“America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings." (US President Barack Obama)
“We (Muslims) will conquer the world; so that ‘There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah’ will be triumphant over the domes of Moscow, Washington, and Paris…We will annihilate America.” (Iraqi Ayatollah Ahmad Husseini Al-Baghdadi)
The political leadership of the Western world, obviously including the current resident of the White House, has long sought to find accommodation with the Islamic world, despite, or perhaps because of, all of the threats emanating from it. Has it been an exercise in futility?
The Islamic State (IS or ISIS) phenomenon, as represented in the recent gruesome beheadings of American journalists, has sent shock waves throughout Western Civilization on a level unrivaled since the World Trade Center attacks of 9/11. The troubling questions being asked by many, and summarized below, reveal the deep confusion about how to respond:
1. What drives individuals to cut off other people’s heads?
2. How does someone who grew up in the freedom of the USA or UK choose to become an active member of such a radical Islamic group?
3. Can this fanaticism actually be motivated by a great religion like Islam, or is it just Radical Islam?
To understand the Islamic State phenomenon, one needs to go to the root of Islam, or its founder, Muhammad, who 1,400 years ago established a new religion.
Muhammad was an angry young orphan, mostly raised by his uncle Abu Talib, a textile merchant who would often travel on camel caravans to other lands, taking his nephew with him. It was on these travels with his uncle that young Muhammad learned about different cultures and religions. As he was illiterate, this knowledge was acquired solely by listening to stories and oral traditions about Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and the various Arabian pagan religions that were prevalent at that time. He eventually would adopt bits and pieces of all of these in creating his new religion, even trying to lure them to his new religion by appealing to certain key beliefs, such as briefly advocating the Jewish practice of facing Jerusalem in prayer. When his claims of prophecy were rejected by the Jews, among others, he officially established the direction of prayer away from Jerusalem, to Mecca.
After Muhammad's painful rejection by the Jews and Christians of that time, as well as by many pagan Arabs in Mecca, he fled to Medina, where he officially established his religion in the year 622. Some of his followers, who, unlike their leader, were literate, began to write down his sayings and stories, which eventually evolved into the Sura and the Hadith, the written Koran and the written oral tradition, based on the example set by Muhammad of how to lead a proper life.
Muhammad’s life is known to Muslims as “the Sunna”, which means “the usual practice” or “the example”. In Islamic terminology, it refers to the life and ways of Muhammad. In other words, the Muslims have always looked to the life of Muhammad for guidance as to how to relate to other people and other nations. For this information, Muslims look to the Sura, which is the main text of the Koran, or to the Hadith, which is the written version of the Muslim oral tradition, consisting mainly of what Muslims consider to be the valuable lessons about how to live life, according to “the prophet”.
This is the key to understanding the Islamic mentality, as well as the Islamic State (or IS or ISIS) organization that is chopping off heads. The philosophy of Jihad, or holy war against what Muhammad called “the unbelievers”, is central in Islam. This is an obligation upon every Muslim, and the “holy” Islamic texts of the Koran and Hadith are replete with verses exhorting the faithful to make violent, holy war against the “unbelievers”, and specifically the Jews and the Christians, who had rejected Muhammad’s false claims of prophecy.
“When you meet the infidels in the battlefield, strike off their heads”. (Sura 47:4)
The beheadings of Western journalists, as frightening as they are, are as nothing compared to the savagery that Muhammad advocated, and in fact carried out. In the year 627, Muhammad and his warriors laid siege around the Jewish tribe known as the “Banu Qurayzah” in Medina. He ordered the construction of trenches around the city. Ibn Ishaq, Islam’s earliest biographer of Muhammad, describes what happened next:
“Then they (Banu Qurayzah) surrendered…then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to them in batches…They were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figures as high as 800 or 900…This went on until the apostle made an end to them.”
When the Islamic State monsters behead Western journalists, they are simply following the example of “The Sunna”. This is not some offshoot of Islam called “radical Islam” or “Islamism”. The Jihad and the beheadings come straight from the core of Islam, which is radical.
Not every Muslim is a violent Jihadist, but the few Muslims who are opposed to them are usually afraid to speak out, for fear of their lives.
It’s absolutely vital that we remember that those American Muslims or British Muslims who join Islamic State are simply following “The Sunna”. By doing so, they are adhering to a sick ideology that is more dangerous than Nazism or Communism ever were, because it claims to be a religion, and therefore, people in the West, who believe in freedom of religion, don’t know how to confront it.
But confront it they must, for if they don’t, they will soon find themselves drowning in this ferocious Islamic tsunami of hatred, intolerance, and death. And then it will be too late.