Two Faces of Islam . . . Still Smiling
Why All Muslims Benefit From Terrorism
By David Wood
hungry toddler woke me up this morning. After making his breakfast, I turned on
my computer and found that
had just been struck by terrorists. As I watched news clips for the next few
hours, I noticed that, for many in the West, the terror attacks brought back
painful memories of September 11th, 2001. For me it was a little
different. My thoughts weren’t drawn to the attacks against the
and the Pentagon, but to an attack on a local mosque that took place shortly
the 9-11 attacks, a few enraged vandals smashed the windows of the Islamic
. When the pastor of a nearby church saw the students vandalizing the mosque, he
called the police. Later in the day, police and school officials held a meeting
to help ease some of the tension. After the meeting, an angry attendee caused a
brief panic when he claimed that Islam is a religion of violence and bloodshed,
and that the terrorists were only doing what they were commanded to do in the
Qur’an. Several people (including myself) argued against him, confidently
assuring the man that Islam is actually a religion of peace.
beliefs about Islam have changed since then (mostly because I’ve studied
Islam). Nevertheless, I recently realized why I had been so quick to defend the
Muslim religion. Over the years, I’ve known several Muslims, and they have all
been kind, peaceful individuals. Indeed, despite the popular portrait of Muslims
burning flags and desecrating images of George Bush, the majority of Muslims are
normal, faithful, peaceful people, going about their daily lives with no
intention of blowing up buildings or of burning anyone’s flag. Many in the
West deny this, but they typically do so because they have never so much as talked
to a Muslim.
benevolent nature of these Muslims has a profound psychological effect on
Westerners. It causes us to say, "Wait a minute. Islam can’t be bad,
because Muslims are such nice people. Thus, the terrorists who blow up buildings
and subways must be extremists." Once we have convinced ourselves of
this, we may even find ourselves defending Islam, as I once did. We know that
people are angry at terrorists, and we know that some of these angry people may
want to take out their anger on Muslims. So we end up defending Islam in order
to protect our Muslim friends. While protecting people is certainly a noble
goal, defending Islam is an entirely different story.
someone were to ask me, "David, do you believe that Islam is a religion of
peace?" my answer would not be "Yes" or "No." Rather,
my response would be, "First tell me what you mean when you say
‘Islam,’ for it is a term that is used in different ways." If by
"Islam" we mean the religion that is practiced by more than a billion
people around the world, I could reasonably answer with a qualified
"Yes," because it is a religion of peace for many people (though not
for all). But if by "Islam" we mean the religion taught by Muhammad,
I would have to respond with a resounding "No."
this point my Muslim readers will be saying to themselves, "What does this
infidel mean? There is only one Islam, perfectly preserved in the Holy Qur’an
from the time it was given to Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel."
However, much like the idea that the Qur’an has been perfectly preserved, the
idea that Islam has only one face is completely false. There has always been a
psychological crisis in Islam, and if I were to diagnose it as having a
particular mental illness, I would probably argue that it suffers from Multiple
Personality Disorder. Islam has never been able to decide whether it wants
to live in peace with unbelievers, or to pile their severed, unbelieving heads
into a giant pyramid. I’m sure many would disagree here, but they would be
disagreeing with one of the most empirically verifiable facts in the universe.
Think about it. One Muslim beheads an innocent woman to protest the war in
, while another Muslim curses him for slaying the innocent. One group of Muslims
flies an aircraft into a building, while another group condemns the attack. One
Muslim detonates a bomb on a bus filled with passengers, while another Muslim
says on the evening news, "Islam is a religion of peace." Each side
quotes the Qur’an to support its actions. However, it may be even more
important to note that each of them is following the example set by Muhammad.
reason that Islam suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder is that its founder
also suffered from this disorder. I don’t mean this to be taken literally, of
course. It is only meant to describe a peculiar phenomenon that went on in
Muhammad’s head. When Muhammad first began receiving his
"revelations," many of his neighbors in the city of
took it upon themselves to mock and persecute him. Muhammad was a threat both
to their immoral lifestyles and to their source of wealth (the pagan idols of
the city brought plenty of revenue), and so he had to be stopped, or at least
discredited. During this period, Muhammad was humble, devout in many ways,
obedient to the message handed down to him, faithful in giving to the poor, and,
in general, a fine moral example. In essence, he was like the many fine examples
of dedicated Muslims we see in the world today. He preached a religion of peace,
and the hadiths we have from this period reflect his peaceful temperament.
something happened. Muhammad fled
and moved to
, where his political power rapidly increased. Soon he and his followers began
raiding caravans to support the fledgling religion, and, while
Muhammad’s enemies multiplied, so did his followers. What followed can only be
described as a reign of terror for those who refused to submit to Islam. Both
men and women were slaughtered for writing satirical poems against Muhammad, and
those who left the Islamic faith were exterminated. One woman was murdered in
the dark for writing a poem against Muhammad; after she was slain, Muhammad
declared that "Two goats won’t butt their heads about her."
Hundreds of Jews were beheaded (after surrendering) for standing against
Muhammad, and their wives and children were sold into slavery. A
blind man who was reportedly more than a hundred years old had his head split
open for saying that, if he could only see, he would throw a handful of dust at
Muhammad. When a man named Uqba was about to be killed by Muslims
and showed concern for his family by asking, "But who will look after my
children, O Muhammad?" Muhammad answered by telling the doomed man that
Hell would take care of them. (For more on Muhammad’s violent
acts, see "Murdered By Muhammad.")
are, of course, far more examples of violence than the ones listed here, but
these should be sufficient to provide a picture of Muhammad’s idea of how
Muslims should treat those who refuse to submit to Islam. Was Islam a religion
of peace for the 600-900 Jewish men and boys whose heads were piled into
trenches after they had surrendered? Was Islam a religion of peace for the woman
who was stabbed to death in the midst of her five children? Was it a religion of
peace for anyone who dared to speak out against Muhammad? No, it
wasn’t. When Muhammad finally had a band of dedicated followers who would obey
his violent commands without question, Islam was not a religion of peace.
that we have approached this question regarding the nature of Islam using a
basic historical analysis. Discussions about Islam typically revolve around
certain verses in the Qur’an, but such discussions are often fruitless. The
reason for this is that the Qur’an is very inconsistent in its approach
towards unbelievers, due in large part to Muhammad’s own inconsistency. In
conversations about Islam, a Muslim may argue that, according to the Qur’an, "There
is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). A critic may reply with a very
Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor
do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the
religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the
tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection
this the Muslim replies, "Yes, it says to fight those who do not believe,
but it is referring to unbelievers who attack Islam." Thus, according to
many Muslims, Islam fights, but only in self-defense. So who’s right? The
solution to the debate can be found in a historical examination of Islam. It is
true that Muslims are only permitted to attack when threatened, but history
shows what the early Muslims considered a threat. Anything other than complete
submission to Islam was regarded as a threat to Islam, and so anything other
than complete submission was met with extreme hostility. Even poetry and song
lyrics, when used against Muhammad, were enough to warrant a sentence of death.
the verses in the Qur’an that teach Muslims to live in peace should be
examined within the historical context of Muhammad’s life, for it is this life
that sheds light on an apparently ambiguous message. This historical context
also sheds light on modern aspects of Islam, which ultimately derive from the
life of its founder.
instance, more than thirteen centuries ago, the relatively peaceful Muhammad
because of intense persecution. As he fled the city, he left the path of peace
farther and farther behind him. He eventually returned at the head of an army,
and few were brave enough to oppose him. Islamic law was suddenly supreme, with
a host of bloody tales to warn its enemies. A similar phenomenon occurs in the
world today. When Muslims are in the minority (as they are in
) the message is always "Let us live in peace with one another, for Islam
is a religion of tolerance and understanding." Then, once Islam has spread
throughout the country, the message suddenly changes to "Anyone who stands
against the Prophet is worthy of death!"
enough, this tactic has been remarkably successful for Islam. Despite more than
a thousand years of bloodshed, many people are convinced that Muhammad was a
gentle, humble man who never harmed anyone, and that Islam teaches its followers
to be at peace with everyone who hasn’t declared war on them. Then, when
someone like Osama bin Laden organizes a group of Muslims in an attack against
thousands of innocent people, everyone says that he must be insane, and people
around the world rush to defend Islam.
result is simply amazing. Muslims commit acts of terror in
, and countless other countries around the world, and it actually causes certain
people to support Islam even more! Think about it. A Muslim blows up a bus, but
people don’t want other Muslims to be persecuted for it, so they start
defending Islam. Legislators are among the most active in this regard. Laws
threatening free speech about Islam are popping up everywhere (even in the
), declaring that statements against Islam will not be
is on the verge of sending pastors to prison for quoting passages of the
terrorist attacks in
, strangely enough, will help Islam grow even stronger. There will be a brief
period of outrage against Islam, but once the smoke has cleared (both literally
and figuratively), the world will once again rush to defend Islam, and more
bills will be passed, "protecting" Muslims from those who would speak
out against Muhammad’s "religion of peace." No matter how violent
Islam becomes, as long as people fail to recognize that its two faces are part
of the same head (and that both faces are calmly smiling as new laws make Islam untouchable),
Muhammad’s empire of faith will thrive in a world of false tolerance.
Osama bin Laden isn’t as crazy as everyone thinks, for his plan seems to be
working perfectly. His attacks are strengthening Islam’s position in the
world. In a curious way, bin Laden is more dedicated to true Islam than
most Muslims are. If Muhammad told Muslims to fight in the name of God and
demonstrated his meaning by killing men, women, and children for even minor
resistance, what should a dedicated Muslim do? Should devout Muslims live in
peace with the infidels around them, or should they follow Muhammad’s example
by murdering the infidels in their beds?
very happy that most Muslims are willing to live in peace with their neighbors.
Yet we have to be honest here. Benevolent Muslims aren’t peaceful because they
are following the example set by Muhammad. They are peaceful because they’ve
chosen to do what’s right, and because they are willing to live far better
lives than Muhammad himself lived. In fact, many Muslims are such kind,
peaceful, and gentle people that they seem to be following the example set by
another great religious leader—one who died on the cross for the sins of the
world and rose from the dead to prove his message. This man gave his listeners a
sober warning: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in
sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you
will recognize them" (Matthew 7:15). And, may I add, we should also
watch out for false religions, which come to us crying "Peace!
Peace!" when they are built on a foundation of murder and bloodshed.
Where Is the Gandhi of Islam?
Jihad Comes to Small Town, USA
Islam and Terrorism
quotations are taken from the M. H. Shakir Translation. The Bible quotation is
from the New International Version.
1 According to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad’s earliest biographer, Muhammad
personally took part in 27 of these raids [Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, (The
Life of Muhammad), A. Guillaume, tr. (New York: Oxford University Press,
1980), p. 659]. I highly recommend Ibn Ishaq’s work for anyone who is
interested in early Islam.
2 Ibid., p. 676.
3 Ibid., p. 464: “Then they surrendered, and the apostle
[Muhammad] confined them in
. . . Then the apostle went out to the market of
(which is still a market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them
and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in
batches. . . . There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high
as 800 or 900.”
4 Ibid., p. 372-373.
5 Ibid., p. 308.
6 Thus, if a Muslim were to kill me for writing this article, he
would be in keeping with the teachings of Muhammad.
7 For examples of such laws, see “My Right to Offend a Fool”
and “Controversial Hate Crimes Law Effective Jan. 1.”
8 See “Death Knell of the West.”
9 For one example of Muslims killing a victim in bed, see Ibn Ishaq,
p. 483: “His wife came out and asked who they were and they told her that they
were Arabs in search of supplies. She told them that their man was here and that
they could come in. When we entered we bolted the door of the room on her and
ourselves fearing lest something should come between us and him. His wife
shrieked and warned him of us, so we ran at him with our swords as he was on his