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Should You Be Islamophobic (Part 1)?

Sun, Jul. 27, 2014 Posted: 05:29 PM


Current news headlines are filled with examples of Islamic-inspired violence and terror, with CNN recently reporting that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed 270 in an attack in central Syria. Moreover, ISIS is also moving through Iraq with a “convert or die” campaign, which is forcing Christians and other faiths to flee their homes.

Hamas openly continues to pursue their goal, which is the extinction of the Jewish people.

In addition, the world community raised its voice a few months ago to protest Sudan’s death sentence on Meriam Ibrahim, a pregnant Christian woman who refused to renounce her faith and convert to Islam. Though she suffered many hardships, thankfully she has recently become free, unlike many of the 200+ girls kidnapped by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram (whose name means “Western or non-Islamic education is a sin”).

These and other episodes, piled on top of the 9-11 Islamic-inspired attacks on the United States, lead many to strongly resist and greatly fear the religion of Islam – a condition that some have labeled “Islamophobia”, which has been defined as a prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of Muslims or of ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim.

Given recent events, as well as a longer look back through history, should you be Islamophobic?

Getting Started

Merriam-Webster defines a phobia as, “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation”. Those who point to Islamic-fueled terror attacks would argue that such a definition is flawed where Islam is concerned because there is nothing hard to explain about the events referenced above nor is it illogical to be worried that such episodes will continue or even grow in number.

However, that said, when looking at this and similar issues, caution should always be exercised upfront to ensure that the actions of a few are not confused with the beliefs/practices of the majority that make up a religion or worldview. To be specific where Islam is concerned, the question should be asked: do the majority of practicing Muslims participate in or condone the violence practiced by groups like ISIS?

As Saint Augustine said, a person should “never judge a philosophy by its abuse”.[1] As a case in point where Christianity is concerned, how many times have non-Christians attempted to use the Crusades or Spanish Inquisition to paint Christianity as a violent and/or controlling religion?

The point is, when examining this issue we need to do our best to free ourselves from emotions and assumptions, and instead examine the facts and core prescriptive teachings of a worldview. For example, atheists and secular thinkers are quite fond of routinely saying that religions like Christianity and Islam are responsible for nearly all the violence and wars that have been fought down through history.

There’s just one problem with that assertion – it is completely false. According to Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history (up to 2004), only 123 of history’s wars have a religious backbone[2], which means that 93% of all wars have been secular in nature.

Now what the author’s data does show is that wars having an Islamic base make up over half of all religiously-inspired conflicts (66 up to 2004, the number of which would be higher today), leaving all other religions combined at 3%. Such a statistic does naturally lead to the question of why that might be.

What About Islam?

In the Islamic Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith[3] 1.4, we read: “Allah's Apostle [Muhammad] said: "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah."

That is followed up in 1.5, which says: “Allah's Apostle was asked, "What is the best deed?" He replied, "To believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad). The questioner then asked, "What is the next (in goodness)? He replied, "To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah's Cause."

Then in the Quran, we find: “And if you are killed in the cause of Allah or die - then forgiveness from Allah and mercy are better than whatever they accumulate [in this world]. And whether you die or are killed, unto Allah you will be gathered.” (3:157-158).

These three statements seem to sum up the foundation and justification that many Islamic terrorist groups give for the violence they commit against non-Muslims and the reward they expect if they die during a fight against their perceived enemies. Even the “golden rule” seems altered to apply only to other Muslims and not outsiders in Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 1.12: “The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself."”

What should we make of these statements?

The Heart of a Worldview or Religion

There are countless articles and websites that list verses like those above from the Islamic Quran and Hadiths (Islamic traditions), which seem to prescribe violence toward non-Muslims, and there are also Islamic apologetic websites and materials that attempt to show how Islam is a religion of peace.

In looking at seemingly contradictory and opposing sides of an argument like this, it’s helpful to ask two questions that help bring clarity to the discussion of what any religion or worldview believes and teaches:

  1. Are the practices in question a reflection of the worldview/religion’s explicit and prescriptive teachings and/or a logical outworking of the worldview’s philosophical conclusions?
  2. Are the particular teachings/instructions in question properly taken from the religious text’s context and is the historical milieu considered?

To see how these can be applied, let’s look at an example from Christianity. What would a person think by examining Psalm 137:9, which is a cry from the psalmist against his enemies: “How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock”.

Leaving the verse by itself, you have to admit that such a statement is shocking to read. But let’s now look at it in context and in its historical setting: “Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom, the day of Jerusalem, who said, ‘Raze it, raze it to its very foundation.’ O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, how blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us. How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock” (Psalm 137:1-9).

Old Testament scholars will tell you that these verses are a textbook example of talion, a cry for a punishment to match a specific crime. As Israel’s enemies had done to them, the Psalmist asks God to repay them accordingly, even going so far as to cut off their next generation. This being the case, we find that the statement found in verse 9 is not a global prescriptive command, is only applied to a specific historical context, and is not something that dovetails at all with Christ’s universal teaching of loving your enemy.

In Part 2 of this post, we’ll apply the above two questions to Islam and see what we find.



[3] Considered by Sunni Muslims as the most trustworthy account of Muhammad’s life.

Robin Schumacher