In a recent column at Townhall.com, Frank Pastore ably recapitulates all of the usual mistaken thinking on Islam:
Last Monday on the Fox hit “24”, President Wayne Palmer made the point that American Muslims are our best allies in this war against Islamic terrorism. He’s right, but you wouldn’t know it listening to the callers on my show last week. I”m still disturbed by the volume of criticism I got–especially from Christians–for merely suggesting something that seems so obvious to so many of us: that we are not at war against the religion of Islam, we are at war against radical Muslims.
Callers insisted I was wrong, repeating over and over again things like, “there is no such thing as moderate Islam, there are only moderate Muslims who don’t really understand Islam,” that “real Islam, and therefore real Muslims, seek world domination, a 7th century caliphate under universal sharia law,” and finally, that “a true Muslim believes all non-Muslims must either convert or die.”
Jihad Watch callers maybe?
Could they be right? What would counter-evidence look like to defeat these claims? Let me offer a few suggestions.
1) There are tens of millions of Muslims and Christians (and Jews) who have lived peaceably alongside one another for centuries, and who still do today in many parts of the world.
Indeed, that is at least nominally true, though the harmoniousness of their historical coexistence is usually exaggerated. And the obvious cases of coexistence are invariably situations in which Muslims ruled others and not the other way around, or when Muslim minorities were so small they were rendered innocuous.
2) Who is in a better position to explain the “true” teachings of Islam, a Muslim or a non-Muslim?
Perhaps someone could inform Mr Pastore about taqiyya.
Jesus taught you can always tell a tree by its fruit. Better to judge actions than to divine motives.
Do the centuries of jihad waged on three continents – in which, according to Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam, the number of victims tops a quarter of a billion – count as “actions”? Muhammad’s beheading of the Quraiza tribe? The Armenian Genocide? 9/11?
3) Moreover, since religions don’t war against one another people do, we”ve got to find out who speaks for what religion to determine if “we are at war with Islam.”
A fair question. Muhammad and the Koran I think speak pretty authoritatively. Perhaps Mr Pastore could look into them. May I suggest he start with the Sira, p 208 of the Oxford edition?
4) If “we are at war with Islam,” then what would victory look like? The “defeat” of Islam?
Now this is a bit more interesting and it reflects a different sort of prejudice. The sad fact is that there will be no “victory” in the conventional sense of that term; no peace treaty signed on the deck of the USS Missouri. But while there will be no victory, there could certainly be a defeat – of the West.
5) Living proof that “we” are not at war with all Muslims are the Muslims who are part of that “we.”
Mr Pastore here makes a simple semantic maneuver: he was talking about Islam, now he is talking about Muslims. But a nominal Muslim – i.e., one who is a Muslim in name only – does not represent the teachings of his religion any more than a nominal Christian. Because many Christians fail to love their neighbor hardly means that Christianity is about NOT loving people.
6) Lastly, of the many things it means to be an American, it certainly means that you will fight for the political right of your neighbor to be theologically wrong–that’s the Constitution. An American believes that you can be any religion–or no religion–that you choose, as long as you don’t try to legitimize an immoral act in the name of your religion, such as polygamy, temple prostitution, or illicit drug use.
First, Islam explicitly sanctions polygamy (Muhammad had eleven; Muslims are limited to four). Second, if fighting for the right of others “to be theologically wrong” makes an American, the Koranic injunctions to slay unbelievers, pillage their wealth, and suppress their religions certainly renders Islam un-American.
People such as Mr Pastore should ask themselves: Do they hold to their belief that Islam is benign because of their in-depth knowledge of the subject? Or because the opposite would be too uncomfortable to accept?