What My Armenian Father Taught Me About Islam
People who knew my father, Rousas John Rushdoony, were aware that he enjoyed talking about his Armenian heritage. He often related as well that his parents narrowly escaped the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in 1915. In reality, he too was a survivor of those massacres. Though born in New York City in April of 1916, he was in my grandmother's womb during the massacres and their escape. In 1915 my grandparents lived in Van, Turkey, which was not far from the Russian border. That proximity, and the temporary help of czarist Russian troops, gave them an opportunity most Armenians did not have escape. The rug Grandma used as an improvised saddle is now a prized family treasure. One and a half million Armenians were killed in that first genocide of the twentieth century. Dad grew up around a community of survivors of that horror. He said he remembered them as, surprisingly, a happy people who loved to sing and laugh. As his father spoke to him at great length about the Armenian heritage and experience, he often spoke to our family about the past. He was not one to live in the past, but he did seek to understand it. Neither did he characterize all Muslims as co-conspirators in the murder of Armenians. He did see Islam as a false faith, one that gave its followers a profane sense of purpose and destiny. I have, in his library, some unpublished essays he wrote on Turkey and Islam. Below are some of the points he regularly made, drawn from my own recollections and portions of those manuscripts.
Why Islam Is Dangerous
Islam is a dangerous religion primarily because it is a false one that leads men away from Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It points men to a false god, Allah, and to a false view of man's purpose and eternity. It is a dangerous religion because it appeals to military force and the power of the state. It is not the great evil, but it is one manifestation of the evil of men in rebellion against God. Because it fights against the reality of God's truth it will fail. Like the evil of communism in the twentieth century, it is an ideology we must understand and counter with the gospel of God's grace.
Islam was designed as an external religion. Mohammed knew the words of St. Paul who wrote, "[H]e is not a Jew, which is one outwardly but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly" (Rom. 2:28-29). Mohammed countered Paul with the proposition, "[H]e is a Muslim who is one outwardly." The only essential beliefs of Islam are that there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet.
The word Islam is Arabic for submission or subjugation. A Muslim is one who submits to Islamic practice. Because submission is the goal, rather than repentance and faith, from the beginning compulsion was seen as a valid means of furthering the Islamic religion. Warfare swept over the Arabian Peninsula, and Islam was forced on the polytheists under the threat of execution. This pattern repeated itself throughout the Middle East and into Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. Not too surprisingly, such a militaristic advance made slavery an important part of its culture.
This externalism and its dependency on military advance made Islamic governments necessarily statist. The sword in the hand of the state advanced Islam. Jihad as the advance of Islam was not merely acceptable, but was and is considered one of its pillars. Islam as a way of life can be encouraged by submission or imposed by subjugation. The progress of Islam is measured not by belief but by outward conformity, which could most efficiently be imposed by military conquest and statist legislation. World domination rather than world salvation, a Christian concept, has been the ultimate goal.
It is easy to read a Christian perspective of morality into other religions, especially one like Islam that does borrow heavily from Scripture. Americans are thus baffled by Islamic ideas of morality and cultural practice. We are horrified that Islamic clerics can justify (again, Christian terminology) terrorist murder. As an external religion (in Christian terminology a religion of works rather than grace), however, Islam's morality is also externalized. Morality is environmental and men and women act in response to external stimuli. Thus, as slaves of passion, men can blame women for their own lustfulness. A woman who shows any part of her body is thus a temptress or worse; women are held responsible for men's lust. Great powers are then ascribed to women and strict measures used to control them.
Self-Will and Islam
Islamic men are allowed a great deal more sexual freedom than are women. The paradise of Islam, in fact, is one of sexual ecstasy. The use of prostitution, harems, and slave girls for gratification is also common. Women therefore pin their hopes for long-term security on their sons who tend to be pampered and allowed to indulge in their own self-will. Spoiled boys then become arrogant and willful men.
Self-will as a characteristic has made for a great deal of unpredictable behavior in Islamic men. Stories of the Armenian genocide are full of incidents where helpful and friendly Muslim neighbors suddenly turned predatory and rapacious because the urge or opportunity of the moment governed them. Islamic thinking contributes to such potential treachery because, as Peter Hammond observes, it divides the world into the House of Islam and the House of War. Islam is at peace with those in submission or subjugation to Islamic law; others are considered the enemies of Islam and are regarded as part of the House of War (see "Uprooting Terrorism" @ www.frontline.org.za).
Self-will has made treachery a major part of the Islamic world. This happens on the personal level, where powerful men can lash out with deadly force on a mere suspicion of treachery or insult. Self-indulgence resulted in the debauched sexual activity which once (before the West began its own depraved industry) made Turkey synonymous with the most vulgar of pornography. It became notorious as it influenced Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476) who was reared in Islamic Turkey and imported their ways to Wallachia in his terror against both the Turks and his own people. Such treachery has been seen repeatedly in the politics of the Middle East in recent years. As Hammond observes, "[S]ince 1948, the 21 Arab countries have suffered 30 wars, 63 successful revolutions, at least 75 unsuccessful revolutions, and 36 heads of state were murdered. In the Arab world, revolutions and assassinations have been the most prevalent means of political expression and attaining power" (ibid.). The peace of Islam has proven itself over the centuries to be a lie. Islam is a more dangerous form of despotism than the political regimes of fascism or communism which ruled by political and military power while denying the relevance or validity of religion. Radical Islam is more akin to the despotisms of the ancient world, where religion and state were combined so that any opposition was at once heresy and treason, thus making the idea of a "loyal opposition" impossible. Islam makes the authority of the state absolute.
Nietzsche and Islam
Into this cultural atmosphere of self-will, slavery, external morality, and cruelty entered Frederich Nietzsche. Nietzsche believed what came from power was good and what came from weakness was evil. Knowledge, he said, was to be used as an instrument of power. Nietzsche, in breaking with Christian ethics so thoroughly, was an apologist for the radical Islamic (and lawless humanist) mindset. He was very influential in Turkey. Thus Turkish Muslims could kill one and a half million Armenians, virtually eliminate them from all their ancestral homelands, and then not only blame the Armenians for the slaughter, but attempt to collect as benefactor on all their insurance policies since the named beneficiaries were all dead. Such cruel absurdities, like the current attempts to justify warfare and terror, are the results of thinking based in self-will, arrogance, and contempt for Christian morality in favor of the artificial peace of Islam, a subjugation to an external religious and political despotism. Power, in such thinking, determines truth and goodness.
Unfortunately, power politics respects, like Nietzsche, power itself. Sympathy towards oppressed or threatened people is based on self-interest and the balance of power. Turkey is a good example of this. In World War I the United States and European powers generally refused to help the Armenians. The U.S. State Department saw good relations with Turkey as paramount. A weak Turkey would have left an opportunity for a power grab by other nations, notably Russia. Again in World War II and in the Cold War, Turkey was protected from its vulnerability by the West for its usefulness to our interests. Balance of power politics depends on alliances and coalitions. The need for alliance and its consequent concessions led to Yalta and the surrender of Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union. Neither should we forget the stripping of crosses from chaplains during the Persian Gulf conflict so as not to offend our Muslim allies. Now in an attempt to build alliances, George W. Bush speaks of Islam as a great religion, thereby avoiding the root of the problem in this war and the Middle East. There is a problem we must face that stems from Islam itself; it is not limited to its radical adherents alone.
Islam is an external religion that teaches peace in either submission or subjugation to religious and political despotism. Its "peace" is in domination. This is an example of fallen man's desire to be as gods, determining good and evil. Islam is just one organized form of man playing god. It will surely fail, for such arrogance cannot long survive judgment. But Islam has given rise to centuries of oppression, slavery, murder, and violence. The Armenian massacres of 1915-1924 did not awaken the West to this; it is questionable whether the 9-11 attacks on America will do so either.
The hope for all people, including those of the Middle East, is the God of Scripture and His Christ. Rather than domination by military means, Christianity seeks the dominion of righteousness. Seeking God's righteousness requires a patient humility to teach faith and repentance. It comes by the power and might of God's Word and His Spirit, not by the power of the sword.
The worldview of Islam is powerful because its adherents are dedicated and loyal. Islam's success, however, comes from its false simplicity, which makes recent American Christianity's easy believism look like deep theology. There is nothing more dangerous than violent, self-willed men who think they are called to some divine mission.
Though Islam advances by military might and we may at times be called on to respond as ministers of justice, we must not seek to destroy its power by its best weapons, but with the gospel. Like the unexpected fall of the Soviet Union, Islam's power will one day crumble. Muslim people are in need of an alternative only the gospel provides. We must oppose the false peace of Islam with the truth of the kingdom of God and His Christ.
Topics: Apologetics, Theology, Culture , Christian Reconstruction, World History, R. J. Rushdoony