I recently received an email from a friend who strongly believed that Islam was a religion of peace. My friend even cited the writings of noted scholar Dr. John Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University. My friend described his association with Esposito as having begun some time back while a student. Esposito’s writings were used then to enlighten his understanding of Islam. My friend further explained that his personal association with Muslims was nothing like what he read about on various Internet sites. The two of us had a good exchange of views. I cannot say that either of us changed our minds, but at least, the dialogue was healthy and friendly. The balance of this post is, in part, my reply to my friend. After all, how do we explain Islam? On the one hand, Islam is “moderate,” some might say “tolerant,” an instrument of good in many ways. On the other hand, Islam is violent to its core, the exact opposite of peace and tolerance, and has been that way since its earliest of days. Which is the “true” Islam? On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 it seems to be a question worth discussing. (My email to my friend follows)
Dear Jim (not my friend’s real name),
The reason why I am responding is not to “challenge” your view of Islam or to voice a personal criticism. However, as a brother in Christ whom I respect and love, it is one thing to have a personal view of Islam that differs from my own, but quite another to offer John Esposito as an objective source for your information. I do not consider Esposito and objective source. I did a quick Google search on “Esposito” and found a recent article (September 4, 2012) about Esposito’s views published by AmericanThinker.com (authored by David Bukay). Here are a couple of paragraphs from the article:
First, as to Islam’s hostility to other religions, Esposito claims the following (70-73 [from Esposito’s book, What Everybody Needs to Know about Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)]):
Theologically and historically, Islam has a long record of tolerance. Muslims did not try to impose their religion on others or force them to convert[.] … Muhammad granted freedom of religious thought and practice to the Jews and Christians, setting a precedent for peaceful and cooperative interreligious relations[.]1
The author of the AmericanThinker.com article then responds to Esposito’s claims by offering his own claims:
All that remains, then, is to tell this story to the original peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, who were forcibly conquered, Arabized, and Islamized. Consider also the peoples of the Balkans and Eastern Europe who were conquered and enslaved, the tens of millions of Africans who were likewise subjugated and exterminated, and the 80 million eliminated Buddhists in Asia. As for our own generation, Esposito should enlighten the Armenians, not to mention the Christians in Greece, Iraq (Assyrians), Lebanon, Egypt, and especially Southern Sudan. But perhaps the most eager recipients of this information would be the 10-12 million Muslims massacred in the last 80 years by other Muslims. [see the original article for references for the above comments].2
As to what happened to all the Christians that predominated the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and beyond, in the mid-7th century AD when Muslim jihad first began, I offer the work of Philip Jenkins, Professor of History, Penn State University. Jenkins makes this comment in his book, The Lost History of Christianity:
Given that the destruction of Christianity has not been much studied, we can make certain general observations, stressing above all the role of states. Though churches may lose political influence under Christian states or in predominantly Christian societies, though they might be secularized, they do not vanish. … In most of these cases, churches collapsed or vanished because they were unable to cope with the pressures placed upon them by hostile regimes, mainly Muslim. While religions might sicken and fade, they do not die of their own accord: they must be killed. 3
Why is the answer to the question of Islam’s true nature so difficult? Because Islam does many good things and many of its followers are good people. However, the converse is also true; and it has always been true. Muhammad, the supreme role model for Muslims, is not quite the model of perfection that most objective parents would want their children to emulate. After all, how can any religion be good if its god is glorified in a death chant, “Allahu Akbar” (God is great),” all the while as the believer and the innocents are killed. What is just as revealing is that such an act is described as a virtue so great that the believer is rewarded in the after-life with unending sex with 72 virgins! This act, by the way, is the only act in Islam that guarantees eternal bliss; no other “good deed” deserves the same reward.
So which Islam are we to believe? The good Islam or the bad Islam?
Let me offer a metaphor about two sons to help answer the question.
A family has identical twin sons. One son is the “good” son. The other son is the “bad” son. The good son abhors violence and considers those who use violence to be misguided and wrong-headed. This son fears God and sees obedience to God as essential to his well-being. This son respects other religions, even if he does not agree with them. This son acts kindly towards others in his society, even with the family wealth. The bad son is prone to violence, even if it is against his own brother. In fact, he sees violence for his religion as a virtue that will be rewarded in the after-life. This son fears God and sees obedience to God as essential to his well-being and the well-being of society as a whole. This son sees it as his religious duty to bring the entire world under the dominion of his God, regardless of the cost to do so; and he will use all means to achieve this world dominion, even violence. The good son is afraid of his twin brother. He has learned that if he confronts his brother, he will pay the price, and someone will be hurt. People who know the family often times confuse the twins—they are identical in appearance, only in their actions are they different. In fact, most do not know there are two sons in the family.
I propose that Islam is just like this family. It has two “sons” except that each son is like a different world view in Islam. The good world view (“quietist”) represents those within Islam that might be considered as moderate, non-violent Muslims, for example, many American Muslims. The bad world view (“terrorist” or “radical”) represents violent Muslims, the so-called “radical Islamists,” “terrorists,” or whatever name we might choose to label them. The moderate Muslims have no intention of forcefully bringing the world under the dominion of Islam (although they might believe that one day the world will be Muslim). They abhor violence in the name of Islam. In fact, they label violent Muslims as “hijackers” of true Islam. Yet, they are afraid to confront their violent brothers for the same reason that the infidels (non-Muslims) are afraid to confront them. The violent Muslims, by whatever name they are called, kill people in the name of Allah — even if they are family.
Which Muslim world view will ultimately prevail, the “good” or the “bad,” the “quietist” or the “radical”? I propose that the Bible can actually help in that regard.
The Bible prophesies that one day a false religion will subdue the entire world, requiring everyone to worship its false god.
Revelation 13:7-8 (NASB) 7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Daniel 7:23).
The Revelation declares that only those whose names are in the “book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” will not worship this false god. Therefore, the bad son, the violent son, will prevail, not the good son (See my book, pages 10-11).
Perhaps you are thinking that my view of Islam means I have violated Christ’s command to “love my enemies.” Not so. My knowledge of Islam and its dangers has given me far greater compassion to help Muslims come to know Christ, rather than less so. Satan is quite aware of Christ’s command to believers to “love our enemies.” He, in fact, uses the love command to deceive believers so they are unable to recognize the “signs of the times.” I cannot imagine God would fill the Bible with end-times prophecies and expect us to disregard them. In fact, over and over again, the book of Ezekiel, God uses the fulfillment of prophecy as the means whereby humanity will know “that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 34:27-30 NASB). It is in our knowledge of end-time prophecies that we prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming tribulation of the last days. If we do not prepare ourselves, we will be “worn down” to the point of spiritual poverty; such cannot be the will of God that we join the apostates of the end-times (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
Blessings to all on 9/11.
- http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/03/john_esposito_apologist_of_isl.html [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- The Lost History of Christianity, The Thousand Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and How it Died.(HarperOne, 2008), p. 30 [↩]
Excellent analogy. Thanks for sharing it.