pagan, animist, and increasingly Christianized peoples to the south.”54 Modern examples of this conflict are raging in Sudan, Nigeria, Algeria, Mali and Chad, as well as intermittent clashes with Christian Copts in Egypt and Abyssinians in Ethiopia. To the East and South Islam contends with Asian people in historically Hindu and Buddhist regions as well as those adherents to a wide variety of Oriental religions.55 When Pakistan and India were partitioned in 1947, millions of Muslims and Hindus were displaced resulting in about one million deaths. These two nations remain mutually hostile.
However, of all American actions in the region over the past 300 years, the Restorationist Movement56 was to have the most profound impact. Restoration is the religiously motivated idea that the Jewish Diaspora should returned to the Holy Land to reestablish the nation of Israel, thus ushering in the return of the Messiah. Evangelical churches in the colonial era were strongly supportive of this popular movement, which subsequently “penetrated the mainstream” of American Christianity.57 Ultimately, this Restorationist movement culminated in the 1948 UN Mandate establishing the modern state of Israel.
Over all, Islam has been in retreat since the second siege of Vienna (1683)—more than three hundred years ago. During that time Christian and post-Christian civilization has profoundly affected the economics, government, mores, society, and culture of the entire Muslim world.58 These developments have brought forth overwhelming discontent and resentments throughout the Islamic world. While there are numerous causes for Islamic grievance against the West, none is more pronounced or focused than the existence of the modern state of Israel. Islamic fundamentalism has given voice to and demanded redress for the angry passions of the Muslim civilization.59
|Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 18:55|