Christians must to find a way to justify war because their founder was a pacifist. Muslins have to defend peace because their founder was a warrior.
Although I am not a pessimist, who sees the conflict of cultures as inevitable, we ignore this distinction at our own peril. The Obama doctrine of political correctness would have us believe that all religions are inherently peaceful. By turning a blind eye to the fundamental philosophical differences between East and West we only delude ourselves into believing that humanity will not give into to its baser instincts. History has shown this point of view to be naive and dangerous. American foreign policy must never be built on the shifting sands of wishful thinking but rather on the solid bedrock of history and philosophy.
Since the Enlightenment of the 18th century the West has relied on reason as the primary source of legitimacy for moral authority. The intellectual and philosophical developments of the Enlightenment, as reflected in the U.S. Constitution, guarantee more freedom for common people based on self-governance, natural rights, natural law, with an emphasis on liberty, individual rights, and a recognition of non-sectarian deism. It is with this in mind that we view the underlying Christian philosophy of a just war.
Although virtually all Christian sects have from time to time ignored the teaching of their founder and initiated unjust wars, the philosophical barriers needed to justify their actions handicap them. In the early fifth century the Algerian-Christian philosopher Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, developed the Christian rationale for a just war, that is, war that is acceptable under certain conditions. Firstly, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain or as an exercise of power. Secondly, only properly instituted authority such as the state must wage a just war. Thirdly, love must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. This third prerequisite has also been interpreted to mean adversaries will take all action necessary to ensure that non-combatants are spared.
§ The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
§ All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
§ There must be serious prospects of success;
§ The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
On the other hand the Muslim world has traditionally taken a more theocratic view of warfare. In fact, American-Muslim relations were born in antipathy. In early 1786, Thomas Jefferson, then minister to France, and John Adams, then minister to Britain, met in London with the resident Tripolitan ambassador, Abdrahaman, to try and negotiate a peace treaty to protect American shipping from the “Barbary Pirate” regimes of Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis and Morocco. In the process, the future American presidents asked the ambassador why his nation was hostile to the new American republic even though America had done nothing to provoke or offend his country. The ambassador answered as Thomas Jefferson reported in a letter to Foreign Secretary John Jay and Congress on March 28, 1786:
“That it was founded on the Laws of their prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
Disregarding for a moment the sanitized version of history, Islam is unique among religions in that it was founded by a ruthless illiterate warrior, Mohammad, who used assassination to advance his cause, was responsible for massacres, evicted or enslaved non-believers, engaged in forcible conversion and led by his own account a hedonistic life.
Mohammad left behind a supremacist legacy in which non-believers should only be tolerated if they pay a tax in acknowledgement of Muslin superiority and remain in a state of subservience. While secular Muslims try to distance themselves from this heritage they are reminded on a daily basis by their more devout co-religionists that Jihad is their sacred obligation. Can moderate Muslins completely ignore the more belligerent rants of the Koran?
Moderate Muslims counter the extreme view with a rationale that is similar to the Christian justification for war. “Islam accepts the theory of just war. The just war is a war whose purpose and objectives are just. The war has to be when peaceful negotiations and all efforts of dialogue and negotiations fail. The war is to be waged only in self-defense against aggression and oppression. The Qur’an says, “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not do aggression, for Allah loves not the aggressors. …So if any one makes aggression against you, you may likewise aggress against him, and be conscious of Allah. Surely Allah loves those who are conscious of Him.” (2:190-194)
“The war is allowed in Islam under the righteous leadership that understands God’s rules concerning inflicting harm upon or taking the life of another person. Those who do not know these rules have no right to proclaim a Jihad. It is the rule of war in Islam that non-combatants and civilians should not be harmed. The civilian targets such a homes, markets; places of worship, animal forms or agricultural lands should not be attacked. This condition alone is so stringent that one may wonder how the modern warfare can be permissible in Islam.”
Since the liberating ideas embodied in the Enlightenment have not crossed the Mediterranean Sea or penetrated the deserts of Arabia reason does not temper the hold of religion on the actions of the many Muslim States or factions. The Muslim peoples natural desire to live in peace and prosperity is frustrated by a lack of an overriding philosophy.
In the 21st century there is an ongoing intramural war between secular Muslims who appear to have no natural champion, no John Locke, no Voltaire, no Rousseau, to temper the aggressive tendencies of Islam of the religious fanatics who justify their every action with the innumerable warlike verses of the Koran.
Can the secular Muslims win out? Only when they find the voice to openly admit and condemn the failings of theocracy and like the philosophers of the Enlightenment distance themselves from the moral authority of religion. It all begins with the recognition of individual liberty and freedom of expression without which belligerent theocracy will continue to hold sway. It will be a difficult path for the Muslim establishment to recognize the equality of believers and non-believers, men and women, gay and heterosexual but one that is essential to integrate the Muslim community into the modern world.
In a very real sense the ball is their court.