So today I take a walk on the more controversial side…
I found this conversion story of a former Muslim interesting because of his insights into Islam.
The following excerpts are from http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2016/03/islam-heart-mind-convert-orthodox-christianity-part-1/
…for purposes of safety we’ll call [him] “George” and will not reveal his location or parish, [he] is a Caucasian American who studied Islamic theology, history, and jurisprudence in an Islamic seminary to become an Imam. He learned the Arabic language and memorized a percentage of the Quran in Arabic.
With quite understandable problems with TV evangelists, hypocrites and the self-righteous in the church, Christianity was not an option for “George” at first. Among other theological questions, he stated “the Crucifixion and the Western understanding of the atonement, seemed like nothing more than just a scapegoat in order to make people feel better about their own shortcomings and to just let them off the hook from having to make any effort to change their lives in a profound way.
This is an objection to evangelical Christianity that those who live within that faith community often don’t recognize as being an obstacle to seekers.
In contrast to what some have called “easy grace”, the absolutes and disciplines of Islam attracted him.
I wanted to immerse myself into Islam, learn all that I could. That is why I left my hometown at the age of eighteen and moved to another state, in order to study in an Islamic Madras, in other words an Islamic seminary…. I stayed there for about three years. I studied Arabic grammar, the Quran, the Hadith, Islamic jurisprudence and history.
…the purpose of man’s creation, according to Islam, can be broken down in this way: to fulfill God’s need for worship and to appease him and second for man to prove he is worthy of God’s mercy, and if he does that he will be rewarded.
“George” goes on to talk about Muslim theology. For example, they believe in a form of complete and total predestination.
According to the Quran, Allah guides whom he wills and he leads astray whom he wills, which is a quote from the Quran. This phrase is repeated countless times. Next I’d like to quote a well-known saying of Mohammed that says the following, “It was said to Allah’s messenger, ‘has there been drawn a distinction between the people of Paradise and the inhabitants of Hell?’ He said yes, it was again said, ‘If it is so, then what is the use of doing good deeds?’ Whereupon Mohammed said, ‘Everyone is facilitated in what is been created for him.’”
This is problematic to me because, as a psychologist, I believe an extreme view of predestination can lead to an external locus of control, which in turn can lead to fatalism and despair.
This discussion of theology continues in part two of the interview. http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2016/03/islam-heart-mind-convert-orthodox-christianity-part-2/
“George” talks about Islam emphasizing good works.
… One thing that must be understood is that the external practices of Islam are so greatly stressed that this usually will lead a person to neglect and even look past the need for real spiritual development and growth. This lack of spiritual growth then effects how we deal with those around us. This is what happened to me, and I have seen this happen to countless others.
I had such a deep sense of satisfaction in myself, through my practices of the rituals and laws of Islam, that this created a deep sense of what I would call “pharisaism” and after time this made such an effect on me that I began to look down upon anyone who was not Muslim, even those who had loved me and cared for me during my whole life. This in turn transformed me into a monster, I think.
He stated that Muslims take on …
…a fanatical zeal to stay on the right path—through the “straight path” which is what [it] is called in Islam—and this turns into a general feeling of distrust, paranoia and contempt for non-Muslims in general and even towards other Muslims.
He points out that terrorism is common in Islam’s theology.
Groups such as ISIS look at the atrocities that they are committing as a holy war and as such any non-Muslim women captured become their property, even if these women are married. In the Quran such captives are frequently referred to as “ma malakat aymanukum” or “what your right hand possesses.” One such reference can be found in the Quran in Surah chapter 4 verse 24, and it says, “And also forbidden are all married women except those whom your right hand possess.”… there is another example that can be found in the Quran, Surah 33 verse 50….
Given the vast amounts of material available in Islam condoning violence against non-Muslims, and then add to that the historical reality which shows that Islam from its very beginning has used force and terror to spread its faith, I do not know how anyone could come away with any other conclusion other than this is the norm and not the exception.
I would even go so far as to say that, to better understand Islam and its teachings one should not look at it so much as a religion but rather as a political movement heavily influenced by the pagan and Beduin culture of Mohammed’s time with Judeo-Christian undertones to give it some sort of an Arab legitimacy.
He then talks about what led him to leave Islam.
Well, after the events of my mother’s death, 9/11 and its aftermath and my many personal struggles with Islam and just with life in general, I began to look at the world with grown-up eyes….
In a manner of speaking, I had outgrown Islam, its rituals, its laws, its very concept of God. I felt that all of the structure and discipline in the world is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to an end, and I realized I didn’t even have a clue what that end was.
The rest of his account describes his becoming an Orthodox Christian. Parts 1 & 2 of his interviews are well worth reading in full.
Until we recognize that Islam is just as much (or more!) a political movement as it is a religion, we will not take its threat seriously.
So while I believe that we can coexist with most religions and philosophies, Islam is not one of them. Individuals who hold to a moderate viewpoint, yes, of course. Those who actually fight against extremists, absolutely! (The Kurds come to mind.) But the religion as a whole? No.
UPDATE: I found a very useful article that highlights distinctions within Islam, including the Salafi movement within Sunni Islam.
By contrast, for Christians their politics are separate from their religion. Christian “extremists” for religious (not political) reasons are characterically non-violent, such as the Amish: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14900930