Is Islam a Religion?
The status of Islam should be clarified if the debate on how to defeat terrorism is ever to bear fruit. Islam, I would argue, is not a religion in the common acceptation of the term as a community of believers dedicated to the loving worship of the Divine, the sanctity of life, and the institution of moral principles governing repentance for sins and crimes, making life on earth a stage toward a higher reincarnation, an ineffable peace, or a confirmatory prelude to eternity in the realm of a righteous and merciful God.
In fact, Islam is an unrepentant politico-expansionist movement clothed in the trappings of religion and bent on universal conquest by whatever means it can mobilize: deception (taqiyya), social and cultural infiltration, or bloody violence, as its millennial history and authoritative scriptures have proven. (See Koran 13:41, which is meant literally despite the attempt of apologists to launder its purport: “Do they not see that We are advancing in the land, diminishing it by its borders on all sides?”)
There are several ways in which Islam differs from all other major religions. For starters:
- It sanctions militant proselytization, mandating forcible imposition on other peoples by coercion, threat and overt violence (Koran 8:39, 9:29, etc.), a practice unique among religions today.
- It punishes apostasy with death (Koran 4:89; Hadith, Bukhari 9.84.57), also a practice unique among religions today.
- It countenances no separation between church and state, that is, it cannot render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. The scope of its ambition is khilafil, that is, the establishment of a Caliphate requiring that a state—ultimately a universal state—be ruled by Islamic law. As Muslim scholar Jaafar Sheikh Idris explains, “Secularism cannot be a solution for countries with a Muslim majority or even a sizeable minority, for it requires people to replace their God-given beliefs with an entirely different set of man-made beliefs. Separation of religion and state is not an option for Muslims because it requires us to abandon Allah’s decree for that of man.”
- The “religion” itself takes precedence over the transcendent values it should strive to attain: the flourishing of the individual soul, the love of God’s Creation, the grace and miracle of life, the conversation with the Divine, freedom of conscience and the inviolability of personal choice in determining one’s redemption. Instead, it elevates conformity to a set of stringent rules, down to the smallest detail, as a prerequisite to salvation, whose effect is primarily to perpetuate the faith itself at the expense of the individual votary. Admittedly, this is a literalist practice common to most restrictive and comparatively minor orthodoxies, but regarding the massive following enjoyed by Islam and its susceptibility to violence and the subjugation of other faiths and peoples to its hegemony, we are remarking a radically greater economy of scale and the havoc it can wreak.
- The propensity to violence is not an aberration but an intrinsic element of the Islamic corpus. As Lee Cary has written, Islamic terrorists are “legacy, Koranic literalists” who use terror “to enforce a dogma that defines behavioral practices that comply with the Koran and [defines] the regulations of daily life.” The much-bruited notion that there is such a thing as “Islamism,” a form of extremism that has nothing to do with Islam proper, or is a perversion thereof, is a pure canard, another in a series of timorous progressivist memes bleaching the blood out of the Islamic ideological jalabiyya. Islam, not “Islamism,” promises paradise for martyrs and jihadis killed in battle (Koran 3: 157), thus palliating and even inciting feral attitudes and fanatical actions—a patently non-spiritual way of earning beatitude.
- As Howard Kainz points out in an illuminating essay, “Islam and the Decalogue,” Islam reverses the Golden Rule, which is central to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism (Koran 48:29, 2:191, 3:28, etc.). For this reason, Kainz concludes, “Islam may best be understood,” not as a religion, but “as a world-wide cult.”
The standard rebuttal that all faiths have at one time or another shown themselves prone to violence and repression misses the essential point. All the major religions have reformed themselves, reducing or eliminating the all-too-human tendency to sanctimonious oppression—and none of these faiths, let us remember, endorsed oppression as a universal creedal or Divine imperative. Such is not the case with Islam, a communion that since its inception in the 7th century has seldom strayed from its sanguinary path of carnage and subdual. Its incendiary prescriptions and commands, as many scholars have noted, are open-ended and contain no “sunset clause.” They are perpetual and mandatory, feeding what essayist Bill Kassel calls “religious-themed barbarism.”