I was recently present at a dinner conversation that became heated when the subject of Islam and terrorism came up. As usual, the liberals shouted down the conservative voice, convinced of their own infallible belief in the good of all religions, their commitment to multiculturalism at all costs, the stupidity of those who think Islam a threat. “It’s about a few radicals!” they exclaimed in exasperation. “Islam is a peaceful religion!”
The truth is, this is the belief of many in the West. Given the foundations of our way of thinking, the values at the very core of our societies, it is nearly impossible to get the truth into people’s heads: that Islam ITSELF is a problem. So why should it matter whether people get this concept as we go about our daily lives or to our dinner parties? To the extent that people fail to realize the blatant fact that Islam itself is the problem, we remain unprepared, and the danger to us all increases.
Over time, societies change. Power shifts from one group to another, one cultural background to another, one religious system to another. This is the history of human kind, and such change is inevitable. However, not all changes in history have been for the good of the populace. Some changes have resulted in a supreme power shift, bloodshed and destruction. Which are we headed for?
The answer to that question will depend upon how honest we are about discussing the coming change. But we in the West tend to misunderstand fundamental realities about Islam, and thus we make dangerously inaccurate assumptions about its values. In this limited space, I would like to address just a few of the myths about Islam one hears at dinner parties and at water coolers, and unfortunately on the nightly news...
Myth: Islam is a peaceful religion.
Truth: When we hear this, we understand the meaning of the statement from a very Western perspective, but the meaning intended by the Muslim speaker is very different. “Peaceful religion” to a Judeo-Christian trained mind means a religion that embraces and practices peaceful intentions toward all others. When an Islamist says “peaceful religion” he means a religion whose ultimate goal is peace upon earth - when all non-believers submit to it. “Islam” does not translate to “peace” as some people falsely believe. Its meaning is “submission;” - that is, submission to Allah and to Islam, of all peoples of the earth. This is the mission of Islam - using violence against non-believers to achieve that goal is absolutely condoned and is a stated legitimate tenet of Islam.
Myth: Mohammed was a prophet for peace and a “good person”.
Truth: It is true that Mohammad had some wise things to say. In his early days of preaching he was peaceful. However, as his following grew, his frustration at his political rivals also grew. He became a killer - a leader of a band of thugs who “converted” by the sword. (When not by sword physically, it was by social deprivation and isolation - forced submission to Islam.) He was brutal and merciless, intent on spreading his ideology primarily for political purposes. Many “moderate” Muslims struggle greatly with reconciling this history with their desire to see good in their faith. What do you do when you hunger for wisdom and your prophet is a brute?
Myth: Most Muslims don’t believe in violence.
Truth: This is a moot point. Those who don’t embrace violence are silent and intimidated, while those who do are in power - in Muslim society, in the Middle East, and in the West. An opposition which has been bullied into acquiescence is not a real opposition threatening the bullies in any realistic way.
Myth: We need to embrace Muslims as peaceful people and be inclusive in our culture.
Truth: For us, practicing multiculturalism means showing respect for the beliefs of others. But for many Muslims it means that we should implicitly acknowledge the superiority of Islam or, in other words, our own submission. We fail to comprehend that Islam is not a religion in the same sense Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taosim, or Judaism are. It is not a code for ethical living in relation to morality and all humankind, including the propagation of peace. In fact, Islamism is more a political ideology, advocating openly for the establishment of Islam as law of the land (Sharia law). The idea of ethical Islamist living is not separable from political power. There is NO separation of church and state in Islam.
Myth: Suicide bombers come from poor families, are underprivileged, uneducated and war-weary.
Truth: The majority of suicide bombers are middle class or even wealthy. They are usually literate and educated. They have in common that they have been indoctrinated by an Islamist-philosophy-based society to believe that killing the infidel is a path to glory and that their faith requires it as the ultimate sacrifice for the good of Islam.
Such few examples only begin to illustrate the enormous differences between the mind of a person raised in the West or in Buddhist tradition, or Hindu tradition, and that of one raised in Islam. Recently I read a piece where the very articulate writer, whom we’ll call Larry X, made a common mistake in judgment - precisely the type of which we are speaking. He speaks of the radicals who have hijacked Islam and made it violent. I wrote to him:
“I appreciate your thoughts very much. But you seem to be making the mistake many in the West make. For example, when you say the radical Islamists "have taken Islam and turned it into a violent medieval ideology", you are mistaken. Islam IS and always HAS been a violent medieval ideology. Assuming that Christians and Muslims can somehow get together, sing Kumbayah and write up a list of human rights declarations is naive: the very core, the very values of Islam are so different from those of the West, that this common ground would be evasive.”
I realize that it makes Westerners uncomfortable to be confronted with the statement that negotiation with Islam is not possible. We want to believe that there is always room for negotiation, for joint efforts in peace building. However, clinging to that belief in the face of the reality of an Islamist mindset is not realistic, and it will be the death of Western society. As we spin our wheels trying to negotiate peace with a religion that does not define peace in the same way we do, the political agenda of a political religious ideology is easily establishing itself within our shores, and this is in direct opposition to many of our constitutional values. The issue isn’t all about us versus them. It’s about our commitment to peace not only for ourselves, but for millions of Muslim lives caught up in the violence of Islam. And so our final most important myth:
Myth: Islam is a religion like any other, worthy of respect.
Truth: It is unlike any other. True Islam advocates violence, is political in nature, embraces dominance, tortures its own followers, and does not contain a seed of tolerance for other belief systems. When one understands this, one cannot in good conscience treat it as an equal to other religions. We need to correct our teachers, politicians and newscasters who make incorrect assumptions that we all share values in common.
I wish you were right about it, Larry. But I know you aren't. We need to be better informed, and to be brave enough to say at the next dinner party: Islam IS the problem.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Susan MacAllen writes a political blog, http://askew.blogharbor.com and has written on an extensive array of subjects over 20 years. She has lived overseas and been intimately involved in the French culture since the Muslim immigrant population emerged in the south of France.
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