Israel and the West vs. Islam

The focal points of the tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims have been increasing in recent years, to such an extent that many feel that they constitute the most serious danger to world peace. We are not speaking only of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but rather the positions of Iran and Al Qaeda, who openly express unadulterated hatred of the west and of Israel. In the language of the Iranians, the United States is the “Great Satan” while Israel is the “Lesser Satan.”

Additionally, there are dangerous conflicts between India and Pakistan, between the Chechen rebels and Russia, and the Uyghur and China. In large European cities as well, from France to Russia, tensions between the local populations and Muslim immigrants are increasing.

It would seem that we are not dealing with random instances, but with an underlying problem. If the western world does not come to thoroughly understand it, the tensions will keep mounting, eventually leading to outright conflict likely to lead to horrible bloodshed all over European and Muslim lands.

Obama’s speech in Jerusalem

Criticism of the Position of the West and its Experts

Recently, I criticized the position of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, who claimed that young Muslims want “the ability to make their own decisions; to get an education and a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married and have a family.” Obama expressed the widespread position of those who believe that liberalism is the foremost wish of all people. He did this while ignoring the tremendously powerful religious values which have motivated people and nations throughout history.

“To worship God in their own way” is the wish of a person who believes in liberalism, and who wishes to make space in his life for religious feelings. The specifics of the religion are not so important. But someone driven by traditional religious belief is not satisfied with that at all. This is the reason that the United States and the western world, whose positions are informed by outright liberalism, are incapable of understanding the Muslims, and thus unable to deal with them despite the tremendous resources at their disposal.

One must first understand the special power of Islam, both the positives and the negatives. I am far from an expert, but I am certain that the few books I have read about Islam did not present things accurately, because they were written by academics who find it difficult to truly grasp what belief and religion are. It would seem that I, as a person who identifies completely with his beliefs, can add a missing dimension to the understanding of Muslim culture and religion. I would surmise that any mistakes I make will be regarding the details, while the mistakes of “Western experts” will be regarding the fundamentals.

The Religious Worldview

A religious worldview sees God as an all-powerful being; thus all must submit themselves to Him, and absolutely accept his authority. Of the five fundamental commandments of Islam, four deal directly with honoring God and submitting to him. They are:

1) Believing in God.

2) Praying to Him five times a day. The main components of the prayers are bowing to God and reciting seven verses seventeen times in which Allah is praised and His sovereignty is accepted.

3) Fasting during Ramadan.

4) Making the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The fifth commandment is giving charity to the poor, which also reflects subjugation, inasmuch as the money belongs to Allah and not to the giver.

Praise and thanks to Allah are also in the spirit of submitting to Him and honoring Him.

Its Influence on Interpersonal Relationships

This outlook affects the entire realm of interpersonal relationships in Islam, which are based on honor. A woman must greatly honor her husband, and a husband must look after his wife, support her, and protect her. This is his honor. Of course children must honor their parents. The relationship between friends is also based on much honor, which leads to generosity and nobility, which then allow for warmth and friendship.

Because honor is so important, insult is not tolerated. It endangers the entire societal structure. It must be reacted to harshly, and can result in the horrific phenomenon referred to as “honor killing.”

Because power and domination are so central, a ruler who is not known as strong and even cruel cannot survive in Muslim culture. Thus democracy cannot stabilize Muslim countries. The ideal leadership for them is one which is strong and authoritative, and which honors all its subjects, like a merciful father who sees to his son’s welfare.

The Positives

Let us be clear: there are some very positive aspects of Islam. The roots of the religion draw on Judaism, but were formed by the character of the Arab people. It is proper to explore these positives and their contribution to the world, and to examine how the concept of honor might be helpful to the modern world. For many of the world’s sorrows stem from the lack of honor shown towards God and man. The right to be free is not an adequate substitute for the lost concept of honor. The only right to honor that is present in democratic cultures is the prohibition of degrading someone. There is no obligation to honor. This allows for apathy, arrogance, and disrespect for the other and his values.

However, we are currently dealing with the roots of the tensions with believers in Islam, and thus naturally I will be presenting its less admirable aspects.

Islam is a Warring Religion

After the five basic commandments of Islam, the next most important one is that of jihad. Those loyal to Allah must act as bravely as He does, and forcefully subjugate all who do not subjugate themselves to him. The sword and power play a central role in the Muslim religion; they actualize the power of the religion, and increase the honor and greatness of Allah by forcing His beliefs upon all people. The amplified calls of a muezzin day and night give expression to the attempt to impose religion on the surrounding area, making a statement to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

It is not by chance that the Arabs succeeded in imposing Islam on so many nations that today there are approximately 1,400,000,000 believers. The genetic code of Islam is programmed for resolute war to impose the religion of Muhammad on the whole world by the sword; to bring this about, all is permitted to Muslims. If killing is necessary, they will kill; if lying is necessary, they will lie. It is not the charm and beauty of Islam which drew many nations to accept it, but rather the clear death threats.

All nations accomplish their goals through wars and victories. However, unlike other cultures, the principle of compromise is not accepted by Islam, particularly when it relates to land. Compromise is seen as an expression of weakness, while a Muslim must represent the bravery and strength of Allah; he must always keep hold of the sword and be prepared for the continuation of war to impose his religion.

Even if Islam lacks the power to defeat the enemy, it is still not prepared to compromise. If a ceasefire (“tahadiya”) is entered into, from the perspective of Islam this is a lull which must be used to prepare for the continuation of the fight. If possible, this time will be utilized to weaken the enemy through terror attacks and looting. If not, minimally it will be used to lull the enemy into a false sense of security through lies. Then, when the Muslims are strong, they will return to attack until they subordinate the enemy. This position is based on the way their prophet Muhammad dealt with the Quraysh tribe.

The Role of the Sword

The Muslim worldview maintains that the world is divided into two parts: Dar-al-Islam and Dar-al-Harb. Dar-al-Islam is that part of the world which is already under Muslim rule. Dar-al-Harb is the area not under Muslim rule, which Islamic forces are commanded to conquer. Once conquered, it becomes holy Muslim land (wakf), which one is never, under any circumstances, allowed to cede. Even if such lands are conquered by others and remain in their hands for hundred of years, Islamic law still considers them to be wakf land which must be returned to Muslim control.

The State of Israel presents Islam with a double problem, because it exists on land which had belonged to Muslims from the founding of Islam (except for a period of about a hundred years when the Crusaders ruled), and it is also located in the heart of Arab-ruled territory. The Arabs here include those more and less religious, but the desire to reestablish their rule in the land is shared by all. The disagreement between the moderates and the extremists is whether they should openly fight a war to the death with us, or if they must first erode and weaken the State through peace treaties and diplomatic pressure, and only after this impose their rule by force.

How to Deal with the Muslim Threat

The only way to exempt a Muslim from war is to create a situation in which he has absolutely no options. There must be no possibility, no chance at all that a war would succeed. Only then, according to Islamic law, is he considered exempt from the requirement to wage war. Then he will wait for years and generations, with internal confidence that when the auspicious time comes, he will return to fight.

In contrast, any attempt to compromise with Islam will necessarily lead to a continuation of and an increase in war and terror, because compromise is perceived as weakness. For in the view of Muslim culture, if the western world had the power to defeat them, there is no way it would seek compromise. This seeking, then, must indicate that the west is finding it difficult to withstand the courageous attacks of Allah’s believers. Thus its downfall is imminent. This is the case regarding Israel too – any attempt at compromise or “a political horizon” will plant the hope in Muslims that they can win, and will encourage terrorism and war.

Anyone who wishes to have a quiet, peaceful relationship with Muslims must avoid displaying the desire for peace and any talk at all about peace, because peace with non-Muslims is incompatible with the Muslim worldview. The western world needs to strive for respectful relations and a stable ceasefire. This will enable us to ultimately reach a deeper and more exalted peace, but we must not talk about that now.

Obama’s Mistake in his Speech in Egypt

Instead of this approach, when Obama spoke in Cairo four years ago, he made two mistakes. First, by calling on the Muslims to make peace, he fortified their war against America, and hastened the downfall of the Arab rulers who supported the United States. Second, despite all his praises of Muslims, underneath it all he held himself superior, and disrespected their worldview. He preached to them to act democratically, to give equality to women and equal rights to minorities, when the Muslim worldview is based on honor and not on equality. If he had spoken as a Christian and demanded equality for the Copts in Egypt, the Muslims would have respected the demand as coming from a position of strength. But when he requested it in the name of democracy and freedom of religion, he lowered his status among them and harmed the Copts, whose situation has worsened since then.

Let us conclude with the words of the prayer: “May God grant His people strength; may God bless His people with peace.” Through this strength, the positive side of Islam will come to expression, and will bring the nations of the world closer to belief in God and observance of the Noachide laws, each nation in its unique fashion. Thus true peace will come to the world.

About the Author
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed; The writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law "Pininei Halacha" and a popular weekly column "Revivim" in the Besheva newspaper; His books "The Laws of Prayer" "The Laws of Passover" and "Nation, Land, Army" are presently being translated into English; Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be viewed at: