In 1997, Samuel Huntington controversially said: “Islam’s borders are bloody.” The violence convulsing Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, etc., has been in the daily news. Why are there so many violent conflicts around the Muslim World today? Where does the violence come from?
This pattern of Muslims engaging in violent wars of conquest is tied to Islam’s founder. Islamic tradition proudly describes Muhammad’s violent conquests from Medina. Ever since, many of those who follow Muhammad most faithfully, have also conquered in his name.
Does this translate into violence in daily life? Yes and no.
Violent crimes are not as common in many Muslim cities as they are in the USA, for example. Yet, because Muslims believe that Islam was proven true by military victories, they honor strength over humility and see violent retaliation as noble. In Muslim societies where men dominate, women are frequently victims of horrific violence.
When I was ten, our class bully beat me up. When my dad heard, he beat me harshly and told me to go back and retaliate. As an adult, one day at work I thrashed a man who insulted me, and I was fired. Eventually I ended up joining al-Shabab and saw many people killed. Violence was our way of life.
One day I was ordered to infiltrate a group of Christians in order to murder them all. I pretended to be interested and was warmly welcomed. I joined their regular meetings. Some of their relatives in a neighboring town were killed by al-Shabab, and the Christians forgave them! That undid me. I confessed to them why I was there, repented, and asked their forgiveness. I began to follow Jesus.
With their help, I escaped from al-Shabab, went to Mogadishu, and started my life over. The more I experience God’s forgiveness, the gentler I am becoming.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…
[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
I Corinthians 13:6
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5:38-39
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Thus says the Lord God….Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness.
Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.