Commentary

This Is no Holy War

It has become as routine for terrorists to rationalize their insanity on the basis of “Islamic fundamentalism,” as it once was for aspiring dictators to blame their violent ambitions on Karl Marx. Some Americans may even believe this religious excuse for random violence, which causes understandable anxiety among the nation’s many Islamic friends at home and abroad (such as Turkey and Jordan).

Terrorists who cite Islam as an excuse for terrorist acts against Jews and Christians are not fundamentalists but heretics. To see why, read the Holy Koran (or Qur’an). Consider the following passages, which are followed by parenthetical references to the Shakir translation:

First of all, the Koran demands respect of all monotheistic religions: “Those who are Jews, and the Christians whoever believes in Allah [God] and the last day is good, they shall have their reward from their Lord” (II:62). The Koran likewise speaks favorably of the “churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered.”(XXII:40)

Second, all prophets are to be respected — including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed: “We do not make any distinction between them.” (II:136) “We [Muslims] make no difference between any of His apostles.” (II:285) “Every one was of the good.” (VI:85) “The Messiah, son of Mary is but an apostle” (V:73), yet God “put in the hearts of those who follow him kindness and mercy.” (LVII:27) The Torah “in which there was guidance and light” is considered part “of the Book of Allah” (V:70), and so are the Bible and Koran (IX: 111).

At times, the Koran even counsels religious tolerance: “There is no compulsion in religion.” (II:256) “You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.” (CIX: 6) “Be not unduly immoderate in your religion.” (V:73)

The Koran never excuses a Holy War or Jihad against fellow monotheists — Christians or Jews — but only against those who worship idols (idolaters) or many gods (polytheists). Even in the case of idolaters, the Koran honors peace agreements. “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them except those of the idolaters with which you have made an agreement.” (IX:4-5) “If they break their oaths after their agreement and [openly] revile your religion, then fight.” (IX:12). “Fight with them until there is no persecution [of Islam] but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.”(II:193) “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah.” (VIII:61) Such language is not of the meek “turn the other cheek” variety, but neither does it imply that sneak attacks are holy, that war is preferable to peace, or that Christians or Jews are religious enemies.

When we speak of “fundamentalist” Christians and “orthodox” Jews, we mean those who follow quite strictly the teachings of the New Testament or Torah. If “Islamic fundamentalist” likewise means strict adherence to the Koran, then the phrase cannot be properly applied to those who attempt to terrorize Christians and Jews. The Koran demands respect of all monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), and does not condone war against any of them, much less cowardly acts of terrorism.

Dictators and aspiring dictators are angry with the United States for limiting their lust for power and land. They may try to cloak their ambitions and their brutality in religious garb, but they are lying. Religion cannot justify atrocities against the United States any more than it justifies thuggery in Northern Ireland. Murder is murder. There is nothing religious about it.

Alan Reynolds is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute.