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Religion of Peace? Islam's War Against the World

Chapter 1: Obscuring the Issue

by Gregory Davis

Like other religions, Islam sees the universe in terms of good and evil; but unlike other religions, in Islam good and evil have expressly political significance. Islamic theology divides the world into two spheres locked in perpetual conflict: the House of Islam and the House of War. The House of Islam (dar al-Islam) embraces those lands where Islamic law (Sharia) is the law of the land, while the House of War (dar al-harb) comprises the rest of the world. The House of Islam is enjoined by Allah to make war upon the House of War until the latter is permanently assimilated into the former. The term jihad, which literally means �struggle�, denotes the military effort to bring new lands into the House of Islam. While the state of war between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds is sometimes hot and sometimes cold, it is permanent until Sharia law reigns over the entire planet.

It is crucial to understand that Islam�s division of the world into the House of Islam and the House of War is not merely a question of practice but of principle. In the Islamic worldview, Sharia law (which comprises the commandments of the Koran and the precedents and teachings of Muhammad) is the only legitimate means of organizing society; any other social or political system violates the edicts of Allah himself. While every religion distinguishes between believers and unbelievers, Islam draws a capital distinction between political-legal regimes: those in submission (Islam) to Allah�s law and those in rebellion.

Because most Americans and Europeans misunderstand the political nature of Islam, they talk about Islamic terrorism as if it bears no relationship to Islam proper. But the notion that authentic religion in general is naturally peaceful is a Western prejudice rather than a demonstrated truth. In order to understand the origins of Islamic violence, we must be willing to discard many comforting assumptions and try to see the world from an Islamic point of view. Acquiring a basic grasp of the Islamic worldview does not require learning Arabic or taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. But it does require investment of some time and thought to become familiar with the origins and history of Islam and the life of its founder, the Prophet Muhammad. Few Westerners have made such an investment, preferring instead to assume blindly that Muslims practicing their faith are not so very different from the true believers of other religions. That assumption is not only wrong � it is deadly.

Of course, Muslims (like Christians, Jews, and members of any religion) often fail to understand or live up to the standards of their faith. But what distinguishes Islam from other religions is that when it is correctly understood and practiced, Islam actively seeks the subjugation or destruction of everything that is not itself. Non-Islamic religions may seek the conversion or evangelization of others, and their devotees may employ force against others from time to time. But Islam is the only religion whose basic animating principles pit it against the rest of the world, ensuring that war is the natural and obligatory state of affairs.

The dichotomy Islam makes between the House of Islam and the House of War is suggestive of other, more modern ideologies such as Communism and National Socialism. Both Communism and National Socialism divide the world into two warring spheres based on political orientation. While Communism and National Socialism find inspiration in economic or racial theories of history, Islam is inspired by Allah and Muhammad even while it shares the expansionary political goals of the other two. Islam is not only a religion that orients the individual and collective towards a divinity, but also a political system divinely ordained to encompass the entire earth. Islam is in fact a kind of state, a polity that transcends conventional political boundaries. Once one appreciates that Islam is as much political-territorial as it is religious, one can see that for an individual or society to refuse the rule of Islam is an act not of impiety but of rebellion, which is properly dealt with by force. It is also easy to understand the obligation of Muslims to kill apostates (Muslims who leave Islam) since defecting from Islam constitutes not an act of conscience but of treason.

The secular West would do well to bear in mind that, however strange it may seem today, for most of history civilizations and peoples were defined by the gods they worshipped, and it was the character of those gods that shaped individual and collective action. It has only been in the past few hundred years that the god one worships was eclipsed by apparently more important factors such as ethnicity, nationality, class, or political party. With the current resurgence of Islamic violence and cultural imperialism, we are cast back into the pre-modern paradigm. Today�s preachers of �multiculturalism� and �tolerance�, who champion Islam at the expense of Western mores, demonstrate ignorance of a suicidal order. They fail to recognize that true Islam embodies a multiculturalist's worst fears: an unwavering conviction in its own cultural superiority, a readiness to use force to spread its dominion, and a systematic disregard for those weaker than or different from itself.

It is also imperative for the West to discard the assumption that its own principles and mores are universal. In particular, the sense of morality and justice derived from concepts of �natural law� that Christendom integrated into its tradition is almost entirely absent in Islam. All of the points of reference on the Islamic moral compass were established in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Only by appreciating Muhammad and the environment in which his religion developed � the bloody anarchy of seventh century Arabia � can we adequately interpret the myriad acts of violence done in his name through history and today. The Prophet Muhammad enshrined the violent ways of seventh century Arabia in a religion with global ambitions. Islam has thus served as the vehicle by which the bloody, deceitful practices of the Arabian tribal system have been thrust upon the globe. Islam legitimized the violence prevalent in Muhammad�s day and made it a permanent part of Islam�s social expression.

A favorite tactic of Islamic apologists when confronted with Islam�s violent nature is to change the subject*; the one thing they never seem to want to talk about is Islam itself. Defenders of Islam (Muslim and non-Muslim) are quick to point out that members of other faiths have been violent at times, but they will rarely discuss the details of Islam�s origins, doctrines, or history. While it is true that Christians have acted violently at times, we may well ask: if Christians have fought and killed in the name of a God who explicitly commands love, humility, and turning the other cheek, what can we expect from followers of a religion that instructs them, in the words of the Koran, to �kill the unbelievers wherever you find them� (Sura 9:5)? While violence committed by Christians in the name of Christianity explicitly violates their religion's tenets, violence committed by Muslims in the name of Islam explicitly fulfills theirs.

Westerners must also abandon the assumption that we can speak about concepts like �justice� and �morality� as if those words mean the same thing in Western and Islamic cultures. Islamic notions of justice are less akin to Christian notions than to pagan ones in which �right� and �wrong� are determined primarily by power. One might say that, whereas in Christianity God is powerful because he is good, in Islam God is good because he is powerful. While both Christians and Muslims speak of �mercy� and �justice�, their traditions interpret those concepts in very different ways. Islamic justice means the military and political supremacy of Muslims over non-Muslims in accord with Allah�s will. The late Islamic religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who led a popular revolution in 1979 in one of the most populous Muslim countries, Iran, sums it up rather well:

Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of countries so that the writ of Islam {Sharia} is obeyed in every country in the world. � But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under Light Celestial {Sharia} Law.

Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them, put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! 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 psalms and hadiths {accounts of the Prophet Muhammad} urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim. [1]

Khomeini spits upon them; wishful-thinking Westerners embrace them. Islamic apologists invariably label Muslim leaders such as Khomeini �extremist,� �radical,� or �Islamist,� but it is easy to see that their logic is circular. By the reasoning of the apologists, any Muslim who advocates violence is �extreme,� while any Muslim who doesn�t is �moderate.� Thus, no matter how convincing the argument that Islam demands violence, they reflexively exclude such arguments as �extreme.� Nowhere are they willing to consider which interpretation is actually more correct in light of the Islamic sources themselves. Indeed, by their logic, today�s Islamic apologists would wind up branding the Prophet Muhammad himself as an extremist.

The unique problem with Muhammad is not that he fought wars and killed his enemies � many have done that. Nor is the problem that he claimed to be God�s definitive prophet � many have done that as well. The problem is that through the combination of war and prophecy Muhammad forever established war and killing as acceptable (indeed holy and noble) endeavors for all who would follow him. Bin Laden, Khomeini, or any other literate jihadist who takes the time to articulate his thinking is merely putting his money where his mouth is. The jihadists are those who take Islam seriously in word and deed. The entire Muslim world would be made up of what the apologists call �radical Islamists� if all Muslims took their faith as seriously as bin Laden or Khomeini. Violent behavior in the name of religion may be �extreme� from a Western point of view, but not from an Islamic one.

The idea, however, that the world�s fastest growing religion, with well over a billion followers today, is seeking global hegemony and the destruction of other faiths, cultures, and civilizations is so appalling, so absolutely blasphemous to modern sensibilities, that it is simply not entertained by the intellectual establishment. Their thinking leads to the erroneous conclusion that, because there would be no obvious solution to such a titanic problem, there must not be a problem at all. Modern intellectuals lack the analytical and theoretical tools to make sense of such a thing. Politicians, academics, and pundits versed in the vocabulary of modern democracy are utterly unequipped to comprehend the nature and stakes of global religious warfare. It might have been typical for religions and civilizations to fight for supremacy in ages gone by � so their thinking runs � but certainly not in the age of Democracy, Human Rights, and the United Nations.

When faced with the sort of violence witnessed in September 2001 in the United States, March 2004 in Madrid, September 2004 in Beslan, and July 2005 in London, it is tempting to see the perpetrators as mindless sadists possessed by an irrational bloodlust � as �fanatics.� Seeing them as fanatics allows us to avoid asking the uncomfortable question: What could motivate human beings to so single-mindedly seek the deaths of their fellow humans? But this is the question that must be asked if we are to come to understand this enemy. With deadly consistency, we have learned that the terrorists do not fit the profile of impoverished, scorned, illiterate thugs, but are often educated, pious, well-to-do men (and women) who seem to have plenty to live for in modern society. What would possess Osama bin Laden, a millionaire many times over, to live in a cave in Afghanistan and plot attacks certain to infuriate the most powerful nation on earth? The answer is an unshakable faith in his religion�s promises that by doing so he will attain salvation and eternal bliss. This may sound crazy to the secular West, but to true Muslims it is a rational calculation arrived at through reflection and prayer.

Westerners will never be able to defend themselves against a deliberate, methodical enemy if they see him as nothing more than a nut with a bomb. The jihadists� motivation is analogous to that of the countless Christian martyrs through history who suffered unimaginable hardship, torture, and death to gain salvation. Today�s secular world, so far removed from its spiritual foundations, finds it nearly impossible to comprehend such a motivation. But those who regard Muslims as barbarians or as suppressed Western secularists, or who see Islam as an admixture of half-baked theological postulates that no one could possibly take literally, neglect the overwhelming evidence of history. Islam has demonstrated time and again a powerful capacity to motivate its faithful to commit widespread violence in the name of Allah. Westerners may no longer be willing to sacrifice themselves for their gods, but they are impossibly naive if they think that the rest of the world shares their apathy.

Perhaps the greatest psychological barrier to accepting the reality that Islam is intrinsically violent is that the conflicts around the world between Muslims and non-Muslims then appear intractable. If, for instance, poverty or dictatorial government is the root cause of these conflicts, then the elimination of poverty or the institution of Western-style democracy would be the solution. If, however, the problem is a religious faith, the modern socio-political vocabulary has little to offer. Short of mass evangelization into a different religion (something sure to leave a sour taste in the mouth of modern intellectuals), the only option is to deprive the Muslim world of the physical means of inflicting violence on the non-Muslim world. But this is not a �solution� in the conventional sense; it is only damage control. It offers no plan for conclusively solving the problem. If violence is rooted in something as profound and inscrutable as religious belief, governed only by conscience and faith, then there is little chance of finding a definitive solution in this world.

But because a problem cannot be solved conclusively does not mean that there is no problem. Western political resources may not be capable of solving the problem of Islamic violence, but the West�s tremendous material and technological strength ought to be capable of containing it. But if the West persists in the false hope of solving the problem of Muslim violence once and for all (through �democracy,� �capitalism,� �multiculturalism,� �sensitivity,� or whatever the next political vogue will be), it risks being unable to contain it, and thus may bring down upon itself otherwise avoidable future disasters.

The Islamic Empire that covered three continents for thirteen centuries (roughly the late seventh through nineteenth centuries AD), far from the multicultural wonderland depicted in many recent popular books and documentaries, was a place of institutionalized discrimination. Non-Muslim subjects were granted security of life and property only by acknowledging their inferiority and contributing to the economic health of the Muslim state. The genocidal wars of conquest that brought new lands into the House of Islam � the major waves of jihad � ended only when the infidel survivors were granted the dhimma (treaty of protection), were driven from their native lands, or were wiped out.

The status of these conquered dhimmi peoples depended on the regular payment of protection money to the Muslim overlords in the form of the Koranic poll-tax (jizya) and other exactions. If the dhimmi was unable to pay, he forfeited protection and the jihad resumed. The much-cited great achievements of Islamic civilization were the products mainly of dhimmi peoples and of recent converts to Islam and were rarely the product of native believers from the Arabian homeland. The Islamic lands from the time of Muhammad through the nineteenth century were slave-based societies that functioned largely through the exploitation of their indigenous non-Muslim populations. The most feared troops of the Ottoman Empire (the forerunner of modern Turkey) were products of the devshirme system whereby Christian boys (mainly from the Balkans) were enslaved, forcibly converted, and transformed into tormentors of their own people. The infamous Vlad Dracul (�The Impaler�) was one of these boys, notable for having turned the Turks� methods on themselves.

As the dhimmi populations dwindled over time due to conversion to Islam, massacre, deportation, and the many other disabilities imposed by Sharia law, Islamic civilization lost its cultural, economic, and administrative manpower. Muslim societies today tend to be backward by modern standards chiefly due to the absence of sufficient numbers of dhimmis who in ages past provided Islamic lands with their main source of technical know-how, cultural literacy, and administrative competence. As those dhimmi populations declined, so Islamic societies declined with them.

Since Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Muslim Egypt in 1798 (and was expelled only by the intervention of another Western power, the British), the Muslim world has increasingly found itself forcibly integrated into the Western-dominated society of nations with rules and manners foreign to it. The Ottoman Empire of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, economically and technically inferior to its European peers, had to play ball with the European powers in order to stave off disintegration. Islam�s first thousand years of glory, when Muslim armies were the terror of the world and huge Muslim hosts threatened to topple the capitals of Europe and Asia, was over. It is critically important to bear in mind, however, that Islam�s relative quiescence during the modern era was due to the superiority of its adversaries rather than to any change in Islamic doctrine. Jihad has been just as central to Islam in the modern era as during its first centuries. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after WWI and the end of the Caliphate (Caliph was the title of the spiritual and temporal leader of the Islamic Empire), the Muslim world lost the pre-eminent symbol of its unity and power. The Muslim nations now had to fend for themselves and integrate as best they could into the global nation-state game, which was dominated by the Western powers. Unlike Christianity, Islam has doctrinal difficulty handling political inferiority. Christians, in light of the example of Jesus Christ, should not be surprised when they are marginalized, subjugated, or otherwise poorly treated. In worldly terms, Christ was a great loser: he was rejected by the religious and political establishment, he explicitly rejected political action, and he suffered and died ignominiously and instructed his followers that theirs would be a similar lot. Muhammad, on the other hand, was a brilliant political and military success and preached the superiority of Islam in this world. Following the example of Muhammad, Muslims are supposed to dominate other peoples until the one true faith reigns triumphant over the entire earth. Whereas Christ�s �kingdom is not of this world,� the House of Islam is to enjoy pre-eminence in both this world and the next. When the enormity of Islam�s reverse at the hands of the non-Islamic colonial powers did eventually come home to the Muslims, they reacted to it with millennial alarm � it was the first in the cataclysmic chain of events leading to the End of Time � or with the fatalistic assumption that Allah was angry with the Muslims for their shortcomings. He was therefore punishing them in a manner that seemed fitting to Him. None the less, that Dar al-harb, the �House of War,� that is the hostile non-Islamic world, should ultimately prevail over Dar al-islam, the �House of Islam,� seemed to them contrary to the long-term course of history as he had set it out in the Koran. The Koran seemed to them a somewhat more substantial authority upon which to rely in the longer term than that of the alien �hand that holds dominion �� {i.e., the non-Islamic powers} They therefore simply bided their time. They may not have been entirely misguided in doing so.

For Muslims to be so obviously dominated by non-Muslims is an especially galling state of affairs and is only explained by the moral/spiritual decline of the Umma, the global Muslim community. It makes no sense that a well-ordered Islamic civilization should not dominate its non-Muslim counterparts. If Islamic civilization is relegated to inferior status , it thus follows that Islamic civilization is not well-ordered and needs to return to its basic principles. Unfortunately for the non-Muslim world, those basic principles inescapably include violent conquest and subjugation of the House of War. As Islamic states engaged with the Western world, they have procured the material and technical tools to enable them to wage jihad in a contemporary setting, despite the absence of a unified Islamic Empire.

One oft-repeated hope in the West is that, even if Islam contains violent aspects, an Islamic �reformation� will in due course defang the he religion. The hope is that Muslim reformers will transform Islam into something that can co-exist with the rest of the world, much like the Protestant reformers transformed Western Christianity into something less doctrinaire. This hope suffers from many fallacies, most significantly the presumption that the essence of the religion is benevolent and that its violent tendencies have their origins elsewhere. In fact, the wave of Islamic violence in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries may be seen as Islam�s way of �getting back to basics� and reassuming the mantle of jihad in the vein of Muhammad and his followers. With the growing incidence of global Muslim violence, the �reformation� of Islam is in fact energetically taking place.

Just as the Protestant reformers sought to decouple Christianity from worldly institutions they believed had corrupted it, so today�s jihadists seek to free themselves and their faith from the unholy compromises made with the House of War. The critical difference in the two cases lies in the violent nature of Islam, which demands that any �reformation� of Islam march inexorably along a path of increased violence and conquest. Just as Christian reformers through the ages have sought to reinvigorate their faith by imitating Christ (however fallibly), so Muslim reformers today seek to imitate Muhammad. The divergent behaviors that result originate with the very different examples and teachings of the founders of these two religions. But before delving into the origins of Islam, we must first clear away the politically-correct language that has so infected contemporary discourse and that renders a frank accounting of Islam�s true nature impossible.

Endnotes

  1. Quoted in Taheri, Holy Terror, 241-43.
  2. Hiskett, Some to Mecca Turn to Pray, 125.
* Webmaster note: A good example of changing the subject when asked about Islam's violent nature occurs at 6:31 in the following CNN special report on Islam in Great Britain. You are encouraged to watch the entire report, which is well done and quite disturbing:

From Religion of Peace?: Islam's War Against the World, by Gregory Davis. Please consider leaving a positive review for this book on Amazon.com. And tell your friends and family to read this book! Posted with the author's permission on 9/10/2007.