There Are No Islamic Terrorists! — Seriously?

If a thoughtful analysis of the worldview of ISIS indicates that they may be legitimately described as Islamic, why is it the Obama administration (and other pols/talking heads) takes such pains to avoid this language, referring to ISIS and like-minded organizations generically as “violent extremists” or “extremist terrorists”?

There are only two options. 1) They actually firmly believe that the adjective “Islamic” cannot properly be attributed to ISIS; or 2) They either don’t know one way or another, or do know for sure that ISIS really is an expression of Islam but have concluded that to acknowledge this would create more problems for the USA in the world of realpolitik than to continue to pretend otherwise.

In favor of option 1 is the fact that early on the administration adopted this view and has held consistently to it. Apparently knowing so little of the history, theology and practices of Islam, this administration (following sadly in the footsteps of the Bush administration) continues to parrot the simplistic canard that “Islam is a religion of peace.” Cowed by the self-appointed police of political correctness, our leaders shrink from attributing anything negative to Islam for fear of being labeled “Islamophobic.” If a man is determined to wear a blindfold, it comes as no surprise to discover that he cannot see. So our leaders convince themselves that they see nothing truly religious about the motives of ISIS, content to continue stumbling around in a self-imposed darkness. But why, when the evidence is so easy to come by, do our national leaders fail to do their homework, or at least listen to others who have done the work for them?

My best guess is this: as a culture we have become so secular, especially in the halls of political power, that many of our leaders have lost the capacity even to imagine that human beings could truly offer up their lives to an all-consuming, otherworldly religious commitment, and find compelling motivation in living so as to please their god. Instead, in trying to understand what makes ISIS tick, our leaders try to remake ISIS leaders in their own image. Any religious justification for ISIS actions must really be a smokescreen for what truly motivates these individuals: power, greed, recognition – precisely the kinds of earthly goals that motivate our own worldly leadership.

In support of this analysis I would point to the statements of two State Department spokeswomen, as well as that of President Obama, that what is needed to overcome the threat of ISIS is not overwhelming military force but the creation of a positive economic climate in these rogue nations leading to the creation of an abundance of jobs so as to undercut the “root cause” of terror groups like ISIS.  I understand, I think, what they intended – the ranks of ISIS would swell much more slowly with a smaller pool of disenfranchised youth who see no hopeful future in this life and so find the allure of a free and quick ticket to Paradise compelling. Nevertheless, the absolute blindness which refused to recognize the primary magnetism of radical Islam in the lives of disciples of ISIS, insisting instead that the root causes of this movement are economic in nature, is truly breathtaking in its ignorance.

ISIS apparently can’t really be Islamic because we can’t personally imagine a religion inspiring its followers to behave in ways we consider so monstrous, even though the evidence show otherwise. Hence, our leaders continue to refuse to call this terrorist group Islamic.

But in favor of option 2, that our leaders do know the truth (or suspect it) but refuse to label ISIS as Islamic for ulterior reasons, is the fact that some within the administration have argued one or more of the following:

* To call ISIS Islamic would be to confer a dignity upon them that they do not deserve, and erroneously lend them legitimacy in the eyes of others;

* To call them Islamic while we have indicated that we are committed to their destruction would imply that we are at war with Islam at large, a declaration we do not want to make.

* To call them Islamic would alienate our American Muslim community and lead to a potential rise in bias and attacks on Muslims in our country.

None of these arguments is concerned with the truth/falsehood of the claim that ISIS is a legitimate expression of Islam. Instead, they all focus on what the negative consequences might be should the administration make that claim. One can easily understand such concerns.

But are they realistic? As to the first, ISIS could hardly care less what the US government (we are the Great Satan after all) says about it. Its sense of dignity comes from the belief that above all other groups it is honoring God by being his caliphate on earth. As to the second, most of the Muslim world is privy to the dirty secret that some of the practices of Muhammad and the early Muslim community were very unpalatable, if not outright immoral. They are embarrassed and ashamed by ISIS, which it parading these same foul behaviors before the whole world today. Though many would not be happy with the USA “taking out” ISIS, they would rather that happen than have ISIS continue to be a cancer on the reputation of the larger Muslim world.  And regarding the third, although American Muslim lobby groups such as CAIR are quick to cry “Islamophobia!” and to see signs of anti-Muslim discrimination, harassment and persecution at the drop of a hat, the facts show otherwise. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the majority American community acted with great grace, understanding and compassion toward the minority American Muslim community. Americans are not so dense as to be unable to distinguish between the murderous intent of the ISIS caliphate and the benign desire of Muslim Americans to contribute positively to the American enterprise.

So, in the end, does the Obama administration refuse to call ISIS “Islamic extremists” for ulterior reasons, or because they truly believe the terror group cannot rightly be called “Islamic”? I don’t pretend to know for sure, but I’m inclined to believe they are blinded by their own preconceptions, unable to conceive that such barbaric terrorism could be inspired by any religion, particularly one protected presently by political correctness. The ulterior reasons noted above can still be used (as we have seen from various administration officials) for further support, but they don’t seem strong enough on their own to bear the weight of the administration’s determination to avoid calling ISIS “Islamic” at all costs.

Time will tell whether this and future administrations admit what even some Muslim leaders in the Middle East (such as King Abdullah of Jordan and King Salman of Saudi Arabia) have already said – ISIS is a virulent form of Islam which must be confronted and defeated. It will be up to the Islamic world to deal finally with ISIS and other such terror groups, but the continuing ostrich-like ignorance of the “leader of the free world” cannot give much encouragement to the principal players in this life-and-death drama.

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Can ISIS (and other similar terrorist groups) rightly claim to be Islamic?

Given the obvious unwillingness of the present US administration to use the terms “Islamic/Muslim” as descriptors for ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham/Syria), al-Qaeda, AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda wing in Syria) and others, as well as the protestations of some moderate American Muslims that such groups and their behaviors do not represent “true” Islam, it is important to answer this question thoughtfully.

Those who say “No” in answer to this question marshal as their principal argument the bromide that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, and what ISIS and other terrorists have concocted is a perversion of Islam that cannot be laid at the feet of the real religion. Unfortunately, the politicians and talking heads who sing this tune know very little of the history and beliefs of Islam. Moderate Muslims who do know something of their own history and theology, on the other hand, and who nevertheless speak of Islam as “the religion of peace,” use those words in a very specialized sense, and hope that no one will look too deeply into what they say.

According to orthodox Sunni Islam, Muhammad is considered the “perfect human,” the role model for all Muslims to emulate. Muhammad commanded his followers to fight the non-Muslim world until all submit and acknowledge the supremacy of Islam. This command came from God, according to the Quran:

 “And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and (all and every kind of) worship is for Allah (Alone). But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)” – 2:193 (see also 8:39).

 In the ten plus years of his leadership in Medina until his death (622-32), Muhammad ordered some seventy-four raids or battles against non-Muslim groups or communities. According to Islamic sources, he personally led at least twenty-six of these. A few years before his death, Muhammad gathered an army of thirty thousand to march north from Medina seeking conquest of the Byzantine Empire. They camped at Tabuk (NW Arabia), and never met the enemy, but Muhammad’s expansionist intentions were clear. After this, he sent letters to the rulers of surrounding Christian and Persian realms, urging them to “…embrace Islam and you will be safe.” Safe from what, one might ask. Safe from the attack, conquest and plunder of future Muslim armies, which, as history records, was indeed the primary means by which Islam spread so rapidly in the first one hundred years after Muhammad’s death. It should come as no surprise, then, that his followers even today see warfare (jihad) as an appropriate tool (under certain conditions) for the advancement of Islam.

Modern, moderate Muslims correctly assert that, according to Shariah law, jihad of an offensive type can only rightly be ordered by the recognized caliph of Islam (whereas jihad of self-defense needs no official authorization), and that since no caliph has been recognized by the Islamic world since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, no Muslim has the right to call for or engage in a jihad of aggression against non-Muslims. Hence, they say, ISIS is operating as a rogue element, without the consent of the rest of the Muslim world, and thus cannot be considered truly Muslim.

But ISIS has two responses to this. First, they have “recognized” their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who traces his lineage to the Quraysh tribe of Muhammad, as the caliph of the whole Muslim world. He is known to them as Caliph Ibrahim, and ISIS invites the rest of the Muslim world to rally under his leadership. As the new Caliph, he has declared jihad against Islam’s enemies, and so the actions of the armies of ISIS have legitimacy, in their eyes. Second, even if the majority of the Islamic world does not accept al-Baghdadi as its legitimate caliph, the actions of ISIS are defensible on the grounds of self-protection. “We were attacked first,” they might argue, “by Western coalition forces in Iraq and by hypocrites=false Muslims (which in their eyes means principally Shiite Muslims under the direction of Iran, or agents of corrupt Sunni governments, i.e., all the Gulf states), “and so we have the right to wage war in response.”

Yet, one might argue, doesn’t ISIS disqualify itself from legitimacy through its inhumane and barbarous treatment of those it deems enemies? Don’t such actions as mass beheadings, immolation of prisoners, torture, rape, slavery, theft, and gratuitous humiliation of captives demonstrate that this movement is at odds with historic Islam?

Unfortunately, the answer to this as well is negative. ISIS leadership has justified all of its actions firmly on the basis of the commands of Allah found in the Quran and the example (Sunnah) of Muhammad found in Islam’s widely revered Hadith traditions (second only to the Quran in divine authority). It appeals to legal pronouncements made by well-known jurists of Islamic history for support of its barbarity. Its worldview is squarely in the camp of Islam historically. Al-Baghdadi, far from being a fringe revolutionary with a hazy grasp of Islam, earned both a Masters and a Ph.D. degree in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad before briefly serving as an imam and then joining the Sunni insurgency in post-war Iraq. Those who claim that ISIS leadership only uses Islam as a front for pursuing other more mundane ventures are ignorant of the enormous sway this religion holds over the thinking and behavior of al-Baghdadi, who knows the life and teachings of his prophet well.

Early Islamic sources confirm that Muhammad ordered beheadings of enemies, the torture of those refusing to hand over hidden treasure, the amputation of limbs or crucifixion of those who transgressed his laws, the rape of conquered non-Muslim women and their consequent enslavement together with their children, as well as the execution of any adolescent males and adult men who refused to submit to Islam. Of course all of the possessions of those conquered were seized as booty and distributed among the Muslim combatants and wider Islamic community. The practices of immolation and gratuitous humiliation are traced not to Muhammad directly but to his honored successors known as the Rashidun, the four “rightly-guided caliphs” who ruled for the first thirty years after Muhammad’s death. (Examples of all these can be readily found in the early historical sources penned by Muslims, not “haters of Islam.”)

While I readily acknowledge that there is so much more to Islam than this one segment of history and teaching, it is impossible for any honest observer to deny that the horrific practices and frightening goals of ISIS find their foundation squarely in the teaching and practices of Muhammad, and the legacy of his companions who knew him best.

Hence, my answer to the question “Can ISIS rightly claim to be Islamic?” is Yes, as much as any other group citing Muhammad as its source and model. Outside politicians and apologists have no standing to render judgment on what constitutes “true Islam,” and what stands as a perversion. It will be up to the larger Muslim world to define for itself what true Islam stands for, and then to police its own ranks to see that adherents toe the line. Moderates today clamor that the “extremists” have hijacked and perverted their religion. The fundamentalists, on the other hand, decry the moderates as hypocrites who refuse to embrace all the requirements of Islam.  Who will win this debate? Only time will tell, but my money is on the fundamentalists, who have the unchangeable sacred texts of the religion on their side, and who are willing to give up their lives to advance the cause.

That leaves me with one last question: If ISIS genuinely can lay claim to being Islamic, then why won’t the US administration use the phrase “Islamic terrorism/extremism” to describe this group and others operating under the same worldview? My thoughts on that tomorrow….

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Remembering God: A Response to Grace or an Act of Merit?

I attended a wonderful worship service today in a small town in California where I’m presently on sabbatical, writing a book. During the Communion service, the pastor reminded us that every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are called to remember – to remember what God in Christ has done for us to win our salvation. He remarked on how easy it is for us to forget the grace of God, and to revert to the fleshly notion that scaling heaven is dependent on our efforts. Regular times at the Communion Table drive through our calloused hearts the truth that salvation is of grace – when Jesus uttered “It is finished” on the cross before his final breath, he meant it. The work of salvation has been wrought by the Son of God, and there is nothing we can add to it, only to receive it by receiving Him, with gratitude and allegiance. Remembrance plays a crucial role in weaning us from the striving of “works righteousness.” In the words of Robert Robinson, penned in 1758:

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

As he was speaking on this topic, my mind jumped to the principal meaning of remembrance in Islam (looming in my mind because of my present book project). The Arabic word dhikr is used by Muslims to signify the call to keep the thought of God front and center in the mind. The command to remember God is found plentifully throughout the Quran. Here’s one representative verse: “O you who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance” (Sura 33:41). But in Islam, remembrance isn’t a way to keep us focused on God’s costly grace; in fact, it’s the opposite. It’s a way to earn brownie points, either deducting some of our sins from our eternal bank account, or accruing extra merit if we’re already super spiritual. For example, Islamic scholars have determined that the absolute best form of dhikr is reading the Quran – or even better, reciting it from memory. They have calculated (don’t ask me how) that every letter read racks up ten rewards, and since there are about 321,180 letters in the Quran, to read it through completely rings up almost four million “rewards” in your merit bank. (I don’t know for sure, but I assume that various sins have differing values of demerits, so if you have a lot in your debit column, you’ll want to be reading your Quran voraciously.) But there are other ways you can earn rewards as well: repetition of the phrase Subhanallah (Glory to God) a hundred times a day will be the same as earning one hundred good deeds, or erasing one hundred bad deeds. Other phrases also count in like measure. You get the idea. (For a chart of all these “remembrance phrases” and what they ostensibly earn, see this chart as developed by one Muslim who researched the early documents of Islam:

Once again we see the huge chasm between the Christian and Muslim world views. The biblical message announces what steps God has taken to wipe away our sins and adopt us as His beloved children. The quranic message declares what humans must do to overcome the demerits of our sins by using praise of God as a spiritual scrub brush. Grace vs. works. It’s the same old story.

Yesterday I was reading a powerful expose of Muslim theology entitled The Muslim Doctrine of God, authored in 1905 by Samuel Zwemer (who earned the sobriquet “Apostle to the Muslims”), and came across this pithy summation on p. 52: “As regards the moral code Islam is phariseeism translated into Arabic.” So true. So sad. Dhikr is a case in point.

May God raise up a new generation of mission-minded believers whose hearts are tender toward the Muslim world and whose lips are seasoned with the grace of the gospel!

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Muslims More Christian Than Presbyterians? Perhaps in This One Instance!

In a previous post (The Clash of Civilizations — A Snapshot [Part 1]), I alluded to a common understanding in the Muslim world that any land conquered/added to the Islamic kingdom of God must never be relinquished to unbelievers. It belongs to Allah and must be used for His purposes. This understanding is contained in the Arabic term “waqf”, and the Charter of Hamas employs it to justify the persistent effort to destroy the nation of Israel so as to reclaim for Allah the land of Palestine.

Those aware of the recent history of the Presbyterian Church (U.$.A.) may descry a hauntingly similar viewpoint in that denomination’s policy book, known as the Book of Order (BO). Known as “the property trust clause” and found in G-4.0203, it reads in all its glorious legalese:

All property held by or for a congregation, a presbytery, a synod, the General Assembly, or the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), whether legal title is lodged in a corporation, a trustee or trustees, or an unincorporated association, and whether the property is used in programs of a congregation or of a higher council or retained for the production of income, is held in trust nevertheless for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.).

This decree has been used by denominational leadership to seek to dissuade churches wishing to depart the denomination for more theologically orthodox homes. Many have been told coldly, “You are free to leave the PC (U$A) and join another denomination if you so choose, but all your property and assets (including congregational bank accounts, endowments, etc.) belong to the presbytery (representing the larger denomination) and you must leave them behind. If you try to take them with you, we will take you to court.” Indeed, in some cases this threat has been carried out. In most instances, however, the denomination imposes a cash settlement demand on the congregation to see just how willing the congregation is to pay for its property and buildings a second time. Many congregations, in their longing to be released, bow to the ransom-like demands of their presbyteries (who hold all the power cards), even though it costs them dearly.

The viewpoint of the PC (U$A) is that all these properties belong to the national institution, not to the congregations which have built and paid for them. In belonging to the denomination, these churches have demonstrated an implicit agreement to the property trust clause of the Book of Order, even though they never had any direct or conscious part in affirming that trust. Apparently the denominational leadership believes that the institution exists for its own benefit, and so all resources under its grip must stay within its iron fists, or be released only after suitable recompense has been provided.

For quite some time I have been convinced that the “property trust clause” reveals the PC (U$A)’s idolatrous heart. Notice the declaration “…held in trust nevertheless for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.).” Where is the recognition of Jesus Christ as Head of the Church, not just the PC (USA) but the Church Universal? Where is the understanding that “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church” (Eph. 1:22, NLT)? Can a denomination rightly say to the people of a member congregation, “You all may belong to Christ, but your church property and assets belong to us!”, all for the purpose of benefitting that denominational institution? If Christ, the Head of the body, is calling a congregation to align itself with a different part of His body catholic, can the diminished part of the body say, “Sorry, you must compensate us first in order to be released”? Such a sense of self-importance, such an obsession with possessions, such an affront to the supremacy of Christ in all things, should not characterize any group that claims to be Christian.

Sadly, when comparing the “property trust clause” with the “waqf” of Islam, the Muslim concept ironically seems more biblical. At least for Islam, the ownership of land and possessions is recognized to be God’s, and to be used for His glory. In the fiefdom of the PC (U$A), it all belongs to the denomination, and must be kept for the “use and benefit” of said denomination, whether in the end that brings any glory to God or not.

Would it not be a witness of grace and catholic unity for the denomination to freely release and bless all congregations seeking to depart, and for such congregations in turn to offer a gift of gratitude to the denomination for its kindness and blessing? In such a scenario, amity among believers would reign, resources would be utilized for the spread of the gospel rather than the litigation of ownership, and the Lord’s authority over all His people would be acknowledged and embraced.

May this embarrassment to the cause of Christ come to an end quickly, being replaced with the desire to outdo one another in showing love and honor (Rom. 12:10).


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The Clash of Civilizations — A Snapshot (Part 2)

The Muslim mind, as evidenced by the Hamas charter, sees an evil conspiracy behind every non-Muslim group or power, and believes that such entities are under the guidance and sway of Jews around the world. The Zionists of the world have infiltrated international media giants, entertainment industries, national curricula, the United Nations, Western culture, and so on. Many seemingly innocent organizations are really fronts seeking the demise of Islam: Rotary Clubs, Freemasons, Lions Clubs, the “Capitalist West” and the “Communist East” are all plotting the destruction of Islam.  Article 22 depicts how the Zionists have amassed wealth so as to advance their plan by buying up most all the world media groups, and by stirring up revolutions around the globe to then raid the assets of those weakened by war.

You probably think I’m exaggerating, so let me quote extensively from this Article of the Hamas Charter:

They stood behind the French and the Communist Revolutions and behind most of the revolutions we hear about here and there. They also used the money to establish clandestine organizations which are spreading around the world, in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests…. All of them are destructive spying organizations. They also used the money to take over control of the Imperialist states and made them colonize many countries in order to exploit the wealth of those countries and spread their corruption therein. As regards local and world wars, it has come to pass and no one objects, that they stood behind World War I, so as to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate. They collected material gains and took control of many sources of wealth. They obtained the Balfour Declaration and established the League of Nations in order to rule the world by means of that organization. They also stood behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading with war materials and prepared for the establishment of their state. They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council to replace the League of Nations, in order to rule the world by their intermediary. There was no war that broke out anywhere without their fingerprints on it: ‘…As often as they light a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. Their efforts are for corruption in the land and Allah loves not corrupters.’ (Sura 5:64).

Article 28 expands upon this paranoia, painting Jews (Zionists) as devoid of any goodness, behind all the worldwide drug cartels, ingenious in their growing web of deceit and infiltration, and committed to the destruction of Islam, and to world domination:

The Zionist invasion is a mischievous one. It does not hesitate to take any road, or to pursue all despicable and repulsive means to fulfill its desires. It relies to a great extent, for its meddling and spying activities, on the clandestine organizations which it has established, such as the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions, and other spying associations. All those secret organizations, some which are overt, act for the interests of Zionism and under its directions, strive to demolish societies, to destroy values, to wreck answerableness, to totter virtues and to wipe out Islam. It stands behind the diffusion of drugs and toxics of all kinds in order to facilitate its control and expansion.”

All Islam must rise up and destroy Israel because “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims” (my emphasis).

On the other hand, Hamas view itself as a humane organization, and Islam as the only solution to lasting peace on earth. “It is only hostile to those who are hostile towards it, or stand in its way in order to disturb its moves or to frustrate its efforts. Under the shadow of Islam it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security. Safety and security can only prevail under the shadow of Islam, and recent and ancient history is the best witness to that effect.” Essentially, this is a call for all religions and powers to give up their autonomy and vision, bowing in submission before Islam. Then there will be peace, because there will be no more opposition to the iron fist of Allah.

This would be laughable, if it weren’t so tragic. Any hope that Hamas might truly be humane is continually dashed by the terrorist organization’s actions. We all know about the millions spent on tunnels for terror rather than on the welfare of Palestinians. About a week ago, I read a truncated headline on a news media website: “Hamas executes tunnel builders.” My heart nearly skipped a beat at the thought that perhaps Hamas leadership was declaring its opposition to the tunnels through this draconian step. When I pulled up the article, however, I discovered that the reason for the executions was to silence any potential squealers. Even though the executed were Palestinians, their lives were of less importance than maintaining the hiddenness of the tunnels. Though innocent, these workers were expendable for no fault of their own, only the paranoid anxiety of their leaders to whom their lives apparently meant nothing!

So much more corroborating evidence could be culled from the 36 Articles of the “Charter of Allah” to demonstrate that the mindset of the Quran and those who believe it (as the early Muslim world did) is one of clear black and white, painting all the non-Muslim world as enemies of Islam (even fellow Muslims are expendable, should their death aid the cause), but reserving special enmity and spite for the Jews (and all Zionist partners). As a final witness, let me share the charter’s quotation of one more Hadith tradition, and contrast it with a passage from the Bible. Both deal with the end of time, and with how God will deal with the Jews in that day:

Article 7 declares that Hamas is looking forward to the promise which Allah made through Muhammad concerning the destruction of the Jews: “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).” The names in parentheses refer to the two most highly revered collectors of Hadith traditions in all of Islam, and this account is found in seven varied iterations, indicating that it is not a one-time anomaly. Hence, the Muslim perspective is that Allah will finally punish and exterminate Jews for their despicable rebellion against him, and their presence as a blight on humanity. Hamas openly and eagerly awaits the fulfillment of this promise.

The God of the Bible, on the other hand, promises that in the end days His people, the Jews, will bring untold blessing to the world by their presence after they have returned to God’s ways:

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”

  This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”   (Zechariah 8:20-23)

Quite contrasting visions of the end-times! Quite contrasting visions of the character and purposes of God! Which God are you inclined to believe in? I know whom I have chosen. Hamas is clear about whom they and their Muslim brothers have embraced. May the true God make Himself known in these coming days. Amen.

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The Clash of Civilizations — A Snapshot (Part 1)

Islam claims to be the restoration of the true revelation of God given to His people in prior ages through the Old and New Testaments. According to Islamic orthodoxy, the Bible became corrupted by self-serving Jews and Christians over the centuries after its impartation, and Muhammad was sent to restore the truth in the transmission of the Quran to the world.

One of the many problems with this claim is the venomous anti-Semitism found in the Quran, which finds no parallels in the Bible, but which pours unending fuel on the fires of hatred in the Muslim world toward the Jews in general and Israel in particular.

The recent clashes between Hamas and Israel illuminate this clearly. While Israel would like to find a lasting solution enabling it and its neighbors to live in peace, Hamas is religiously committed to the destruction of Israel as a calling from its god, Allah. So it declares in its charter.

In fact, Hamas calls its charter “The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement” (‘Hamas’ is the Arabic acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement”). It sees its calling as the rightful and necessary response that all Muslims should make to the commands of God in the Quran for the obliteration of Jews from the face of the earth. Why? Because they are the enemies of God, worse than all other peoples. The very first lines of the charter boast that Muslims are the best of all nations, and that they will ultimately destroy Israel:

“‘In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Ye are the best community that has been raised up for mankind. Ye enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency; and ye believe in Allah….’ (Sura 3:109f). Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors”(my emphasis).

The following introductory paragraph baldly asserts:

For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails.”

Lest you think that Hamas is just exploiting an innocent religion to advance its own hateful agenda, the charter quotes the Quran again and again to substantiate its vision and claims that its position is based wholly on the teachings of Islam. Article 1 states:

The Islamic Resistance Movement draws its guidelines from Islam; derives from it its thinking, interpretations and views about existence, life and humanity; refers back to it for its conduct; and is inspired by it in whatever step it takes.”

Hamas defines its constituency as “…Muslims who are devoted to Allah and worship Him verily…” (Article 3), and welcomes to its ranks all Muslims who are equally committed (Article 4).

The religious vision of the Quran as held by traditional, orthodox Islam is its “be-all and end-all,” according to Article 5:

Its ultimate goal is Islam, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution. Its special dimension extends wherever on earth there are Muslims, who adopt Islam as their way of life; thus, it penetrates to the deepest reaches of the land and to the highest spheres of Heavens.”

The slogan of Hamas is written in Article 8: “Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the cause of Allah its most sublime belief.”

According to Hamas, the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (similar to the Pharisaic term Corban, to which Jesus referred in Mark 7:11-12). Literally meaning “detention,” Waqf refers to a land that is now irrevocably devoted to Allah, and must never be taken back from him and his kingdom. Hence the nation of Israel has terribly transgressed the will of God by seizing from Allah what it has no right to possess. In the name of Islam, Hamas commits itself to setting right this wrong. Palestine, and all other lands heretofore conquered by Islam for Allah, are to be managed by Muslims for the benefit of Allah. The existence of Israel is an abrasive offense against Islamic sensibilities (see Article 11).

According to its charter, Hamas denies the possibility of any peaceful solution with Israel, citing religious reasons! Article 13 states unequivocally:

“[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion…. Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the nonbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam. Since when did the Unbelievers do justice to the Believers? [This is followed by a Quranic quotation – 2:120.]… There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility” [my emphasis].

Not only is Palestine a Waqf – one of many lands conquered by Islam and so holy to Allah – it bears a special religious significance since it was the place of the first Qibla (the direction Muslims were to face when praying, till Allah changed his mind and commanded them through Muhammad to face Mecca instead), and the place where, according to tradition, Muhammad ascended to heaven on a short sight-seeing journey. Jerusalem is also the location of Islam’s third holiest shrine (al-Aqsa mosque). Thus, it is incumbent on all Muslims, says Hamas, to answer the call to jihad individually and as a nation. This view is articulated in Article 14 and summed up at the start of Article 15 with these words:

When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad.”

Article 15 ends will the quotation of a tradition (attributed to both Bukhari and Muslim, but which I could not locate) saying, “I swear by that who holds in His Hands the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill (told by Bukhari and Muslim).” This is meant to drive home the rightness and blessing of participating in jihad against Israel.

Not only boys and men, but women and girls must participate in this all-encompassing work of jihad, according to Article 17. “The Muslim women have a no lesser role than that of men in the war of liberation; they manufacture men and play a great role in guiding and educating the [new] generation.” How interesting to see the value of women defined in functional terms: they “manufacture men” (i.e., have babies who will become jihadists one day), and they educate children to understand their future roles as Muslim adults pursuing the advancement of Islam.

(End of Part 1; Part 2 will be posted tomorrow)

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Islam Means “Peace?” Not for Israel.

As long as Islam remains a potent force in the world, the Jewish nation of Israel will never have tranquility. It may enjoy relative peace through strength and vigilance, but it will never be able to let down its guard. There are three major reasons for this, as far as I can tell.

First, the formation of the modern state of Israel stemmed from the unjust arrogation of power by the Allied powers after WWII who were seeking to ease their consciences as well as avoid waves of European Jews immigrating to their shores. The establishment of a Jewish homeland, backed by biblical precedent, seemed a heaven-sent solution. The only problem was that it created a forced dislocation of the unfortunate people who already inhabited that land – Palestinian Arabs who lost their land and homes and possessions, other than what they could carry as they were “sent packing.” My father’s family, who lived in the Golan (then part of Syria) but had farming land near the Sea of Galilee, lost this land once the borders of newly-formed Israel became secure and they could no longer traverse previously well-worn roads to their farmland. It became the property of newly immigrating Jewish squatters, sanctioned by the United Nations and the Great Powers of the United States, Great Britain and France. Until the leadership groups of Israel and the Palestinians arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution (which I believe is possible) of the original injustice done to the pre-1948 inhabitants of the land, Israel will not have peace. A major reason for this is not that the Palestinians themselves have the power to disrupt life in Israel, but that the Islamic world has taken up the cause of the Palestinian people (who are mostly Muslim), and is using this cause (under the guise of seeking justice) to pursue a more nefarious agenda.

That agenda is seen in reasons two and three why Israel will not find tranquility. Reason two is rooted in Islamic triumphalism. The Muslim eschatological imperative teaches that from the time of Muhammad God has been on the move to conquer all the rebel territory of the world that refuses to submit to Islam. Territory once conquered has now become the possession of Allah and is part of “the Kingdom of God.” Once in the fold, it will never be relinquished. So, orthodox Muslim ideology prescribes that the Kingdom of God/Islam will always be expanding, for God is all-powerful and cannot be withstood by puny infidels. Islam has never developed a robust theology of weakness/loss, and so lands that were once claimed by past caliphates but now enjoy freedom from the domination of Islamic rule confound the dogmatic fiction that Islam is always advancing, never retreating, certainly never being defeated. The loss of the Iberian Peninsula still sticks in the craw of historically-aware Muslims, but the nation of Israel is a cancer which threatens to expose and destroy their theological fantasy, so it must be destroyed instead, and the land (which contains Islam’s third holiest site) returned to Islam (and secondarily, to the Palestinians, provided they in principle remain Muslims). As long as Islam continues to be a major world influence, this theology of conquest will put the non-Muslim world on the defensive.

But even worse for the survival of Israel than Muslim triumphalism is reason number three: Islam is inherently and virulently anti-Jewish. Hatred for Jews is woven throughout the Quran, particularly in Muhammad’s later “revelations.” Those viewpoints were never abrogated by Muhammad, but stand today for Muslims as God’s final word on how Muslims should view Jews. They are to be exterminated whenever possible, because they are the enemies of God, having rebelled against Him in their refusal to follow God’s will as defined by the Quran. This religious hatred is inculcated in Muslim children from their youngest days, and is stoked by the fuel of the most authoritative writings of Islam, not just the Hadith literature and the Sira (biographies) of Muhammad, but the Quran itself. Such traditions call the Jews “descendants of apes and pigs,” based on three passages in the Quran: 7:166, 2:65, and 5:60. The first recounts a fable, not found in any ancient Jewish literature, about a group of Jews who, against God’s express command, continue to gather fish on the Sabbath day. In Allah’s own words, “But when even after this they disdainfully persisted in that from which they were forbidden, We said to them, ‘Become apes—despised and disgraced!’” The second and third passages portray God as referring back to this story with a warning to Muhammad’s contemporary listeners. 2:65-66 declares, “And you know well the story of those among you who broke Sabbath. We said to them: ‘Be apes—despised and hated by all.’ Thus We made their end a warning to the people of their time and succeeding generation, and an admonition for God-fearing people.” It implies that God may do the same to any today who remain recalcitrant. Should there be any lingering doubt, 5:60 seals the deal: “Then say: ‘Should I inform you [i.e., the Jews and Christians listening to Muhammad] of those, who will have even worse recompense from Allah than the transgressors? They are those whom Allah has cursed; who have been under His wrath; some of whom were turned into apes and swine; who worshiped idols; those are the people who are in a far worse plight and who have turned farthest away from the Right Way’.

A favorite anti-Jewish tradition (found in seven similar iterations throughout the two most highly revered Hadith collections – Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim) quoted with regularity throughout the Muslim world is the following: Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him” (Bukhari: 4.52.177). This tradition is actually quoted in the Hamas Charter of 1988 as a justification for their intention to destroy Israel, as a stepping stone to Islam’s wholesale slaughter of all Jews at the day of Judgment. (I’ll take a closer look at the Charter of Hamas in my next posting.)

While I am not in agreement with the way in which Israel as a modern nation was created, nevertheless this country has now been in existence for sixty-six years. The clock cannot be turned back without creating further injustices to those now inhabiting the land. The only reasonable solution will be for both Israelis and Palestinians to compromise by accepting an agreement in which both give up some claims in order to gain lasting peace. Unfortunately, as long as the ideology of Islam and the fanaticism of orthodox Muslims feed the animus of Palestinians against Jews generally and Israelis in particular, the prospects for enduring peace, are in my lowly opinion, bleak.

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