The most recent ISIS video shown on the nightly news features the beheading of American hostage Peter Kassig. Today's media, not stories of 100 years ago, advise us that In Syria women are being stoned to death for adultery at the direction of Muslim religious leaders. We read about unprovoked Muslim genocide of Tahai people for ‘being kafirs.’ All of this with the confident belief they are "doing the Lord's work" in the process. Muslim religious leaders advocate measures, many outlined in the Old Testament, like cutting off the hand of a thief and religious requirements not advocated by main line Islam since the 17th century. Is this due to a small minority of radical Muslim's or is there a more basic problem at work which has resulted in old religious cultures within Islam being followed today?
Aly Salem, an Egyptian writer in New York wrote an opinion piece in the October 27 Wall Street Journal about that very question. He suggests there has been a fundamental change within Islam and efforts by Muslims to alter the movement are stymied by non Muslims in the West who see it as religious discrimination.
He begins the piece by citing the Canadian Muslim who went on a rampage in Ottawa recently killing people and entering Parliament as an act of righteousness for Islam. He notes the three Muslim schoolgirls from Colorado who were intercepted on their way to Syria to join ISIS. He cites an article in Newsweek which says that it is estimated that perhaps twice as many British Muslims were fighting for ISIS as serving in the British Army. He asks: "What could possibly inspire young Muslims to do this?
His answer is that it is part of the view within Islam that it must return to it's former position in the world and it's "purity." There is an increasing large number of main stream Muslims who have accepted the view that the reason for the Muslim world's decline is due to external cultural and political influences that diluted pure Islam. According to this view, there is only one path for an Islamic renaissance.That remedy is to cleanse Muslim societies of these contaminants and restore Islam to its seventh century purity. These severe and extreme actions, therefore are necessary for the cleansing. Young people are inspired by this call and not only are willing to join the movement, but become sucicide bombs themselves.
One cannot ignore the fact of the Muslim Brotherhood and other similar organizations around the Arab world. The Brotherhood is an Islamic organization founded in Egypt in 1928. It’s model involves “death for the sake of God is our wish.” The brotherhood had an estimated 2 million members the end of World War II with a presence and supporters throughout the Arab world. It is considered a terrorist organization by governments of Egypt, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Restoring Islam's purity and establishing Islam as a global government is a central part of it's mission. It is also supportive of Salem's position.
To support his claim that there is an increasing shift in Islam to the need for a return to "pure Islam" he points to the fact that in many Muslim countries, the population is overwhelmingly in favor of veiling for women, the death penalty for leaving Islam and stoning as punishment for adultery. In addition rabid anti-Semitism is rampant. He believes the trend of history is being reversed. He notes that in Egypt, for instance, veiling was unheard of 50 years ago and was virtually extinct until the Islamist resurrected the practice in the 1970s. Today an estimated 90% of Egyptian women are veiled and the practice has become the norm.
His view is that efforts by individual Muslims to reform Islam from within are hindered, if not prevented, in the West by well-meaning objections to any such efforts by cries of religious discrimination by Western countries. He complains Americans reject any public discourse about this problem with Islam. His view is that America's and other Western countries knee jerk disapproval of discussion and the need to reform Islam is:
"…delusional thinking. Even as the world witnesses the barbarity of beheading, habitual stoning and severe subjugation of women and minorities in the Muslim world, politicians and academics lecture that Islam is a 'religion of peace.' Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia routinely beheads women for sorcery and witchcraft. In the US, we Muslims are handled like exotic flowers that will crumble if our faith is criticized – even if we do it ourselves." He goes on to label this protective attitude by Americans and others regarding any expression of concern regarding the present beliefs of Muslims as engaging "in the soft bigotry of low expectations."
This is a delicate subject for a Christian and non Muslim because I am not well informed and one can tilt on the side of religious bigotry without realizing it. There are a lot of sources of information however. For one source regarding the issue of Islam as a threat see http://www.clarionproject.org/ which I am not recommending or endorsing, only citing as a resource. Obviously, there are reputable viewpoints to the contrary of Mr. Salem. Some argue Islam in general isn't a threat, but Sharia law is. Sharia law dictates that everyone who is a non believer must be converted or killed. The situation is complex and disturbing especially when one considers groups or countries with nuclear capability applying a bizarre and extreme calls to action all in the name of God. The attack on the World Trade Center Towers was directly due to Muslim groups whose religious views reassured them of the righteousness of killing hundreds of non military "infidels" That's worth praying about anytime.