The Cause of Religious Intolerance
What is the true Islam, one that promotes peace, or one that promotes war? Is it possible that Al Qaeda is misinterpreting Islam because of totalitarian ambitions? If so Al Qaida is not alone (see The 9/11 Commission and Jihad by Andrew Boston, frontpagemag.com 7/30/04) Before we discuss the evidence regarding whether Islam is a religion that promotes peace or war, it is helpful to recognize that there is a reason for Islam as well as other religions not to promote peace. It's important to recognize that many religions have passages in their holy books that promote war with the non-believer. Examples of such passages are given on this web page and other web pages in this web site such as the Creation of Paranoia web page and the Negative Aspects of Christianity web page. Why do religions which teach "love thy neighbor", also teach hatred of the non-believer? The disbelief of non-believers may lead to doubt in the minds of believers. Those who wish to promote a religion therefore have the motive to discredit the non-believer by portraying the non-believer as bad. In addition it can be enraging and humiliating for a religious evangelist to have his doctrine rejected and that can leads to hostility to the non-believer. Examples of this are give in the article Creation of Paranoia (Part 1, Part 2) and the Creation of Paranoia web page. Before you secular people feel to superior to religious people it's important to consider that those who wish to promote secular ideologies also have the motive to discredit non-believers in the ideology. One just has to look at the anti-Bush graffitti as one walks through the streets of any American city that claim he is a terrorist and write the s in his name as a swastika to become aware of this. In fact one just has to walk into an American bookstore to see how the political left and right in the United States attempt to paint each other in as black a color as possible.
Although many religions have intolerant passages toward the non-believers as a result, I certainly have met religious people who are not intolerant. Why is that? We can answer this question by considering the diagram below.
Around the core texts of a religion, a layer of interpretation develops. This layer may differ between different sects of a religion. For example Catholics and Protestants both accept the same core text, the bible, but have many differences in what they believe and in how they practice their faith. This layer is a group interpretation of the religion.
On top of the group layer of interpretation that evolves in the religion is each individual's personal interpretation. Often people pick and choose the aspects of religion that they want to practice and that they agree with or want to believe. They may believe the parts of the religion that they want to believe such as they'll go to heaven if they're good, that God loves them and that he will help them in times of trouble and they may rationalize away or reject barbaric passages in the scriptures of their religion. People may identify with a religious group because their families and friends belong to that religion and not because they believe the tenets of the religion. They may even be shocked by some of the tenets of their religion. In addition people may interpret their religion as a collection of metaphorical stories which teach lessons about how to live life in a moral way but that are not to be taken literally. An individual's interpretation of his religion will be influenced by the core texts or holy books of his religion and by how his community interprets those texts.
Since everyone's personal interpretation varies everyone's religion is different than everyone elses. Since the group interpretation is composed of the individual interpretations if the individuals have a tolerant outlook that will influence the group interpretation of the religion toward more tolerance. On the other hand the inner spheres in this diagram are likely to influence the outer ones. In otherwords the content of the core texts of a religion influence the way the group interprets them. The core texts and the group interpretation is likely to influence personal interpretations of religion. If the core texts preach intolerance that is likely to filter down to the group and personal interpretations. Core texts such as the Koran or the Bible have stayed fixed for a long time and so are unlikely to be influenced much if at all by personal and group interpretation once they have been written. While they are being written is a different story. Once these texts are fixed the intolerance they preach is fixed as well so that even if a tolerant layer interpretation buries the intolerance, the threat of it resurfacing always exists. In some cases leaders with evil motives may influence the group layer of interpretation in the direction of intolerance. Those who desire to defeat and conquer the infidel may encourage the belief that God wants war with the infidel. For example Saddam Hussein called for holy war with the United States.
Dr. Labib Mikhail in his article Understanding Islam in Light Of the Attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon subdivided Islam into the major different interpretations. He wrote:
These conflicting descriptions of Islam can be explained by examining the three types of Muslims: Secularists, Moderates, and Fundamentalists....
Secularists are Muslims who do not have a knowledge of the contents of the Quran and only know a verse or two to justify enjoying their life such as: "Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world" (Surat AI-Kahf 18:46).
Moderates know the Quran but seek to make their faith relevant to modern life. They try to reconcile the contradicting verses in the Quran in such a way that Muslims may tolerate Jews and Christians living among them. They emphasize the verses that came to the Prophet Muhammad when he was weak militarily and in need of the support of Jews and Christians...
Fundamentalists are those who want to apply the more extreme verses of the Quran to the letter. These verses came to Muhammad after he was strong militarily and after he realized that the Christians and Jews were not becoming followers of his new religion.
The change in Muhammad's preaching was outlined by the medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim. He wrote
For thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to God through preaching, without fighting or Jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God's relgiion was fully established.
It's important to keep in mind when reading this web page that as Dr. Labib pointed out not all Muslims subscribe are extremists and that there are good people of all faiths including Islam. It's also important to keep in mind that not everyone who looks like a Moslem is one. After the Sept 11 attack on America an angry American shot a Sikh thinking he was a Moslem. Sikhs are not Moslems. There are terrorists Sikhs but they did not attack America on Sept 11 and many Sikhs are peaceful people. Not all Arabs are Muslim either. I have a Christian Arab friend of outstanding character who is deeply opposed to Islam. Joseph Farah another outstanding individual is a Christian Arab who is the Editor and CEO of WorldNetDaily and an outspoken critic of the Islamic enemies of the United States. It's also important to keep in mind that there are secular Moslems and Moslems who deplore the attack on the World Trade Center and believe that the World Trade Center massacre was a violation of Islam. In fact a Moslem who was planning a suicide bombing against the United States Embassy in Paris was arrested by Moslem officials in Dubai and revealed the plans for the bombing after Moslem religious leaders convinced him that the suicide attack was against Islam. Saudi officials bought in big name religious clerics to convince terror suspects that their actions violate the most fundamental rules of Islam. This tactic led to the bust of eight suspects behind the bombing of a housing complex in Riyadh on March 12 that killed 25 people (New York Post 6/2/03). It must be pointed out, however, that in the Riyadh case the attack was not just against Americans but against Saudis as well and the Saudis have been funding radical Islam.
Dr. Jamal Badawi, in the American Muslim publication An Noor (Questions About Islam, Answers That Every Muslim Should Know, December 2003) wrote about Jihad as follows:
As a term used in the Quran and hadith, it refers to the struggle against the evil within one's self, and it is used to refer to the struggle to improve the quality of life in society. It is used, also, to refer to fighting on the battlefield, but only under two conditions, both of which are mentioned in the Quran in Surah Baqarah, verses 190-194. One is self defense in the face of aggression, and the second is fighting and resisting against oppression. Aggression and oppression are the only conditions, there is no other.
Badawi's view is more moderate than the view of extremist Muslims that war should be waged against all non-believers until they are in a state of subjection. However even if extremists Muslims shared Badawi's view they would engage in violence since they see the West as colonial oppressors of Islam.
In order to make his case that Islam preaches tolerance Dr. Jamal Badawi quoted the following verses from the Koran yet the verses he chose demonstrate the roots of Islamic intolerance. I quote them below:
And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.
[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.
[2.192] But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
[2.193] And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
[2.194] The Sacred month for the sacred month and all sacred things are (under the law of) retaliation; whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and be careful (of your duty) to Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).
The important thing to notice here is sentence 193 in which it is written "And fight with them until ... religion should be only for Allah". Muslims are commanded to fight the infidel until he is either a Muslim or subjugated to Islam.
Table of Contents