As reported by The Washington Times1, President Obama told CNN:
I think that for us to be successful in fighting this scourge [violent radical Islam], it’s very important for us to align ourselves with the 99.9 percent of Muslims who are looking for the same thing we’re looking for: order, peace, prosperity,….
But I think we do ourselves a disservice in this fight if we are not taking into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject this ideology. I reject a notion that somehow that creates a religious war, because the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject that interpretation of Islam.”….
This is what I call the “teeny-weeny” theory: It states that only a teeny-weeny portion of Muslims in the world today subscribe to the intolerant values and violent behaviors of radical Islam.
For most people in the West, who are unfamiliar with the history and theology of Islam, this theory seems reasonable. To these people, Islam is a religion, much like Christianity and Judaism. Every religion has its share of intolerant and extreme folks, so it would be wrong to condemn any religion — including Islam — for the beliefs and actions of a few.
But Islam is unlike Christianity and Judaism. And the teeny-weeny theory of Islam is flat out wrong.
Muslim reformer Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues that many of the basic tents of Islam support intolerance and violence and quash independent thought:
It simply will not do for Muslims to claim their religion has been “hijacked” by extremists. The killers of IS and Boko Haram cite the same religious texts that every other Muslim in the world considers sacrosanct. And instead of letting them off the hook with bland clichés about Islam as a religion of peace, we in the West need to challenge and debate the very substance of Islamic thought and practice. 2
What are these elements of Islam that Ali cites?
- The belief that the world is divided into the House of Islam and the House of War. The implication is that all those who are not Muslim, that is, the infidels, must be conquered and subjugated to the Muslim will.
- The belief that it is the duty of every Muslim to engage in jihad, that is, in a holy war against the infidels.
- The belief that the Koran, as revealed by the Prophet Mohammed, is the final word of Allah (God) that supersedes all previous religions (notably Islam’s precursors Judaism and Christianity). Thus, the Koran is not subject to interpretation or debate and therefore can never be changed.
- The prohibition against independent thought. Any thought or speech that is deemed to violate the Koran and the teachings of Mohammed is a grave offense against Allah himself, and must be harshly punished. Man is tasked with memorizing and incorporating the teachings of the Koran, not with asking questions and employing reasoning or logical analysis.
- The religious law, sharia, as initially set down by Mohammed, must be obeyed by all Muslims.
- Individuals have license, and even a duty, to use violence to enforce sharia. To dispel any doubts about this, religious leaders issue fatwas, religious rulings that obligate all Muslims to act as enforcers of sharia. (The fatwa calling for the killing of author Salmon Rushdie for writing his book, The Satanic Verses, is but one of many examples.)
- The belief in the primacy of the afterlife. By extension, the belief that the current life is ephemeral and unimportant, and that Muslims must adhere to a strict code of belief and conduct to gain eternal afterlife. This has been for example, the motivation of suicide murderers, a phenomenon cultivated by radical Islamists.
Do all Muslims believe these things? No.
But the progressive Western myth that these beliefs are rare among Muslims is just that—-a myth. Many of these beliefs are widespread among Muslims, not only in conservative Muslim countries like Afghanistan, but also in so-called moderate Muslim countries like Egypt, and to a great extent also in Muslim communities in the West.
The best source of information we have about this is a public opinion survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.3 The results of this survey are based on face-to-face interviews with over 38,000 Muslim men and women in 39 countries.
Examples of some of the more troubling findings:
In many Muslim countries there is overwhelming support for making sharia the law of the land: 91 % support in Iraq; 89% in the Palestinian territories; 70 % and greater in Jordan, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Morocco, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Afghanistan.
In Muslim countries, overwhelming majorities believe that homosexuality and suicide are morally wrong.
In the Middle East and North Africa, 87% of respondents believe that a wife must obey her husband, only a third believe that a woman should have the right to divorce her husband, and only 25% believe sons and daughters should have equal inheritance rights.
Large minorities in many Muslim countries agree with suicide bombings in defense of Islam, for example, 29% of Egyptians and 40% of those in the Palestinian territories.
According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of young Muslims (18 to 29 years of age) living in the US believe that suicide bombing is justified in at least some circumstances. (Forty two per cent of young French Muslims believe this, as do 35% of young British Muslims.) These figures represent many millions of Muslims.
In the Middle East and North Africa, only 55% say they prefer democracy over a strong leader.
Over half of those in the Middle East and North Africa believe that Western music, TV and movies harm morality.
The numbers of Muslims worldwide who hold beliefs that most Americans would consider extreme are astonishing. Twenty-seven per cent believe that apostates — those who leave Islam — should be executed; 39 % that honor killings are often, sometimes or rarely justified; and 51% that women who are unfaithful to their husbands should be stoned to death. In other words, hundreds of millions of Muslims hold views that are extreme by Western standards..
According to the Clarion Project, an independent think tank devoted to exposing the dangers of radical Islam, the Muslim world may be divided into three concentric circles.4
In the center are violent jihadists, such as Jihadi John, who gruesomely beheaded hostage James Foley. This circle includes groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda. Their barbarism — burning caged prisoners alive, mass beheadings, mass kidnappings, gang rapes, hurling gay men from rooftops — have shocked people in the West. The Clarion Project estimates that this circle alone consists of hundreds of thousands of people.
The next circle is the Islamists. These are Muslims who use the political and cultural system to achieve their aim of imposing sharia on the entire world. They include groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The outer circle, the largest of the three, is the fundamentalists. These Muslims share many or most of the beliefs outlined above, but have not turned to violence. This group represents hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Muslims who use violence to achieve their aims are a small minority of the world Muslim community. But, as argued by Muslim reformer Bridgette Gabriel, even a small number of violent individuals can wreak havoc on a society. So for example, in the Second World War, only a minority of Germans was violent and most were not Nazis. But German public support for the fascists led to a world war that left 60 million dead. In the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US we saw that just 19 individuals, dedicated to the ideas of radical Islam, caused the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans, as well as devastating long-term effects on the US economy and the world.
Why is it important to acknowledge these facts?
First and foremost, an accurate appraisal of the threat of radical Islam to our Western way of life is a necessary first step in neutralizing this threat.
Recognition of these facts will also help us to support a Reformation that Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues is already underway in Islam.5 We need to support the emerging voices within Islam that call for reformation, that is, for changing Islam to support values of individual freedom, tolerance and democracy. At the same time, we must oppose the inevitable chorus of outcry from radical Islamists who demean, distort, condemn and threaten the reformers.
The battle will be long. But the battle lines are already drawn.
- Boyer, Dave. Obama Says Terrorists Not Motivated by True Islam. The Washington Times, February 1, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/1/obama-says-terrorists-not-motivated-true-islam/
- Ali, Ayaan Hirsi.(2015). Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. Harper: New York, p. 12.
- The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society (Polling and Analysis). Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life, April 30, 2013.
Retrieved 02/23/2017 from http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/
- By The Numbers – The Untold Story of Muslim Opinions & Demographics (Video). Clarion Project: Challenging Extremism, Promoting Dialog, The Clarion Project, December 10, 2015. Retrieved 02/23/2017 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSPvnFDDQHk
- Ali, Ayaan Hirsi (2015), Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, p. 224.