Q: After September 11th 2001, many Christian-based anti-Islam websites have sprung up, focusing on the Islamic love for war. How do we respond?

A: Jesus reportedly said that one would know people by their fruits (i.e., their actions). It is truly amazing that this prophet of God preached so strongly against hypocrisy, yet we see it manifested so blatantly by many who claim to spread his word. One responds with the Qur’anic verse 4:91: War is in answer to those who transgress against us. If one wishes to be more polemic, s/he refers to Matthew 10:34: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" -- a verse that is unconditional and unequivocal in its hostile tone. If the Christian position is that the verse needs to be taken in context, then s/he should extend this to the Qur’anic verses. One may also use history to show the sanctimoniousness of charges: the entire new world and its native populations were decimated and the small fraction that remained was Christianized by the sword. The concept of "bellum justum" was made famous by Augustine, who came long before the prophet Muhammad.

Another reported saying of Jesus is as follows: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"(Matthew 7:3-4, also see Luke 6:41-42). To be fair, there are Muslims -- like Osama bin Laden who preach war -- but one has to ensure that one radical voice, or a few radical voices, are not taken as representative of the entire umma (Muslim nation), just as one does not take certain Christian preachers’ warped views as representative of all Christianity. Besides the genocide in the new world already mentioned above, as recently as the 20th century, of the estimated 102 million people killed by religious and political violence, the vast majority was killed by "Christian" nations, and this trend seems likely to continue unabated in the 21st century (Juan Cole is a Professor of History at the University of Michigan).

Posted January 19, 2002