From Muhammad to Islamists

Birth of a Prophet: Individual vs. Community

In about year 610, an Arab merchant in Mecca in the Hijaz, who had never heard of the

Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, had an experience like theirs. Muhammad

reacted to a growing cult of self sufficiency among his tribe. In the old nomadic

days, the needs of the tribe came before the individual. The vendetta, or blood feud,

was the only way to ensure a modicum of peace among the tribes in the absence of a

central authority. If a chief failed to retaliate, his tribe would lose respect.

The Christian doctrine of the after-life made each individual a sacred value. At

issue for pre-Islamic Arabs became how they could square the tribal ideal of

subordination of the individual to the group with the Christian idea of individual

worth. Muhammad died in 632, and he managed to bring most tribes of Arabia under a

united community. The pre-Islamic Arab world seemed doomed to perpetual barbarism

because of constant warfare among tribes. And Jews and Christians with whom Muhammad

came in contact taunted Muslims as a barbarous people that had not received divine



From Mecca to Medina, to Jerusalem: Holy Cities of Islam

The western part of Arabia, the Hijaz, was a place where caravans carried goods to the

Mediterranean. Mecca became a settlement located around a Kabah, or cube. Meccans

claimed Gabriel as a patriarch and prophet. Through contacts with Christians and

Jews, Meccans acquired awareness of monotheism. Revelations of Muhammad established

his role as Prophet and messenger of God. The message of Muhammad disturbed the ruling

order, prompted him and followers to flee Mecca to what later became known as Medina,

City of Enlightenment. The flight marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. With

Medina as his base, Muhammad proceeded to enter Mecca, and upon returning, he

destroyed the pagan idols. Upon his death in 632, he flew to heaven on a white stead

from Jerusalem.


Koran, the Torah, and the New Testament: Same God, Different Messengers

Unlike the Torah of the Jews, which was revealed to Moses in one session on Mount

Sinai, the Koran was revealed to Muhammad bit by bit over a period of 25 years. And

the New Testament of Christianity was revealed to the followers of Jesus over time.

The Koran is neither a narrative nor an argument that has to be presented in

sequential order. The Koran reflects themes like God's presence in the natural world

and the lives of the prophets. The Koran singles out prophets who were familiar to the

Arabs like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

The Koran does not hold other religious traditions as false or incomplete but shows

each new prophet as confirming and continuing the insights of others. Hence, Muslims

accept the teachings of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. But Jews and Christians do not

accept the teachings of Muhammad. Nor to Jews accept the word of Jesus; and Christians

consider Jesus as the son of God, and they believe that Abraham and Moses were

prophets. But all three religions accept the idea that there is only one God,


Intolerance of Injustice

In practical terms, Islam meant that Muslims must submit to the duty of creating a

just, equitable society where the poor and vulnerable are treated decently. The

intolerance that many in the West condemn in Islam today does not spring from any

rival vision of God but from an intolerance of injustice, whether committed by their

rulers or by powerful Western countries.

Just War

In the Koran, the only just war is for self defense. But sometimes it is necessary to

fight for decent values. Muhammad was not a warlord who imposed his religion on a

reluctant world by force of arms. Muhammad was fighting for his life, evolving a

theology of just war in the Koran, and he never forced anyone to convert to his

religion. Because Muhammad surrendered to God, Muslims were to imitate him in their

daily lives. But once Muslim pilgrims make the haij and enter the sanctuary of the

mosque, violence of any kind is forbidden. Hence, there was universal outrage against

Iranian pilgrims who instigated a riot in 1987, in which 402 died.


Jews in the Koran

Jews used to assemble in mosques to hear stories about Muslims, poke holes in the

logic, and scoff at Islam. Muhammad's rejection by Jews was perhaps his greatest

disappointment and called his religion into question. The polemic against Jews in the

Koran reflects the Jewish rejection. But from friendly Jews of Medina, early Muslims

had learned the story of Ishmael, Abraham's elder son born by his concubine Hagar. But

when he and his wife Sarah had Isaac, she became jealous and demanded that he get rid

of Hagar and Ishmael. This family fight produced tensions between the Jews and the

Arabs, conflicts that still exist today.

To comfort Abraham, God promised that Ishmael would also be the father of a great

nation. Arabian Jews added some local legends of their own, saying that God had left

Hagar and Ishmael in the valley of Mecca, where God had taken care of them. Later,

Abraham visited Ishmael; father and son then built the Kabah, the first temple of the

one God. Ishmael had become father of the Arabs, and like the Jews they too were sons

of Abraham. The story was like music to the ears of Muhammad. He was bringing Arabs

their own scripture and could root their faith in the piety of their ancestors.

Common Ground

Islam has been concerned with the ships closest to it on the ocean, the religions

descended from the monotheism of Abraham. Jews are often astonished by the extent of

common ground between Judaism and Islam. Aspects of Islam that seem alien to

Christians like the revealed Law present no problem to Jews. Although Jews achieved

eminence in the Muslim world of the Middle Ages, the Koran also blames Jews for

plotting against Muhammad when he treated them with trust. While Christians and

Muslims treat Mary, mother of Jesus with great respect, Jews do not, and thus receive

the scorn of Muslims. And Christians have blamed Jews for the death of Christ, and

many Christians justified their anti-Semitism thereafter.


Following Muhammad's death, there was a succession struggle among his followers. Abu

Bakr, Muhammad 's close friend, was elected by the majority. But some believed that

Muhammad would have preferred his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, who himself had accepted

Abu Bakr's leadership. Ali became the fourth caliph, and the Shia would eventually

call him the first Imam or leader of the community.

The split between the Sunnis and Shia was political rather than doctrinal. The split

heralded the import of politics into the Muslim religion. The Shia are the partisans

of Ali and developed a piety of protest. Since the Iranian revolution, many in the

West regarded Shiism as an inherently radical Islamist sect, but that is an


Shia is an Arabic word meaning party or faction and originally meant the party of Ali,

whose followers thought he should have been caliph. In their own perception, the Shi'a

are the opposition in Islam. They are defenders of the oppressed and opponents of

privilege. Sunni Muslims tend to stand for the status quo, maintenance of the existing

political order, and above all the existing religious order. Themes in Shi'a history

include usurpation and tyranny, armed insurrection, and failure to gain power in

general. Sunni Muslims of the Ottoman Empire suppressed the Shia Muslims.


Alexander the Great was barely 22, when his Macedonian forces swept through the Middle

East and India. His goal as leader of the Greek empire was to unify the Middle East

into a lasting empire to rekindle the glory that was Greece. Alexander's empire broke

up into successor states ruled by his generals. And with his death in 323 BC, these

states warred against each other until the Romans arrived a century later. With the

exceptions of Mesopotamia and Iran, the Roman Empire dominated entire Middle East.

Following eight centuries of Roman rule, the Empire was ravaged by northern Teutonic

barbarians. They severed off the western half of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century

AD. Eastern Roman emperors of Byzantium controlled the Roman provinces of the Middle

East, while farther east there was the Persian Empire. Byzantium included Greeks,

Syrians, Egyptians, and Jews, among others. In 1453, Ottoman Turks conquered the

Christian capital of Constantinople and destroyed the empire of Byzantium. Henceforth,

Christians of Russia would continue traditions developed by the Greeks.

The Emperor Constantine transferred his throne to Constantinople, giving birth to the

Byzantine Empire. When the Ottoman Empire captured Constantinople from the Byzantines

the Ottomans renamed it Istanbul. The greatest of the Ottoman Emperors was Suleiman

the Magnificent, 1520-1566. He extended the empire to include the Middle East and

North Africa as well as most of present-day Hungary and southeastern Europe.


The negative image of Islam is partly a result of a perceived threat to the West from

a militant Islam and in part due to ignorance. Of all the world's religions, Islam is

closest to Christianity. Yet Christians often ridicule its founder, the Prophet

Muhammad. Consider attacks on the Koran in the western literature of Dante, Voltaire,

and Carlyle. A negative image of Islam also is due to Muslim threat to Europe in form

of Ottoman conquests. Armies from Islamic countries had conquered parts of Europe and

threatened much of the rest for about several centuries. Armies of the last Islamic

empire, the Ottoman, stood at the gates of Vienna twice and almost occupied Vienna.

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, there were Crusades to the Holy Land

triggered by Muslim conquests in the West. Muslims felt victimized by western

industrialization and colonialism.

Jihad or holy war literally means striving [in the path of God]. Only in the region of

Christendom did Islam encounter sustained resistance. The major battlefield of the

House of Islam was in Europe. The first barriers to the advance of Islam from its

Arabian birthplace into neighboring lands were two rival empires of Persia and

Byzantium, which controlled the area now called the Middle East. The last Muslim state

of western Europe was Grenada, conquered by Christians in 1492. A decade later, they

gave Muslims a choice of baptism, exile, or death.

From Ottoman Conqueror to Sick Man of Europe

While masters of the Balkan Peninsula, the Ottomans added Constantinople and renamed

it Istanbul. They then launched a series of expeditions into the plains of Hungary and

twice, in 1529 and again in 1683, to the walls of Vienna. After the failure of the

second siege of Vienna in 1683, there followed a peace treaty of Carlowitz, signed in

1699. Thereafter, Europe still had a Turkish problem; but it was Turkish weakness not

strength that threatened the European balance of power. Conflicts among the Great

Powers centered about how to divide up the so-called Sick Man of Europe, the Ottoman


During the Renaissance, the struggle with Islam was no longer presented as one between

true believers and infidels but between Hellas and Persia, between the inheritors of

Greek civilization and the remote Asian successors of the great kings of Persia.

For Muslims, Christendom in the Mediterranean and later in eastern Europe, had been a

kind of frontier. Muslims had looked to Europe like imperial Europe viewed colonial

America and as an independent U.S. looked to its own west. By 1920, it seems that the

triumph of Europe over Islam was total and final. The vast territories and countless

millions of Muslims in Asia and Africa were firmly under the control of European

empires. Dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire was confirmed in the Treaty of Sevres,

signed by the Sultan's representatives in August 1920.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, three new Muslim empires were founded: by the

Ottoman Turks in Asia Minor and Eastern Europe; in Iran; and in India. From Alexander

of Macedonia's conquests of Persia in 330 BC until the coming of Islam, the Levant,

together with Egypt and North Africa, and been a part of the Western world. But within

a century of the Prophet's death in 632, the Muslim empire stretched from the borders

of China to the Atlantic, from France to the outskirts of India, and from the Caspian

Sea to the Sahara.

When Christians came into possession of the Roman Empire until the seventh century, it

would have been reasonable to suppose that nothing could stop the universal expansion

of Christianity. In the seventh century, Islam stopped this expansion. But then

Christendom forced a retraction of Islam. Indeed, Christianity even went on the

offensive against Islam.


For contemporary Christians, the Crusades were religious wars to recover lost land of

Christendom, and in particular, the holy land where Christ lived, taught, and died.

For almost a thousand years, from the first Moorish landing in Spain to the second

Turkish siege of Vienna, Europe was under constant threat from Islam. In the early

centuries, it was a double threat--invasion and conquest as well as conversion and


European voyages to the New World brought vast lands under European rule and placed

great wealth in bullion at European disposal, and thus gave Europe new capability to

resist and ultimately throw back the Muslim invaders. The whole complex process of

European expansion and empire in the last five centuries has it roots in the clash of

Islam and Christendom.

The impetus that enabled the Spaniards and Portuguese to drive the Moors from the

Iberian Peninsula, carried them across the straits into Africa, around Africa, and

beyond as into undreamed of lands. And the momentum carried the victorious Russians

from the liberation of Moscow to the Caspian and Black Sea and ultimately to a large

part of Asia. So there was a pattern of re-conquest followed by empire. The Ottoman

conquest of Syria and Egypt in 1517, followed by the extension of Ottoman suzerainty

in North Africa as far as the Moroccan frontier, greatly strengthened the power of

Muslims in the Mediterranean.

Russian victories over the Ottomans gave it the right of intervention and protection

for all the Orthodox Christians of the Ottoman Empire, including many in the Arabs

lands as well as most of the Ottoman subjects in the Balkan Peninsula. And by 1828,

Russia was in possession of the territory now forming the three former Soviet

republics of Georgia, Armenian, and Azerbaijan. A new wave of advance began in 1911,

with Russian pressures on Persia and a Russian military invasion of the northern

provinces of that country. Despite Persian resistance, it was effectively under

Russian and British domination.

European pincers around the Islamic Middle East were coming together. They were

finally closed during the first World War, with the defeat and dismemberment of the

Ottoman Empire and partition of its territories between the Allied and associated

powers. Eastern Europeans (Slavic peoples) were sold as slaves to Muslims markets

across the Mediterranean or through Spain. This traffic continued until Muslims

decided to go to the source and collect their own slaves (Slavs). The establishment of

a strong European presence on both the eastern and western sides of the Islamic world

that placed pressure on Muslims to grant additional concessions to the Great Powers.

Islam had subordinated Christianity in its homelands in the Near East and in North

Africa and Spain, forced the Roman Empire of Byzantium onto the defensive, and

converted the Empire of the Persians into a bulwark of Islam. As stated above,

Constantinople fell in 1453, and soon the Ottomans took up the challenge represented

by Europe. Ottomans captured Belgrade in 1521. And Europeans were then very concerned

with the menace of Islam. In 1683, Ottomans besieged Vienna for the last time and were

by then a spent force.

For the first time, the Ottomans felt need to negotiate a peace treaty and to do so

from a position of weakness as the defeated party in a long and exhausting war. And in

the Treaty of Paris of 1856, the European powers formally admitted the Sultan into the

concert of Europe. But even in 1916, many western authors feared a threat of a

resurgent Islam. The retreat from Vienna began a new era in Ottoman diplomatic



Pope Innocent III identified Muhammad as the anti-Christ; almost 700 years later, a

western explorer called Muhammad a dirty and perfidious Arab. And in his History of

Europe, a standard work read by European school children described Muhammad as cruel

and crafty, lustful and ignorant, and made references to the crude outpourings of the

Koran. Europeans often describe Islam as a Boy Scout religion.

Muhammad thought that Islam was for Arabs as Judaism was for Jews. Like Christianity

and Judaism, Islam emerged from a Semitic experience but had collided with Greek

rationalism in the Hellenic centers of the Middle East

In 1492, the year Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, Ferdinand and

Isabella also conquered Grenada in Spain, the last Muslim stronghold in Europe. Later,

Muslims would be expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, which had been their home for

800 years.

The irony of the destruction of Muslim Spain was that it was also fatal for the Jews,

without had been able to live as a protected people under Islam. After the conquest,

Christian monarchs gave Spanish Jews the choice of baptism or expulsion. But they

hounded Jewish converts during the Inquisition. Christians suspected converts of

heresy. Christians expelled 150,00 Jews to Turkey, the Balkans, and North Africa.

Muslims of Spain had given Jews their best home they had ever had in the Diaspora.


For Muslims, Christianity, like Judaism, was a predecessor deserving of toleration.

While Islam distances itself from its predecessors, there are similarities in

scripture and traditions that link Islam with Christianity and with their common

Judaic and Hellenistic antecedents. Christianity and Islam recognize each other as

their main rivals as bearer of God's final revelation to humankind. And hence there

followed a series of conflicts, beginning with early holy wars, Crusades, and conquest

and re-conquest within Europe.

Unlike Moses, Muhammad was not forbidden to enter his Promised Land; still less did

Muhammad suffer like Jesus--physical death by martyrdom. The idea that there is a

single truth for all humankind and that it is the duty of those who possess it to

share it with others begins with the advent of Christianity and reappears with the

rise of Islam. When Christians and Muslims call each other infidels, each group

understood what the other meant, and in so doing, revealed their essential similarity.

For Christians, Judaism was a predecessor, an incomplete and superseded religion

replaced by Christianity, but not in itself false. Hence, Christians accorded Jews a

measure of tolerance in medieval Europe. Although the tolerance was limited, Jews

somehow managed to survive under Christian rule. But Muslims barely survived under

Christians. The re-conquests for Christendom of Sicily, Spain, and Portugal from Islam

were followed by expulsion or forcible conversion of Muslims by Christians. Even the

Republic of Venice, which thrived on trade with the Levant, had difficulty tolerating

one small inn for visiting Turkish merchants. And Christians were reluctant to call

Muslims by any name that would suggest a religious connotation. Christians preferred

to call them by ethnic names. The obvious purpose was to diminish the stature of

Islam. And a convert to Islam was said to have "turned Turk!"

For Muslims, Islam is not merely a system of beliefs, it is also a way of life, with

rules that include civil, criminal, and even what westerners would call constitutional

law. In classical Islamic history, there could not be a clash between Pope and

emperor: The caliph, the titular head of the Islamic state and community, combined in

himself both political and religious authority.

Regarding a comparison of Christianity and Islam, Christians who confessed to believe

that Muhammad had received a true message from God would have been heretics, ripe for

the stake. In contrast, Muslims are obliged to accept the authenticity of Jesus, while

believing nonetheless that the message of Christians was not the last word. Muslims

accepted Jews and Christians not out of tolerance but of religious obligation. In

contrast, when Christians conquered Spain, Jews and Muslims either had to convert or

be killed.


For some Muslims, defiance of the West is seen as the most effective way to assert

Islamic values, regardless of how deeply these values may have become corrupted.

Regarding Israel, some Muslims see it as the manifestation of western power in the

midst of the Islamic world. They view Israel as a Western country settled by Europeans

and Americans in a Muslim land with the support of former colonial masters, maintained

by American arms and determined to expand further into Islamic lands. Many Muslims

believe that support of Israel can be ascribed to hypocrisy. They think that Europe

and the U.S. created Israel as a means of ridding themselves of their Jewish


Because Zionism arose as a reaction to anti-Semitism and benefited from anti-Semitism,

some many Muslims see Israel as the outcome of a conspiracy between imperialism and

Zionism at the expense of Muslims. They resent the idea that Palestinians were

considered natives who could be pushed out of their lands by Europeans settlers.

Islam means self surrender to God. And Muslims are those who submit. But there is a

great deal of misunderstanding about the image of submission in Islam. The West often

portrays Muslims as cringing before a tyrannical Lord and submitting as a beast

submits to its incomprehensible fate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Muslims

fear God because they are realists. They know that there are things to be feared and

that all things have but one creator. Submission in Islam has little in common with

fatalism in the Western tradition. Muhammad means the Glorified. Muhammad is usually

referred to in Arabic as the messenger of God not just as a prophet as often described

in the West.

Radical Islamists view Islam as being under double attack, from outside and from

within. External enemies include imperialists, sometimes known as the crusader, his

ally the missionary, his puppet the Zionist, his rival, the communist. But it is the

internal enemy that is both more evil and more threatening. Internal enemies include

diverse figures like King Faruk and President Nasser of Egypt, the Shah of Iran, Assad

of Syria, Saddam of Iraq. These men had in common a commitment to modernization.

Ataturk was the first Muslim ruler to disestablish Islam and adopt European practices

over a range of public and social life.

It is easy to understand the rage of traditional Muslims confronted with the modern

world. They have been schooled in a religious culture where rightness meant supremacy,

seen that supremacy lost in a world to Western power, lost in their own country to

foreign intruders with their Western pros, lost in their own home to emancipated

women and rebellious children. The loss of Muslim territories was for several

centuries unknown and thus inconceivable.

Between 1939 and 1945, European states fought out their wars on Middle East soil,

with little concern for the peoples there. Now it is the Middle Eastern powers that

sometimes fight their wars on European soil with similar unconcern. And in financial

markets it is now Muslims who invest and lend vast sums in Europe. There are close

of two million Muslims in Germany, greater numbers on North Africans in France, and

Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis in Austria, Spain, Italy,, and Belgium. These

numbers constitute a massive and permanent Muslim presence in Europe.

The Muslim Brothers was founded in Egypt in 1928, and began political action in

response to the Anglo-Egyptian treaty in 1936. The Brotherhood took up the cause of

Palestine Arabs against Zionism and British rule. Another Anglo-Egyptian accord in

1954 also sparked opposition from the Brothers. They tried to assassinate Nasser in

October 1954, and he retaliated with severe repressive measures. In Egypt, where the

Brothers are forbidden to act as a political party, they nevertheless all themselves

with secular parties and hence have a presence in Parliament.


Within the PLO, the main faction Fatah means conquest [for Islam gained in holy

war]. But in fact, Fatah, is a secular organization not a religion one. Hamas,

Hezbollah (Party of God), and the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front are three

movements inspired by Islam to take radical political action.

Impact of the 1973 War: Rise of Islamic extremist groups in the 1970s and 1980s.

Revivalists groups like the Muslim Brotherhood existed before the War but took on

new energy afterwards. Rise of religious fanaticism associated also with Iranian

Revolution of 1979. With rise of religion as a threat to moderate Arab regimes like

Egypt, Arab-Israel conflict became less of a threat. After PLO supported Saddam in

the Gulf War, moderate Arab states cut off funds for Palestinians in the

territories. Fund cutoff gave Hamas an opening to supply services to Palestinians

that PLO had been providing. A purpose of 1993 Israel-PLO accords was to counter

Islamic extremism that was more of a threat to Israel than the demands of the more

secular PLO.

Regarding Iran, it is home of the most authentically popular revolution in the

Islamic world and has gone farthest in restoring traditional Islamic norms in such

matters as penal law, enforced religious observance, the position of women in the

home and society, and status of non-Muslim minorities.

Ottoman pan-Islamism achieved meager results but responded to a psychological

feeling among Muslims who felt they were under assault. Another attempt at Islamism

was when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem tried to mobilize support of world Muslim

opinion on behalf of Arabs of Palestine. He went to Germany in 1941, and tried to

create an Axis-Islamic alliance. But the Muslim world was just as disillusioned with

an Ottoman Jihad made in Germany in World War II, as with an Arab revolt made in

England during World War I.

Political pan-Islamism during the inter-war era was a hopeless cause. Only two

Muslim countries were genuinely independent--Turkey and Iran. And Egyptian sponsored

pan-Islamism was too obviously related to state purposes and failed to arouse the

necessary response from elsewhere. Although international attempts at pan-Islamism

have produced limited results, Islam has shown its strength much more in the

internal politics of Muslim countries, e.g., in Tunisia. Bourguiba of Tunisia tried

to make development a holy war and abandon the month long fast of Ramadan because of

the effect on productivity. He failed.

The Iran-Iraq war, 1980-1988, showed the power of Islam in the justifications of the

war aims by the parties. On the one hand, Iranians sought to portray the war in

religious terms, and painted themselves as defenders of Islam against a regime of

atheists, backsliders, and renegades. Their war was against the Ba'th Party not

against the Iraqi people or the Arabs. On the other hand, Iraqis spoke of a struggle

against the Persians, using an Arabic term that referred to the conquering Arabs

against Iranians.

The return to religious loyalties and the response to religious appeals have become

stronger as the exponents of one secular ideology after another have failed.

Nationalism, socialism, communism failed to solve the rapidly mounting problems of

the Islamic world. Humiliation and frustration have so far discredited imported

solutions and made increasing numbers of Muslims ready to believe those who tell

them that only in a return to their won true faith and divinely ordained way of life

can they find salvation in this world and the next.

In two Muslim countries--Iran and Sudan--Islamists have gained power. And they are

held in uneasy restraint in Egypt and Jordan. In Algeria, Islamists were ruthlessly

suppressed after it appeared that they were posed to take power in an election. Only

one Muslim country--Turkey--holds regular elections in which different parties

compete and campaign freely and in which governments can fall and be replaced in a

democratic process. And in Turkey, the Islamic Welfare Party won a majority of a

vote in 1995. The secular parties decided to enter into a coalition to block the

Islamic party from forming the government. But it did form a government in 1996.

Even in radical states like Syria, the net effects of secularizing seems to be

directed against minority religions more than against Islam. But as regimes come

closer to the populace, even if their verbiage is leftist in nature, they tend to

become more Islamic.


There are now three sovereign religions in the Mediterranean: Christianity, Judaism,

and Islam. Now add a fourth--secularism. Marxism was type of secularism. Strong

reaction against secularizing tendencies in Muslim countries. The primary enemy of

radical Muslims are the native secularizers. Those who seek to weaken and modify the

Islamic base of the state by introducing secular schools, laws, and courts are the

enemy. And the archenemy is Ataturk, the first major secularist ruler in the Islamic


In pagan Rome, Caesar was God. Christians were taught to differentiate between what

is due to Caesar and what is due to God. For Muslims of the classical age, God was

Caesar, and the sovereign--caliph or sultan--was merely his vice-regent on earth.

Secularism in the Christian world was an attempt to resolve the long and destructive

struggle of church and state. Separation, adopted by the American and French

revolutions, was designed to prevent two things: use of religion by the state to

reinforce and extend its authority; and use of state power by the clergy to impose

their doctrines on others. Looking at he contemporary Middle East, both Jews and

Muslims may have caught a Christian disease and should consider a Christian remedy,

e.g., separation of mosque and state.

In our own day, self-styled fighters for Islam have brutally maltreated hostages and

other innocent victims, and their actions have not been condemned by Islamic

authorities. But these are crimes against civility and humanity rather than crimes

against non-Muslims as such.


There are some 800 million Muslims in Asia, Africa, Europe, and to a lesser extent

in the Americas. Some 40 Islamic states and about 30 countries with sizable Muslim

populations. Islamic world is no more homogenous than the Christian world. Great

political differences among Muslims: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Gulf states,

which are conservative, pro-western nations; revolutionary Iran, which is

anti-United States; the secular socialism of Syria and Iraq; disestablishment of

Islam by westernizing Turkey; the secular Palestinian National Authority; as well

as Islamist Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah.