President Obama tells us we should not be on our high horse and criticize Islam for the atrocities committed in the name of Allah by various Islamic radical groups today. After all, Christians committed atrocities in the name of Christ during the Crusades and the Inquisition, so who are we to condemn violence in the name of Islam?
The President has a point except for one very large fact; the Christian Religion of the 10th to the 16th century is not the same religion as we find today. From approximately 1650 to 1780 the Christian world went through the “Age of Enlightenment,” a period of time when civil and religious authority was challenged and ancient norms, customs and practices were questioned and many modernized.
All aspects of the Christian religion were challenged and the ancient beliefs in the governing royalty as deities anointed by God were replaced with more republican beliefs. The dominant and unquestioned authority of the regent and church went on the ash heap of history as did most brutal and savage customs of the pre-enlightenment period.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the political and religious leader of ISIS/ISIL, tells us he is chosen by Allah. Imagine a leader of a Christian country saying he or she is chosen by God to be our national political leader? Not since the 16th century would most Christians accept a statement like that.
Before the “Age of Enlightenment,” many of the more ancient and brutal customs and practices currently found in Islam were found in Christianity. Comparing the two belief systems today is like comparing Thomas Edison’s first light bulb to a light-emitting diode. The blame America and Christians first and foremost crowd fails to admit that things have changed for the better since the 10th to the 16th century. The actions of the Inquisition would never be allowed today in a Christian country but are happening today in the Caliphate called The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) and also in more progressive Islamic countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Islam is approximately 650 years younger than Christianity and thousands of years younger than Judaism or Buddhism, so it has not matured to the same degree as others.
A devout and strict Muslim will counsel the fact the Holy Koran, “The Book,” was written with input from those who heard the actual words of Allah from Mohamed’s lips and thus above questioning or interpretation. The holy books of the other religions, according to Islamic scholars, were written down hundreds of years after being given by God, thus polluted by the interpretation of imperfect man. This unwavering belief in the strict interpretation of the Holy Koran makes it extremely difficult to modernize and update practices found in Islam.
Islam, along with most of the world’s religions, looks at suicide as a sin. The American military and others have faced hundreds if not thousands of human bombs or suicide bombers. Suicide bombers attest to the radical fringe of Islam’s ability to interpret the teachings of the Prophet to fit their current needs. Even radical Islam can allow interpretation of the teachings of Mohamed if it is in their best interests, so why not use that license to do away with decapitating infidels or stoning women?
Islamic states that hold onto what we would call ancient and outdated forms of government need Islam to remain in power. Most Kings with actual power are found in the Islamic world. The kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia and others actually rule; Kings in western countries, Great Britain for example, have long been figure heads with no actual power to govern. The unquestioned authority of the monarchy and church dissolved in Christianity under the self-evaluation of the enlightenment.
Islamic countries were fairly closed societies up to a few hundred years ago and have not benefited from opening the religion to the positive effects of self-questioning and evaluation. As Islamic states educate their citizens and as modern communications open the minds of the followers of The Book, more people will question the strictest interpretations of the Koran. We have seen other religions move into this century and become stronger and remain relevant; Islam would benefit from a good strong self-analysis.
The brutal and medieval actions of Islamic groups today in the name of Allah only degrade and diminish Islam and will damage a great religion in the future. Once again, it must be Islam itself allowing itself to open the door and step into the 21st century.