The Differences Among UsThere are those who suggest we are all one people. Others suggest we must learn to love one another. Still others believe that we can all live together in harmony! I, too, wish for a world that operates on principles of peace, tolerance and cooperation. Sadly, this has never been the case nor is it likely in the foreseeable future-we are simply quite different from one another.**
The context of this piece resides with Islamic practitioners who are upset with Christianity and Judaism and Western values. The upset has been with us for years and most recently became international headlines with the Danish cartoon affair. Last month the Pope apparently offended some Islamic followers. As Ilana Mercer indicated, "That Islam may be a closed and irrational system, impermeable to reform, has concerned this Pope for some time. As a confidant recently put it, the issue for the Holy Father is how to deal with "a religion whose principle is based on God's word-not on the words of men, but God's word delivered directly to Mohammed-which can't be interpreted, can't be changed, can't be adapted." That Islam counsels conquest, not coexistence, is ultimately what gives the Pope pause.1
Some of us in the West are also pausing for a moment to ponder what needs to be said. I suggest that we consider the world is in the midst of an ideology war that has its basis in religious fervor. Within this context is the notion that cultures are also colliding in terms of behavioral values accepted by varying groups of people across the planet. It is imperative that we acknowledge that multiple cultures comprise the social fabric of this world community. For purposes of this discussion I suggest that culture be defined as: "The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression...The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization".2
My basic premise is that there are significant differences between the Judeo-Christian culture and the Islamic culture. It is these perceived and interpreted differences that are the root cause of much of today's terror and violence perpetrated against the West. Understanding that differences do exist, acknowledging that they exist and then being willing to take appropriate actions is the reason we must finally face this clear and present danger. Proper identification of the problem is the only way one can develop appropriate and effective answers. To continue to accurately identify the problem or to ignore or deny its existence can only mean we are unwilling to defend our way of life. I submit for consideration that this is our generation's trial and, therefore, test.
The following represents but a few of the differences that do exist between our two value systems. There are many more that will be presented in due time. This piece represents the beginning of a much-needed international discussion.
"Islam of today differs from the Islam of yesterday. Instead of a thriving era of the Abbasids, we are experiencing a terrorist era of Wahhabism. Wahhabism is an obscure strand of Islam with fanatical followers who remained "out of sight and out of mind" until Saudi Arabia struck it rich with oil."3
"The radicalism of Wahhabi Islam demands a concerted effort by moderate Muslims and Muslim nations alike if ever Islam is to survive to usher another era of peace and prosperity. To succeed, we must chart a strategy to wrestle control of Makkah and Medina from the hands of the 5 million extremist Najd-bred Wahhabis and trust these two Holy Cities to an International Council of Muslim Nations with the country of Jordan as the host."3
Brigitte Gabriel has suggested the following: "Today, radical Islam's war rages in varying degrees of intensity throughout the world, not just against Christians and Jews in the west, but also against Hindus, Buddhists, Copts, indeed all non-Muslim "infidels", Their degree of zealotry even has them attacking other denominations within Islam itself. Islamic radicals are instigating and perpetuating terrorist campaigns, insurgencies, civil wars, minority suppression, ethnic cleansing and/or genocide in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chad, Chechnya, Dagestan, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Gambia, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kashmir, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, territories administered by the "Palestinian Authority," Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Spain, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, The United States of America, Yemen, and Zanzibar. The rest of the world is held hostage to fear.4
Contrary to some news media, this has become an international problem that stretches far beyond Iraq, Israel, Syria, Iran and the United States. This is not an isolated problem; rather it has become global. Neither did this value conflict begin with the second Iraqi war-it has been with us for decades. We are just now finally willing to tell the truth and call it for what it is. Political correctness, fear of upsetting others not like us and general fear of retribution has up to now prevented us from speaking out. That concept now sleeps "with the fishes" and individuals around the world are stepping up to ask critical questions as well as report the truth-finally. The cartoon affair and the Pope Misspeak have opened the door for analysis.
These incidents also spotlight a total lack of reciprocity by Muslims. The Saudi government bans Bibles, crosses and Stars of David, while Muslims routinely publish disgusting cartoons of Jews... The basic message - "You Westerners no longer have the privilege to say what you will about Islam, the Prophet and the Koran; Islamic law rules you too".5 The importance of this analysis is to identify differences rather than blame either side for the existence of same. Once differences have been clearly presented, it is incumbent upon us to determine how we are to respond. Human beings do have a choice in the matter of what they will value. This statement alone resonates in Judeo-Christian cultures but not so in certain Islamic cultures. The disagreement with this one simple statement manifests itself in direct behavior. This behavior causes conflict between the two groups who hold different beliefs. Let us examine some additional dissimilarities.
The Language of Islam"You see, so much is covered by politically correct language that, in fact, the truth has been lost. For example, when we speak about Islam in the West, we try to use our own language and terminology. We speak about Islam in terms of democracy and fundamentalism, in terms of parliamentarism and all kinds of terms, which we take from our own dictionary. One of my professors and one of the greatest orientalists in the world says that doing this is like a cricket reporter describing a cricket game in baseball terms. We cannot use for one culture or civilization the language of another. For Islam, you've got to use the language of Islam".6
Driving Principles of Islam"Every Moslem has to acknowledge the fact that there is only one God.
But it's not enough to say that there is only one God. A Moslem has to acknowledge the fact that there is one God and Mohammed is his prophet. These are the fundamentals of the religion that without them, one cannot be a Moslem.
But beyond that, Islam is a civilization. It is a religion that gave first and foremost a wide and unique legal system that engulfs the individual, society and nations with rules of behaviour. If you are Moslem, you have to behave according to the rules of Islam which are set down in the Koran and which are very different than the teachings of the Bible."6
I am not a biblical scholar but let me use the words of someone who is most knowledgeable to make this most critical point-our ideologies and thus our religious and social culture are as different as night is from day.
"The Bible leads to salvation. It leads to salvation in two ways...In Judaism, it leads to national salvation - not just a nation that wants to have a state, but a nation that wants to serve God. That's the idea behind the Hebrew text of the Bible...But the key word is salvation. Personal salvation means that each individual is looked after by God, Himself, who leads a person through His word to salvation. This is the idea in the Bible, whether we are talking about the Old or the New Testament."6
As religions, both Judaism and Christianity in their fundamentals speak about honoring the image of God and the hope of salvation. These are the two basic fundamentals. Now let's move to the essence of Islam. "Islam was born with the idea that it should rule the world.
Let's look, then, at the differences among these three religions. Judaism speaks about national salvation - namely that at the end of the story, when the world becomes a better place, Israel will be in its own land, ruled by its own king and serving God. Christianity speaks about the idea that every single person in the world can be saved from his sins, while Islam speaks about ruling the world. I can quote here in Arabic, but there is no point in quoting Arabic, so let me quote a verse in English. "Allah sent Mohammed with the true religion so that it should rule over all the religions...The idea, then, is not that the whole world would become a Moslem world at this time, but that the whole world would be subdued under the rule of Islam."6 Although quite incomplete in terms of an argument, the preceding directs our attention to some significant differences existing between Judeo-Christian beliefs and certain Islamic beliefs. There is much more to be said.
"Religious fanatics, regardless of what name they give their jealous god, invariably have one thing in common: no sense of humor, particularly about themselves. It's hard to imagine Torquemada taking a joke well.
Today's Islamists seem to have not even a sense of irony. They fail to see the richness of the following sequence. The pope makes a reference to a 14th-century Byzantine emperor's remark about Islam imposing itself by the sword, and to protest this linking of Islam and violence:
- In the West Bank and Gaza, Muslims attack seven churches.
- In London, the ever-dependable radical Anjem Choudary tells demonstrators at Westminster Cathedral that the Pope is now condemned to death.
- In Mogadishu, Somali religious leader Abubukar Hassan Malin calls on Muslims to "hunt down" the Pope. The Pope not being quite at hand, they do the next best thing: shoot dead, execution-style, an Italian nun who worked in a children's hospital.
- How dare you say Islam is a violent religion? I'll kill you for it is not exactly the best way to go about refuting the charge. But of course, refuting is not the point here. The point is intimidation. In today's world, religious sensitivity is a one-way street. The rules of the road are enforced by Islamic mobs and abjectly followed by Western media, politicians and religious leaders. However, the "inconvenient" truth is that after centuries of religious wars, Christendom long ago gave it up. It is a simple and undeniable fact that the violent purveyors of monotheistic religion today are self-proclaimed warriors for Islam who shout "God is great" as they slit the throats of infidels -- such as those of the flight crews on Sept. 11, 2001 -- and are then celebrated as heroes and martyrs."7
Some would argue that "they" accept the existence of cultural differences; therefore, we must practice tolerance. Why? It seems that in the West we take it as a given that this concept rules the day. It would be counter to our professed democratic behaviors as well as antithetical to our Judeo-Christian belief systems if we did not appreciate differences. The entire concept of tolerance, as practiced today, needs to be examined. Since when do we in the West have to bend to behavior that is contrary to our agreed upon rules? Dr. Temkin presents a point of view worthy of consideration: "In general, America and Europe take pride in their tolerance and acceptance of immigrant societies or minority groups. Both nations express deep concern for the protection of individual rights and are known for graciously accommodating the needs of minorities. They understand that minorities want to be respected, accommodated, and protected. Recently, in regards to Islam, the efforts to respect, accommodate, and protect minority wishes have been subjected to a new and most challenging obstacle. The new challenge is known as "Islamic anger" which comes as a result of "insulting Islam". "Muslim anger" has produced a rapid evolution of societal standards. The fear of initiating an Islamic insult, leading to anger and subsequent aggression have effectively served to modify societal behaviors, and have thwarted previous freedoms, standards, and attitudes. Newspapers must be careful what they publish, artists what they draw, speakers what they say, researchers what they write and now a Mozart opera is no longer to be performed because one of the scenes might cause insult to Islam."8
Intentional behavior begins with some thoughts. These evolve into a set of beliefs. It is this structure of any culture that generates actions. The actions are consistent with their beliefs and those that are not so are considered inappropriate and are addressed in kind. We have today two diverging cultures; each with its own teachings and behaviors. This in turn sets the stage for conflicts.
It is not my place to suggest to anyone that one set of beliefs is better than another-this is a personal decision. However, I do suggest that once you have decided, it is imperative that you stand up for your decision. It is critical that you are clear in your beliefs-clarity is what enables people to act without remorse or hesitation. The next step is to defend your beliefs, with words and actions-this requires courage and a willingness to not allow fear to dictate your moment-to-moment actions.
End Notes** This paper represents the first of several dedicated to better understanding what is going on in the battle of today's ideologies. The discussion that follows will be interpreted in the "eyes of the beholder". I am sharing my point of view that is based upon research, analysis and interpretation given my cultural background. I make no attempt to be politically correct-if this is not consistent with your willingness to engage in such an endeavor, this piece is not for you and you should move on to another article.
1. Ilana Mercer, "Islam's Irrationality", Front page Magazine, September 28,2006
2. The American Heritage¨ Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
3. Farid N. Ghadry, http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20060920-090612-3074r.htm Islam is in danger, The Washington Times, September 21, 2006
4. Brigitte Gabriel, Because They hate, Front Page Magazine, September 25, 2006
5. Daniel Pipes, Islamic Law Rules You too, Jerusalem Post, September 27, 2006
6. Moshe Sharon, "The Agenda Of Islam-A War Between civilizations" http://www.betar.co.il December 24, 2003
7. Charles Krauthammer, "Tolerance: A two-way street", http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/21/AR2006092101513.html, September 22, 2006
8. Daryl Temkin, "What Muslims Want", Director of the Israel Education Institute September, 2006