Thucydides, Greek historian and the father of political realism once said that, "Ignorance is bold, and knowledge is reserved." Indeed, the ignorance of Islam is bolder and louder than the knowledge that silences it. In a recent opinion piece, Father James V. Schall analyzes political realism as understood by Augustine and Machiavelli regarding Islam, and argues that Islam is inherently violent. This analysis is not done by quoting the Quran or critically analyzing Prophet Muhammad's life, but rather concluding so based on the terrorism seen in the past few decades.
Father Schall claims that the terrorists who commit murder in the name of Islam are not terrorists at all, but in reality "have the better side of the argument and are better witnesses to what historic Islam stands for." Those of us who read the Quran in its historical and holistic context should be "applauded for trying to mitigate the historic record." For Father Schall, the people who really understand Islam are those who are enacting the will of Allah by committing terrorist acts.
What do we know of those who commit murder in the name of Islam?
The 9/11 attackers had visited "Sin City" as many as five times, consuming alcohol, gambling, and visiting strip clubs all through out the country. The mastermind behind the Paris attackers, Abdel Hamid Abaaoud, was found drinking whiskey after the attack despite alcohol being forbidden in Islam. The French journalist Dider Francois, who spent over ten months in a ISIS prison, found the discussion to be strictly political, not religious. Francois stated that "we didn't even have a Quran; they didn't want to even give us a Quran."
To make claims that terrorists such as ISIS understand Islam better than mainstream Muslims is like saying the KKK understands Christianity better than mainstream Christians. If Islam is just to be understood by the murder committed in it's name, then we cannot forget the murder committed in the name of Christianity. In 2011, Anders Breivik slaughtered seventy-seven people at a youth camp, and killing a child as young as fourteen years old. All in the while Breivik published his Christian manifesto against Islam and immigrants. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh orchestrated the most devastating attack in US history prior to 9/11. Under a Christian agenda, he rigged a van with explosives targeted at a federal building in Oklahoma with the intention of causing the most damage possible. McVeigh killed 168 people and injured more than six hundred.
Father Schall claims that "world conquest" is what all Muslims are ultimately attempting to achieve. History could not be further from the truth. If the indicia of a religion's truth is by certain aspects of its history, as Father Schall claims, then Christianity would have the most blood on its hands. Indeed Christianity had succeeded in world conquest through the guise of colonialism. As articulated in Rudyard Kipling's The White Man's Burden, Christians of the past felt obligated to extend Christendom throughout the world. As Jan H. Boer of the Sudan United Mission states, "Colonialism is a form of imperialism based on a divine mandate and designed to bring liberation - spiritual, cultural, economic and political - by sharing the blessings of the Christ-inspired civilization of the West with a people suffering under satanic oppression, ignorance and disease, effected by a combination of political, economic and religious forces that cooperate under a regime seeking the benefit of both ruler and ruled." For Christians, the word of God compels them to spread Christ-inspired civilizations. One also cannot forget the atrocities of Christian violence manifested in various inquisitions and crusades.
Of course, history is written by the victors and the violence of Christianity is rarely discussed in comparative religion. But this discussion begs the question, who's right? Certainly the validity of a theology should not hinge on extremists that hijack it. Christianity rebukes terrorism made in its name. To say that these acts of terrorism were inspired by Christianity insults the beauty of Jesus's teachings. To say that terrorism or a violent world conquest is inspired by Islam insults the beauty and peacefulness of Prophet Muhammad's message. Indeed the national movement TrueIslam.com campaign is spreading the knowledge and peacefulness of Islam. Various government and law enforcement officials, including Senator Mike Honda and San Bernardino Chief of Police Jarrod Burguan have promoted this campaign.
By understanding Islam, the fuel that furthers both extremists and Islamaphobes can be extinguished. Even though ignorance is often much bolder, such boldness can be dulled by advocating together for the true peacefulness inherent in all religions.