Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Pope calls for an end to Islamic violence, and churches burn

In the previous posting to this blog, I explored the Pope's speech, and the immediate response by Muslims around the world.

I would like to broaden the subject, to attempt to find some understanding of "the war on terror", the Palestine / Israel question, and violence involving Muslims generally. I should say that I am no expert on these matters, but here are my current thoughts. Such thoughts may continue to evolve.

Firstly, let us consider one or two fundamental differences between Muslims, and people of other faiths.
The most fundamental difference, is that only Islam obliges the believer to kill the non-believer, simply because of that difference in faith. You simply do not have this problem with other religions. For instance, you do not see Hindus killing Christians, or Sikhs killing Buddhists, or vice-versa, simply due to a difference of religious principles.

It is often the case that conflict exists between different communities, who happen to have different religions. However, such conflicts are often rooted in scarcity of resources (water, land, oil etc), and an increasing population, together with depletion of resources can only worsen this in the future. However, such conflicts are generally outside the scope of this discussion.

The second major difference between Islam and in particular Christianity and Judaism is the nature of the revealed word of Allah to Mohammed.

Within Judaism, there have been a sucession of prophets. Each in turn bringing a deeper and expanded understanding of the nature of God. Christianity continues that tradition. Jesus was very familiar with the earlier prophets, particularly Isaiah. For Jesus, there was no contradiction between his own mission, and the truths revealed by the earlier prophets:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matthew 5:17-18

Whilst it is true that there are certain contradictions within the New Testament, these have no significant effect on the central doctrines. They can be explained by simple differences between observations by witnesses. In a way, it could be considered that such differences add to the impression of genuineness. In other words, if every witness statement was precisely the same, there would be a suspicion that the statements had been compiled in collusion, rather than given independantly.

Contrast this now with the case of Islam.

It would appear that Mohammed's career can be basically divided into three main phases:

1. Gaining an understanding of monotheism from Jews and Christians, and combining some subset of distorted Christian and Jewish doctrines with his own.
2. Attempting to spread his doctrines by passive, relatively peaceful means.
3. Adding a large number of new verses, calling for the use of violence to spread Islam.

Up to phase 2, Islam was relatively peaceful. Indeed, it could have been considered to be a wayward Christian sect at that time. If Islam had remained at that phase, we would almost certainly not see the intolerance and bloodshed in the world today.

However, it may be that Mohammed was disappointed with the slow progress that his new religion was making. Allah appears to change to being very bloodthirsty and jealous.

Not surprisingly, many of the new verses added at phase 3 contradict verses from phase 2. This was seen as something of a problem, which was "resolved" by the concept of abrogation:

"Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?" Quran 2.106

So, for Allah, no more Mr nice guy!

Due to the new policy of spreading Islam by terror, killing men, and capturing women to be unwilling "wives", Islam spread rapidly. Soon, the Islamic empire over-ran many countries that had been predominantly Christian, which included Palestine and Egypt. It was not just Cristianity that suffers under Islamic rule: Persia had been a tolerant, generally Zoroastrian country. Today, fewer than 10,000 remain in what is now Iran.

In earlier times, the Zoroastrian ruler of Persia, Cyrus the Great, had freed the Israelites who were living in bondage in Babylon. His generosity extended to helping to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

So, we can see that at the core of Islam, there is an in-built violence towards unbelievers. Many predominantly Christian lands, including Palestine were then over-run, and converted to Islam by the sword:

"O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand." Quran 8.65

The reaction of Christendom, in the form of the crusades, was an attempt to regain these lost lands, including, most importantly, Jerusalem with its temple.

In hindsight, it may be considered that the crusades were a mistake. Certainly violence forms no part of true Christianity:

"And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." Luke 6:29-35

Of course, living up to this command is not at all easy. But consider, if those Christians who Mohammed came across had lived according to this command: Would Islam have taken a different course, and abhorred bloodshed? Almost, can we consider that Islam has been sent to test the mettle of the true Christian? An interesting thought perhaps.

Another interesting thought is that if these commands had been properly followed, there would have been no room for anti-semetism amongst "Christian" nations.

Today we see violence between Muslims and Jews in Israel / Palestine. But consider this: If the Muslims had not attacked Palestine all those centuries ago, we would probably see peace there today. The Palestinian population was predominantly Christian. Christians and Jews should have no difficulty living in harmony with each other, which was recognised by Mohammed:

"O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people." Quran 5.51

The current Pope is very clearly a great, wise, and humble man. He has outreached his hands to Islam, appealing to reason, and to faith combined. He states that God abhors bloodshed. The response has been violence, and an ignoring of reason. It is clearly most unfortunate that such is the nature of the response, and probably it was predictable that such would be the response. However, without truth and reason, there can be no justice. It is inconceivable that the Christian Church will give up.

One final thought: It is through love that these problems can have any possibility of being resolved. Within just the four Gospels, the word "love" is present 42 times. The concept of love for our fellow humans appears to be somewhat lacking in the Quran.

Humanity needs peace not Islam.


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