Is Islam a religion of war or peace? Both – and Muslims must decide, priest says [CNA]

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/images/size340/Militant_in_Middle_East_Credit_Hani_Amir_via_Flickr_CC_BY_NC_ND_20_CNA_5_20_15.jpgRome, Italy, May 21, 2015 / 12:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following last week’s online release of an audio message from the caliph of the Islamic State, one expert says the group’s understanding of Islam calls on all Muslims to re-evaluate Islamic history.

“The only solution is a radical reform to the internal reading of Islamic history,” Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian-born Jesuit and acting rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, [wrote May 15 at AsiaNews]("http://www.asianews.it/news-en/For-Al-Baghdadi,-Islam-is-a-religion-of-war,-a-shrewd-message-according-to-Father-Samir-34253.html").

A day prior, the Islamic State had released a recording of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying, “There is no excuse for any Muslim not to migrate to the Islamic State … joining (its fight) is a duty on every Muslim. We are calling on you either to join or carry weapons (to fight) wherever you are.”

The recording also says that “Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting. No-one should believe that the war that we are waging is the war of the Islamic State. It is the war of all Muslims, but the Islamic State is spearheading it. It is the war of Muslims against infidels.”

Fr. Samir said al-Baghdadi's message is “very shrewd because it corresponds to the expectations of a part of the Islamic world,” and that Salafis – followers of a movement that takes the first generations of Islamic society as the model – “will be happy about it and will say: Finally, we find the true Islam!”

The word al Baghdadi used for migration, hijra, is of significance, according to Fr. Samir. The hijra was the migration of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622, which “represents the transition from a peaceful Islam to a bellicose Islam.”

Fr. Samir recounted that Muhammad was nonviolent in Mecca, but after a year in Medina “he began to fight, first against the Makkans, then against the tribes, in order to convert them…Most tribes in Arabia ended up following him. However, they did so because he was a military chief not a religious leader.”

The Jesuit backs up this claim by noting that when Muhammad died, tribes across the Arabian peninsula rebelled against his successor, Abu Bakr, the first caliph, in the Ridda wars. Abu Bakr consolidated the caliphate, and expanded it into modern-day Iraq and Jordan.

“It is interesting,” Fr. Samir wrote, “that this new 'caliph' chose Abu Bakr as his name and that he wants to launch a holy war around the world, to subjugate everyone to Islam.”

al Baghdadi's message, he charged, “is meant to rekindle an idea that is deeply embedded in Islam, namely: let us all go through our hijrah, let us leave behind all those who want an Islam of peace, and let us move to the true Islam that conquered Arabia first, then the Middle East, then the Mediterranean.”

The Islamic State emerged amid the Syrian civil war, and expanded into Iraq in 2014, conquering sizable portions of both countries and declaring a caliphate. Last month, the caliphate was pushed out of the Iraqi city of Tikrit, though it seized Ramadi May 17, and is currently closing in on Palmyra, one of the Middle East's greatest archaeological sites.

Fr. Samir considers the caliph's message an appeal to young Muslims who are committed to their religion, and said it “will convince many Muslim traditionalists to become Salafis and fight.”

“Faced with such call to arms, what can be done?” the priest asked. Amid the Islamic State's war “a military fight might be necessary, but it will not be decisive.”

“Military actions will reduce the violence, shed less blood, push back IS, but the movement will continue because it is part of Islam.”

Fr. Samir wrote that “the only solution is a radical reform to the internal reading of Islamic history.”

He writes that al-Baghdadi's claim that “Islam was never a religion of peace” is an exaggeration, and that the religion has “also had periods of peace. To say that Islam is only war is also a mistake.”

“Islam is both war and peace,” Fr. Samir reflected. “And it is high time for Muslims to re-examine their history.”

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Samir Khalil Samir is fairly well known. He wrote a book, “111 Questions on Islam” which was well reviewed on Amazon. He has been cited in other more scholarly works.

One quotation from the story bears repetition: “…but the movement [ISIS, extremism] will continue because it is part of Islam.”

Throughout Islamic history these movements have popped up. One of the most recent was the Mahdi in the Sudan in the late 19th c. but there have been other less known incidents. Samir’s comments are right on.

Being that he was born in Egypt and is a great scholar it sounds like he is correct about Islam. We are living in the 21st century. For the current leader of ISIS send out a message that Islam is not a religion of peace, but of war should be alarming. Not to mention the actions we have witnessed by ISIS with their forced conversions, forced slavery, beheadings and mass murder. This kind of Islam is like a cancer.

Maybe we need to ask, why has ISIS popped up now, there must be a reason?

Maybe when we invaded Iraq, hundreds of thousands were killed or injured. How many of these victims were innocent of any previous crime against America and their allies?

Of the two million refugees who fled Iraq, how many of them were guilty of any previous crime against America?

Presumably these victims and their families are not going to see justice or compensation for their loss,

I would say these are the ideal conditions to breed extremism of any kind. there is the possibility of another war costing billions, we could create better results if this money was used to rebuild Iraq and Syria, I can’t imagine Jesus going in with a gun to sort the problem out.

Fair observation. The Coalition went to war in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. Now he is replaced perhaps by a greater evil, the ISIS. In retrospect we can only wonder whether Saddam Hussein would be better off than the current ISIS and untold suffering and death of the Iraqis as a result of that war, directly or indirectly.

Perhaps there is one thing that the occupation forces can never fully grasp despite their good intention. The locals/natives would hate them no matter how bad and atrocious are their own. Saddam Hussein was overthrown and the interim power were the American and largely Western forces, traditionally identified as the Crusaders and Christians in their country, the common enemies of Islam. There is no way that the Iraqis would prefer them and what they represent in their homeland. Some Iraqi soldiers may posses this sentiment and thus half-heartedly fight the ISIS which led to their capitulation despite their superior numbers.

It’s a great way to conquer a land - to engineer it so the ‘enemies’ kill each other off. If they don’t, the propaganda will promote that in so not doing they are bad. How patient is Our Lord, massacres upon massacres and He is silent and still.

I think that there are always a host of reasons for anything, but I would agree with you. You could trace it back further to the Russian-Afghan war, British imperialism, etc., but the trigger event was the invasion of Iraq. It really lifted the lid on a host of problems. Or maybe a better regional analogy, it was like opening Pandora’s box. It wasn’t thought through–but almost all of us realize that now.

My own daughter was in Iraq for a year at the beginning of the war. She was involved in killing an Iraqi–it was an accident. But the thing that illustrates why war is bad is that if it had happened in the US, she would have been traumatized. But it happened in Iraq–it didnt’ bother her.

Here’s something I’ve been writing to columnists about because no one has mentioned it (unless I’ve missed it somehow): What happens if ISIS overthrows Asad and captures Damascus, becoming the de factor government of Syria? What then? Anyone out there think Obama has a strategy for that one? I should add that one of the columnists I wrote to, a former acting director of the CIA, replied to me and said “I didn’t think of that.” That’s simply a chilling statement. I bet that ISIS is sure thinking about it!

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