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Also available: Parts 1-2, Part 3, Part 4a, Part 4b

Please find the original article this essay refutes here.

Overall Tone of the Two Religions

"Most Muslims are exceptionally gracious and peace-loving people. And Islam has many elements of peacefulness in it. However, anyone who wants to commit violence has perfect justification for doing so from the Quran. While violence in the Quran is sometimes for self-defence; at other times it is open-ended. Many passages in the Quran exhort Muslims to kill infidels (non-Muslims) wherever they find them. See Suras 2:190-193, 2:216, 4:76, 5:32-36, 8:12-14, 8:39, 8:59, 8:65, 9:5, 9:14, 9:23-29, 9:38-41, 9:123, 47:4, 47:35, 61:4, and 66:9."

Let's take a look at some of these Surahs.:

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. But if they cease, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they case, let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression. - Surah 2: 190-193

Verdict: Fight for self-defence.

Fighting is prescribed upon you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not. - Surah 2:216

Verdict: Too open-ended. However, if you look at the quoted verse in the context of its chapter, then the idea being presented above is simply out of context. This is the verse directly after the one above:

They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: "Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members. Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; They will be Companions of the Fire and will abide therein. - Surah 2: 217

The Prohibited Month mentioned here would be the month of Ramadan, the fasting month of Muslims before Eidl Fitr. Verse 2:217 elaborates on the point made in 2:216, that violent fighting is naturally reprehensible (hence "...ye dislike it') to the Muslim mindset, and that fighting is to be done only in desperate, self-defending scenarios. It is a crime to fight during Ramadan, but if a Muslim is forced to defend himself and his faith during that month, fighting is necessitated. In other words, this isn't an open-ended concept at all.

Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject Faith fight in the cause of Evil: So fight ye against the Friends of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan. - Surah 4:76

Verdict: Too open-ended. But take a look at 2:75, the verse that came directly before this verse.

And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed?) -- Men, women and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Thee one who will protect; and raise for us from Thee one who will help!" - Surah 4:75

The context of 4:76, therefore, seems to suggest that fighting for the cause of Allah is fighting for the ill-treated and oppressed, specifically, God-worshipping believers who genuinely request for help. The only open-ended idea I can see here is what the definition of "ill-treatment" is, but maybe there's an allusion to base humanitarian logic at work.

The other quotes follow a similar vein, apparently thrown together to contradict each other, often out of context. To say that Muslims have perfect justification for committing violence is inaccurate. Muslims have justification to resort to violence only for very specific circumstances, with very specific sorts of actions. What is dangerous is the way one interprets the verses by way of one's own judgement. In that sense, anything can be an excuse.

"Usama bin Laden in the now famous videotape discovered in Afghanistan in late 2001 is quoted as saying, 'I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad.' These words echo language in the Quran itself."

As in the above.

"But the Quran is not the only basis for violence in Islam. The example of Muhammad himself laid the foundation for violence via his deeds and commands, which are found in the hadiths. Eleven percent of the pages of the Bukhari Hadiths mention Holy War (jihad). Military jihad is a traditional and authentic part of Islam."

Military jihad is a traditional and authentic part of Islam seen in the hadiths. Muhammad did lay a foundation for violence via his deeds and commands, which are found in the hadiths, and as he received them, the text of the Quran. This is in direct conflict with saying violent fighting only for self-defence, and the history of early Islam suggests a great deal of strife. Saudi Arabia at the time Muhammad first began preaching Islam was a cyclically violent society, based on tribal laws of loyalty to chieftains and one's own clan. There was no cohesive, singular, political system to unite the country, and the country itself faced constant threat from neighbours Sassanid Persia and Byzantium.

Outside of the religious context, Muhammad was a charismatic political leader who united his fragmented countrymen and sowed the seed of a vast empire that flooded well outside its original borders within a century of his death. Through expanding Islamic philosophy, Saudi Arabia developed its own intellectual enlightenment, from organizing its political structure to flourishing its arts and sciences. The fact remains that it was a violent struggle to achieve that original unity, but as history would show us, national unity in a great many of the early empires required a bloodied hand. The Quran as a literary work records these struggles as they pertained to Saudi Arabia. Muslims assume the Quran as a complete literature on all aspects of life, including military and political ventures on the highest levels of social structure. The tenets on military jihad were developed as part of a philosophical and socio-political system to accommodate the needs of national unity, that is, military jihad was the militarial aspect of the Quran as it dealt with the setting up of a larger socio-political structure for early Saudi Arabia.

That the concept of military jihad, historically and philosophically, have been adopted by modern extremists to suit their own political agendas is unfortunate. The Quran is a much larger body of social commentary than on mere physical conflict. As the quote above notes, only eleven percent of the one set of Bukhari hadiths mentions Holy War.

"There are two meanings for jihad. One meaning is a personal spiritual aspect to kill sinful desires. It also means to use violence to spread the faith. Muslims are taught that those who fight and die in a jihad have their sins forgiven, and they are rewarded with a sensual and luxurious life in paradise. See Suras 3:157-158, 3:169-171, 3:194-195, 4:74, 4:94-97, 22:58-59, 52:17-23, 56:10-38. Also see Bukhari 4:63, 72, 80, 85, 137, 175, 216, 266. So the killing of non-Muslims offers the religion's highest reward."

A very good description of jihad appears in Surah 9:20:

Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive with might and main, in Allah's cause, with their goods and their persons, have the highest rank in the sight of Allah: they are the people who will achieve (salvation). - Surah 9:20

Jihad, as a word, means "striving". As the text suggests, the idea of Islamic jihad is realistically a focus on spirituality rather than cleaving to material life. This may include a laying down of a Muslim's life. But it does not say here that Muslims have to necessarily die physically fighting (or in fact die physically fighting non-Muslims), only striving in Allah's cause, which, since the definition states with their goods and their persons, can just as easily be interpreted as charitable work from a Muslim's own pocket. Thus, we shall now visit some of the verses in the Surahs referenced above.

And if ye are slain, or die, in the way of Allah, forgiveness and mercy from Allah are far better than all they could amass. And if ye die, or are slain, lo! It is unto Allah that ye are brought together. - Surah 3:157-158

"They" in this verse refers to the Quraysh unbelievers being fought at Uhud (Shawwal A.H. 3). The battle at Uhud began as a victory for the Muslim forces, but a regiment of Muslim archers posted on a hill slope defied orders to retain their post and chased after the retreating Quraysh forces, apparently lured by the prospect of treasure. The Quraysh forces, noticing this sudden dip in the Muslim forces' defence, turned and captured the hill, resulting in a disastrous defeat for the Muslims. The verses themselves do not actually ask that Muslims kill non-Muslims, rather, it states that the Muslims who died in battle at that particular juncture in time, if they were not party to the soldiers who chased after their enemy combatants in greed, would receive forgiveness and mercy from Allah.

Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the Presence of their Lord; they rejoice in the Bounty provided by Allah: and with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (Martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve. They glory in the Grace and the Bounty from Allah, and in the fact that Allah suffereth not the reward of the Faithful to be lost (in the least). - Surah 3:169-171

The Martyrs here are defined as "those who are slain in Allah's way". The verses quoted do not actually mention how these Muslims would have been slain, and again, do not actually ask that Muslims kill non-Muslims or die trying.

"Our Lord! Grant us what Thou didst promise unto us through Thy Messengers, and save us from shame on the Day of Judgement; for Thou never breakest Thy promise." And their Lord hath accepted of them, and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: ye are members, one of another; those who have left their homes, and were driven out therefrom, and suffered harm in My Cause, and fought and were slain -- verily, I will blot out from their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath -- a reward from the Presence of Allah, and from His Presence is the best of rewards. - Surah 3:194-195

The verses here read as an appeal to Allah from the Muslims seeking salvation. Allah's response to them was specific enough: He would not ignore any of the good deeds anyone has done, even going so far as to make clear, "be he male or female" (the concept of the Muslim community as being spiritually equal regardless of gender becomes important later on in this essay). There is a further reference to disenfranchised Muslims turned out from their communities, where the idea is even if these Muslims suffered and died from believing in the Islamic faith, they would not suffer in death. The "fought and were slain" phrase in the text is a direct reference to Muslims who are genuinely maligned by their communities, again, the earlier part of the same sentence specifically mentions "those who have left their homes, and were driven out therefrom." While there is a suggestion of mortal combat, it does not exactly state that a Muslim must fight and be slain or that this is the only mode of action given him/her. The stress of these verses is on suffering in the cause of Allah, where dying may be one outcome of that struggle.

From a historical standpoint, the verses are referring specifically to the struggle of the early Muslims, who faced communal wrath from their non-Muslim Quraysh clansmen in Mecca. The Quraysh non-Muslims did not take well to the Muslim ideology of monotheism at the expense of the traditional Quraysh polytheistic pantheon, and persecuted local Muslims to stem the spread of this new religion.

"Muhammad first claimed to have a vision from God in the year 610 AD. The first 13 years of his ministry were marked by peaceful preaching in the city of Mecca. During this period Muhammad seems to have been a well-meaning man who sought to oppose paganism and evil in his day."

The very earliest years of Muhammad's ministry was marked by peaceful preaching in Mecca. However, when the new Islamic faith became assertively monotheistic and firm in its criticism of idolatry, the traditional Quraysh polytheists retaliated by persecuting members of the Muslim community, beginning with those of the lower classes. The level of persecution reached a pitch when Muhammad's own relatives came under attack from the higher-ranking Quraysh. To protect his flock, Muhammad fled with a group of Muslims to Yathrib (Medina) in 622 AD.

"However, in the year 623 he became a political leader in the city of Medina. With his political power came a new aggressive behaviour. He attacked pagan caravans and used the sword to spread his religion."

We return once again to Muhammad's military expansion and eventual conquest of Saudi Arabia.

Beginning in 624 AD Muhammed established Islamic philosophy as an all-encompassing worldview rather than simply a religious system, in part to set it apart from the faiths of the Jews and the Christians. Islam views itself an Abrahamic (or Mosaic) faith, a continuation of the Judeo-Christian line. Under Islam, Jesus and Moses are both prophets in their own right, with sacred messages given them by the mutual monotheistic God for their peoples. Initially, Muhammad tried to reconcile his new faith with the old, and attempted to do so with the help of Medinian Jews.

When the majority of the Medinian Jews could not and would not acknowledge this new faith as a continuation of the Judeo-Christian heritage, or the proposed new prophet in his person, Muhammad set Islam as a faith standing on its own. His two years in Medina had gained him political mileage there, where the local community accepted him and his philosophical vision.

At this point, despite gaining political power in Medina, he still faced opposition from the Quraysh in Mecca. His life and that of his faithful were still constantly under threat.

Engaging in tribal warfare to spread a religious belief is not uncommon in the history of world religions, particularly the Abrahamic faiths. On the other hand, religious, political and philosophical ideology have often been used to justify war, frequently tacked onto more relevant material concerns after the fact.

Whether the conquest of Mecca (and later all of Saudi Arabia) was part of a larger plan to spread the Islamic faith or to unite the country is an entirely subjective question.

"Muhammad personally led at least 27 bloody invasions (some say more than 60) and ordered his followers to wage many more. Muhammad assassinated many of his opponents during his lifetime. In his battle against the Quraiza Jews, women and children were sold into slavery, and hundreds of captured men were executed. Even some of his own people were horrified."

The Qurayzah Jews referred here are the Jews of Medina from the tribe of Banu Qurayzah (see above). They were allied with other Medinians in the same social contract that put Muhammad in power there. When the Quraysh allied forces from Mecca laid seige to Medina in 625 AD, the Qurayzah Jews betrayed the Medinians and fought with the Quraysh. After the Muslim forces won the siege, they therefore turned their attention to the Qurayzah stronghold northeast of Medina. The eventual punishment of the Qurayzah fell to Sa'ad ibn Mu'adh, chief of the Aws tribe with which the Qurayzah had been in alliance. Sa'ad determined that the Qurayzah Jews would be punished by the Jewish Law of the Old Testament. Specifically:

When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. - Deuteronomy 20:10-15, NIV

"The tradition of violence in Islam, which started with Muhammad, continues to this day. There is worldwide evidence that some Muslims kill or otherwise persecute people solely for being non-Muslims. This is well documented in Nigeria, Algeria, Sudan (where modern slavery is documented), Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Malaysia."

There is worldwide evidence that people of various different religions, political and cultural ideologies kill other people because they're of differing beliefs every day. That particularly unchanging facet of history goes back to an earlier point: religious, political and philosophical ideology are frequently used to justify warfare, often tacked onto material concerns after the fact.

Regarding the particular case of Malaysia: though Islam is the country's official religion, the Malaysian Constitution guarantees the rights of all Malaysians to practice their chosen religion. Public preaching with the intent to convert is forbidden. There is, for example, no proselytizing. All religious organizations are required to be discreet about public events where they involve the larger community, in order to avoid insulting those of different faiths.

In practice, this may affect an event like a donation drive to upkeep a house of religion, where the congregation would be required to accept and ply for donations only from within its members. Donation drives for religious organizations running charities, such as Christian orphanages or Buddhist nursing homes, are open to the general public.

Islam's role as national religion does not prompt within Malaysia's Muslim population oppression of non-Muslim citizens; rather, Malaysia's multi-ethnic and multicultural population prompts within all of its citizens a 'live and let live' respect for each other's differences.

"Yes, the Bible has its share of violence as well, particularly in the Old Testament. For example, God instructs the Israelites coming out of Egypt to take over the land of Canaan and kill all of the inhabitants. However, there is a clear difference from Quranic violence.

The Bible makes it clear that the Canaanite society deserved it as it was thoroughly polluted by their wretchedly evil practices, including the horror of child sacrifice. (Deuteronomy 9:1-6, 12:29-31, 18:9-14, 1 Kings 14:24, 2 Chronicles 33:1-9, Ezra 9:11) Thus God used the Israelites to administer specific justice, just as he later used other societies to administer justice against the Israelites (book of Jeremiah)."

By the logic of fundamentalist religion here, all violent events in the Bible or the Quran are God's will. Unfortunately, since merely stating that an event is right by being God's will is not an empirical manner of reasoned comparison between the two religions, it is more relevant for us to weigh the series of violent events in both the Bible and the Quran based on historical and cultural context. In fact, as was pointed out much earlier in this article:

"Let us say this also at the outset. As noted on the home page of our website http://www.faithfacts.org, our organization is dedicated to exploring God through reason and evidence. Many people, including Christians, Muslims, atheists (or whoever) resist using reason and evidence. "Don't confuse me with the facts!" If you are in this camp, you may be wasting your time—even made uncomfortable—by reading this article. But if you are seriously interested in pursuing truth, the following discussion should be extremely interesting."

To the next point:

"Instances such as this in the Bible are each a particular limited circumstance in time, for a particular purpose established by God. But in the Quran, we encounter general commands to kill and destroy the enemies of Islam that are applicable for all times and places and people groups."

Assuming the view that each of the Bible's violent events were limited circumstances meant strictly for their time is in line with the logic that the Bible is a piece of historical literature. However, the Quran is also a series of historical records regarding its period in Saudi Arabian history (and the history of Abrahamic or Mosaic communities before it), thus, it would be equally logical to assume that each of the Quran's violent events were events limited in the context of their time.

However, the problem of establishing that both the Bible and the Quran were sent down by God is a matter of individual faith.

"While there is indeed violence in the Bible, one thing is certain Jesus had a non-violent message. While some people have betrayed the peaceful message of Jesus in history, the teachings of Jesus have a consistent tone of peace, service, love, and humility. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He never told us to kill anyone, and he disdained violence. Just a few of the numerous biblical passages that could be cited are: Matthew 5:1-12, 5:43-44, 9:36, 19:30, 26:50-52, Mark 9:35, Luke 6:27-36, 9:54-55, 10:30-37, 22:49-51, 23:32-34, John 10:7-18, 13:1-17, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 2:6-8, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, and 1 Peter 3:8-9. We encourage you to read these moving passages now, and then consider what the world would be like if everyone practiced the teachings of Jesus."

Islam, as it considers itself a continuation of the Judeo-Christian beliefs, openly acknowledges Jesus, Moses and all the Judeo-Christian prophets that came before them as full-fledged prophets in their own right. The Quran makes very clear that the "People of the Book" share a similar history with the Muslims, and thus are both respected and to be learned from. Jesus (Isa) is a highly respected and revered figure in Islam, with an entire chapter dedicated to Mary in her Arabic name, Maryam.

"Jesus warned, 'The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God' (John 16:2-4). While these words were spoken to his disciples, they have a powerful ring today."

First, let’s take an expanded look of this quote from the Bible:

All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. - John 16:1-4, NIV

Note that Jesus says, “I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.” The words appear to pertain to the particular time they were spoken; when Jews and early Christians were in tense conflict. Jesus spoke these points to his disciples shortly before his arrest and death. Keeping that in mind, his concerns were well-founded.

Also keeping that in mind, the use of “God” in this instance was, predating Islam, more likely either the Christian or Jewish God.

"There is nothing like the Christian concept of "love your enemies" or "turn your other cheek" (Luke 6:27-37) found in Islam. While Christianity says to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 19:19), the Quran instructs its followers not to even take Christians or Jews as friends (Suras 3:118, 5:51, 64, 60:1-3)!"

We now look at some of these quoted Quranic verses:

O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: they will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: what their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made plain to you the Signs, if ye have wisdom. - Surah 3:118

"Those outside your ranks" implies an antisocial reading without specifics. However, the meanings of this particular group of people is made clear in the two verses directly before this:

Those who reject Faith -- neither their possessions nor their (numerous) progeny will avail them aught against Allah: they will be Companions of the Fire -- dwelling therein (forever). What they spend in the life of this (material) world may be likened to a Wind which brings a nipping frost: it strikes and destroys the harvest of men who have wronged their own souls; it is not Allah that hath wronged them, but they wrong themselves. - Surah 3:116-117

Taken together, "those who reject Faith" would suggest those who reject religious faith and seek to subvert the religious faith of others. If this is taken in the context of "People of the Book", then it would suggest that the rejecters of faith here is anyone who tries to subvert the religious faith of believers from all the Abrahamic and Mosaic faiths. In fact, the verses directly before this say very specifically, about the People of the Book:

Not all of them are alike: of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (for the right); they rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: they are in the ranks of the righteous. Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for Allah knoweth well those that do right. - Surah 3:113-115

In conclusion, the Quran appears to be specifically ordering Muslims to reject people who subvert the faiths of others, including the faiths of other People of the Book, ie. Christians and Jews.

On the next mentioned verse:

O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust. - Surah 5:51

The historic enmity between Muslims and Jews is largely due to how Muslims view the Judeo-Christian faiths. Islam sees itself as a continuation of these two faiths, but also as a reminder of where these two previous faiths were corrupted. In that light, Islam sees itself as a correction of what was corrupted before. This is highlighted through, among other verses:

The Jews say: 'The Christians have naught (to stand) upon'; and the Christians say: 'The Jews have naught (to stand) upon.' Yet they (profess to) study the (same) Book. Like unto their word is what those say who know not; but Allah will judge between them in their quarrel on the Day of Judgement. - Surah 2:113

And:

If only the People of the Book had believed and been righteous, we should indeed have blotted out their iniquities and admitted them to the Gardens of Bliss. If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelations that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil. - Surah 5:65-66

Notice that the language specifically notes that not all Jews and Christians are automatically put among those of corrupted ideology. Contradictions like these show up at key points in the Quran. The historic betrayal of Medina by the Qurayzah Jews is one of the most quoted stories with regards to why (and how) Jews are not frequently trusted by Muslims. Modern reinterpretations of the text by particularly extreme political advocates have used this as a moral banner under which to rally Muslims for such causes as the violent reaction in Palestine (and the dissolution of Israel). Yet the text of the Quran repeats itself quite strongly regarding how segments of the People of the Book (and in the larger picture, segments of all peoples) are to be judged on their own merits by God and not human preference.

From this, the next quoted verse the article mentions:

The Jews say: 'Allah's hand is tied up.' Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth (of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from Allah increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Amongst them we have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgement. Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief. - Surah 5:64

From this quote, we see that the Jews in question are referred to as specifically those of the Jewish faith who belittle the Muslims. The idea being presented is however the person, the Muslim God reserves the right to judge them, rather than the Muslims themselves, where all the actions that occur are simply the Muslim God's will. The overall concept of judgement being a Godly duty and not a human one is pushed forward again a few verses later:

Those who believe (in the Quran), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians -- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness -- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. - Surah 5:69

"Another interesting point is that the Islamic concept of charity is different from the Christian concept. Muslims are required to give alms to the poor, but only to the Muslim poor. In this way, the Muslim's remaining wealth is purified. The biblical concept of charity is not limited to any group. In fact, Jesus used illustrations that encouraged helping those outside the faith (Luke 10:30-37)."

The Quran mentions specifically, regarding charity:

It is not righteousness that ye turn your face towards East or West: but it is righteousness -- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practise regular charity, to fulfil their contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. - Surah 2:177

It is hard to see where the Islamic concept of charity requires Muslims to only help fellow Muslims here. Charity is one of the five pillars of Islam. During Eidl Fitr and Ramadan, it is obligatory for all Muslims to donate money and sacrifice food for the poor. Modern Islamic states usually have a government mechanism to organize the obligatory donations and redistribute them. This is most likely where the misconception that Muslim donations are for Muslims alone, as these governmental bodies may prefer distributing the alms among the Muslim poor. However, as the verse above suggests, (and many other verses of the Quran including 2:110, 195, 215, 219, 254, 261-274, 3:134, 30:39), there is no distinction between the needy of differing religions.

"Islam is a religion of power and glory. Muslims find it hard to believe that Christians could worship Jesus, given his lack of political power and apparent defeat by the authorities. (They fail to acknowledge that Jesus was the ultimate victor as he conquered even death.)"

Earlier in this essay, it was mentioned that Muslims acknowledge Jesus as a full-fledged prophet, and are told to believe in his existence, his message and the existence of Mary very explicitly throughout the Quran. Muslims do not worship Jesus, however, because they consider him a prophet, whereas the only thing deserving of their worship is God.

"Islam is more than a religion; it is an ideology with a clear socio-political agenda. There is no such thing as separation of church and state in orthodox Islam. Western notions of democracy and freedom are in opposition to orthodox Islam. Mankind must be controlled by Islamic law in total, and not be allowed to stray from the authority of Allah. As Dr. Samuel Schlorff, an expert on Islam with Arab World Ministries puts it, 'Muslims believe that Islam's destiny is to extend its control until the whole Dar al-Harb [which means 'House of War' that is, the whole non-Muslim world] is subject to Islamic law in an Islamic state, and this includes the use of force.' The fact that freedom of religion does not exist in Muslim countries is evidence supporting the view that Islam wants nothing short of domination through political control."

Islam is indeed more than a religion. As was mentioned earlier in this essay, the Islamic philosophy is a holistic worldview that assumed the relevance of the monotheistic God in all aspects, levels and matters of life. This worldview encompasses religious faith in God, a system of social interactions, a justice system, a moral system, a political philosophy, and ideas of a social contract between community, government and spiritual life.

This is not unique to Islam, however--this concept of separation between Church and State (or God and State, as it were) is a relatively modern one, and not universal even in the Judeo-Christian world.

The Quran specifically states there is no compulsion in Islam (Surah 2:256). Freedom of religion was a standard practice of Muhammad's Islamic government through the reigns of the first four caliphs a century after his death. Forced conversions were barred by law in the Islamic empire in 700 AD.

Nor are 'Western' democracy and notions of freedom viewed as threatening to Muslims. While many do draw a line at separating Mosque and State (as God is presumed to be present and relevant in all matters) and at questioning the nature, existence or reality of God, this is in keeping with the basic aspect of the religion. Orthodoxy does not automatically imply extremism, only a cleaving to the most traditional values of a belief wherever possible. Extremists of any stripe, however, would cling to any notion that might justify their cause.

"There is a credible tradition in Islam that says that there are three reasons someone may be killed: murder, adultery, or leaving Islam (apostasy). See Suras 4:89 and 9:12."

From Surah 4:89:

They but wish that ye should reject faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): so take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (from what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks-- - Surah 4:89

The verse here suggests that unbelievers (in this case, those who reject Islam) are not to be befriended by Muslims. The second part of the verse dealing with violent punishment of unbelievers says specifically, "but if they turn renegades." With regards for justification to kill unbelievers, the idea at hand seems to be that this policy only applies to unbelievers who first deal violently with Muslims, ie. Muslims are not allowed to instigate the violence, but only react in self-defence. This seems in keeping with the verses about violence quoted much earlier in this essay. But if the lack of what to do with friendly unbelievers strikes one as being rather open-ended, the verse directly after the above states:

Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace), or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, he could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you (to war against them). - Surah 4:90

This verse makes clear that entering into treaties with non-Muslims, befriending them and coexisting peacefully with them is not actually forbidden, as the last verse seemed to imply. If the non-Muslims pose no threat to the Muslims, the Muslims are stripped of their right by their God to harm the non-Muslims.

The next verse mentioned in the article states:

But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith -- fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained. - Surah 9:12

This seems to merely reiterate the point made earlier. The Quran encourages Muslims not to trust people who do not hold true to their contracts and belittle their religion. "Fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith" here does not suggest how the fight is to be handled, however, relying on the reasoning of the reader.

It is clear, however, neither of the quotes mentioned in the article calls for the death of murderers, adulterers or apostates.

"An interesting observation made by R. C. Sproul on the audio tape listed below is that historically the more a society has used the Quran as a source of law, the more oppressive the state becomes. But the more a society has used the Bible as a source of law, the more freedom the society has demonstrated."

James Q. Wilson has written a very detailed essay on this subject in the City Journal, which I would direct any reader at all interested in this subject. His essay was specifically about the differences between how the Western democracies reconciled religion and government and how Middle Eastern Muslim nations have not. With a keen eye on history, his essay suggests that reconciling religion and government first became necessary in the Christian monarchies, to the point that the Christian ethic was subverted in favour of democratic individualism. The crux of the essay is that it isn't using the Bible as a source of law that has resulted in the democratic individualism we attach to the major Western democratic nations today, but more a conscious shunning of it.

If we view this in light of the more prolifically democratic nations today, it is fairly certain, for example, many of the recognizable rights we would associate with them, namely, the freedom to choose sexual orientation, the freedom of religion and the freedom of association (to whom, how often and how little), among others, would not be possible in any society referencing a patriarchal religious text of the strictly patriarchal and monotheistic Judaic-Christian-Islamic faiths as the main source of law.

"One commonly hears in the press that Islam is a religion of peace. This is true only in one sense peace will come when all competing religions have been brought into submission to Islam (Sura 9:29). Muslims who say Islam is a religion of peace, can only say so by ignoring or rationalizing away its violent commands."

And so we come to Surah 9:29:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. - Surah 9:29

The Jizyah, meaning compensation, came to mean a poll tax levied from non-Muslims who lived under the protection of the Islamic state. This tax had no permanent amount fixed for it. Thus, differing Islamic states had differing amounts set, with exemptions for the poor, for females and children, for slaves, for monks and for hermits. Being a largely symbolic tax on able-bodied males of military age, it implies that the able-bodied males of non-Muslim descent would be accountable in defending the Islamic state they resided in alongside the Muslims. The verse does not suggest that non-Muslims are forbidden the right to practice their individual faiths, rather, living as citizens in an Islamic state, they were symbolically compelled to obey the laws governing that state, as did all the Muslim citizens.

More succinctly: Non-Muslims were allowed to practice their faiths, but they were also required to pay their taxes, like all other law-abiding citizens.

"These issues explain why Muslim leaders around the world were so subdued in their condemnation of the 9/11/01 attack on America. Even in America, the common response was, "Yes, the attack was wrong, but....." It is what follows the "but" that is important in understanding their real views."

Many average, moderate Muslims find it similarly horrific that Christian leaders around the world are continuously so subdued over their condemnation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where many world leaders have chosen to take a side rather than criticize both parties equally for their violence.

The crux of the matter is realizing that the opinions we hear from world leaders about the September 11 incident are political opinions, driven by regional loyalties and international politics.

"Muslims are taught that the Old Testament is like grade school; the New Testament is like high school; and the Quran is like college. Islam claims to be the final, most perfect religion. If so, why does it seem to revert back to unjustified violence even worse than the Old Testament? Sadly, Islam has a dark side, and there is no way to explain it away by appealing to context."

The author has offered quotations from Islamic texts to prove that Islam is an inherently violent religion, but again and again we've seen that, within their proper contexts, these lines simply do not mean what he claims they mean. One could as easily pluck lines from the New Testament that imply an inherent violence in the work and thus in Christianity, but such word games have no bearing on reality.

"Muslims who commit aggressive acts of violence are acting consistently with fundamentalist Islam. Christians who might commit aggressive acts of violence are acting contrary to fundamentalist Christianity."

Muslims and Christians who deny the roots of their religion rose from acts of violence are acting consistently with international politics. Fundamental Muslims and Christians who commit acts of violence upon each other and saying the other side was the violent one are just having a piss fight.