Were the Boston bombers Muslims?
Did they murder people in the name of Islam?
Were they members of an Islamic sleeper cell operating in Boston?
Is there more to come?
These are all questions people are asking now about the bombing which killed and wounded people at the Boston Marathon. This story is all over the newspapers, news websites and many other places. Why did they do it?
Before I say anything about Islam, let me challenge you to read right through to the end of this post to see the challenge to Christians.
Is there a connection between Islam and the Tsarnaev brothers? Did they purposely plant bombs to kill people in the name of Islam?
Without a doubt, both of these men were Muslims. The real question is whether or not their Islamic faith motivated them to kill other people in the cause of jihad. Was there influence by outside people such as their family members or the leaders of the Boston mosque? Both of these are very real possibilities and yet they are also incredibly difficult to prove.
I think there is a bigger question:
Is there a causal link between Islam and terrorist attacks? In other words, does Islam – as a religion – promote terrorist attacks?
There are two ways to deal with this kind of question. The first is to look at the correlation of attacks committed by people where the cause is known. For years, people have been murdering other people in the name of Islam. While some people will want to claim that these people are ‘extremists’ or ‘Islamists’ the burden of proof is on the religion itself, via its leaders, to demonstrate that Islam does not produce violence. The statistics point in the other direction. Consider this:
The Boston bombing killed three people and wounded several hundred more. This was one day’s effort and is a tragedy. Yet it pales in comparison to what is happening around the world. In March 2013, there were 189 jihad attacks committed around the world. These were attacks where the attacker claimed to be motivated by Islam. These 189 attacks happened in 21 different countries and were committed against members of 5 different religions. These 189 jihad attacks killed 988 people and injured, critically, another 2093 people. Just this past Sunday, April 21st, 13 people were killed in Iraq, Thailand and Afghanistan by attackers who claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. Since September 11th, 2001, there have been 20,742 deadly terror attacks committed around the globe by people who claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. That is an average of 150 deadly terror attacks being committed by people who claim Islam as a motivation every single month for eleven and a half years!
Now, it is rightly said that correlation does not imply causation. This is correct. What it means is that just because two things happen together one did not necessarily cause the other. So it is entirely possible that all of the people who committed these 20,742 terrorist attacks in the name of Islam were wrong and were ‘misunderstanders of Islam.’ So let me turn to the second way of dealing with the question of whether Islam causes terror attacks and violence:
Does Islam teach people to commit violence against non-Muslims in the name of Allah and for the purpose of jihad (which means struggle)? The foundation for Islamic belief and practice is to be found in the Quran. Muslims also look to Muhammad as the ‘perfect man’ and so what he did forms an example for other Muslims to follow.
The Quran contains roughly 109 verses which directly call Muslims to commit violence against other people. Here are a few:
Quran (4:89) – “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”
Quran (4:95) – “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward,-”
Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”
Quran (61:10-12) – “O You who believe! Shall I guide you to a commerce that will save you from a painful torment. That you believe in Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad ), and that you strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives, that will be better for you, if you but know! (If you do so) He will forgive you your sins, and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow, and pleasant dwelling in Gardens of ‘Adn – Eternity [‘Adn (Edn) Paradise], that is indeed the great success.”
I could go on and continue to list even more of them. If you would like a complete list then you can find it here. Plainly, there is plenty of scope for someone to read the Quran and come away with an understanding of Islam which permits, even commands, them to commit violence in the name of Islam.
What about Muhammad himself? Early on, when Muhammad began to receive ‘revelations’ from somewhere, he coexisted with the Jews of Mecca. Only after he publicly attacked their religion did a conflict begin. Even in this conflict Muhammad was clearly the instigator. When he made a treaty of war with people from another town, Medina, to fight against the Meccans, they finally rejected him totally and sought to kill him. You will note that they sought to kill only Muhammad and only after he declared war on them. Muhammad fled to Medina where he became decidedly less peaceful. He began to raid the caravans of the Meccans as a way of gaining riches. Eventually he turned on the Jews of Medina and conquered all three tribes there. After this he began a long jihad and conquest of the surrounding area.
What is the legacy of Muhammad? He was clearly an instigator of conflict, someone who would resort to violence to build wealth and who actively attacked those who did not agree with him.
If the way to answer the question of the cause of the cause of violence is to look at what the Quran teaches and the example left behind by Muhammad himself then surely the conclusion which must be drawn is that those people who see a motivation for violence in the Quran and in the life of Muhammad are not misunderstanding Islam at all.
Thus, with Islam and violence, there is both a cause and a correlation.
Interestingly, what should be the evidence of a genuine Christian? Love. The Great Commandment is to love God totally and then to love your neighbor as yourself. Throughout the history of Christianity there have been ample demonstrations of exactly this kind of love. To be sure, there have been people who have acted, in the name of Christianity, in ways which were not loving. No one with a brain denies this. However, what is easily apparent is that these people do so against the teaching of Jesus Christ. They also do so against the example of Jesus Christ.
What should the basileia theos, the kingdom of God, look like? It should look like love. Love for God and love for our neighbors. This will separate Christians from Muslims. This will demonstrate the reality of Christ.
If you are a Christian then can you find some way to demonstrate the love of God as publicly as these bombers demonstrate hatred?
That is the challenge.