Saturday, 23 May 2009

Crusaders in the White House?

Much has been made in the past week of the fact that US government briefings on the Iraq war carried quotes from the Bible. Naturally, some have tried to use this as leverage to push the line that the Bush administration is waging a holy war in Iraq, making them no better than al-Qaeda.

Such misguided sentiments are typical of the sheer ignorance of most people about the nature of current global conflicts.

The war in Iraq is NOT a holy war. The American army has not been converting Iraqis to Christianity, and nor has it done anything to prevent the continued persecution and harassment of Christians in the country since the invasion. They have also overseen the implementation of Iraqi and Afghan constitutions which enshrine not "Biblical law" (whatever that is), but Islamic sharia law as the law of the land. If the Iraq venture was intended to serve covert Christian theocratic interests, the emphasis must fall heavily upon the word "covert".

It's also important to note the actual Bible verses that were used. Verses from Ephesians, Psalms, etc, pretty lukewarm and vague "morale-boosters" about righteousness and defeating evil. It is instructive to compare this with a few examples of how Islamic jihadists quote Qur'anic verses and Islamic traditions to understand the silliness of some of the comparisons being made in the media.

In 2002, Osama bin Laden wrote a scathing response to a group of Saudi theologians who had written letters advocating peaceful coexistence with the West. In the letter, he quoted Qur'an 9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [non-Muslim poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

He also quoted the following hadith:

“When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them...If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them.” (Sahih Muslim b.19, no.4294)

He then summarised his argument: “There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission [i.e. conversion to Islam]; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword – for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: either convert, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.”

Bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, does the same thing. In one of his treatises to the Muslim world, he quotes the following Qur'anic passage: "Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do." (8:38-39). He explains: “Allah Most High has obligated believers to battle all those who reject Him, the Exalted, until all chaos ceases and all religion belongs to Allah."

Finally, the 1988 Hamas Charter quotes the following hadith:

“The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.” (Sahih Muslim b.41, no.6985, and others)

The Charter adds: “the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes.”

The difference should be clear to anyone of reasonable intellect. Al-Qaeda and Hamas use violent Qur'an verses and hadith to justify their murderous actions. The Bush administration, on the other hand, quoted a handful of non-violent Bible verses to illustrate their belief that what they are doing is righteous. They weren't waging a scripturally justified holy war against infidels, as the jihadists are. There really is a difference, and it is a significant one.

Of course, secularists (of which I am one) may argue that that religious sentiments should be kept away from government. I sympathise with this, but I urge everyone of sound mind not to over-react to these really rather unsurprising revelations. George Bush is not, and never will be, comparable to bin Laden, despite the self-loathing hysteria that buffoons like Michael Moore constantly feed to the masses.

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