Is Islam a Threat?
Debate over religion can always get heated. But in the emotional, polarized post-9/11 world, it has become a battleground. And at the heart of the dispute is a vast and rapidly growing religion that is suddenly filling the spotlight in global events: Islam.
On one side of the argument are governments and peoples on every continent—not just America—up in arms over the hatred and violence seething within Islam. On the other are people decrying discrimination, pleading for tolerance. At stake is the existing world order.
What is true Islam? It depends on who you ask.
Islam is a peaceful religion. Islam is a bloody religion. Jihad is an inner struggle to be a good person. Jihad is a holy war against the infidel. Muslims are pluralistic and tolerant. Muslims want to take over the world. What makes the debate so confusing is that all these ideas are both true and false.
One out of every five people is Muslim, amounting to 1.2 billion worldwide (only 12 percent of whom are Arab). Sprawled out over the globe as it is, Islam takes many forms. It is a religion without a centralized government, without an existing hierarchy, without denominations. Where Roman Catholics, for example, can look to the pope to define Catholic doctrine (as can the rest of the world), Islam has no such singular authority.
Thus, the question of whether or not a demoniac like Osama bin Laden (who lacks formal religious education and has no authoritative religious position) is a legitimate spokesman for Islam becomes murky once he convinces enough Muslims to follow him.
Among Muslims are great numbers of people who would peacefully, even if reluctantly, coexist within a multi-faith world. But among their ranks are growing factions of people practicing what is variously called radical, militant, extremist or jihadist Islam—or Islamism (classifying it with other “isms” such as fascism and communism). Islamists are committed to extending the frontiers of their religion by whatever means necessary. The New York City skyline mutely attests to that chilling fact.
To protect the image of Islam, many people—including George W. Bush, who has no interest in fighting one fifth of the Earth’s inhabitants—are doing their best to keep the distinction clear between Islam and Islamism. But these distinctions can seem academic in the face of increasingly vocal, even violent popular Muslim uprisings occurring worldwide. The extremists themselves see no distinction, except insofar as some Muslims are failing in their responsibility to wage war. Bin Laden labels the U.S.-led war on terrorism “a war against Islam,” and has appealed to Muslims worldwide with the battle cry, “Rise in support of your religion. Islam is calling you.”
How big is the threat posed by such men? How widespread is the extremist problem within this great religion? Is it fairly contained, or is it actually getting worse?
God sees the whole picture. In fact, He saw it millennia ago, and recorded it, in advance, in prophecy. We can place current events within this context, and use these prophecies to assess the present and future state of this global crisis.
Significant prophecies show that militant Islam does pose a serious threat—much more serious than the vast majority realize—to the United States, Britain and the Jewish nation of Israel. Islamism will also deeply impact the European Union and, indirectly, the whole of the world. You cannot afford to ignore these biblical truths.
In evaluating current events in light of these prophecies, the Trumpet’s purpose is not to condemn any religion. Yes—God’s law absolutely condemns the seething hatred and violence being cultivated among many Islamist groups. But realize this: Your Bible shows that God is in fact more angry with the nations those groups are targeting!
Before we look at those specific prophecies, let’s get the worldwide overview of the threat posed by Islam today, and evaluate some of the causes.
Last November, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a strong statement. London’s Telegraph reported, “Islamic radicals are pursuing the systematic annihilation of non-Muslims … Putin claimed yesterday. The Russian leader said … that Western civilization faced a mortal threat from Muslim terrorists, and claimed that they had plans to create a ‘worldwide caliphate’” (Nov. 12, 2002; emphasis mine throughout).
Those are the words of a man in a bare-knuckled brawl with Islamism.
Putin’s country has a long history of holding Islamic insurgence at bay along its frontiers. The Soviet Union was mostly successful, but when it dissolved, Islam exploded in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Russia quickly became embroiled in two brutal wars with militant Muslims—the first in Tajikistan, in which Russia prevailed only after half a decade of fighting and tens of thousands of deaths; the second in the Russian province of Chechnya, which is bloodying Russia’s nose to this day. It was just December 27, 2002, that an exceptionally deadly suicide attack on the Chechen government’s headquarters killed over 80 people.
But Russia is hardly alone in its struggles. Governments around the world are being forced to step up their resistance to Islamist violence.
Consider Europe. Officials dealing with terrorism are waking up to the increasing threat of Muslim violence on the Continent, uncovering terrorist cells with well-established links to North America, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Post-mortem analysis of 9/11 showed that the European Union, with its lenient asylum laws and generous social programs, had served as a haven for the terrorists in those attacks.
Islamist activity in Southeast Asia is also burgeoning, as last October’s terrorist attack in Bali illustrated. In many ways, the region is ideal for radicalism to flourish—its huge Islamic population (240 million) largely lives under weak or corrupt governments and lax security conditions. The past few years have seen a sharp trend toward their becoming more anti-American, politicized and radicalized: Over 100 politically active Islamic parties and active terrorist groups have emerged there, especially in Indonesia, since mid-1998.
The majority of Muslims do not subscribe to the extreme views of terrorist groups. But with an increasing number of them, those views are at least tolerable, if not powerfully alluring. As Marc Erikson points out in his article “Islamism, Fascism and Terrorism,” the fact that Islamism is wreaking “escalating worldwide havoc” is “based on its fast-growing influence among the world’s more than one billion Muslims” (Asia Times, Nov. 5, 2002).
Even a dispassionate evaluation of the major conflicts in the world today suggests a measure of culpability on the part of the Islamic community as a whole. The facts support the thesis of Harvard’s Samuel Huntington, that most conflicts are occurring along the civilizational divide of Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from the rest of the world. Islam is butting heads with the Orthodox world not only in the northern Caucasus region (Russians vs. Chechens), but in the rest of the Caucasus (Turks vs. Greeks and Azeris vs. Armenians), as well as Bosnia, Kosovo, Cyprus and even Ethiopia. Muslims are fighting the Chinese in Malaysia and in China’s Xinjiang province. They are battling with Hindus in India, and with Buddhists in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand. Of course, the most renowned Middle East conflict is between Muslims and Jews, but Muslims are also facing down Maronite Christians in Lebanon. Christian/Muslim warfare is also rife throughout Africa, being waged in Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Kenya and Tanzania, and is also at the root of problems within Indonesia and the Philippines.
“In all these places,” Huntington wrote, “the relations between Muslims and peoples of other civilizations—Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Jewish—have been generally antagonistic; most of these relations have been violent at some point in the past; many have been violent in the 1990s. Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peacefully with their neighbors” (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order) .
There is much fervent debate and disagreement over the degree to which Muhammad (Islam’s founder) was a man of peace or a warmonger, and whether the Koran (Islam’s holy book) promotes religious tolerance or missionary violence. Islam’s history, like that of Roman Catholicism and other religions, shows periods of both warfare and relative quiet. Commentator Daniel Pipes asserts that the current period of “backwardness, resentment, extremism and violence” within much of the Muslim world is actually atypical of Islam’s long history. “[I]ndeed,” he concludes, “it may be the worst era in that entire history” (National Post, Aug. 2, 2002).
But the question remains: What is causing the problem now? What turns a Muslim into a suicide bomber?
The more clear-eyed and frank religious scholars generally agree that Islam, like Roman Catholicism, is a religion whose ultimate goal is universal conversion. “In the classical Islamic view, to which many Muslims are beginning to return, the world and all mankind are divided into two: the House of Islam, where the Muslim law and faith prevail, and the rest, known as the House of Unbelief or the House of War, which it is the duty of Muslims ultimately to bring to Islam” (Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” Atlantic Monthly, September 1990).
Among the multiplicity of religions throughout history, most have been polytheistic, idolatrous, and relatively tolerant of other beliefs. Islam and Catholicism, by contrast, stand out not only as being two of the few religions that demand worship of only one god, but also as being missionary—and quite aggressive in their ambitions.
Not surprisingly, then, Muslims and Catholics have been found in conflict with one another during most of the 14 centuries that they have coexisted, struggling through a repetitive cycle of jihads and crusades.
For the first thousand years of that time, Islam steadily grew in influence, territory and power. Beginning in the late 17th century, however, the tide turned: Catholicism began to wax strong—not only in Europe but increasingly in Asia and Africa—and Islam receded into the background.
Over the first half of the 20th century, the decline of Western colonialism led to the independence of several Muslim societies. The Islamic population grew in numbers and in power, a trend that further intensified with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Huntington believes this historical phenomenon to be so significant, he designated it the Islamic Resurgence. This Resurgence has been extensive, widespread, mainstream, involving the rededication to Muslim practices and ideals on the part of huge swaths of peoples, whole populations.
And it is within this larger movement that the unruly strain of extremist views and behavior has also risen.
The Poison that Permeates
America wants very much to believe that the Islamism movement is small, entirely separate from and contradictory to the mainstream teachings of Islam. This is a best-case scenario—the one the Bush administration has chosen to publicize. Accepting this idea means that although the threat posed by Islamism is great, it is containable. It presumes that governments of predominantly Muslim countries should be perfectly willing to help squelch the problem—indeed, that a coalition against terrorism should include such nations.
What makes this idea problematic is that the populations of those “mainstream” Muslim countries—which include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon—vociferously protest whenever their governments cooperate with America. President Bush’s “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” ultimatum has placed those governments in a precarious position: trying to cooperate with U.S. war efforts while preventing their people from revolting.
While the number of individuals willing to blow themselves up may be few, this minority has struck a chord with many “mainstream” Muslims who also find much to hate about the West, America and Israel in particular. Growing anti-Americanism is engulfing these peoples. David Pryce-Jones explains, “Secular nationalists and Islamists appear to have different and incompatible aims for their people, but together they have fostered a generalized climate of rage against the West, and the United States in particular. They share the same vocabulary about the ‘arrogance’ of the United States, and the need to recover their own honor and dignity” (New York Post, Sept. 8, 2002).
This trend explains why—despite the familiar assertion that 9/11 was the work of a tiny group claiming to be Muslim but totally at odds with the majority Muslim view—there has not been more vocal opposition to such terrorism among Muslim countries and cultures. It explains why Palestinians danced in the streets when the Twin Towers collapsed. Stratfor analysts explained it this way: “More than an organization, al-Qaeda represented a tendency that permeated many Arab societies. U.S. demands on some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, constituted nothing less than a demand for social upheaval” (www.stratfor.com, Dec. 27, 2002).
The reality is, Islamist thinking is much more pervasive than most would want to believe. But what is making so many people so angry?
It’s Not About Money
A common mistake Westerners make in evaluating the cause of Islamism is to focus purely on economic and material issues—to interpret Muslim anger as merely stemming from a lack of Western freedoms and privileges. The thinking is, Just give the Islamist a job and a car, and he’ll calm down.
As bin Laden himself put it, “Because America worships money, it believes that [other] people think that way too.”
The problem with this view is that it minimizes the importance of Muslim beliefs and principles as agents of action.
In truth, the assumption that Islamism is a product of poverty and deprivation has been proven false. Measuring wealth and economic trends nation by nation won’t tell you where Islamism will be weak or strong. Interestingly, the latest revival of the extremist movement began in the 1970s, during an oil boom that flooded many Muslim countries with wealth and power.
Even on the individual level, research shows that it is actually the educated and more well-off people who tend toward extremism. Daniel Pipes makes this connection: “Like fascism and Marxism-Leninism in their heydays, militant Islam attracts highly competent, motivated and ambitious individuals. Far from being the laggards of society, they are its leaders. … [S]uicide bombers who hurl themselves against foreign enemies offer their lives not to protest financial deprivation but to change the world” (National Interest, Winter 2001/2002).
Islamists do not necessarily reject modernity. Many of them, such as bin Laden, use new technologies to spread their ideas. Nor are Islamists opposed to wealth. But they are simply not interested in wealth in and of itself. “Economic assets for Islamists represent not the good life but added strength to do battle against the West,” wrote Pipes. “Money serves to train cadres and buy weapons, not to buy a bigger house or a late-model car. Wealth is a means, not an end.
“Means toward what? Toward power. Islamists care less about material strength than about where they stand in the world. They talk incessantly of this” (ibid.).
Sick of the West
Americans have a hard time believing that anyone could have an ideological problem with them. (President Bush voiced this view plainly: “I’m amazed that people would hate us …. I am like most Americans—I just can’t believe it, because I know how good we are.”) But listening to the Islamists themselves (rather than Western commentators) shows how fundamental their objections are: They are sickened and incensed by the West’s political, economic and cultural dominance of the world.
The humiliation of Islam—“an old, proud, and long dominant civilization,” in the words of Bernard Lewis—by peoples they regard as their spiritual inferiors has hardened into a root of bitterness. Islamists now look upon the West as a godless, materialistic, immoral non-civilization. Its material successes are but a thin veil over its spiritual failures—failures born, in their mind, of the falseness or incompleteness of Christianity.
Islamists can point to a litany of Western failures. “For vast numbers of Middle Easterners, Western-style economic methods brought poverty, Western-style political institutions brought tyranny, even Western-style warfare brought defeat” (Lewis, op. cit.). Those failures include America’s hypocritical foreign policy that allows America and Israel to possess weapons of mass destruction, but no Muslim nations; that supports repressive, anti-democratic regimes when it serves America’s best interests to do so. The failures also include the avalanche of Western-made smut being exported around the world via modern technology. They include the prevalence of divorce and family failure; the pervasiveness of drug addiction and other types of hedonism.
This recognition of real and perceived Western evils translates into a deep hatred of the people of the West. In case after case, Islamists want to ensure that such infectious calamities don’t spread to the world of Islam. Deprived of material superiority, they believe that Muslims can at least retain spiritual and moral superiority.
With this prevailing view of the West (in which the U.S. is the chief wrongdoer), says Mr. Lewis, “It is hardly surprising that so many were willing to listen to voices telling them that the old Islamic ways were best and that their only salvation was to throw aside the pagan innovations of the reformers and return to the True Path that God had prescribed for his people” (Lewis, op. cit.).
“Let Us Cut Them Off”
This mounting anti-American, anti-Israel hatred calls to mind a disturbing prophecy contained within the Psalms.
Psalm 83 speaks of a future multi-nation alliance, including many Muslim nations, that will be mounted against America and Britain (the modern-day descendants of biblical Israel referred to in prophecy as “Israel”). Our free booklet The King of the South explains which nations will be involved in this confederation (listed by their biblical names in verses 6-8) and what the time setting is.
Though this prophecy will not be fulfilled until after some earth-shaking geopolitical events, it describes the cruel attitude behind this alliance—an attitude we see in embryo today: “They [the nations of this alliance] have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee” (vv. 3-5). At that time, these nations will have one goal on their minds: to completely annihilate Israel—which includes America and Britain.
Realize: The anti-American, anti-Israel passions we see today are building toward the unparalleled hatred described in this prophecy!
Hatred on that scale could only be motivated by Satan the devil! God’s adversary would love nothing more than to obliterate the name of Israel—which means “God prevails—God will rule”! (Request a free copy of The Key of David for more information.)
Some are hoping against all hope that Islamism is fading. But not only do the observable facts expose the fallacy in their reasoning, the Bible shows that these terrifying trends are not going to go away. No—in fact they are only now starting to come into bloom.
Let’s turn our attention, then, to what we can expect to see in the time just ahead.
The Trumpet has often referred to Leviticus 26 as being a prophecy for America and Britain (as well as the other modern descendants of Israel, as explained in our free booklet The United States and Britain in Prophecy). But we must understand that it is a conditional prophecy.
In this chapter, God lays before these nations a choice: On the condition that the people obey Him, He promises a whole host of blessings (vv. 3-12). But if instead they go their own way, God promises an intensifying nightmare of curses (vv. 14-39) designed to bring the people back to Him (vv. 40-45).
America and Britain have forgotten their history with God. And now they are clearly reaping the curses of wholesale rebellion against God and His law.
Meditate on these warnings from the great God of the Bible: “I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror … that shall … cause sorrow of heart …. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies … and ye shall flee when none pursueth you” (vv. 16-17). In this age of terrorism, we are living these curses!
Again—these prophecies are conditional. And when people ignore God’s correction, He increases the pressure: “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins” (v. 18).
Read the rest of the prophecy. As long as our nations refuse to hear, they will experience intensifying curses and punishments from the living God! He cries out in verse 28, “I, even I, will chastise you”!
God four times warns of Israel receiving “seven times” the punishment (vv. 18, 21, 24, 28). Those two English words are translated from the single Hebrew word sheba, which conveys both the duration of punishment, and a sevenfold increase in the severity of the punishment.
In other words, the terror of September 11 was only a mild prelude. Failure to turn to God will mean a sevenfold increase in terror!
It is one of the most powerful and condemning ironies of our time: Many of the things about the West that rankle the Muslim world and anger Islamist extremists are the very things for which God condemns Israel!
God does not support terrorists. He condemns their anger, their violence, their self-righteousness. He will bring their every act into judgment (Eccl. 12:14).
But at the same time, it is strongly condemning when Gentile peoples have a clearer-eyed view of the evils and sins within Israel than the Israelitish people have themselves!
And God is allowing the terrorism, allowing the violence—allowing the devil to sway these people into acting upon their brutal, satanic hatreds against America and Britain.
Ezekiel 5 prophesies about the three-fold fate to befall the inhabitants of the modern-day nations of Israel. Using three sections of Ezekiel’s beard to illustrate, God shows that the first third will “burn with fire … in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled” (v. 2).
What is this “fire”? Whatever it is, it will kill a staggering one third of the citizens of America, Britain and the other Israelitish nations! It will critically weaken these nations by bleeding them of their peoples.
This same group is described further in verse 12 as dying “with the pestilence.” The Hebrew word translated pestilence means destruction or death; one definition of the root word is “to lay snares, to plot against, to destroy.”
Gerald Flurry shows in his book Ezekiel—The End-Time Prophet that this refers to violence in the cities that includes terrorist violence. Ezekiel’s prophecy indicates that future attacks will wreak death on a sickening scale!
September 11 killed thousands.
The death toll of this future violence will mount into the hundreds of millions.
The Trumpet often focuses on the many prophecies about Israel’s fall to the European beast power. This passage in Ezekiel supplies more of the picture: that much of what will undermine Israel’s strength and set the Israelitish nations up for the final defeat very likely will be caused by Islamist terrorists.
The peoples of America and Britain, the citizens of Britain’s Commonwealth, the Jews of Israel, must understand the nature of the enemy they face. It is bigger, angrier, more violent, more elusive, more terrible, than they understand. And rather than trusting in God, they are trusting in armaments to deliver them. Their sins, their stubbornness, their faithlessness, will lead to their defeat.
And just like after 9/11, Muslims will dance in the streets.
These successes will stoke the aggression of Islam’s radicals. The dream of the downfall of the West and the dawn of a new era in Islam will become vivid. It will inflame the hearts of great numbers of Muslims. The elusive goal of political Islamic unity will effectively be reached.
At this point, fully formed on the world scene will be a formidable power—prophesied of in Scripture for millennia—the king of the south.
The Final Jihad; the Last Crusade
It is easy to imagine what will be on the Muslim mind at this point. For on the scene will be another power, one which also rose to fill the void left by the U.S.—a united Europe, the king of the north. As has been the case throughout its history, this war machine will also be guided by a muscular, politicized religion.
The stage will be set for the climactic conclusion to a centuries-long struggle—the final jihad, the last crusade.
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over” (Dan. 11:40).
This is a clash between two religions—Roman Catholicism and Islam. More specifically, it is a clash between the extreme elements of these two religions.
The extremists, at present, constitute a small minority of Muslims and Catholics. But be assured, you will be able to watch as their numbers swell and eventually grow to become the dominant force within each of those religions.
Watch and pray that you will not be around to witness the time when they form the heads of the two spears that will clash in this spectacular battle spoken of by the Prophet Daniel! For by then it will be too late: That war will occur in the early days of the greatest tribulation this world has witnessed.
Those who watch world events with their eyes open realize that this world is an angry, conflicted, violent place. Those who watch with an awareness of biblical prophecy realize that it is going to get angrier, more conflicted, more violent—right up until its last tortured breath.
But only those who watch and pray, those who repent now, those who submit themselves to the all-powerful God who foretold these events and is now bringing them to pass, can look to the future with hope and confidence. They alone know in faith not only that they will be protected by a loving Father, but that when the warfare reaches its climax they will then help usher in the start of a truly new age—an age of peace, of a single world religion under merciful, righteous rulership—under the King of kings, Jesus Christ.
With reporting by Ryan Malone