Is Islam a religion?

Karl D. writes:

I was wondering if you could give me your opinion. I often hear people say, “Islam is a political system masquerading as a religion.” While I believe there is some truth to that, it is in my opinion on the whole, incorrect. To me it seems Islam is a religiously motivated political system. It would seem that if Islam were indeed a pure political system with a phony, transparent mystical front, they would have been much more easily dealt with. At least in the minds of the liberal West. Yet when I bring this fact up with certain people in the counter—Jihad I am treated like some sort of stealth Muslim. I realize this seems like a very simple, straight forward question. Yet many people in the counter—Jihad seem stuck on it. Am I wrong here? If so, where? Your opinion would be much appreciated.

LA replies:

Obviously Islam is a religion. To say that Islam is not a religion is like saying that Mars is not a planet, it’s like saying that a raccoon is not a mammal. Anti-jihadists who deny the manifest fact that Islam is a religion are showing a refusal or inability to acknowledge the enemy’s reality as the enemy experiences it. The enemy must be stripped of any claim at all.

I exempt Wilders from this criticism because when he says Islam is not a religion but a political ideology he is doing his usual brilliant thing of simplifying an issue to bring out its essence. But he’s on the stage. He has a particular need to simplify and dramatize. The average anti-jihadist doesn’t need to do that. He could speak the more nuanced truth, but he refuses to do so.

So, Islam is obviously a religion AND a political ideology aimed at political power. And that fact renders it unlike any other religion and thus not deserving of being treated like any other religion. Since in practice the political dimension of Islam cannot be separated from the religious dimension, and since its political dimension is what is of most concern to non-Muslims as it threatens their safety and liberty, Islam must be treated, in practice, as though it were a political ideology, and not a religion.

Here’s another way of putting it. In the face that Islam presents to the average, Five Pillars believer, Islam is certainly a religion. But in the face that Islam presents to non-Muslims, and to serious Muslims, Islam is certainly a political ideology.

And here’s yet another way of looking at it. Islam critics say that Islam is warlike, and warlikeness contradicts religion, and therefore Islam is not a religion. But where in any dictionary does it say that a religion can’t be warlike? What is the essence of religion? It is a way of joining man to God. Each religion has its own characteristic ways of joining man to God. The way Islam joins man to Allah, or rather the highest way that Islam joins man to Allah, is through holy war, killing infidels or dying in the attempt. The highest spiritual experience to the Muslim, when he comes closest to Allah, most filled with Allah and with the conviction of eternal bliss with Allah, is when he is killing infidels for Allah. When Muhammad Atta and his band of fiends prepared to attack America, they purified themselves and immersed themselves in the holy texts, readying themselves to die for Allah. If a belief system in which men willingly die for their god is not a religion, then nothing is. So Islam is certainly a religion, but, paradoxically, it is a religion of war and killing. It is a religion, but an evil religion, which follows an evil god.

Your typical anti-jihadists, who are ideologists themselves, are unwilling to take in this complex reality. They find it easier just to say that Islam is a political ideology and not a religion at all. I don’t entirely blame them, as they feel a need to eliminate confusing ambiguities so as to strengthen their case against Islam. But that doesn’t make their false picture of Islam, their denial that Islam is a religion in any sense at all, correct.

The complex and disturbing truth, which the anti-jihadists refuse to entertain, can be summed up in a simple sentence:

Islam is a religion, but it is a religion of war.

- end of initial entry -

October 2

Charles S. writes:

I would respectfully disagree with your position in the posting “Is Islam a religion?” While it may be true that, on its face, the assertion that Islam is not a religion may sound simplistic, the alternative is fraught with logical inconsistencies. For example, to assert that it is a religion of war will be met with immediate opposition by both moderate Muslims and their apologists. You could therefore never prove your thesis by using them as an example, since they would subjectively parse the Koran and point to numerous references that state the opposite, and are used as the basis for their religious life. The concept of taqiyya comes into play here, a tactic that every Muslim can employ to fool non-Muslims about intent (and quite possibly self-delusional as well). [LA replies: What the “moderate” Muslims say is besides the point. This is a discussion among hard-line Islam critics (their hardness shown by the fact that they all are saying that Islam itself if the problem), on how they should describe Islam.]

The only unifying idea that ties all this together is that Islam is not a religion, but instead a totalitarian ideology, with one facet being a religious ruse, in which each and every Muslim employs lies and/or killing in order to bring it to power. If you instead attempt to call it a “religion of war,” you simply fall into an endless semantic trap. [LA replies: I don’t see this.]

Raul D. writes:

I have read that Art cannot be Art if it is not accessible to everyone who wishes to see it. I have read that the French do not charge for admittance to the Louvre because of this idea (actually to see objects of art according to the French). Islam cannot be a religion because it considers only Muslims to be in God’s light. A religion cannot be a religion if it does not see the other as co-creations of God, however much they might dislike them. I believe the Muslim mind sees non-Muslims as apart from God (actually Muslims see themselves as being above God—God cannot speak but through Mohammed!). The Mona Lisa if you hang it in your bedroom solely for your eyes is just wallpaper. God I define as how you treat other people, this is the only thing of substance in this life and God would have to be that which is most substantial. Holy Books and churches serve a purpose but are only religiosity. If Islam excludes non-Muslims from the light of God (to experience God as they wish—this assumes we are talking about people who are Human Beings and not two-legged animals), Islam cannot be a religion. God is how you treat people, that you should treat others as you wish to be treated (being nice to animals wouldn’t hurt either). We are all God’s property, so to speak.

LA replies:

I’m not aware of any definition of religion which says that a religion is only a religion if it sees all people and all religions as equal in God’s light.

MS writes:

What is your definition of a religion?

LA replies:

I wonder why you ask me what my definition of religion is. I do not have my own private definition of religion.

The standard definitions provided by WordWeb seem to cover it pretty well.

1. A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.

2. Institution to express belief in a divine power

Obviously, Islam is a religion.

MS replies:

Some of the reasons I have trouble calling Islam a religion, is that Islam lifted many verses from the old testament, changed names, and making it look like a religion. They also stole sacred locations from the Jews.Over time people believed. ie temple mount.,Jerusalem. To me it is a fraud, that has done a good sales job. However given your definition of a religion, it is a religion.

Brendan R. writes:

Islam is clearly a religion, as you rightly state.

Care must be taken not to define “religion” in such a narrow way as only to be consonant with what we experience, in the West, as “religion” and its particulars. Ideas that religions are about how you treat other people, or that because Islam “stole” many ideas from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Arabic paganism, it is therefore “not a religion” due to a lack of originality. These definitions are far too narrow. A religion is simply a belief system which involves the supernatural, really, full stop. Islam certainly qualifies as a religion, if the term is construed conventionally and not in a deliberately skewed manner so as to exclude Islam.

At the same time, Islam is a religion with an explicit political and martial content—something which can very well make one skeptical about whether Islam contains any religious “truth,” despite the fact that it is a religion. In other words, a religion may still be full of falsehood—there are false religions. Surely the worshippers of Baal in the OT were practicing a religion as well, albeit a false one. Muhammad himself considered the Arabic pagan “polytheists” to be practicing a religion, albeit a false one. And so it is with Islam—it is a religion, albeit a false one, and tragically murderously false one. It is the latter characteristic that makes it more of an evil religion, and which points to its real origin—which cannot possibly be the figure of God mentioned in the OT and NT. It’s only a hippy-dippy sloppy exegesis (or a kumbaya-oriented one) which considers “Allah” to be interchangeable with the “God” of the Bible, although this is what is repeated routinely in the pro-Islamic mainstream media.

October 4

Alan Roebuck writes:

On the question of Islam being a religion: While the formal definition of “religion” is contained in the dictionary, I would say that in the contemporary West, the material definition of “religion,” at least for the vast majority of both the leadership class and the ordinary people, is “a system that comforts people in times of distress and that tries to make them—and society—morally better.”

That being the case, it is completely understandable that many in the anti-Moslem camp would view Islam as not a religion: Islam is a menace, and, according to the majority view of religion, a menace is non-religious.

This also goes a long way to explaining why so many people identify Islam as a noble religion that is troubled by a small minority of violent extremists: In their view, the real Islam is the comfort-and-moral-improvement part, and the part that demands submission and uses violence and deceit to achieve it is, in their view, non-religious and therefore non-Islamic.

Of course, all this is part-and-parcel of the view that religion does not deal with objective reality, but only with subjective reality.

LA replies:

Wonderfully clear comment. Alan Roebucks don’t grow on trees.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 01, 2010 09:35 PM | Send

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