Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Islam: Friend or Foe?

November 21, 2005 

Radical Islam is the problem; moderate Islam is the solution.
(Daniel Pipes)


As the Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] said, ‘Israel must be wiped off the map.’ The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in its heartland.
(Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran)

Is Islam really a religion of peace, as many Muslims claim? Or is it a religion of war, as Islamic terrorists prove by their murderous deeds? 

First of all, it needs to be recognized that there are more than one version of Islam. Here I want to concentrate on the conflict between the extremists and the moderates (or progressives), which is as old as Islam itself. 

At different times and places, Muslims and non-Muslims have lived peacefully side by side. But more often than not, the radicals - who divide the world into one of warfare over against one of peace where Islamic law is the rule - have fought for and managed to obtain total power. 

An Enduring Conflict

And so the internal conflict between radicals and moderates within the Islamic camp has been enduring. In the past that conflict, invariably fought with disastrous consequences for the losing side, has mostly occurred in the lands of Africa, the Far and Middle East. 

 But that has all changed, especially since the radicals have resorted to terrorist attacks against unsuspecting and defenceless citizens in many parts of the world. The conflict within the very heart of Islam has also directly impacted the West through large-scale Muslim immigration. 

We can no longer turn a blind eye to the struggle within Islam, a fact that has   been driven home to us in the events of 9/11 and the numerous other terrorist attacks that have killed in the thousands, with the very real threat of more to come. 

As Salman Rushdie has experienced (after being forced into hiding in 1989  when  sentenced to death by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for allegedly insulting Islam), the fatwa of a fanatic imam can reach into the heartland of western democracies. Cold-blooded attacks on the citizens of Istanbul, Madrid, London, Amsterdam and many other cities cannot be shrugged off so easily. 

The response to these violent attacks on the West has been curious, to say the least. Prominent among the responses has been a refusal to face reality. One way is blaming America for having aroused militant Islam. Another is refusing to recognize that the extremists indeed find in their religion the motivation for their violent crimes. Surely, they cannot be serious. There must be some mistake, and they will see error of their ways if only we do a better job of explaining that we want to be their friends. 

Yes, if only it were so simple that a little more patience and some more negotiations and conferences will make them see the error of their way. The hard truth is that Muslim extremists can find plenty of support in their history and especially in the Koran and their other scriptures to justify their hatred towards the West and towards all non-Muslims.  

A Call to Arms

The radicals insist that it is the duty of every true believer to bring about the restoration of the original, pure application of the faith as prescribed in the Koran and by the Prophet Muhammad who lived some fourteen hundred year ago (570-632). They consider fellow Muslims worse than infidels, who insist that the Koran and Muhammad’s teachings must be interpreted to take account of changing times and the freedom of others. The latter are guilty of the worst possible evil, that is, apostasy - not merely a sin but a crime worthy of death. 

What adds to the confusion about the real Islam is that the Koran itself can be quoted in support of a moderate as well as an extremist position. The Koranic verses often quoted by the moderates, as well as by the extremists who want us to believe that Islam is a religion of peace, state that there shall be no compulsion in religion (sura 2.256), and that killing one person is like killing all mankind. (sura 5.32) 

But these peaceful sections are greatly outnumbered by the warlike injunctions, such as the following. 

Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe neither in God nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the true Faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued. (sura 9.29) 

When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful. (sura 9.5) 

Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers [all non-Muslims] but merciful to one another. (sura 48.29) 

Secular Westerners have a hard time comprehending the veneration Muslims accord to their holy book, which they accept as the final, eternally existing word of God passed on to Muhammad.  It does not merely contain instructions for prayer and other forms of worship, but it is revered as the divinely given law for every facet of life. As the Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University explains, “…all that is Islamic, whether it be its laws, its thought, its spiritual and ethical teachings and even its artistic manifestations, have their roots in the explicit or implicit teachings of the Sacred Text.” (Islam Unveiled, Spencer, 17) 

The extremists interpret the all-inclusive character of the Koran as a call to strive for the establishment of a theocracy, which would include the worldwide political rule by religious leaders, that is, the caliphate. 

There is a sort of (perverse) logic to move from this starting point to the conclusion that all man-made laws are an abomination and therefore not valid for the true believers. This deeply religious conviction is at the heart of the conflict between radical Islam and the Western ideas of democracy and freedom. 

While moderate Muslims are content to live in peace with non-believers, their radical counterparts are convinced that it is their duty to work for the establishment of Islamic (sharia) law wherever they live. This message, proclaimed by radical imams in Europe and North America has inspired many to consider the country in which they live, and of which they may even be citizens,  as enemy territory. 

 We should not be surprised that enclaves of immigrant Muslims clustered around the mosques in Western cities are breeding grounds for hatred. It is the kind of hatred that has led some to turn against their own country by joining the ranks of the jihadists who murder in the name of Allah. 

Here are a few chilling excerpts from the man who led the 1979 revolution in Iran, and who is a hero to the extremists, the late Ayatollah Khomeini. 

Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world….But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world…. People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Qua’ranic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. (Quoted in Spencer, 35) 

The following also leaves no doubt about the worldwide ambitions of radical Islam: 

It is our duty to globalize the world around Islam and call the world to join Islam: ‘You may warn the Mother of Cities and those around her.’ This means the entire world. This religion was sent to the entire world, globalization, in principle. (October 25, 2004, Saleh al-Munajd. Saudi cleric)  

This is not to suggest that all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, it is safe to assume that most are not; and the extremists do not control all mosques. Nonetheless, the Muslims who are against terrorism are mostly silent out of fear or indifference. This gives the impression that radical Islamism has the upper hand. But there has been a change in that more moderates are beginning to protest against the violence perpetrated in the name of their religion. 

Silent No More

Even in Arab/Muslim countries, some have dared to protest. Here is a mother in Saudi-Arabia who complained that her teacher was a terrorist who tried to influence his students. What is remarkable is that her protest was published in the Arabic online daily, Al-sharq al-Awsat (October 2,2005). She summarized: “how are we to confront this Irhabi [terrorist] mentality, when we notice that all our efforts to spread a spirit of tolerance and an acceptance of the ‘Akhar’ [the Other] is being thwarted in the classrooms?” 

There is a growing number of Muslim moderates who are speaking out publicly, as did this Saudi mother. The Middle East Media Research Institute (available online) is an important source of such translated material from Arabic publications. 

In Canada, we should recognize those Muslims who have denounced the Islamic terrorists, including the well-known Irshad Manji. There are many more, including Tarek Fatah who recently sparred with Canadian Islamic Congress president Mohamed Elmasry, who is quick with his accusation of Islamophobia but reluctant to condemn all terrorists outright. Other moderate Canadian Muslims, notably women such as the indomitable Homa Arjomand, recently spearheaded the campaign against the adoption of sharia law in Ontario. 

Salim Mansur, professor at the University of Western Ontario, has not been shy speaking the truth about Islamic terrorists. In his Toronto Sun (October 15,2005) article, “Extremists’ violent perversion of religion threatens us all,” he wrote that Osama bin Laden is the face of a “murderous ideology.” He continued: 

The worldview of these murderers – irrespective of how they strive to link their acts to Islam – is starkly primitive. Their world consists of nominal Muslims, to be ruled by them as Taliban chief Mullah Omar ruled Afghanistan, and infidels against whom they must wage an endless war. 

Mansur is particularly critical of the many who are blind to the reality of radical Islam, while blaming the West for having created the “root cause” of terrorism.  Quoting Lenin’s famous phrase about “useful idiots,” Mansur castigates “the vast majority of Muslims – in particular those in North America and Europe – whose silence in the face of evil feeds the bloodlust of Muslim terrorists.” 

We could do far worse than listen to the voices of these courageous and fair-minded Muslims who refuse to be silent bystanders in the face of evil. The rest of us should do no less. 

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