The headlines out of the Middle East in recent months have been horrifying—American and British hostages beheaded, captured prisoners executed in the thousands, women forced or sold into a lifetime of sexual slavery, children brutally murdered and communities starved to death or murdered in cold blood for refusing to change their religion.
Much of the world is shocked by such brutality, and rightfully so. It seems incomprehensible to the Western mind.
What's driving such cruelty, a barbarism not seen in our lifetimes? If we are to understand, we need to cast off the blinders of political correctness and unflinchingly face the facts.
In reality, the answer is simple. Those who are behind these horrors share a common denominator. They are unapologetic in saying they are doing what they are told to do by their religion—Islam.
And while it is true that many Muslims are peaceful, and are equally horrified by these events, all we have to do is look at the words of the perpetrators of such atrocities to understand their motivations. They clearly and proudly state that they are doing what their religion tells them to do.
A religion of peace?
Ever since the horrific hijacked-airliner terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (with another jet apparently supposed to crash into the White House or U.S. Capitol building), Western leaders have gone out of their way to describe Islam as a religion of peace.
For example, just six days after those attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans, then-President George W. Bush, speaking at the Islamic Center of Washington D.C., said: "These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith . . . The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace" (emphasis added throughout).
In a speech to the United Nations on Sept. 24, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama stated: "The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them—there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country. So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations."
In a speech on Sept. 3, 2014—ironically, the day after the Islamic State (IS) released a video showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry applauded Islam as a "peaceful religion based on the dignity of all human beings." He then explained that "the real face of Islam is . . .one where Muslim communities are advocating for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the most basic freedom to practice one's faith openly and freely."
On Sept. 24, following the brutal decapitation of British hostage David Haines, British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that his murderers "have nothing to do with the great religion of Islam, a religion of peace, a religion that inspires daily acts of kindness and generosity."
Who is a more reliable authority on Islam?
While these and other Western leaders repeatedly claim that Islam is a peaceful religion, we should also remind ourselves that those actively involved in committing these atrocities have spent their entire lifetimes immersed in Islamic belief and culture.
We should also note that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the declared caliph of the Islamic State, holds a doctorate in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad—distinguishing him as highly knowledgeable of Islamic law, history and culture. Unlike these Western leaders, he is thoroughly familiar with the beliefs of Islam and teachings of its holy book, the Quran.
As caliph—supreme ruler of the new Islamic nation carved out of Syria and Iraq—his determinations of what is allowable or forbidden is the law of the land. And as recent headlines have shown, Al-Baghdadi and his followers, like Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda before them, see no conflict between their tactics of murder and mayhem and their practice of Islam. In fact, they boast that what they do is the practice of Islam.
What, then, is the truth? Is Islam a religion of peace, as these politicians say, or is it something different? To understand the answer, we need to examine Islam's holy book, the Quran.
Islam—the supreme and only true religion
What are some of the teachings of the Quran that are leading to violence and bloodshed around the world?
The clear teaching of the Quran is that Islam is the supreme and only true religion, and that eventually the entire world will come under Islamic rule.
For example, Surah 61:9 states: "It is He [Allah] who has sent for His apostle [Muhammad] with guidance and the true faith [Islam], so that he may exalt it above all religions, much as the idolaters may dislike it" (all quotes from the Dawood translation, 1999). In the Quran, "idolaters" refers to all who practice non-Islamic religion—including Christians and Jews.
In line with this belief in the supremacy of Islam, Surah 2:193 gives this clear command: "Fight against them until idolatry is no more and [Allah's] religion reigns supreme." Again, "idolatry" in the Quran refers to any religion other than Islam, which would include Christianity and Judaism and any other belief system. To those who follow this verse—and there are millions who do—if you don't worship Allah by the dictates of Muhammad, you are considered an idolater and therefore a legitimate target of this command.
In the worldview of Islamic scholars and leaders, the world is divided into two spheres—the sphere or lands of dar al-Islam, meaning "the domain of Islam" (where Islam is dominant) and dar al-harb, meaning "the domain of war." A fundamental aspect of this worldview is that all non-Muslim lands must eventually be absorbed or conquered by Islam, preferably by peaceful conversion, but by force if necessary—thus they are "the domain of war."
Another aspect of this that bears bringing out is that most of the Muslim world is united against Israel because it is considered an abomination for land that was once dar al-Islam, part of the land of Islam,to revert to dar al-harb, to fall back under control of the infidel (Christians or Jews).
This is a key reason why Muslims are so determined to bring the physical territory of Israel back under Muslim domination. Keep in mind that the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, three years before Israel captured the West Bank and Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War—so Muslim determination to "liberate" Israeli lands long predates Israel's control of these areas and extends to all of Israel, period.
This is why Muslim leaders openly boast of their desire to liberate the land "from the sea to the sea"—from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, meaning no more Israel. This is why the founding documents of terror organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah openly call for the elimination of Israel.
Western governments, failing to understand this Muslim belief, regularly pressure Israel to negotiate with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for a peaceful solution. But in fact there is no peaceful solution when the negotiating partners believe with all their heart and soul that Israel's land belongs to them and that it must be ethnically cleansed of Jews—as stated repeatedly by Hamas and Palestinian Authority leaders.
Jihad—holy war against non-believers
If Islam is to become the supreme and only true religion in the world as taught by the Quran, how is that goal to be accomplished? The answer is jihad or holy war. The Quran commands violence and conquest to spread Islam. It contains literally dozens of such commands, but we'll quote just a few:
Surah 9:5 states: "When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them."
Surah 9:73 reads: "Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate."
Surah 9:123 commands: "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them. Know that [Allah] is with the righteous."
Harvard University professor of government Samuel Huntington, commenting on the disproportionate involvement of Muslims in warfare and terrorism around the globe, coined the phrase "the bloody borders of Islam" in his 1997 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. At that pre-9/11 time he had no idea how prophetic the phrase would be.
In the 2005 book Religion, Culture and International Conflict: A Conversation (Michael Cromartie, editor), Professor Huntington wrote: "While groups from all religions have engaged in various forms of violence and terrorism, the figures make it clear that in the past decade Muslims have been involved in far more of these activities than people of other religions . . .
If you look around the Muslim world you see that in the 1990s Muslims were fighting non-Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kashmir, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Middle East, Sudan, Nigeria, and other places. Muslims have been fighting one another also" (p. 5).
He went on to note that in the year 2000, 23 of the world's 32 armed conflicts involved Muslims. Similar numbers hold true today. A glance at a world map shows that nearly all of the world's wars are taking place around the edges of the Muslim world where Islam is pressing outward against non-Muslims. Whereas the Bible teaches us to love our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39), the Quran teaches Muslims to "make war on the infidels who dwell around you"—to fight your neighbor.
It's also worth noting that many Muslims believe that the only sure way to enter paradise (in their view of the afterlife) is to become a martyr fighting for Islam. They draw this belief from Surah 22:58: "As for those that have fled their homes in the cause of [Allah] and afterwards died or were slain, [Allah] will surely make a generous provision for them [in paradise]. [Allah] is the most munificent provider. He will surely admit them with a welcome that will please them. All-knowing is [Allah], and gracious."
In Islamic thinking, as soon as a martyr sheds his first drop of blood, he is guaranteed a place in paradise. And when he arrives, he has waiting for him 72 young, dark-eyed, beautiful virgins to be his perpetual companions in paradise. This is one reason so many young Muslim men are willing to die as suicide bombers—because they are guaranteed entry into paradise as soon as they blow themselves up, since they are dying in the cause of jihad.
The Quran also says that Allah will punish those who do not wage jihad as he commands. Surah 9:39 warns: "If you do not go to war, [Allah] will punish you sternly, and will replace you by other men." In other words, if you're a Muslim and don't wage jihad, you will be punished and Allah will choose someone else to fight in your place.
Using terror in waging jihad
The Quran also commands using terror and cruelty in waging jihad. Surah 8:59-60 states: "Let not the unbelievers think that they will ever get away. They have not the power so to do. Muster against them all the men and cavalry at your command, so that you may strike terror into the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them who are unknown to you but known to Allah."
This is why the Sunni fighters of the Islamic State are so viciously cruel. Knowing this verse, they use terror to strike fear into their enemies to demoralize them and cause them to give up their will to fight. Those whom they capture—Shiites whom they consider apostates or non-Muslims—they brutally execute in accordance with what they read in their holy book.
The Quran even mentions specific methods to sow terror, which the Islamic State fighters use. Surah 8:12 states: "[Allah] revealed his will to the angels, saying: 'I shall be with you. Give courage to the believers. I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers!'"
So what the Quran tells them to do, they do. When their holy book tells them to strike off heads, they do exactly that.
The civilized world has been horrified to see Islamic State fighters, like al-Qaeda fighters and Iraqi terror groups before them, brutally decapitate captive soldiers, as well as Western journalists and aid workers. Perhaps you have seen clips from some of the beheading videos shown on news reports or posted on the Internet. You may have wondered, as I did, what the Arabic-language shouting and chanting signified.
I already knew the meaning of the shouts of "Allahu Akbar"—"Allah is great" or, more properly, "Allah is greater" (than any who would oppose them). With a little research I learned the significance of the chanting often accompanying the shouts. The murderers are chanting verses like the one above telling them to behead infidels. They are simply quoting their scriptures in the Quran.
Yet Western leaders assure us, as President Obama did in a Nov. 16 White House statement after the beheading of American hostage Peter Kassig, that such acts "represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith . . ."
Another Surah that illustrates Allah's cruelty is Surah 5:34-35: "Those that make war against [Allah] and His apostle [Mohammad] and spread disorder in the land shall be slain or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land. They shall be held up to shame in this world and sternly punished in the hereafter."
Here Allah commands torture, crippling and maiming of prisoners. Crucifixion is a horrible form of torture and execution, and they practice it with relish. A brief search of the Internet will produce hundreds of photos showing Islamists carrying out and celebrating such practices.
Slavery and the Quran
What does the Quran teach about slavery? Although little is said about it in Western media, slavery remains alive and well in parts of the Muslim world. While the slave trade in the Americas during the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s has been rightfully condemned, the focus has largely been on the white slave owners and slave traders, with little said of the Arab Muslims who first enslaved Africans and sold them to whites.
This, too, was approved in the Quran. Surah 47:4 says: "When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly." Those who follow the Quran literally have long understood this to mean that when Muslims defeat their enemies, they are allowed to either kill them or enslave them.
According to early Muslim writings, Muhammad—who is viewed as the ideal man whom Muslims are to emulate—sold, traded and confiscated slaves, making himself a slave trader.
A particularly appalling aspect of recent Muslim conquests is women and girls being taken captive to be used as sexual slaves. This happened with the capture of Yazidi towns in northern Iraq by the Islamic State and the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the Islamic Boko Haram movement in Nigeria. This, too, is specifically allowed in the Quran. Notice these verses:
Surah 23:1-6 says: "Blessed are the believers, who are humble in their prayers, who avoid profane talk, and give alms to the destitute, who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them . . .)."
Surah 33:50 states: "We [that is, Allah speaking of himself in the plural] well know the duties We have imposed on the faithful concerning their wives and slave-girls. (We grant you this privilege [satisfying their sexual desires with slave girls]) so that none may blame you."
A Nov. 5, 2014, report by the International Business Times was headlined "Shocking: ISIS Official 'Slave' Price List Shows Yazidi, Christian Girls Aged '1 to 9' Being Sold for $172." The article went on to describe a price list for sexual slaves on an Islamist website: "In the name of Allah, most gracious and merciful. We have received news that the demand in women and cattle markets has sharply decreased and that will [affect] Islamic State revenues as well as the funding of the Mujaheddin [jihadist fighter] in the battlefield. We have made some changes. Below are the prices of Yazidi and Christian women."
At the same time a video posted online appeared to show Islamic State fighters at what one of them called "slave market day" while quoting Surah 23:1-6 (cited above). The men discuss prices for girls and women from $100-300 depending on the age and eye color—with green or blue eyes bringing a higher price.
An October online edition of Dabiq magazine (published by an Islamic State jihadist group) boasted after the capture of the Iraqi town of Sinjar that "the enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers." It then explained that "the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah [Islamic law] amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations." Thus, as war booty, they were divided up and sold as pieces of property.
Turning a blind eye to the grim reality
The sad truth about the Middle East today is that we are seeing a revival of the original Islam Muhammad brought to the world in the seventh century.
Muhammad's new religion caught fire, fueled by power and plunder. The Islamic State is repeating Muhammad's early conquests—burning churches, looting monasteries, enslaving and forcibly converting the powerless, and callously executing those who stand up to them. It is vigorously enforcing sharia law—cutting off the hands of thieves, stoning adulterers and blasphemers, whipping criminals and banning anything that stands in the way of Islam.
In defiance of the major Western powers, it has brutally butchered American and British citizens, decapitating them and posting videos of the murders on the Internet for the world to see. The message is unmistakable: Allah is on their side, and they have nothing to fear from the major world powers.
Until Western leaders wake up from their willful blindness and face the grim reality of the jihadist worldview that is motivating the Islamic State as well as Hamas, Hezbollah and countless other groups and movements, that part of the world will remain a powder keg waiting to explode and take down much of modern civilization with it. And shockingly, Bible prophecy indicates that is the likely outcome to which events in that region are heading.