The "school of Thumper" and the danger of silence in the face of evil

A decade of studying Islam


Since 9/11, we've all been in school, studying up on Islam. But we've been to two different schools. In a nutshell, one says that Islam is a great religion with awesome accomplishments, now wounded by misfortune and embarrassed by extremists who've perverted its basically wholesome message. The other says that Islam is a false and dangerous ideology, bad to the bone, flawed from its founding. The first is led by the likes of Joseph Esposito and Karen Armstrong; the other by Robert Spencer and Mark Durie (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bat Ye'or, Nonie Darwish and others). Having "attended" both schools, I'm not convinced the first should be accredited and I'm urging folks to matriculate in the other. Of course, both schools grant the other a point here and there ("Yes, that's an unfortunate verse in the Quran"; "Yes, the Moorish Alhambra palace in Spain is impressive.") But the differences are substantial and critical. (And yes, the majority of Muslims aren't aggressive and oppressive, but the majority of Baptists aren't evangelistic or sacrificial in giving. You don't define a faith by the behavior of its slackers or its observants who lack the numbers and power to fully advance their agenda, as is currently the case with Muslims in the West.) I'm afraid our recent presidents haven't been too helpful in clearing things up. I understand the need for diplomacy, but I wish President Bush hadn't proclaimed amiably but naively that Islam was a "religion of peace" and that President Obama hadn't declared in Cairo that Islam "carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment." Neither statement will stand up to scrutiny. .... I've spoken of two schools of thought, but actually there's a third, the school of Thumper, who was pressed to recall his father's instructions in Bambi, "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all." I fear that many of us have studied too long there. Remember those who were upset with Franklin Graham when he called Islam a "wicked and evil" religion? They murmured that such talk was "provocative" and "counter-productive." But I would urge them to revisit Mount Carmel, where Elijah felt no need to palliate the prophets of Baal with assurances that their religion was great and that it had made some impressive contributions. And you don't find the apostles and church fathers "building bridges of understanding and cooperation" or "cultivating mutuality" with emperor worship or Gnosticism. You can be civil without being feeble. So let's save room for plain speaking on these matters, even as that room is locked in Muslim-majority countries. And let's not be cowed by charges of "Islamophobia" when we rehearse the unmatched, bloody record of Muslim terrorist attacks, running from A to Z -- literally -- even in the last two months: Abuja (Nigeria); Beersheba (Israel); Cherchell (Algeria) and Cotabato (Philippines); Dattykh (Ingushetia); Eilat (Israel); Fallujah (Iraq); Gombi (Nigeria); Hyhama (India); Iskandaryah (Iraq); Jamrud (Pakistan); Khasavyurt (Dagestan); Loder (Yemen); Mandera (Kenya); Nazran (Ingushetia); Oruzgan (Afghanistan); Pariang (Sudan) and Pattani (Thailand); Quetta (Pakistan); Ramadi (Iraq); Sar-Kuusta (Somalia) and Samalout (Egypt); Toronto (Canada) and Tunis (Tunisia); Uruzgan (Afghanistan); Vedono (Chechnya); West Nusa Tenggara (Indonesia); Xingjian (China); Yamata (Ghana); Zarqa (Jordan). (And you might check out thereligionofpeace.com for another 300 examples from that same brief time period.) Such talk may not be your calling or your cup of tea, but it has its place if I read my Bible right.



The Crusades refer to a series of military expeditions over several centuries, beginning with the First Crusade in 1096 through the end of the Fifth Crusade in 1221, and continuing on in more sporadic fashion up until the Reformation. The term “Crusade” is not a medieval word. It is a modern word. It comes from crucesignati (“those signed by the cross”), a term used occasionally after the twelfth century to refer to what we now call “crusaders.” Contrary to popular opinion, the Crusades did not begin as a holy war whose mission was to convert the heathen by the sword. In fact, very few of the crusaders saw their mission as an evangelistic one. The initial purpose of the Crusades, and the main military goal throughout the Middle Ages, was quite simply to reclaim Christian lands captured by Muslim armies. The popular conception of barbaric, ignorant, cruel, and superstitious crusaders attacking peaceful, sophisticated Muslims comes largely from Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Talisman (1825) and Sir Steven Runciman’s three-volume History of the Crusades (1951-54), the latter of which concludes with the famous summation now shared by most everyone: “the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is the sin against the Holy Ghost.” Scott and Runciman did much to shape the entirely negative view of the Crusades, but it isn’t as if they had no material to work with. The Crusades were often barbaric and often produced spectacular failures. Children died needlessly. Coalitions splintered endlessly. Jews were sometimes persecuted mercilessly. Ancient cities were ransacked foolishly. And on occasion (e.g., the Wendish Crusade) infidels were forced to convert or die, while the crusaders holding the swords were guaranteed immortality. In short, many of the Christians who went to war under the sign of the cross conducted themselves as if they knew nothing of the Christ of the cross. But that’s not the whole story. The Crusades is also the story of thousands of godly men, women, and children who sacrificed time, money, and health to reclaim holy lands in distant countries overrun by Muslims. The Christians of the East had suffered mightily at the hands of the Turks and Arabs. It was only right, it seemed to medieval Christians, to go and help their fellow Christians and reclaim their land and property.

The President at the Prayer Breakfast


The fact remains that Western civilization — and much of the world beyond — is directly threatened by a militant form of Islam that has the allegiance of millions of Muslims. While the vast majority of Muslims in the world are not fighters in a jihad against the West, and for that we must be thankful, the fact remains that the President’s own national security authorities directly disagree with the President when he recently said that “99.9 percent” of Muslims do not back Islamic terrorism. On Islam, President Obama is not the first to sow confusion on the issue. In the aftermath of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush argued over and over again that America is not at war with Islam. We can understand why a president would say this, and we also need to admit that there is an important element of truth in the statement. The West is not at war with Islam if that means a war against all Muslims and against all forms of Islam. But, true as that statement may be, we must also be clear that we are facing a great and grave civilizational challenge from millions of Muslims who believe, quite plausibly, that their version of Islam is more faithful to the essence of Islam and the Quran. This understanding of Islam is growing, not receding. It is now drawing thousands of young Muslims from both Europe and North America to join the jihad. We have seen the hopes of a moderating Arab Spring dashed and we have seen the rise of even more brutal and deadly forms of jihad in groups such as the Islamic State. Clearly, there are millions of Muslims who do believe that God condones terror. They celebrate the fact that Muhammad was a warrior, and they understand that it is their responsibility as faithful Muslims to bring the entire world under the rule of Sharia law. Their actions are driven by a theological logic that has roots in the Quran, in the founding of Islam, and in the history of Islamic conquest.
Comment: One may conclude that Christianity is false. One may conclude that Islam is false. But both cannot be true! Image  = Thumper from Bambi

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