In a recent spate of local newspaper articles, an argument developed as to whether Islam is a religion of peace. It’s an interesting question because modern Muslims want us to believe, as they do, that it is indeed a religion of peace and that they hold peace as a goal.
But there are problems.
First of all, what is a religion of peace? Jesus is often portrayed as the Prince of Peace, and yet he was not a peaceful man. He was an apocalyptic street preacher and his pronouncements were not all that peaceful. His own testament that he came not to bring peace but the sword should be clear enough, in spite of all the other things he was supposed to have said.
And Christianity over the centuries has been anything but peaceful. The Hebrew predecessors were anything but peaceful, living in the shadow of warrior cultures. Their contrived mythologies not only describe constant war and conflict, but glorify it.
Islam was born in the midst of the Quraysh tribe, worshipers of multiple gods and loosely affiliated. Mohammed is credited with uniting the tribes under the banner of Islam. From the modern perspective, Mohammed was not only a warrior, but a vicious one. His illustrious military career began with a series of attacks on caravans.
It seems a joyful thing to Muslims that the badly outnumbered troops of Mohammed were so victorious, but picture throwing weapons such as slings and arrows launched from cover. This is tantamount to modern roadside bombs or suicide bombers – one life spent to slaughter many.
Mohammed was able to finance his operations with the proceeds of the caravans. His followers were given impetus by the promise of women, slaves, and wine in the afterlife, and were enjoined to never make friends of Jews or Christians. The Quraysh sent a thousand men against Mohammed and he was soundly routed and nearly killed. So much for the success of a prophet.
Some little tidbits: Mohammed told his men that it was all right to lie because anything done for the cause was just. Mohammed made a bargain with the Quraysh after praying in his cave and said that it was all right to worship the Quraysh gods for a year and then the Quraysh would worship Allah for a year, but he reneged on the bargain after more prayer and declared that the first dream was the work of Satan. Isn’t it delightful that one cannot tell the difference between visitations of the Angel Gabriel and Satan?
At the end of his life, having no male successors, his followers were conflicted as to whom should lead the Muslim adherents when Mohammed was gone. One would think that Gabriel might have warned of this. The result was that the religion split into the Sunni and Shia sects before the body was cold. These sects have fought with each other for the last 1,400 years.
After the U.S. incursion into Baghdad, the lack of a strong, authoritative leader let slip the dogs of sectarianism and the internal strife soon overwhelmed the external threat. Without Saddam’s strong hand, the enmity of the Shia sect, the Sunni sect and the hated Kurds were all at each others’ throats. Peaceful?
When he attacked Medina, Mohammed desired to kill all the Jews there. He was dissuaded by the Hypocrites, people who were not Muslim but were bound by Muslim dictates and followed them loosely. But in the Battle of the Trench, he beheaded between 600 and 900 Jews, many with his own hand.
It is difficult to understand how, with the attitude of this godly messenger, any peaceful adjectives could be applied to him, but as in many other religions peace is a quality the group wishes as an ideal for itself more than for its opponents. Muslims are enjoined to help the poor and downtrodden, but as with most religious groups, it really helps to be Muslim poor. While Europe was wallowing in the Dark Ages (no longer as dark as they once were) Muslim lands enjoyed good commerce, lighted streets, and education, including the first universities. Good for Muslims, mostly. They are credited with preserving knowledge that would have been lost to the world and it was rediscovered by the west in the Renaissance. It was good to be a Muslim.
Today, the misogynistic power of such cults as the brutal Kingdom of the Sauds, fed by the power of black gold, defies logic. Power indeed corrupts. The ignorance of the Muslim Sudan, where Christian boys are kidnapped and forced to learn the Quran and girls are sexually maimed is a perfect example of precisely how religion poisons everything.
The lack of structure in the Muslim faith provides no brake on excesses done in the name of the Prophet. Any person can issue a fatwa. Consider the OAC’s threats against Denmark when attempting to gain political power there, that they would burn all the Danish embassies around the world if they did not get their way. Consider the sentences of death against cartoonists, Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hussein Ali, and any number of world figures who have either opposed Islam or spoken out against it, or even committed some faux pas that some Muslims found offensive.
Islam means ‘submission,’ and they wish everyone to submit. Everyone. In some parts of the world, this is beat into them at the end of a whip at a tender age.
I have not spoken to the provenance of the Qur’an, which Muslims will assure you is the true words of Mohammed as given him by Gabriel, and I’ll leave that to others for now. The historical events herein are primarily from the BBC and I invite anyone to read their descriptions of the life and times of the Prophet. Other information given is from readily available news sources. My opinions, sclerotic though they may be, are my own, and I trust that I have established that describing Islam as a religion of peace is pushing the envelope of reason. One hopes that those of the Islamic faith will continue to live peacefully and that they will speak out as one against the brutal liberties taken by those who would enact horrific vengeance against those whom they perceive as enemies, such as the innocent victims of the Twin Towers massacre.
And please keep in mind that I have barely touched upon either the historical data or the modern-day events and I hope that I have portrayed them honestly.