Morality and the Way to Peace
As almost every account of Islam will explain, the word Islam (self-surrender) derives from the same root as salam (peace). In its self-definition Islam is primarily a "religion of peace." The problem consists not in the idea of peace as a good, but in the means deployed to achieve it. In the Quranic discourse, as in the legal formulations derived from the Quran and the Prophet's traditions, the very notion of peace is conditional on the acknowledgment of the Islamic idea of God.
The Quran implies that the world will be at peace when every person on Earth submits to the will of Allah (by force if necessary). In that sense, Islam is a religion of peace. Another quote from the book:
The jihad was integral to Islamic expansion. Understood as a political-military struggle, it provided the rationale for the Islamic imperium.
...Jihad, as is now widely known, means "struggle:" it has the same root as ijtihad, the interpretative "effort" needed to fathom the law as revealed by God and his Prophet. According to a well-known hadith, jihad is the "monasticism" of faith. "Every nation has its monasticism and the monasticism of this nation is the jihad." Muhammad disapproved of asceticism: there was to be "no monkery" in his community. Jihad held the place occupied by asceticism in early Christianity.
Ever since I read that, I've thought differently of jihad. If you are a devout person, if you want to please Allah and show him how much you worship Him, but you do not have the avenue of expression called asceticism, how can you demonstrate your devotion? Muhammad gave the answer: Jihad. Express it in action. Express it by striving mightily in the name of Allah, not just in your mind, but in the world. Advance Allah's cause by defending Islam, and by trying to make every country on earth follow the law of Allah. Work at it. Put your money where your faith is.
And one final quote from A Fury for God:
Modernity is seductive: Satan is a tempter, not a tyrant. Since Muslim cultures tend to draw boundaries around social behavior, emphasizing external rather than internal moral constraints, governments — or more pervasively "the West" — are blamed for the availability of temptations. Imported American dramas such as Dallas, Knott's Landing and Falcon Crest, showing human behavior in situations dominated by lust, greed, and selfishness, are seen as undermining the Muslim family by introducing aspirations towards materialism and sexual immorality.
I thought that was interesting. In the West, because we hold liberty as a fundamental value, we think of morality as something we exercise personally, from within.
Islam is more oriented toward controlling the environment — essentially to limit temptations — in order to impose morality (or strengthen it) from outside. In that sense, then, a free society is incompatible with the strict application of Islam. An Islamic-style moral life would require an Islamic state, or at the very least, the kind of isolated or enclosed community the Amish have. (This may explain, at least in part, why the mosque Nonie Darwish attended encouraged American Muslims to stay isolated from the infidel American culture.)
Islamic fundamentalists see the establishment of Islamic law as a moral duty. It creates an environment where everyone can be moral, and where infidels cannot infect the Muslims with their immoral example. The Islamic vision is very much like the Pleasantville fantasy-perfect world, but the achievement of the vision requires the removal of so many liberties it becomes a repressive totalitarian state.
Anyway, I recommend Malise Ruthven's book, A Fury for God. It is a valuable contribution to the greater conversation about how to reverse the trend toward global jihad.