What is Islam?
By Jeff Jacoby
For years, terrible and violent crimes have been committed in the name of Islam. Does that mean Islam is inherently a religion of terrible violence?
The scholar Daniel Pipes has long argued that it is a mistake to attribute the evils committed by Muslim supremacists and jihadist killers to Islam itself, or to the text of the Koran and the hadith, the religion’s sacred scriptures. Like every great faith, Islam is what its adherents make of it. Today, many of those adherents are influenced by Islamism, the militant totalitarian version of Islam that emerged in the 20th century. The Islamist ascendancy is reflected in the savageries of al-Qaeda, the brutal misogyny of the Taliban, the apocalyptic hostility of the regime in Iran.
But just as the nightmare of the Third Reich was far from the totality of German culture and character, so Islam’s 1,400-year history is not encapsulated by the violent ugliness of the present moment. In other eras, Muslim society was known for its learning, tolerance, and moderation.
Next up, by Daniel Pipes:
Can Islam Be Reformed? History and human nature say yes
Islam currently represents a backward, aggressive, and violent force. Must it remain this way, or can it be reformed and become moderate, modern, and good-neighborly? Can Islamic authorities formulate an understanding of their religion that grants full rights to women and non-Muslims as well as freedom of conscience to Muslims, that accepts the basic principles of modern finance and jurisprudence, and that does not seek to impose Sharia law or establish a caliphate?
A growing body of analysts believe that no, the Muslim faith cannot do these things, that these features are inherent to Islam and immutably part of its makeup. Asked if she agrees with my formulation that “radical Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution,” the writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali replied, “He’s wrong. Sorry about that.” She and I stand in the same trench, fighting for the same goals and against the same opponents, but we disagree on this vital point.
Lastly, Alan Caruba:
Muslims Killing Muslims
Don’t feel bad if you can’t tell a Sunni Muslim from a Shiite Muslim. It has been a source of confusion for many people outside the world of Islam. If Bret Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Wall Street Journal is right, we are witnessing “The Muslim Civil War.”
Here’s a quick lesson regarding the two sects within Islam. Suffice to say that the Sunnis are the vast majority throughout the Middle East and in nations where Islam is the predominant religion. The greatest concentration of Shiites is found in Iran and Iraq. Both Hezbollah and Hamas, Palestinians, are pledged to destroy Israel, are Shiite.
Islam was invented by Mohammed in the seventh century, an amalgam of pagan beliefs common to Arab tribes in Arabia and a light overlay of Judaism with practices such as the prohibition against eating the meat of pigs. In its earliest years, Mohammed instructed converts to face toward Jerusalem when praying. After Jewish tribes in Arabia refused to accept him as the new prophet of God, he slaughtered them and Mecca became the center of Islam. He had some knowledge of Christianity but disparaged it and, in time, embraced a hatred for all “infidels” (unbelievers) unless they too converted.