Friday, June 03, 2005

Ask the Mullah: Spreading Islam by Force? 

Over at ArabNews.com they have a Q&A section for their in-house Islamic authorities. Here's an example:

Q. Could you please explain why Islam was spread by fighting battles and the use of force in its early days? Why did it not rely on addressing the mind, and using logic?
--Tasneem Sorour
Interesting question, I hope Tasneem is allowed to keep both of his thumbs.

But since he asked, I'd like to see the answer too. I am a little puzzled, though, by his apparent assumption that Islam's reliance on force for persuasion was limited to its "early days." Here are excerpts of the answer:

A. It is absolutely wrong to suggest that Islam spread by using force. Never did Islam resort to force or pressure of any sort to convert anyone.
Well that's a relief to hear. I had a feeling all that "jihad" business was a crock.

Nor were there any temptations offered to people who convert to Islam.
It seems the tax breaks weren't actually all that great.

Islam started in Makkah, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) remained there 13 years advocating his message in the face of very stiff opposition and persecution of Muslims. Throughout Muslims were not allowed to use arms even in self-defense.
Wow! Muhammad was the first pacifist! I'm so glad they're blaring sermons about this non-violence in all the mosques. Reading the translations of the words of Islamic leaders over at MEMRI just brings such a sense of peace to my heart.

When the Prophet immigrated to Madinah and established the Muslim state there, the unbelievers launched several campaigns to exterminate Islam and the Muslims. Therefore, Muslims had to fight back in self- defense.
But without weapons right? Or are we limiting the definition of "the early years" to the first 13 years out of about 13 centuries?

As for subsequent battles, you only need to read the history of the period to realize that Islam was always at the receiving end of attacks by powerful enemies. But Muslims managed to win victory because they were true to their faith and ready to defend it with their lives. The same applies today, with Islam being the target of superpowers trying to suppress its advocates. But nowadays Muslims are not winning because they have not yet reached the same standard of strong faith and dedication as their ancestors.
So there! I hope the superpowers are listening, so they can stop all this picking on Islam and then its adherents won't have to "defend" it with their lives. Especially before they strenghen their faith and dedication any more.

It seems clear there is a disconnect between the apologetics printed here, and the reality of Islam's methods. If experience is any guide, then the warm, Islamic fuzzies we're being treated to here are just the usual, pleasant English-langauge mask obscuring the underlying Arabic-language vitriol. But I'd like to believe it's possible that someday, mainstream Islamic apologists will start fooling themselves instead of us. I'd like to believe that this fairy tale of a non-violent, peace-loving religion is truly how they wish it to be, and that in so wishing they could somehow bring their followers out of their violent dark ages. If they have to lie to themselves to do it, that's fine with me.
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