The Threat of Militant Islam
(This article appeared in Biblical Insights, July 2007)
Islam has been hijacked! We have heard that catchphrase often since 9/11. From politicians to reporters to daytime talk show hosts, we have been told that a quiet, peace-loving, Middle Eastern religion has been kidnapped and corrupted by radicals who hate freedom.
In 2002, President George W. Bush said, “Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.”[i]
This idea has been repeated for nearly six years. Islam’s potential militancy is marginalized in news reports with words like “radical,” “factional,” “sectarian.” Such words enforce the notion that only Islam on the fringes is violent – true Islam is a tradition of peace.
The Islamic sectarian violence often reported on the nightly news raises fair questions about Islam’s supposed peaceful nature. For instance: “Why is it okay for any Muslim to violently attack another Muslim and remain consistent within his faith system?” After all, Methodists don’t lob bombs at Baptists, yet they are separate Christian sects. There must be something fundamentally different about Islam. Could it be that Muslim militancy is religiously authorized?
New Testament Christians can understand militant Islam. When Muslims adhere to the Qur’an as we do the Bible, they will be violent and aggressive toward non-Muslims. Their book directs it:
“O Prophet, urge the faithful to fight. If there are twenty among you with determination they will vanquish two hundred; and if there are a hundred then they will vanquish a thousand unbelievers, for they are people devoid of understanding.” – Surah 8:65[ii]
Muslim apologists argue that militancy is not a true expression of Islam, but merely a regrettable corruption. They contend that if Islam was truly militant, all Muslims would rise up and fight, yet the majority do not. Therefore, Islam is not actually violent. Unfortunately, this reasoning is flawed.
Consider, do all self-professed Christians behave as if the Bible is the Word of God and they are responsible to follow what it says? Obviously not. For instance, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states, “Neither…homosexuals, nor sodomites…will inherit the kingdom of God.” Yet the Episcopal Church leads the way among liberal denominations that sanction homosexuality, appointing openly gay leadership and accepting gay marriage. Has the Bible changed its position because Episcopalians deem it archaic and unpalatable? Is it true to say that the Bible is pro-gay simply because recent adherents ignore what it says about the sin of homosexuality?
So it is with Islamic militancy. Thankfully, most modern-day Muslims in the West say they would not literally practice the violent precepts of the Qur’an. They interpret its call to arms as allegory, an internal struggle against unbelief. However, that does not eliminate the book’s promotion of violence. And we should not conclude that those who read it fundamentally are radicals, heretics, or hijackers. They simply treat it as the word of their god, Allah.
It is tempting to interpret the message of a religion solely by the behavior of its most recent adherents. But look to its scripture, and learn of its founder, to see the truth of the matter. Frankly, many people buy into the hijacker hype because they don’t take the time to investigate Islam.
Perhaps Westerners avoid the Qur’an because they would prefer to believe that a fringe group of hate-mongers is giving a respectable world religion a black eye. It is too upsetting to Western multicultural philosophy to entertain the notion that a religion could inherently be violent, oppressive, and evil. Yet read the scripture of Islam, and you will discover why they hate, and why they hate us.
Militant Muslims hate us because their god, Allah, hates us. The Qur’an teaches that Allah hates his enemies – non-Muslims – and states clearly they should be physically conquered and ruled. Muslims are to accomplish this whether they want to or not.
“Say: ‘If you love God then follow me that God may love you and forgive your faults; for God is forgiving and kind.’ Say: ‘Obey God and His Messenger;’ and if they refuse (then remember) God does not love disbelievers.” – Surah 3:31-32
“O believers, fight the unbelievers around you, and let them realize that you are firm: Remember, God is with those who are pious and obedient to Him.” – Surah 9:123
“Enjoined on you is fighting, and this you abhor. You may dislike a thing yet it may be good for you; or a thing may haply please you but may be bad for you. Only God has knowledge and you do not know.” – Surah 2:216
Militant Muslims also hate other Muslims (whom they deem apostate) because Allah hates disobedient Muslims. But Allah loves fighters.
“Unless you go out (to strive), God will inflict grievous punishment on you, and bring other people in your place, and you will not be able to harm Him in the least, for God has power over all things.” – Surah 9:39
“Surely God loves those who fight in His cause in full formations as though they were a compact wall.” – Surah 61:5
Christians can understand loving God supremely. But the love of God that the Bible teaches means a wholesome treatment of enemies and unbelievers (Matt. 10:34-39; Matt. 5:43-48). The God of the Bible loves His enemies, and sent Jesus as a precious sacrifice to redeem them (Rom.5:6-11; Eph. 1:7). Christians are supposed to lovingly influence non-Christians to choose Christ. Muslims are commanded to subdue non-Muslims into conversion (Surah 2:193;8:39; 9:5).
Some theorize that terrorist organizations easily recruit suicide bombers because the men have no jobs, no homes, little education, and no freedom. The conclusion: Muslims are willing to kill and be killed for socio-economic-political reasons. Doubtless those issues are contributing factors. However, the big elephant sitting in the room is the Qur’an’s precepts to fight, kill, and die in Allah’s cause. The bombers love Allah. They truly want to go to Paradise rather than Hell. And not only is Death in Jihad honorable, it is the direct path to Paradise (Surah 3:157-158, 195).
“So, when you clash with the unbelievers, smite their necks until you overpower them, then hold them in bondage. Then either free them graciously or after taking a ransom, until war shall have come to end… He will not allow the deeds of those who are killed in the cause of God to go to waste. He will show them the way, and better their state, and will admit them into gardens with which He has acquainted them.” – Surah 47:4-6
Western ideology is that they die because they have little to live for. But that perspective fails to admit that their religion teaches them they have everything to kill and die for! There is a significant difference between the two motivations.
It seems that the West’s plan to diffuse Islamic violence is to give the militants earthly reasons to live. Simply seduce Muslims with materialistic Western culture, as if money, blue jeans, and the American dream will pacify the threat. But none of it changes a single word in the Qur’an.
Our civil government cannot deliver us from a religion that hates us. When violence is answered with violence, the religion gains martyrs and strengthens its resolve. Answering violence with the enticements of earthly treasure is offensive to a person of faith. Both are physical solutions to an inherently spiritual problem.
So what can be done about the militant Muslims’ hatred?
The word of Truth equips Christians for spiritual warfare, which is where the solution to Islam’s hatred is found (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph.6:10-18). The gospel can do what governments can not: subdue a false religion by rescuing souls from it. Christians must work more fervently to convert their neighbors to Christ before the spreading Muslim religion wins them. Christians should take every opportunity to speak with their Muslim neighbor about the Truth.
Furthermore, Christians can aid their nation by considering prayerfully the candidates they vote for (1 Tim. 2:1-4;Rom.13:1-7). If a self-professed moderate Christian becomes a better Christian once in office, we have nothing to fear. But if a self-proclaimed moderate Muslim becomes more devout in office, we may fully realize the threat of militant Islam.
[ii] All quotations from the Qur’an are taken from Al-Qur’an: A Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali, Princeton University Press, 1993.