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Opinion – Doug Thompson

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No Peace on Earth

So Mike Huckabee’s theological experience makes him someone  “who understands the theological nature of this war, as we’re fighting a radical religion in Islam,” his Iowa state chairman said.
Oh well, at least Huckabee himself points out that the real enemy is radical Islamic Jihadism, a sub-sect of Islam. I’d prefer precise definitions myself. That would be “terrorists.”
This is not going to be some plea for political correctness and co-existence. I freely acknowledge that Christianity and Islam are mutually incompatible. May the best religion win.
What I’m saying is that the enemy of the United States in the War on Terror is not Islam. It’s a relatively few fanatics who blow people up.
That’s an important distinction. If some guy hits me and runs into a church on Sunday morning, yelling that he did God’s will, I’m going to go into that temple and drag him out. I’m not going to go in, call the whole congregation blasphemers and take them all on while calling the church of mine (if I had one) for backup.
By every principle set forth in the founding of this country, the bigger war between Islam and Christianity should be fought from the pulpits for the minds of people. The United States should have remained out of the bigger religious war. It’s not our fight.
I certainly don’t deny there’s an ongoing war between Islam and Christianity. I’m quite familiar with it. It started as early as 629 A.D., while the Prophet Muhammad was still alive. Some of his followers skirmished with Byzantine troops.
In March, I’m taking my first trip abroad. One of my very few won’t-miss stops will be to a hill where the largest cavalry charge in history broke the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683. By that date, the war had already been going on for more than 1,000 years.
That charge was almost 400 years ago. Today, the first duty of the United States government in war is to reduce the number of our enemies to an absolute minimum and to isolate them. That reduction — which makes victory possible, or at least easier — would restrict our warlike attention upon fanatics who blow people up.
Fighting such nuts is a goal most followers of Islam can agree with. Civilized people, whatever their religion, have that much in common.
Even if many Muslims have no love for us, terrorists have made the name of Islam stink. Also, far more Muslims are killed by car bombs than Christians — or agnostics, or atheists, or Buddhists, or Hindus, or even Muslims who are U.S. citizens.
The situation is complicated because of U.S. support of Israel. A very large segment of the Muslim world cannot view us as aloof from the religious war as long as we support Israel, which they see as occupier-by-proxy of the Holy Land.
Supporting Israel and invading Iraq are two different things, however. That’s just one example.
I don’t let the followers of Islam off the hook for the current state of affairs, either. Rioting over cartoons, for example, shows a degree of intolerance that makes Muslims look like they’re looking for things to be offended about.
Drawing an image of the Prophet is offensive to Muslims, I’m told. OK. A work of art, “Piss Christ,” was offensive to Christians. It endangered federal funds for artists but I don’t recall it leading to any riots.
I can fully understand why people believe the United States is at war with Islam. I can fully understand why people think Islam is at war with us. The distinction I’m trying to make here is not easy. However, it is important.
The United States is — or was — for freedom. That’s what we’re supposed to be fighting for, including religious freedom.
Both Christianity and Islam call for conversion of the whole world. One can argue that Islam sanctions, even demands, war on unbelievers.
That’s their fight. The United States is not supposed to choose sides. It’s supposed to prevent the religious conflict escalating into open war.
I don’t have any problem with a president being a devout Christian, by the way. Good Christians show mercy and love peace. They love their enemies, but protect the flock.
They also don’t judge. They leave that to God.

One Comment

ProfKahf December 27, 2007 at 7:56 pm

Mr Thompson, Islam and Christianity are not “incompatible.” Nor have they been at war for hundreds of years–at least, not from the Muslim perspective. Nor is it an Islamic doctrine that unbelievers must be converted by any means–Islam simply doesnt have the theology to support such missionary zeal, since its scriptures recognize the validity of Christianity and Judaism and its scriptural position is that Christians and Jews should follow their own religions more, not less. You are fanning the flames of hate with ill-informed notions–even though you seem to think you are saying something tolerant (I think?). For other views, see A Common Word Between Us –an initiative of Muslims reaching out in good faith to Christians, endorsed by many Muslim leaders and ordinary people, at http://www.acommonword.com/. You might also browse at TheAmericanMuslim.org for a cross section of Muslim opinion from around the world. Or drop in during the Islam sections of my Classical Arabic Lit class at the UA this spring–you’d be welcome! Email me for details on the course, or for a reading list. (Carl Ernst, Following Muhammad, for starters.)
-Professor Mohja Kahf

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