There are few things that confound Evangelical Christians like the love affair the world seems to have with the idea of embracing Islam as a religion of peace. Muslim sympathizers abound; and it seems so often, when there is something outrageous that happens abroad or even on our own soil, we are told it has nothing to do with Islam; after all, Islam is a “religion of peace.”
You’re Only Allowed To Say “Islam” If You Can Tie Them To ISIS
The San Bernadino shooters seemed to be a notable exception in the media. Once the FBI found what they believed were attributable influences on the shooters’ ideologies by ISIS, then they were able to speak freely of the shooters as Islamic; the difference, as far as it seems to pan out in typical fashion in the media, is that once they identified the ISIS connection, they were able to refer to them as radical Muslims, distinguishing them from “normal” Muslims (which would be all the other Muslims – those of the “religion of peace”).
Opinions differ on exactly how strong these links really were. But there is a pattern in the media that wants to downplay acts of aggression by those who hold beliefs based on the Quran by trying to paint them as anything but “true Islam.” There seems to be an overarching goal of isolating the concepts of “Islam” and “acts of violence” from each other in the minds of the general public.
When a police officer was shot in Philadelphia “in the name of Allah,” the Philadelphia police started looking for “extremist ties” the shooter might have had to any group with “radical beliefs.” The shooter himself confessed to committing the crime “in the name of Allah.” But it seemed, once again, that the media and law enforcement were looking for ways to tie this shooter to radical “groups” rather than allowing life to linger in the simple concept that this shooter acted “in the name of Allah.” And when there was no direct link found, the Philadelphia police chief went overboard trying to say it was anything but an incident driven by a true Islamic faith.
You can’t blame them for trying
On the one hand, from the perspective of the government and of law enforcement, it seems perhaps a not-so-bad idea to try to marginalize those who carry out acts of terrorism as “radical” Muslims – as opposed to “normal” Muslims. If you can create a mindset in the thinking of the general public regarding “the radical versus normal Muslim,” you can create a divide in the mind of the general public between those who act badly and those who are “normal.” After all, there is some substance to a thought (often attributed to Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels) that If you repeat a lie many times, people are bound to start believing it.
The problem seems to be that, from a perspective of looking at belief causing action, the distinction between peaceful Islam and radical Islam being driven as a narrative by the media and the various government agencies may well be little more than a distinction without a difference.
The Distinction Is Around The Wrong Difference
According to Wikipedia, a general understanding of “a distinction without a difference” is
a type of logical fallacy where an author or speaker attempts to describe a distinction between two things although no difference exists. It is particularly used when a word or a phrase has connotations associated with it that one party to an argument prefers to avoid.
The reality of the situation is that the people in ISIS and these people committing these shootings on our soil all arrive at the same belief: that what they are doing is commanded in the teachings of the Quran.
The distinction the government and law enforcement want to make here is that the radical Muslims believe “wrong” things about what the Quran says; and, on the other hand, the peaceful Muslims – the “true” Muslims – believe the right things about what the Quran really tells us all to be and to do. And there are many peaceful Muslims who find a message of peace in the Qu’ran. But it doesn’t change the fact that the radicals believe the same book.
Unfortunately, so much of this uninformed opinion in the government and policing comes from both a blatant misunderstanding of what is actually in the Quran and also what normative methods of interpretation of the various conflicting passages typically is. When combined with Islamic understandings of when and how it is ok to “massage the truth” to advance their cause, it is easy to see why a liberal-minded politician will want to believe that Islam is a religion of peace. They want to believe Islam is a religion of peace; because if it is not, we have a huge problem to deal with here that will only get worse, as it has been doing in Europe.
And if there are Muslims who want to use a guise of “Islam is a religion of peace” until they are entrenched at a critical mass in our society (where they can then push for the implementation of sharia) then they may well promote this idea that the politicians want to hear.
The combination of lack of will by the political class and the willingness to color the truth on the part of Muslims seeing the narrative as a means to an end of sharia is a deadly combination for the long-term picture of constitutional government.
There ARE Peaceful Muslims
Now, there are a couple points that do need to be made for the sake of fairness and balance. One reality is that the vast majority of Muslims in North America are peace-loving people. The vast majority do not believe that violence is appropriate. When the police officer was shot by the radical in Philadelphia, for instance, there were Muslims marching in solidarity with the police; they were protesting what they believed was a corruption of their religion and desired way of life as Americans. And I will be among the first to say that for those Muslims who truly believe their religion is a religion of peace, and who truly oppose these violent acts, I stand with you. God bless you as you fight for peace. You have a tall task, and people need to be aware that you are in the majority of the Muslim community.
The reality, though, is that both groups of people – peaceful Muslims and radical Muslims alike – truly believe that the Quran tells them to do what they do. Both sides act on the basis of faith in the Quran as the revealed word of God; they only differ in their opinions about how that Quran is to be correctly interpreted.
Christians deal with crazies, too. Most believers bristle when the liberal critics bring up their poster child of “hateful Christianity,” the Westboro Baptist Church. One look at the Huffington Post page will show you all the hateful and hurtful things this church does in the name of Christianity (or at least, their particular flavor of “Christianity”). Most groups who call themselves Christian would say that Westboro is misguided at best, and perhaps even a cult at worst. But people who believe the bible and have a much different view of how to interpret it do not pretend that the people at Westboro deny the bible as the word of God. They acknowledge that Westboro believes the bible and pulls its message from the same book. Normal Christians only maintain that Westboro wrongly comes to their conclusions because of reading the same bible, believes the same bible as from God, but wrongly reads it with a mangled slant and a mangled understanding.
Liberal-Minded People Don’t Get It. And It Seems Perhaps They Don’t WANT To Get It.
When it comes to the public relations campaign and Islam, it’s a different story and a different standard. The distinction made between “wrong” beliefs from the Quran and “right” beliefs about the Quran in the propaganda campaign from the government and from law enforcement is, at best, misguided. It ignores the reality that these people are all Islamic believers, and that they are all believers in the Quran. The radicals believe the Quran every bit as much as the peaceful Muslims do; they find support for their position at least as easily in the Quran as peaceful Muslims do for their peaceful position. They all pull their message from the same book; but with a different slant.
But government and law enforcement want to lead people to accept that those who believe “wrong things” about the Quran get those beliefs from “bad influences” (like ISIS) rather than from the book itself. They seem to miss how hard it is to pull peace out of that book when any responsible Islamic method of interpretation is applied. Again, many, many Muslims feel it is not impossible to do this. But the texts and the principals of interpretation (even as spelled out in the Quran) itself make finding peace in that book an uphill climb.
So Which Is “True Islam?”
Perhaps the human heart and conscience enlighten many in the Islamic community to see the message of peace in the book in spite of what it says. But there are many who (seemingly more easily, and based on Islamic scholarly interpretation) find the message of conquest in the covers of the same book as the overarching principal and goal of Islam.
In fact, it might be argued that saying ISIS represents “radical Islam” is rather like saying that the Pope represents “radical Catholicism.” Liberals, peaceful Muslims and those without much faith of any kind at all might not want to hear it. But once you really study the Quran and Islam, it’s hard to miss.
And until our society comes to grips with this reality, many well-intentioned but misguided individuals will be bending over backwards trying to make peace with an ideology that has an end goal not of peace and coexistence, but of domination and submission.