Islam: Violent or Peaceful? Does It Matter?
By Daniel Oliver
February 25th 2015
There are 1.6 billion Muslims. Even if 99% of them don’t believe in blowing up infidels (i.e., us), we still have a problem.
Is Islam a religion of peace or of war? The debate rages on. Were the Paris terrorists, and all the rest of them, representatives of a militant Islam or apostates from a religion of peace? Experts (whoever they are) differ. Bernard-Henri Lévy, writing in The Wall Street Journal claims that “the Charlie Hebdo killers are not ‘the Muslims,’ but rather the small fraction of Muslims who confuse the Koran with a death warrant.” But in her book Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes, “I wanted secular, non-Muslim people to stop kidding themselves that ‘Islam is peace and tolerance.’”
Do we, or our political representatives, know enough about Islam to come to a valid conclusion? Can we possibly learn enough? How can we laymen learn enough to make informed decisions if people who have studied Islam for decades, or lived it, disagree?
The answer is, we can’t. We can’t know what the true essence of Islam is. We can’t know for sure what Allah wants. And it may be that no one can, perhaps because there is a variety of Islams, some peaceful, some not. Allah may not be fickle, but he may be inscrutable. Or Mohammed (570–632), to whom the Koran was revealed by the Angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years (longer than Downton Abbey), may just not have been good at backing up his work.
But the real question is, does it matter? How does the answer to the question “Is Islam a religion of peace or not?” affect what we do? How does the nature of Islam affect how we respond to a particular attack, and how we respond generally to terrorism?
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, approximately 23% of the world’s population — which means we should hope, and, yes, pray, that Islam is a religion of peace.
There are estimated to be on the order of 4,000 al Qaeda adherents and another, let’s say, 20,000 “practicing” ISIS militants currently in the Middle East, primarily in Iraq and Syria.
Since the first modern terrorist attack on the United States, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, there have been only a few major attacks throughout the world, but innumerable minor ones (e.g., roadside bombings). Nevertheless, the total number of attackers is probably only a few thousand at most. If there are, or have been, a total of, let’s say, 5,000 terrorist attackers, that would be 0.0003% of the Muslim population of the world. You say 10,000? Fine. That’s still only 0.0006% of the Muslim population. Even 0.125% is a small fraction of the Muslim population — but it’s the number of Episcopalians in the United States.
The point is, even if Islam is a religion of peace, and if only a fraction of a fraction of the Muslim population are apostates, that’s still more than enough to create havoc amongst us. That is why it really doesn’t matter, for security purposes, what the true nature of Islam is.
What we need is not a scholarly answer to a fundamental and essentially academic (and certainly politically charged) question. We need only to develop a public policy that will keep our citizens safe — or as safe as we can make them.
In the course of developing this policy we should try to enlist any Muslims who say they are peaceful, making it reasonably clear that we think it would be a terrible shame to have to recall Gen. Curtis LeMay in order to dial them all back to 569 A.D.
Meanwhile, there are other questions, perhaps more fundamental, like: Is Western Civilization up to the task of surviving alongside a religion that, whether it is peaceful or not, is in many respects incompatible with our most cherished beliefs?
Western Civilization is our heritage. And Western Civ was created by, and is defined by, Christianity.
You say no? Listen to President Roosevelt. Early on the morning of June 6, 1944 (for the history-impaired, that was D-Day), President Roosevelt asked the nation to “join with me in prayer.” Imagine that. “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.” Roosevelt ended his D-Day prayer with the words “Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”
Now Christianity, in Europe anyway, is certainly in decline, and probably in retreat. The Wall Street Journal reports that “The Church of England closes about 20 churches a year. Roughly 200 Danish churches have been deemed nonviable or underused. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has shut about 515 churches in the past decade. … [I]n the Netherlands Roman Catholic leaders estimate that two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be out of commission in a decade, and 700 of Holland’s Protestant churches are expected to close within four years.” In Arnhem, Netherlands, the Church of St. Joseph has been turned into a skateboarding hall.
Christianity, and religion in general, is under attack here too. The First Amendment is being converted, by über-secularist liberals, into a guarantee of freedom from religion.
One suspects that if the radical Islamists (assuming there is another kind) were bright, they would not direct their fire at America and Europe but simply wait while Christianity collapses. Of course, that does require taking the long view, and taking the long view may not earn as many black-eyed virgins.
Meanwhile, Christianity grows furiously in China and Africa, where the ground may not seem to us to be hospitable, but where it is also unhospitable to strangers wearing keffiyahs. It is estimated that there are 65 million Christians in China and 516 million in Sub-Saharan Africa.
God moves in a mysterious way. By the time our bare ruined choirs are occupied by Muslims, or skateboarders, the church may be alive and well, and flourishing, in far-off lands.