The Islamic State and Islam
Kevin James Bywater
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Preface – 22 March 2016
We awoke this morning to the news of terrorist bombings in Brussels, with dozens dead and hundreds wounded. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility and warned of much more to come. David Wood already has produced a video comment on the event and the expected media aftermath. (And do consider David’s video discussion jihad.) Nabeel Qureshi also has published a piece in USA Today: “The Quran’s Deadly Role in Inspiring Belgian Slaughter” (though I have my doubts that Nabeel created that title). Nabeel’s remarks in this column summarize material from his new book: Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward. I recently read Nabeel’s new book and found it insightful and helpful. You should get it and read it right away. Another new publication that I haven’t yet had a chance to read, as it isn’t yet off the presses (due 11 April), is Sabastian Gorka’s Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.
(The biggest weaknesses of Nabeel’s new book are two: First, it is extraordinarily concise and makes a reader desire more. Second, the various quotes put forth, and the assertions made, are presented without any documentation or subsequent bibliography. To my mind, this makes the volume frustratingly vulnerable to the merry-go-round of denial and dismissal, accusations of falsehood, and etc. and etc. If I may be blunt: I think this is irresponsible for a book on this subject, published at this moment in history, that is trying to argue for the conclusions it does. To be sure, I think the argument of the book largely succeeds. But that isn’t the point: others may doubt this; still others may want to chase out the quotes and assertions and simply be left without any bibliographical resources as guidance. I’ll add a third critical note: the audiobook version of the book leaves off the appendices, particularly the one in which Nabeel engages his critics’ charges that he was not a true Muslim since he was a member of the Ahmadi sect. Why in the world would you want to leave this material out of the audiobook?! Even so, it is a good book that deserves a wide readership.)
As for the attacks in Brussels, many are wondering again what ISIS has to do with Islam and whether the Islamic State truly is Islamic. I doubt there will ever be an end to discussions and debates surrounding these questions. However, if you want to see why some would argue that ISIS most definitely has something to do with Islam, even gaining some legitimacy from the core Islamic texts (the Qur’an and the Hadith) and from the example of Muhammad himself, then I point you to the discussion below. Do note, the discussion below isn’t brief. The subject is complex enough, and sufficiently pressing, to warrant spending ample to pursue understanding. I wish you only the very best in that regard. And may our thoughts and prayers be with the most recent victims and their families of these very violent days.
Preface – 14 November 2015
Last night I watched online – through live video feeds and Twitter hashtags – the horror unfold in Paris. My heart sank as the numbers dying grew. I recalled that President Obama had that morning declared regarding ISIS, “What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them.” This morning there were reports that among the perpetrators of these evil, cowardly actions were both French citizens and perhaps Syrian immigrants. Of course, ISIS had asserted that they would send operatives to Europe amidst the hordes of refugees and immigrants. Perhaps time will tell the truth about the fuller details of the identities and movements and associations of the culprits.
But now that some idea of the identities of these evildoers has come forth, again many are wondering, What does this have to do with Islam? or Is the Islamic State really Islamic? Of course, we’ve heard world leaders from David Cameron to Barack Obama, from George Bush to Tony Blair grant amnesty to Islam time and again. But this concerns me, precisely in that there appears to be an intentional glossing over of the fact that Islam is originally, and inherently, a political ideology. As someone who has studied Islam on and off for over two decades, this now seems simply obvious to me.
However, there are plenty of Muslims who are not keen on practicing Islam as a political movement. Rather, they are practitioners of various rituals and abide by a variety of restrictions, but overall they simply want to live at peace. Many of these individuals do attempt to immigrate away from Islamic countries and cultures so they can avoid living under a dark cloud that persistently threatens them with a torrent of violence. I’ve written about such individuals previously. I truly feel for them. However, I feel that they are seeking a peace that ultimately is found through following our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, I know a former Muslim who now is a Christian who has reflected on the inherently violent nature of Islam here and here, and recounts his personal testimony here.
In the end, I sense rather seriously that unless we grasp that Islam is a political ideology, we will continue to fall prey to the slogan that “Islam is a religion of peace,” and then be befuddled when we witness the frequency and extent of violence perpetrated by some Muslims, and praised by far too many others. And we’ll also fall prey to attempts to morally equate these actions with the Crusades or some other historical events. Simply put, if you disapprove of the Crusades, then also state simply that you disapprove of these contemporary events as well. It is that simple. No need to muddle the message of disapproval and disgust, deflecting concerns to events from a long time ago.
So, what does ISIS have to do with Islam?