An individual with a blog that I am following (and that is a follower here) wrote a piece recently regarding some of the experiences she had seen in a couple of Islamic countries. She witnessed both the good and bad of what I’ll call the “Islamic attitude.” In fairness, she and I have both been in Islamic countries, although 30 years apart and perhaps a couple thousand miles.
Her blog, very well written I might add:
Her experiences were during Desert Storm during 1990-1991. Mine was in Pakistan back in 1967-1968 for almost a year and a half. While I’m not sure specifically she was stationed, I was stationed just south of the NW city of Peshawar. According to the map below, Peshawar is located in what is referred to as part of the Taliban Contested Area and right next to the Taliban Controlled Area in red.
Unfortunately, my experiences with Islam at that time were quite different from hers. Her time was spent in areas that would be considered by many as “moderate” Muslim countries. Pakistan was not at all moderate. During the time that I was stationed there with the U.S. Army, the area was referred to as the “Northwest Frontier” and even the Pakistani Army considered the area as a “hardship tour.”
That area is now called the “Federally Administered Tribal Area” and is the area where many believe that Osama bin Laden is being sheltered. I say “sheltered” because the tribes are very much sympathetic to al Qaeda and bin Laden.
My first “shocking” discovery about Islam came from a young man that was one of our houseboys. While talking with him one day, he quietly told me that he feared for his life every day because he had converted to Christianity. Even his family would have killed him had they known and if he refused to convert back to Islam.
So, I’d like to discourse just a bit on religion and a few perspectives of the differences between Islam and Christianity. Many have said that when studying the Quran, the Islamic holy book, the later parts supersede the parts that were first written. In a sense, the Christian’s Holy Bible is similar in that the Old Testament, speaking of “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” is superseded by “turn the other cheek” from the New Testament.
The differences are in the philosophies and the authors. The Bible was written by numerous authors over centuries but the Quran was written by one man within his lifetime. In the case of Muhammad, his verses became more violent after he had left Mecca and moved to Medina. When people today speak of Islam being a religion of peace, their references are usually from the beginnings of the Quran. Unfortunately, devout Muslims will follow the later, more violent passage written after 622 A.D. As a Muslim becomes more devout, they are prone to become more extreme in their beliefs.
By contrast, the Bible’s Old Testament is full of battles, atrocities, and harsh punishments that were far different from what the New Testament teaches. So, a devout Christian, following the New Testament, will be much more peaceful than the early children of Israel of the Old Testament. When a Christian becomes more “Christ-like” their actions and philosophies will actually “mellow” and become more peaceful.
I do not profess to be an expert on Islam any more than an expert on any other religion, including Christianity, my own religion. Any true believer of any religion will speak of being “a work in progress,” meaning they are still “growing” in their beliefs. While I have been a student of religions and different “faiths or denominations,” there is much that I still have to learn. One of my favorite sources for information on Islam is a website called Jihad Watch, which can be found here:
In addition to the Quran, Muslims also live by the Hadith, which is second only to the Quran in importance and authority. It is a collection of Islamic traditions and laws. They include traditional sayings of Muhammad and later important and learned Muslims. By the ninth century, over 600,000 Hadith had been recorded, but those have been pared down to roughly 25,000. It would be interesting to know what Hadith were removed and why. Would it be sinister reasons?
While the Bible is pretty much the same since it was put together as a collection of books, it has been revised a little due to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Different Christian faiths and denominations have over the centuries created their own creeds and traditions, such as the Catholic’s Canon. In fact, I was told that the Catholics follow their Canon more than the Bible itself.
Even though the Bible is pretty much the same since its inception, many tend to offer different “interpretations” of what a passage means, many times taking them out of context. And, with the Catholics, the Canon is followed more than the Bible. Just this week, the Pope declared or released a book stating that the Jews would no longer be held responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Interesting thought, especially since the Bible’s own teachings and even the words of Peter (the first Pope, I guess) have stated so. Oh, and did you know that in spite of the Pope, Cardinals and Priests being unmarried, Peter was married?
But, let me not start down that path just yet. I have too many friends of every faith and religion.
While we can all point out people we know or know of by reputation that are good Muslims, Christians, or Jews, there will always be some who are extreme. In fact, a lot of wars have been started and feuds continued based on religion alone. Many point to the Crusades as a being a horrendous act against Islam. In fact, the original intent of the early crusades was to wrest control back from the Muslims who had occupied the “holy lands.”
In fairness, not all of the Crusades were against Muslims. The Fourth Crusade was partially conducted against Christians in Constantinople. While most of the crusades were sanctioned by the Popes, not all were. They were also conducted against pagan Slavs, Balts, Jews and Russian and Greek Christians among others. So, Christianity has certainly demonstrated that some variations have been extreme.
Over the years, I have known a number of people of most faiths and religions, excluding the Eastern religions such as Buddhism. I guess the discussions I have had with them has led me to be interested in variations of religions from the differences between Muslim Sunnis, Shias, and Sufis to the different denominations of Christianity.
With all the variations, I am so glad that I can base my beliefs primarily on the Bible and not have to deal with creeds, canons, and other “prophetic” writings. Those writings can certainly lead to trouble in Christianity, just as perhaps the Hadith is in relationship with the Quran.
Do I wish we could all get along? Certainly, but with the history of wars and rumors of wars being conducted, many with religious overtones, it is doubtful that we ever will. I’m sure that there are Muslims that believe that the Iraqi and Afghanistan “wars” are just another form of a Crusade. In reality, they were more to free people from autocratic or theocratic rule such as Saddam and the Taliban.
And, just to create a small bit of controversy here, since I mentioned Iraq, considering the prices of fuel today, whatever happened to all that Iraqi oil we were supposed to be warring over?
(Sorry, couldn’t resist that.)