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…and who is a fair dinkum Muslim?

Western leaders keep insisting that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam

27 September 2014

9:00 AM

27 September 2014

9:00 AM

First, just let me just say that I neither represent, nor speak for, Islam. It’s true, I don’t. I never have. In fact, despite being an office-bearer of the Presbyterian Church I don’t even represent or speak for official presbyterianism! You could use that delightfully obvious turn of phrase: ‘the views expressed in this article are the author’s own.’

We have become quite used to seeing such disclaimers, although the idea that an individual might not authoritatively represent every organisation with which they are affiliated should really come as no surprise. Disclaimers are a perverse result of collectivism and political correctness.

And yet, now that we’ve found ourselves in a war – or not a war…or whatever – with the Islamic State, we should expect to hear them a lot more frequently. Theologian-politicians of every political stripe are falling over themselves to issue a standard caveat. Hear Barack Obama at his recent televised address to the nation: ‘ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents.’

Not Islamic? No, of course not. Why would anyone think it! In response to the President’s statement, the usually sensible Senator Rand Paul accused ISIS of: ‘…not being Islamic or a form of true Islam…. So I think it is important….to point out this is not a true form of Islam.’

Tony Abbott has called ISIS a ‘death cult’ and said that it is not representative of Australian Muslims: ‘There are no stronger members of Team Australia than the overwhelming majority of the Muslim community.’

Team Australia. Drink! And cringe. And here’s Bill Shorten:

‘[ISIS] is a most egregious abuse in the name of Islam….the Islamic State does not represent the Islamic faith….that religion of peace and tolerance.’
Of course, there is a difference between my non-representation of the Presbyterian Church and the alleged non-representation by ISIS of Islam. In my case, I am happy to own it. In the case of ISIS, it is only the Western politicians and commentators that seem to make the distinction. And it is an established practice. After 9/11 everyone from George W. Bush to the Australian Greens made similar denials.

Likewise, after Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale hacked British soldier Lee Rigby to death with a cleaver, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: ‘I just want to make one obvious point that, I’m sure, will have occurred to many people, and that is that it is completely wrong to blame this killing on the religion of Islam.’

British Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.’

Not that anyone outside of Islam was ever trying to justify it, but it’s a curious thing to say when video footage has the perpetrators claiming, while still holding the bloodied cleaver: ‘We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’

Of course, this raises all sorts of geo-political and military questions, but to claim that the attack had no connection to Islam made Johnson and Cameron seem outlandish and obtuse.

At least, however, they refrained at the time from positively categorising the religion, unlike our hapless opposition leader. Shorten’s insensitive description of Islam as a ‘religion of peace’ is as laughable as it is unbelievable. In fact, it makes about as much sense as saying that all Muslims are terrorists.

And yet, it’s as if political speechwriters have placed a bulk order on rubber stamps bearing that epithet. With one movement from ink pad to paper, they are now able to easily and effortlessly qualify every intention to crush the dealth cult with an appreciation of the virtues, as Obama has said, of Islamic culture – with its ‘majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation’ – and history – which had ‘demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.’ Religion of peace, you see?

Can’t we agree that most Muslims in Australia, Britain, and America are kind, peaceful people, and that Islamic culture and antiquity are not bereft of significance and achievement – without misrepresenting, not only ISIS fighters, but also the very real history of Islam?

The truth is that, in the last one thousand years, more innocents have been killed in the name of Islam than in the name of Christianity (even with the latter’s crusades, inquisitions, reformations, and Irish republicanism). The truth is that in the name of jihad more infidels have been killed than pagans in all the Biblical holy wars. The truth is that, despite the speechwriters’ rubber stamp of peace, the Koran and other Islamic scriptures provide ample coverage for killing and subjugating infidels.

And it’s a betrayal of these truths – indeed a betrayal of Islam – to pretend otherwise. If a man diligently studies the Koran, prays five times a day, makes pilgrimage to Mecca, and believes that ‘there is no god but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet,’ surely he is entitled to call himself a Muslim, even – perhaps especially – if he fights for an Islamic caliphate and beheads those who offend his piety?

At the very least such ‘radical Islam’ is in keeping with historical Islam. At most, it is an entirely legitimate interpretation of the clear teachings of the Islamic canon.

In Australia these days, a person can be born with a penis and yet choose to self-identify as a woman – and heaven help anyone who doubts, vilifies, or ignores that particular individual’s chosen ‘identity’!

It seems to me that the rampaging jihadis of the Islamic State have more claim to be Muslim than a man in stockings and a padded bra has to be a woman. But this won’t convince theologian-politicians who think they know better than Muslims about Islam, and who, in the absence of any strategy to deal with the global problem of militant Islam, desperately need to believe in a rubber stamp religion of peace.

Chris Ashton has degrees in theology and church history

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Show comments
  • Brian K. Jacobson

    But the other truth is that we helped radicalize them even further in the latter part of 20th century and now now for 14 years of the twentieth. Many countries in the middle had a high opinion of the US after WWI, many were polled and over whelming chose that if anyone should administer them into the league of nations it should be the USA. I don’t think any of them would vote that today and that’s not because there has been an increase in Muslims. Years of dirty CIA work, toppling regimes, puppet dictators, and almost constant bombing has radicalized many of them and cause terroristic actions.

    As conservative Presbyterian myself, yes Islam is false religion and aweful and certainly has many violent tendencies throughout history. However, (i dont know how it is in australia) here in the US islamophobia is used as a sickening war drum to beat continually until evangelicals to become war mongers in the middle east. Evangelicals have lost all conception of a “just war” and have no regard for innocent life and sweep it under “collateral damage.”

    Maybe your not persuaded by a non-interventionist foreign policy or that pre-emptive war is unethical but watch US news circuits for a little and it is pathetic scare tactics to get people to march in line to war beat.

    A funny tweet I saw the other day said “Isis isn’t muslim just because they say they are muslims, but mormons are christians because they say they are.”

    • Chris Ashton

      I’m absolutely convinced by a non-interventionist foreign policy, but this has nothing to do with that….as I write: “this raises all sorts of geo-political and military questions, but to claim that the attack had no connection to Islam made Johnson and Cameron seem outlandish and obtuse.”

  • Damaris Tighe

    Brilliant post Chris. Why is it that politicians make these patently absurd comments? It seems to me that there are two, not mutually exclusive, alternatives:

    1) Politicians think we are complete idiots & can be persuaded not to acknowledge the obvious if they say otherwise.

    2) Politicians are wishing the truth to be otherwise & hoping that wishing will make it so.

    Either way, their mindset completely disqualifies them from office. How can you deal with a problem if you don’t acknowledge its reality? It’s appeasement by self-deception & deception of the public.

  • Excellent commentary.

    I love hearing the comments from the hate the USA group.

    So – here you go hate the USA group.

    What exactly is your excuse for Islam in its relentless wars against – Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, India, China, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Niger, Chad even Canada and Australia and more?

    Islam is killing cult. (They kill you if you try to quit!) Just because its been able to get so big only means it is a big killing cult. In 1,400 years it has gobbled up over 20% of humanity. Its expansion continues because few have the courage too admit the reality. Looking the other way only works until they build a mosque in your neighborhood.

    Wake up to reality – or get a jump on it and move to Saudi Arabia.

  • mustbenice

    Unfortunately, politicians are either too afraid or simply being paid too much to stand up against the ravages of Islam.

    There was a time Christianity was every bit as savage as Islam. That time has now past. Islam is buried in the barbarity of the dark ages. Most Christians have at least one foot in the 21st century.

    The difference between being a Christian and being an Islamist is painfully obvious. Moderate (or average, normal) Christians are not afraid to speak out against Christianity. They are not afraid to break away into different arms and demand equal rights for women and non violent protest.

    Islamists are terrified to the point of utter compliance. This is why there are no break away Islamic mosques. They cannot speak up for women’s rights, they cannot demand non violence, because their own religion a) commands that they enslave women and b) commands that they slaughter non believers and apostates.

    And they absolutely do follow through with murdering those who speak up against them or do anything at all they disagree with.

    The radical Christian will kill you. They are few and far between. The moderate Christian will usually try to stop that or at the very least is not afraid to stand up and say it is horrific and utterly wrong to attack people because they don’t share your beliefs.

    The radical Islamist will murder you. The moderate Islamist will watch quietly while they do so and go back to Azan.

    • Mike

      Agreed. There is only one Islam and Islam is a religion, a culture and a governance, all of which inspire evil or one sort or another. There is nothing else anyone needs to know about Islam, its that simple. Unfortunately our western leaders refuse to acknowledge the obvious truth.

    • Gerard Mason

      Which radical Christians will kill you? I am intrigued. I was not aware that there were Christians who would kill you if you refused to convert.

  • Sam Chafe

    For a scholarly and convincing presentation as to why Islam has trouble accommodating Western democracy, read the following, a study of the problems in Denmark.:


  • I hate to boast, but I feel like I did a fairly good job of scotching Mehdi Hasan’s attempt to revive the old canard of ‘No True Muslim’ a little while back on the New Statesman, which seems to have been very well appreciated even amongst the very left-leaning audience of that publication.


    (Like I say, I hate to appear to humblebrag but one can always argue more lucidly when debating against a clearly set-out position to the contrary, which is why I’m linking it here rather than simply repeating myself with a slightly-adjusted copy-and paste.)