Since with a present day examination of

Since
September 11, 2001 The United States of America, and its citizens, have highly scrutinized
the religion of Islam. Some would claim that this is just scrutiny, pointing to
extreme acts of violence committed in the name of Allah all over the Globe. Others
would point out that these are just members of radical arms of an otherwise
peaceful religion. This article will address both of these ideologies by
investigating, first a brief history of Islam and analyzing the use of violence
in a historical context. Then it will look toward contemporary scholars on both
sides of the isle.  Finally, it will
conclude with a present day examination of the use of violence in Islam, both offensively
and defensively, and the justification for such actions. For this analysis I
will be looking at the religion of Islam as a set of ideologies and less as a
religion. I am examining this as an outsider with no firsthand knowledge of the
religion.  

The
Islamic ideology is about 1400 years old, and came into existence around 610 AD
after the prophet Muhammad is purported to have had a divine revelation.  To put this into perspective Christianity is
said to have come around some 500 years earlier, however, this is hard to
pinpoint exactly as there is not an exact date pointed to in the New Testament.
Judaism is even older still, claiming its founding somewhere between the 9th
and 5th centuries BCE. Needless to say in the eyes of religious scholars
Islam is still in its adolescent stages. Relatively early in its existence
Islam entered into what is known as “The Golden Age of Islam.” Sometime around
800 AD the Islamic World, then centered in what is now known as the Middle
East, entered into a state of extreme economic development and scientific
advances (King). During this time the Islamic World was generally at peace,
with few internal struggles and mostly unperturbed by the outside world. During
this time the Islamic world adhered to what is known as Sharia law. Sharia law
is part of Islamic ideological law that is partly formed from the Hadith and
the Quran (King).  It is important at
this point to understand that unlike Christianity and Judaism that derive their
religious lifestyles directly from scripture, Islam does not. Rather, it looks
at both scripture, the Quran, and the life of the prophet Muhammad, the Hadith
(Calder).  Within contemporary Islam the
usage of Sharia is used in four forms:

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  “Divine,
abstract sharia: God’s plan for mankind and the norms of behavior
which should guide the Islamic community. Muslims of different perspectives
agree in their respect for the abstract notion of sharia, but they differ
in how they understand the practical implications of the term.”
“Classical sharia:
the body of rules and principles elaborated by Islamic jurists during the
first centuries of Islam.”
“Historical sharia(s):
the body of rules and interpretations developed throughout Islamic
history, ranging from personal beliefs to state legislation and varying
across an ideological spectrum. Classical sharia has often served as a
point of reference for these variants, but they have also reflected the
influences of their time and place.”
“Contemporary sharia(s):
the full spectrum of rules and interpretations that are developed and
practiced at present.”

“A
related term which was borrowed from European usage in the late 19th century,
is used in the Muslim world to refer to a legal system in the context of a
modern state” (Calder)

            It is in 1095, when Pope Urban II implores the Christians
of the eastern Roman Empire to spread Christianity into the east that the first
and most well-known conflict between Islam and Christianity began. The
following struggle between Islam and Christianity is known as the Crusades and
is what most laymen are familiar with. For the better part of the next two centuries
these two conflicting ideologies waged extreme war against each other over the
disputed lands of the Middle East. (Hallam) It is this set of wars that most
agree marks the begging of the struggle between Islam and the rest of the
world. It is from here that we will begin our investigation of violence and Islam.

            An attack by a foreign entity to most is a just cause for
violet retaliation. Most scholars do not look at the acts of violence committed
during the Crusades as anything but just, rather they examine the structural violence
within the Islamic world as the main issue. Structural violence as describe by
Yves Winter, from the University of Minnesota, is inherently built into the governing
systems of civilization. Often these acts of violence go entirely undetected as
they are built into the very systems that govern us. Winter goes on to clarify
that this form of violence is,

“The
failure to prevent injury, pain, and suffering is as relevant to social and
political analysis as is their perpetration. According to this notion of
structural violence, everything that hinders individuals from developing their
capabilities, dispositions, or possibilities counts as violence. This includes
not only specific forms of targeted discrimination but also more diffuse forms
of inequality.” (Winter)

Through
this lens, an examination of Sharia law could lead one to believe that being as
it is the governing law of the Islamic world that the Islam itself is in fact
inherently violent.  For example, with concerns
to freedom of ideology or thought within the Muslim world,

“If a person converts to Islam, or is
born and raised as a Muslim, then he or she will have full rights of
citizenship in an Islamic state.”
“Leaving Islam is a sin and a
religious crime. Once any man or woman is officially classified as Muslim,
because of birth or religious conversion, he or she will be subject to the
death penalty if he or she becomes an apostate, that is, abandons his or
her faith in Islam in order to become an atheist, agnostic or to convert
to another ideology. Before executing the death penalty, sharia demands
that the individual be offered one chance to return to Islam.”
“If a person has never been a Muslim,
and is not a kafir (infidel, unbeliever), he or she can live in
an Islamic state by accepting to be a dhimmi,
or under a special permission called aman. As a dhimmi or
under aman, he or she will suffer certain limitations of rights as a
subject of an Islamic state, and will not enjoy complete legal equality
with Muslims.”
“If a person has never been a Muslim,
and is a kafir (infidel, unbeliever), sharia demands that he or she should
be offered the choice to convert to Islam and become a Muslim; if he or
she rejects the offer, he or she may become a dhimmi. Failure to pay the
tax may lead the non-Muslim to either be enslaved, killed or ransomed if
captured.” (Abdullahi)

All these rules as set
out by the Quran are designed to hinder an individual from developing their
capabilities, dispositions, or possibilities. (Winter)

A further inspection of
Shari law in the Quran leads to Surah 4:34 which states;

“Men
have authority over women by right of what Allah has given one over the other
and what they spend for maintenance from their wealth. So righteous women are
devoutly obedient, guarding in the husband’s absence what Allah would have
them guard. But those wives from whom you fear arrogance – first advise
them; then if they persist, forsake them in bed; and finally, strike them.
But if they obey you once more, seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is
ever exalted and grand.”

Many interpret this verse
to in fact promote the beating of, and in extreme cases rape of, women whom the
man may find to be disobedient. This is a further attempt by the Islamic
ideology to control and inhibit the ability of many members to reach their full
potential. Many who are in favor of Sharia point that this is a dated law that
some have chosen to modify in some way or disregard entirely. However, a
further examination shows a continued subjugation of women in Islam.

“As
for those of your women who are guilty of lewdness, call to witness four of you
against them. And if they testify (to the truth of the allegation) then confine
them to the houses until death take them.” (Quran 4:15)

“Men
are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the
other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So
good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded.
As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds
apart, and scourge them.” (Quran 4:34)

Both are again examples
of structural violence as described by winter. Sharia Law also goes on to
discuss the other minority groups. In the eyes of the Quran homosexuality is a
sin, “For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a
people transgressing beyond bounds…. And we rained down on them a shower (of
brimstone)”(Quran)
            However,
these violet interpretations are followed mostly by Quranists, or those who
strictly and only follow the Quran. Most Quranists claim that the Hadith is not
acknowledged in the Quran as a source of a valid source of Islamic ideology.
Along with this strict interpretation of the Quran come a strict interpretation
of Jihad. In Arabic Jihad roughly translates to a noun meaning, “To strive, to
apply oneself, to struggle, to persevere.” To Quranists this generally means to
strive to please God. Scholars believe that the term originally was intended to
apply only to the local enemies of Islam. (Berkey)  However, extreme Quranist now apply the idea
of jihad to any enemy of Islam all around the world. In the eyes of the extreme
all those who are not devout followers of Islam are adversaries of Islam,

 “And were it not that Allah checks the people,
some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries,
churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned.
And Allah will surely support those who support Him” (Quran 22:40)

Javed
Ghamidi Pakistani Islamic modernist theologian splits just warfare into two categories;
“1. Against injustice and oppression; 2. Against rejecters of truth after it
has become evident to them.” (Ghamidi) Ghamidi goes on to explain that those
who do not fall under the strict interpretations of Quran can and will fall
into both categories. Such a statement lends again to the idea that the Islamic
ideology is an inherently violent one.  

There are many who do not
adhere to such strict interpretations. Although there is no acknowledge
pacifist branches of Islam many scholars point towards the Qurans tale of Cain
and Able, in which Cain strikes down Able and upon his death Able states, “If
thou dost stretch thy hand against me to slay me, it is not for me to stretch
my hand against thee to slay thee: for I do fear Allah” (Quran 5:28). In
this Quranic scholars see examples of pacifism.

To
further the argument that Islam is an ideology of peace and self-protection
there are several versus in the Quran that strictly limit the use of violence
and point to peace even among those who do not believe as they do:

  “You
may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you but do not aggress.
GOD does not love the aggressors.” (Quran 2:190)

“And
feed with food the needy wretch, the orphan and the prisoner, for love of Him”
(Quran, 76:8)

“Those
who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever
believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their
reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”
(Quran 2:62)

Scholars and proponents
of non-violent Islam point to these quotes as signs of peace and tolerance.  

For
this scholar it seems as though the cons out weigh the pros. In a system that
is inherently designed to subjugate and disenfranchise minorities and outsiders
the only interpretations can be that it, the system, is a violent system. While
a member of that system themselves do not condone or participate in explicitly violent
acts, participation in such a system further perpetuates the acts of violence,
inherent or otherwise. Much like those who did not outwardly oppose slavery in
early America, are themselves guilty of the violent act of slavery, so too are
those who actively participate in a violent system to blame.