In February of this year the world came face to face with the forces behind the religion of Islam. The literary controversy over author Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which occasionally deals with Islam in a fanciful and irreverent way, became front-page news when the Ayatollah Khomeini condemned the author and decreed, “It is incumbent on every Muslim to do everything possible to send him to hell.”
The Ayatollah’s death sentence and $5 million reward for Rushdie’s head are symptoms of a fast-growing religious movement which is showing its tyrannical tendencies. With an Islamic holy jihad declared upon the author, driving him into hiding, the Ayatollah has revealed the true colors of Islam to the West.
“Salman Rushdie is a dead man,” an Iranian exile in Britain told Newsweek. “As long as the fatwa (theological ruling) remains, he could be killed at any time. There is no way to protect him. He will be followed for the rest of his life.” Although the Indian-born author has reportedly repented for his statements, Khomeini told his followers to “send him to hell” for blaspheming their faith.
A former Muslim, Rushdie is now a British subject who doesn’t consider his book blasphemous. Before going into hiding, he complained about the “Islamic thought police.” Egyptian writer Naguib Mafouz, who became the first Arab to win the Nobel Prize in literature, agreed by saying that the Ayatollah should be condemned for “intellectual terrorism.”
Muslim critics say Khomeini “hopped on the bandwagon” in mobilizing opposition to the book to consolidate his waning power among his followers, especially with Iran’s economic crisis brewing discontent at home. Since the advent of his administration in 1979, Iran’s economy has slowly descended into its present state of collapse due to high unemployment rates and factory production below half-capacity. The rising number of drug addicts and the high number of executions compounds the problem of a demoralized populace. Amnesty International has reported more than 1,000 executions of political prisoners since July, and Rushdie may be added to this number.1
Why has a simple novel unleashed such fury from Muslims around the world? Consider one of the most controversial passages in which a character named Salman describes his disenchantment with a new religion called “Submission,” which is the English translation of Islam, and its prophet “Mahound.” The following passage satirizes the heart of Islam, and scoffs at the idea that the Koran is the holy scripture revealed to Mohammed by the archangel Gabriel:
“Amid the palm-trees of the oasis Gibreel appeared to the Prophet and found himself spouting rules, rules, rules, until the faithful could scarcely bear the prospect of anymore revelation … It was as if no aspect of human existence was to be left unregulated, free. The revelation … told the faithful how much to eat, how deeply they should sleep …”
The Koran, translated, means “the Reading,” or “the Recitation.” In Islam, rote memorization is considered more virtuous than comprehending the meaning or the understanding of its passages. In fact, the title “Hafiz,” or protector, is given to those who memorize it. The preoccupation with rules for every facet of life – along with unquestioning submission to authority – is a chief characteristic of the Islamic faith. Although Satanic Verses is offensive satire, it does unveil the deadly forces behind Islam.
Forced Submission and the Reign of Terror
One out of every five human beings in the world claims to be a Muslim. Once an Islamic government is installed in a nation, it is against the law to claim allegiance to any other belief. For example, one of the citizenship requirements in Saudi Arabia is allegiance to Islam.
Although the United States has been lambasted for supposedly imposing its Christian beliefs on the rest of the world, the Ayatollah and his followers have been viewed as a small, politically insignificant radical faction who should be allowed to exercise their beliefs under the protection of religious freedom – a Western idea – while attempting to export the Islamic revolution into other nations.
The concept of forced submission encompasses relationships between men and women. Muslim men have the sole power to divorce their wives at whim. Scourging wives, polygamy, and concubines are sanctioned by the Koran: “Men are in charge of women because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them” (Surat al-Nisa 4:176).
Women in Islamic countries must completely cover themselves, and can only expose their eyes and hands. Thus, although women are forced to completely cover themselves, they are vulnerable to becoming concubines, or sex-slaves. The Islamic solution to cure the lust problem in a man is to force the woman to submit and completely cover herself; her destiny is also fully placed in his hands.
But Muslim women are not the only victims of this unyielding force. Innocent people around the world have suffered as well. The Ayatollah Khomeini, the most powerful Muslim leader in the world, has brought terror, kidnappings, and murder to the West, while literally controlling the global oil supply. Rushdie’s death sentence, as well as Iran’s economic crisis, are the fruit of a growing religious movement which has brought a reign of terror upon Middle Eastern nations.
Consider the one million Armenian Christians who were slaughtered by Turkish Muslims at the beginning of the 20th century. The atrocities and kidnappings which are done for the cause of Islam are usually carried out by terrorist groups such as Al Jihad in Lebanon or Al Muhahideen in Iran. Al Muhahideen has provided the largest number of fanatic terrorist fighters in the war with Iraq. More than 1,000 people in the town of Diem in the Sudan were massacred in 1987 because of Islamic law.1 When the Sudan was officially declared an Islamic republic, dozens of pastors were killed and many churches were destroyed.2
The violent, bloody history of Islam was inaugurated by its founder, Mohammed, who would kill those that refused to be converted during his crusades. When Mohammed’s armies attacked cities, they offered their enemies three choices: 1) profess the Islam faith, 2) pay tribute, or 3) die by the sword. Many Christians died by the sword, but many others converted their churches into mosques.
Interestingly, the first victim of this practice was a poetess slain by one of his followers for a poem she composed that ridiculed him. Her verses on the folly of putting faith in a stranger who had slain so many of his own people spread throughout one of the main cities. The murderer was honored by Mohammed for his vile deed, and the poetess’s family was converted to Islam after their lives were threatened with death.
This warlike militancy stems from the concept of “Jihad,” or “Holy War.” Men are required to go to war in order to spread Islam or defend it against infidels. One who dies in Jihad is guaranteed eternal life. The Ayatollah Khomeini has preached this doctrine of Jihad by saying, “The purest joy in Islam is to kill, and be killed for Allah.”
According to the Koran: “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.”
The growing menace and threat to freedom in the 1990s is not communism, but rather Islam, “the religion of the sword,” which claims 85 million followers in the Middle East and Asia. Islam also claims approximately three million followers in the U.S. Nearly 612 mosques have been built in this country, and the Muslim Student Association wants to get on every major college campus.
The Difference Between Christianity and Islam
Islam, as revealed in the recent actions of the Ayatollah, is a religion of legalistic demands and merciless vengeance. True Christianity, on the opposite side of the spectrum, is characterized by love, forgiveness, and internal obedience to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christianity will overcome the power of Islam by coming in an opposite spirit of love and forgiveness, rather than hatred, control, and vindictive violence.
In comparing Islam and Christianity, a good beginning is to examine the lives of Jesus and Mohammed. Jesus lived a sinless life, whereas Mohammed prayed earnestly and frequently for forgiveness of his sins. Jesus never conducted any bloody crusades, however, Mohammed fought or led in 66 battles. Jesus never ordered the death of anyone; Mohammed ordered the death of many men and women who refused to be converted to Islam.
Jesus’s goal was to establish His kingdom internally in the heart of man first, and then let it affect the world; Mohammed wanted an earthly empire built by external obedience. Christianity is based on mercy and love for its enemies, whereas Islam requires the sword for its enemies. Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world and was resurrected on the third day. Mohammed died from pneumonia at age 62.
The Koran accurately describes the life, ministry, and divinity of Jesus Christ; however, the importance of the Cross is devalued because of the belief that Jesus “cast his likeness onto another man and that another man was crucified instead of Jesus.“3 Redemption and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ are irrelevant to most Muslims, whereas for Christians it is a fundamental belief.
Muslims believe salvation is by works and repentance from sin. Therefore the power of atonement resident in the Cross is of no relevance. The Cross is just an empty religious symbol. For Christians, however, the cross is the avenue to becoming a new creature in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). The sinful nature of man, which can’t be changed by good deeds, must be dealt with, and a sinless sacrifice is needed to present to God. Thus the Cross is not only significant for atonement; it is the place of reconciliation between God and man.
How will the “Satanic fury” of militant Islam be stopped? There is only one force in the world which has the power to deliver man from hatred and violence – and that is the Christian gospel. The message of Jesus Christ’s love and atonement has, in past centuries, tamed the barbarians of northern Europe, civilized the West, caused wars to cease, and liberated nations from dictatorship. It will be no different in the Muslim world. One day Christian liberty will blanket the Middle East, and the world will be a much safer place as a result.
1 Pletka, Daniel, “Infighting and a Lack of Cash Hinder Reconstruction Efforts,” Insight Magazine, Feb. 27, 1989, pp. 28-30.
2 Shorrosh, Dr. Anis, Islam Revealed (Nashville, Tennessee:Thomas Nelson Publishers), 1988, p. 171