What follows is recycled from something I wrote in the months after 9/11.
We have been following the news since September 11, and we see on CNN and BBC the real struggle of Western journalists to find an answer to the question, “Why do they hate us?” The answer usually given is that Muslims resent American policies around the world. And then the expert goes on to list these political grievances, starting with Israel. There is truth to this political and somewhat obvious answer, but it misses the point. It is as if a farmer is asking, “Why is a fox attacking my chickens?” No one in this politically correct age of coalition building can say, “Well, that’s the nature of foxes, especially when they are hungry and they can’t find easier food.” No, instead, they tell the rancher, “Actually, foxes are naturally vegetarians and they are only killing your chickens because you have treated them poorly.” Let me just clear up something for everyone. Foxes are not vegetarians.
Karl Marx is famous for his adage, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” Opium, in addition to funding the Taliban government, makes you sleepy and uncaring about what is happening around you. Marx saw religion as a barrier to mobilizing the people to action. This has been true in the Islamic world too. Traditionally, there has been a strong element of fatalism in Islam. A man’s destiny is written and cannot be changed. However, Marx’s experience was not in the modern Muslim world. If his experience had been here, he may have instead said, “Religion is the amphetamine of the people.” In these times, religion is used to stir people up.
Leaders here in the Middle East, religious and otherwise, use religion as a way to unite the people under their leadership and to manipulate against 'outside threats'. (For example, notice the islamization of the previously secular Iraqi regime.) Some years ago, when the people of Iran voted on whether they wanted an Islamic government, the result was an overwhelming 'Yes'. They had no inkling of what they were voting for, but they knew it was something of their own and not a foreign import. Leaders in the Muslim world carefully control the content and presentation of information to the people -- from preschool to the grave -- so Islam means exactly what leaders say it means.
In addition, Islam divides the world into two groups, the "House of War" (unbelievers like us), and the "House of Peace" (the Islamic world). In the Muslim media they show virtually every conflict as a struggle between Islam and the rest of the world. Preachers commonly preach death and destruction to unbelievers and the ultimate world conquest of Islam. This tendency is more pervasive than we can describe. Little boys in school are given plastic kalishnikov rifles and they are taught to march around giving Islamic war cries, “God is great!” Even as we visit our friends here they tell the children, “If you don’t behave, the foreigner will give you an injection!” as if we are in the business of hurting people. Every world event is seen through these “us vs. them” glasses. If people start to divide themselves along any other lines -- economic, ethnic, linguistic, sectarian, ideological, etc.-- who knows what chaos would ensue? Unity, power, and stability come through rallying around the banner of Islam.
Why do they, Arabs and Muslims, hate the West, and America especially? There are many reasons. However, in my opinion, the reason that is usually given, i.e. the situation in Palestine, is not the main reason. Rather, Palestine vs. Israel has become a focus of deep feelings of hatred, resentment, and anger which are originate from within the Muslim world. Think of a tornado. Most observers focus their attention on the violent swirling vortex of a tornado but forget that its energy comes from a convergence of wide-spread slower-moving invisible but massive forces. What are those forces in the Muslim world that are spinning off tornados?
The root causes of anger and hatred are spiritual, social and psychological and they often stem from causes unrelated to political policy. Millions of young men resent their fathers. They resent they can’t find work and prosperity. They resent feeling inferior every time they see the space shuttle or something else the West can do. They resent women, Western and local, for being attractive and powerful but inaccessible. They resent the rich and powerful of their own lands who propagate unjust social systems. They resent having to keep their opinions to themselves and distrust everyone for fear of being arrested by the secret police. I believe that they also resent Islam, which promises so much, but delivers so little.
How will the simmering resentment of the Islamic world emerge? Will it explode into riots, revolution and tribal warfare? Will people go on murderous rampages killing their families and neighbors? No, not if Muslim leaders can prevent these outbursts. Instead, leaders in the Islamic world have become skilled at channelling this anger and resentment away from the real problems of the people. They seek local solidarity under their own leadership and they seek to remove blame from themselves and put it on the “enemy.” Every economic, social, and religious problem can be blamed on this enemy. If there is no enemy, they invent one. But of course they don’t invent a new enemy. It’s always a reinvention of the same one, the “Christian” world. And in their minds, America is the ringleader, the crusader.
You may have noticed that one of the Al-Qaida recruiting videos showed armed Mujahideen bursting into a building and shooting a figure in the building. The symbol marking the target was not a bull's-eye but a white Christian cross. This is not accidental and it symbolizes what Al-Qaida has stated openly about their aims and motivations. It’s not “the West” or America that they seek to destroy, it is Christianity itself.
The spiritual reality is that Islam is designed by Satan to be a huge prison system. The guards are the faithful who seek to extend the walls of Islam to encircle every nation and to prevent escapees. The invitation to come in is extended to all with talk of peace, but the keys for leaving Islam are denied to everyone who enters.
So, do Muslim extremists want to turn America and Europe into Islamic states? Yes, in the long run. In the meantime, their goal is to ignite a jihad against the West as a means of unifying Islam. In the short run they want Islamic revolution in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other already Islamic states. They also have countries like Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Philippines in their sights. These countries have Islamic minorities that can take over power, if not in the country as a whole, then at least in the Muslim areas. Then all religious and personal freedoms will be severely limited. Christians will come under further attack, and forced conversions will be instituted.
A truly Christian perspective on the news of the day should instruct us and bring us to prayer to do our battle. The Islamic world is a spiritual “stronghold.” In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church he writes,
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
. . . You are looking only on the surface of things.”