This is an old article by now, but it is worth examining because it demonstrates the general ignorance about Islam among certain circles in the West - particularly in the mainstream media, but outside of it also.
It's from CNN, it's by Jocelyne Cesari, and it's called "Islam Is A Religion, Not A Terror Ideology". It's principle "gripe" can be summarised in the following segment:
Another trait shared by anti-Islamic movements on both sides of the Atlantic is that they increasingly justify their opposition by arguing that Islam is not a religion.
For example, in his campaign preceding Holland's recent elections, extreme right-wing parliamentarian Geert Wilders repeatedly argued that Islam is a political ideology. Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, in his failed gubernatorial bid, suggested that the freedom of religion enshrined in the First Amendment might not apply to Muslims. "You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, a cult," the Republican candidate told an audience in Murfreesboro.
Disturbingly, these assertions are often embraced by people looking to justify their intolerance. Counterclaims and evidence from religious leaders, intellectuals, government officials and others have little impact on this misperception.
Why is Islam no longer considered a religion?
American and European debate on Islam often revolves around the question of whether Islam is compatible with Western-style democracy and values. But because many Westerners associate Islam with al Qaeda, Palestinian militant groups and Iranian theocracy, they have a constricted, one-dimensional view of a faith that is multifaceted and complex.
It is telling that Cesari questions the idea that Islam is a political ideology, but offers no contrasting evidence to justify this dispute. If she had taken time to do some real research, instead of making vague generalisations, she would have found that the description of Islam as a totalitarian political ideology comparable to Nazism and Bolshevism appears in the writings of numerous revered scholars and academics, including but not limited to: Bertrand Russell, Winston Churchill, Carl Jung, G.H. Bousquet and Bernard Lewis.
But if Cesari is inclined to think that all of these authorities are just ignorant Islamophobes, she should know that Muslims themselves frequently refer to Islam as not just a religion, "but a way of life" that encompasses all aspects of a person's existence, including the political. Here is one example:
Islam is a “total way of life.” It has provided guidance in every sphere of life, from individual cleanliness, rules of trade, to the structure and politics of the society. Islam can never be separated from social, political, or economic life, since religion provides moral guidance for every action that a person takes. The primary act of faith is to strive to implement God's will in both private and public life. Muslims see that they, themselves, as well as the world around them, must be in total submission to God and his Will. Moreover, they know that this concept of His rule must be established on earth in order to create a just society.
Here is another Muslim website that says the same thing.
In his book Cairo to Damascus, investigative journalist John Roy Carlson describes a conversation he had in the 1950s with Aboul Saud, a member of the Arab League. Carlson quotes Saud saying the following – and with immense pride:
“You might describe Mohammedanism as a religious form of State Socialism. The Koran gives the state the right to nationalize industry, distribute land, or expropriate property. It grants the ruler of the state unlimited powers, so long as he does not go against the Koran. The Koran is our personal as well as political constitution.”
Carlson concluded based on his conversations with Egyptian Muslims that Islam is “both a political creed and a way of life encompassing the sum total of a Muslim's temporal and spiritual existence.”
Finally, witness the writings of Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi (d.1979), one of the most influential Muslim thinkers of the twentieth century. Maududi believed that “Islam is a revolutionary ideology and programme which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals.” Specifically, “Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a State on the basis of its own ideology and programme”. Maududi taught that “Islam is not merely a religious creed or compound name for a few forms of worship, but a comprehensive system which envisages to annihilate all tyrannical and evil systems in the world and enforces its own programme of reform which it deems best for the well-being of mankind.” Muslims must wage jihad against unbelievers, the purpose of which “is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of State rule.”
Again, Cesari might argue that this is just these particular Muslims' interpretation of Islam, and that there are others who disagree. Perhaps, but their influence in determining normative Islamic doctrine is minimal to non-existant, and this view of Islam as a "total way of life" that governs politics as well as the spiritual is a traditional version that will not go away just because Cesari wishes it would.
Later in the piece she opines:
It's worth noting that we did not seek to explain the violence and terrorism of Northern Ireland through the lens of Catholicism and Protestantism only; nobody scoured the Bible for verses about violence and war. Observers, instead, cited political, economic and historic factors to explain the conflict. By the same token, no one would argue that Gush Emunim, or Block of the Faithful, exclusively represents Judaism, or that the murder of abortion doctors represents the essence of Christianity.
She does not mention, however, that the Northern Ireland troubles were not primarily justified by reference to Biblical teachings. Islamic terrorists, on the other hand, frequently and almost exclusively justify their actions by reference to Islamic texts and teachings. The IRA's stated intentions were secular, and their name, the "Irish Republican Army", carries a nationalist character. For contrast, see the Charter of Hamas, which is fervently religious, including quotes from the Qur'an and other Islamic texts to incite the global genocide of the Jewish people. And of course, the group's name is a religious one: "Hamas" is an Arabic acronym for Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamat al-Islāmiyyah, or "Islamic Resistance Movement".
I recommend that Ms Cesari read Raymond Ibrahim's The Al Qaeda Reader, a collection of translated texts from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. She will find that they are absolutely saturated with quotes from Islamic religious sources. Indeed, a typical essay by al-Zawahiri will typically devote at least half of its total text not to his own words, but to quotes from Islamic texts and scholars. Cesari suggests elsewhere in the piece that men like Zawahiri and the authors of the Hamas Charter are merely "using" religion for political ends, but for this she has no evidence other than her own speculation, and in any case she ignores the joint religious and political character of Islam. She also fails to explain how Islamic texts are "manipulated" and "misrepresented" so frequently in exactly the same way by people all across the world and far removed from each other.
In short, Jocelyne Cesari's article is just another puff piece that has no purpose other than to mislead Western non-Muslims and blind them to the truth about Islam and the threat it poses to our values and culture. She can label those who disagree with her as "intolerant" all she likes, but these facts will not go away. Indeed, they will continue to be eternal truths long after she and I are gone from this world.