Raised in a conservative, Christian household, and following on as a member of the military, I naturally fell victim to the stereotype that any middle-eastern religion is just wrong. The sad part is, I really have no explanation for why. In fact, I knew very little about Islam prior to the recent teachings in class. I was shocked to find out how closely Islam and Christianity are related- even more so than Christianity and Judaism. I was even more surprised, though, that each of these religious ideologies have resulted in militant action since their origin, and continue to have global impact today.
The major similarities that I was unaware of are the agreements between Islam and Christianity. Specifically, Islam recognizes the Bible as a holy text (although the Qur’an supersedes it). Islam also recognized Jesus. Granted, he is viewed as a prophet- one that is not divine nor do they believe he was crucified and resurrected- this is still more of a similarity than Judaism, in which Jesus is recognized only as another member of the faith.
How can it be, then, that the two “religions of the book” most similar could have such a long history of secular religious political violence? This is most clear within Islam between the Sunni and the Shia, but extends to several extremist groups (most notable being ISIS). According to Jonathan Fine’s publishing, “Political Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: From Holy War to Modern Terror”, religious political violence is most commonly associated with terrorism. These religious divisions have yielded such events as the Holy War and the United States’ War on Terror.
But why? After learning about the similarities between Christianity and Islam, I cannot pinpoint where the need for violence comes from. Although I am biased, many of the recent acts of terror are affiliated with Islamic religion. The question is twofold, then: first, why is there such a motive for violence? Second, why is this violence only centered around Islam, yet not Christianity?
From my perspective, this is where the major divide in the two religions lie, and I must admit I do not have enough knowledge to understand fully. My best guess is that the Qur’an preaches that sometimes violence is necessary for the world to understand what they consider to be the truth. I do believe, however, that Christianity and Islam must remain mutually exclusive for this reason.
The religions may agree on some concepts, but they certainly do not support one another. I was never told it was acceptable within Christianity to explore the beliefs of Islam, despite the similarities. The stark contrast in the religious culture is a major preventative factor in harmony between the two. Acknowledgement is far from acceptance. If there was not a need for Islam and Christianity to be mutually exclusive, there would be far less violence associated with religious motives. As it stands, the exclusivity within Islam is so notable that the divide between Sunni and Shia often headline the news. Religions are stubborn. No community preaches that is “probably right”. Members are led to believe that their belief system is the one truth, and everyone else must change. Sure, God is recognized, but that is not enough to overcome the years of exclusivity that have evolved into the religions we understand today.
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Political Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam : From Holy War to Modern Terror, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/usna-ebooks/detail.action?docID=2007457.