Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jacob Thomas

After the Islamist terrorist group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out its murderous attack on various high-profile targets in Mumbai, as could be expected the media worldwide exerted considerable effort in attempting to understand and explain the tragic event. Of particular interest to me was to ascertain how the Arab media would react to and report the events.  It was not long before I found an interesting reflection on this latest terrorist attack.  The online daily Elaph posted an article on December 1, 2008 with this title, “An Increase in the Islamic Terrorist Danger Facing Europe and America.” (*) I have translated pertinent parts of the article to share with you and then added my analysis and comments.

“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Mumbai, India, several Western security agencies have been seriously reflecting on the following question: ‘What would prevent terrorists from perpetrating a similar attack in Europe and/or America?’ The agencies involved know they were unable to stop similar and even worse suicide attacks in the past.

“These fears and questions are legitimate and reflect the concern about those Muslims living in Europe and America who share the terrorists’ ideology. For we are convinced that after the 9-11-01 crime, no positive change has taken place among Muslims living in the West that would indicate a willingness to rid themselves of the belligerent ideologies and teachings which encourage them to hate the “Other” who is always consider a Kafir (Infidel)!

“We may conclude therefore that the Muslims’ ideas about Western civilization and the religion of the “Other” have not changed at all. In fact, the mounting numbers of “fatwas” (legal pronouncements,) and ideologies are responsible for the rise of the criminal and Irhabi groups. They are now multiplying due to the protection and support they have been receiving from Iran and Syria.  These governments use radical organizations to secure political gains, in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq.

“It is unfortunate that many Muslims have not been willing to engage in self-examination or in rethinking their traditional belief of regarding all “Others” as Kuffar (Infidels.)  They refuse to face the real facts surrounding their own conditions, and persist in blaming America, the West, and Israel for all their ills. At the same time, they ignore the fact that, throughout their history, their own terrorists engaged in bloody battles with other Muslims, charging their opponents with being traitors to authentic Islam.

“Therefore, no matter how many strict measures may be taken to prevent future terrorist attacks, it is likely they will happen in Europe and America --- God forbid --- because the Irhabi ideology is very much alive and attracts many who are of a criminal bent of mind, and who clothe their actions with the cloak of religion. It is certain that the material and moral losses of Muslims will continue, because of their inability to reform their thoughts, and to draw nearer to Allah, the Almighty who calls us to promote goodness, love, and peace in our interaction with all mankind, according to the principles of human brotherhood.”


The author of this article is very concerned about the effects of the Islamic teachings, that he calls ideologies, and which consider all non-Muslims as Infidels. Thus, as non-believers, they become targets for terrorist attacks. As he put it, “the Irhabi ideology is very much alive and attracts many who are of a criminal bent of mind, and who clothe their actions with the cloak of religion.”


It is very commendable for an Arab Muslim writer to go on record warning about the possible increase in the activities of Islamist terrorists against targets in Europe and America. Not only that, but he pointed to the presence of Muslim communities in both places as a cause for concern, since he believes the people in these communities have not changed their minds about “Others” even after the infamous “11 September Crime.”  He believes they have shown themselves unable to clear their psyches of the “belligerent ideologies and teachings” that cause them to hate the Kuffar, the Infidels.  He criticizes the fatwas continuing to be issued but doesn’t specifically name those issuing them. It is interesting that he frames his criticisms in terms of “ideologies” and “fatwas” and “Irhabi” groups as resulting in fear and hatred of the “Other.”  He is less willing to get further back to the source, which is Islam itself.

As a further sign of clinging to prejudices about the non-Muslim “Other,” he referred to the blame game Muslims continually indulge in, pointing to Israel in particular with Europe and America and anything Western in a fluid mix of evil influences upon and source of the Islamic world’s problems.

The writer is quite gloomy in his predictions.  He is certain that because no basic change has taken place in the Muslim mind since 9-11, and as attacks on Western and now growing Indian targets grow more common and wax bolder, whatever serious precautions are taken in the USA or in Europe to forestall such attacks, will inevitably fail.

The writer deserves praise for criticizing Islamic tendencies that seem so obvious to most Westerners.  I do believe however that he can be faulted for closing out his critique with some wishful thinking not otherwise in keeping with his general insights.  It is not much of an argument to state the obvious, i.e., that Muslims are unwilling or unable to reform their thoughts and thus losses for Muslims will continue.  It is his suggestion to counter this that must be questioned.  For he believes the solution is a spiritual one, i.e. drawing nearer to Allah.  This is most interesting especially when he says by drawing nearer to Allah goodness, love and peace “according to the principles of human brotherhood” will ensue.  This kind of language about spiritual reality is more likely to come from a Christian understanding of God or a humanist doctrine of the brotherhood of man.  It definitely does not stem from Islam.  Such positive principles are not in or can be deduced from the Qur’an, the Hadith, or the Four Sunni Schools that interpret the Shari’a.  If they were, perhaps the world would not be experiencing the effects of Islamic terror.  For Islamic radicals of all sorts take the teachings given by Allah as preserved in the Qur’an, as their marching orders.  And those principles have nothing to do with love, peace, goodness, kindness or the universal brotherhood of man.  It is the Qur’an, when taken literally and at its face value, that foments the radical Islamists’ agenda against the “Others”, the Kuffar, the free, the democratic – in a word, against the world.

The responses to the article were not encouraging at all. In general they dismissed the author’s thesis, and took up the usual refrain of blaming the West for the troubles of the Islamic world.  Harking back to the Crusades and the actions of the Crusaders in Jerusalem, was a dominant motif.  One respondent brought up Edward Said and his claim that the West is now engaged in Cultural Imperialism, completely missing the irony that Islam not only attempts its own version of cultural imperialism using terror, but expects to eventually gain complete world domination over everyone and everything.

One person, more sympathetic to the article, at the same time suggested what might be considered a rather “tongue-in-cheek”, albeit radical solution to the threat of terrorism in the West by stating. “[t]he greatest danger for the West is in the immigration of Arabs and Muslims to Europe, America, Australia, and Scandinavia. Arabs and Muslims threaten European peace and security, because Arab culture legalizes lying, bribery, counterfeiting, untrustworthiness, stealing, etc. Europe should be rid of Arabs and Muslims so that peace may return to planet earth.”

The negative responses prove the writer’s thesis. It underlines the sad fact that, even after all the Islamic terrorist attacks that have taken place and continue to occur around the world, the massacre in Mumbai being only the latest, even some Muslims considered to be more moderate refuse to reconsider their antagonistic attitude toward “Others” and will listen to anyone (like Edward Said) who confirms them in their philistine attitudes toward the West and its freedom and democratic ways, even as they benefit from such freedom and democracy in their personal lives.