That seems to be in the mind of a lot of people nowadays. While every religion has their share of crackpots, recent events seem to show that Muslims have had more than their share of crackpots. In Afganishtan, Iraq, Lebanon, etc., amost every day, at least every week, people seem to be getting killed in the name of Islam.
But, if you read Islam’s teachings, you get the impression that it is a relatively benign religion. So how is it that Muslims end up killing themselves & other people in the name of Allah & Mohammed?
The reasons are quite complex, but my idea, is that it may likely have to do w/ the organization of Islam itself, the example set by Mohammed, & the us” against “them” mentality of the Muslims themselves.
‘No Central Organization’
One of the main beef against the Catholic Church, is its centralized organization. The power of the Church emanates from one person, the Pope, & this results in a rigid organization.
And yet, that rigid organization, while it has done some things that are not good, ironically also ensures that the church keeps the crackpots out as much as possible. On every issue, whether political, moral & social, there is basically one position which the church takes. Not so w/ the Muslims. Islam tends to have a loose organization of clerics, and as a result, issues regarding the world at large tend to be varied.
There is no one voice that says what is Islamic, & what is not. The Catholic church, on the other hand, has the power to excommunicate, & even brand as heretic any extreme opinions that might be out there related to Christ. As a result, the Church is able to distance itself from religious extremists (well, most of them, anyway), & these extremists themselves end up as being religious outcasts.
But, some people might say, hey, Islam is not the only religion w/ a non-centralized organization. Buddhist & Hindus also have a non-centralized organization, but they don’t seem to have the same level of religious extremism found w/ Islam.
Which brings us to the next point, which is the example set by their religion’s main figure. Islam has Mohammed for a prophet, while Christianity has Jesus.
According to the Gospels, Jesus was man, but ascended as God. Mohammed, on the other hand, had always stressed that he was MAN, a prophet, or messenger of God.
Jesus was mainly a RELIGIOUS leader. Mohammed, on the other hand, was not only a religious leader, he was also a POLITICAL & even a MILITARY leader.
When Jesus was persecuted, he allowed himself to be crucified. It was an act of humility, & love. As God, he presumably had the power to kill all the Roman soldiers in the empire at once with the flick of his fingers. He is, after all, God. But he did no such thing, because he supposedly so loved the world, that he was willing to die for sin of mankind. His divinity, allowed him to offer such a sacrifice, & still end up maintaining his dignity as man, or God.
Mohammed, on the other hand, being man, had no such luxury. When persecuted, he sought refuge in Medina, where we became a religious & political leader, bringing all the people in place as one. Later, against the forces of Mecca, he fought back. He went out, & won in several crucial battles that secured his power base in Medina, which then grew to Mecca, & eventually the rest of the world.
Let me clarify: I am not saying that is wrong. I am saying, that is what happened.
That is one reason, why Muslims tend to have less qualms about confrontation. To fight for God, is a holy & noble thing, just as Mohammed had done. That act, is what eventually one of the main reasons that extremists distort for their own stup_d & crazy deeds.
Of course, I don’t think that is what Mohammed intended to in the first place, I feel that his was mainly a defensive act (in some cases, offense is the best defense), but like it or not, that act of defiance, of fighting back had a profound effect on some of those that practice Islam. ‘Ka-ya mata-tapang ang ma-nga mus-lim’. Fighting for their religion, based on example, is one of the main features of Islam.
‘Us Versus Them’
The last piece of the puzzle, at least for me, is the fact that Muslims tend to have that “us” against “them” mentality. In some perverse way, they will always be biased towards fellow muslims, no matter what the issue is. That is why, in the general Muslim world, opinions about Osama Bin Laden tend to be somewhat indifferent, or even in some cases, sympathetic.
Again, this could possibly be traced back to the fact that Muslims have always had to fight for their religion. As a result, you need to have a clearer sense of who our allies are, & who are your enemies, regardless of the consequences.
In that kind of an environment, religious extremist tend to thrive, as is what is happening right now.
A lack of clear, united direction on political & social issues; An example that extremists exaggerate & exploit, & a sense that they always have to fight for their God as a community united in religion, all these seem to result in what we are seeing now, which is a rash of violence from the extremists emanationg from the Islamic community.
The answers will not be easy, but it seems that some Muslims are already realizing what needs to be done to help curb the violence. This morning (Sun., June 4, 2006), Canadian authorities raided a terror group in Canada who were planning to detonate at least 3 tons of explosives in sites within the US & Canada. The Canadian Muslim organization hailed the act of the Canadian authorities, & urged Muslims everywhere to cooperate w/ authorities to stamp out religious extremists.
Such examples, are a crucial part, on what Islam needs to do, to keep itself from being exploited by those who seek to use its name for violent ends.