It is being presented as a misunderstood religion by the Mainstream media. Ever since September 11, 2001, the very mention of its name leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of Americans. I, of course, am talking about the religion of Islam. Although Islam is the second largest religion in the world, it has been defined in the eyes of the modern western culture by a select few members of Islam. I am referring to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and its notorious members like Osama Bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. These people and organizations are what come to mind when the average American citizen hears the word “Islam,” or even the term “Radical Islam.” With a small number of people being the flag bearer for an entire religion, one must examine whether this representation is justifiable or if these few people truly do misrepresent Islam.
To find that out, it a key concept of Islam must be understood. That concept is known as Jihad. The term Jihad is key in Islamic theology and it has three distinct meanings. The first definition is a believer’s internal struggle to live out the Muslim faith as well as possible. The second definition is the struggle to build a good Muslim society. The final and controversial definition is Holy war: the struggle to defend Islam, with force if necessary. The word Jihad means struggle, but its varying definitions denote what type of struggle Jihad is referencing, whether it is internal struggle, societal struggle, or a struggle in warfare.
The majority of Muslims do not agree with the third definition of Jihad. However, the minority which takes that definition to be dogma should not be ignored. When one deals with Islam, he/she must understand the demographic that radical Islam entails within the entire religion. Radical Islam is the minority in Islamic thought. Only about 7-11 percent of all Muslims are radical. I have talked with many Muslims, and all of them that I have talked to have denounced Radical Islam, and instead advocated for peace among the religions of the world. With that being said, 7-11 percent of all Muslims in the world equates to roughly 91 million Radical Islamists. Out of over 2.2 billion Muslims (as of 2011), 91 million may not seem extremely large in comparison, but if a nation of 91 million people were to arise overnight, it would be approximately the twelfth largest nation in the world. Therefore, while Radical Islam is by no means the majority opinion in Islamic thought, and should not be viewed as such, it is still a faction of Islam that should neither be ignored nor taken lightly.
Nevertheless, Islam fundamentally lends itself to be a violent religion. The Quran is not a book of peace. When I say this, I do not mean that there are one or two rogue verses that could be taken out of context, but over 164 verses which explicitly mention Jihad. Some of the most notable are:
- Surah 2.190-191: “…fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you…And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.”
- Surah 4.101: “Verily, the infidels are your undoubted enemies!”
- Surah 4.74: “…whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.”
- Surah 47.4: “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers, smite them at their necks.”
- Surah 8.15-17: “when you meet those who disbelieve marching for war, then turn not your backs to them. [8.16] …for the sake of fighting… [8.17] So you did not slay them, but it was Allah Who slew them, and you did not smite when you smote (the enemy), but it was Allah Who smote [Allah gets the credit for Jihad]…”
- Surah 9.5: “slay the idolaters wherever you find them…take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush…”
- Surah 9.73: “…strive hard [Jihad] against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them…”
These are but some of the verses which show that Islam is very oriented toward Jihad. As these verses tend to suggest, the Quran is welcoming to the idea of Jihad as a holy war against the nonbelievers, the infidels of Islam. Therefore, while most Muslims are peaceful, and one should not consider all Muslims to be violent, save the Radical Islamists, the religion of Islam is fundamentally not a religion of peace, but of war.