Islam is not just a religion. Islamic legal rulings have been issued for 1400 years. Islamic legal scholars have issued binding legal rules based upon the Koran in a way that is vaguely similar to our legal system ruling upon the U.S. Constitution. The Koran specifies a foreign policy such as when to wage war and when to make and break treaties. The Koran also specifies economic policy such as the prohibition on charging interest on loans.
One of the major problems that I have with this ‘political’ Islam is that no group can be held responsible for any acts committed, as in the example of a nation-state declaring war. The enemies are then known and the international community understands the situation. Islam makes a mockery of this concept. Take the group of Islamic leaders that met last March in Istanbul for an example. They issued the following declaration: "The obligation of the Islamic Nation [is] to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways."
One problem I have here is who is held accountable for this? These leaders are speaking about waging warfare, yet no nation on the planet Earth can be held accountable, nor can they be attacked in this war. How can you have a war without two sides fighting? Is this not the same problem that we face when dealing with terrorism? This is also the same problem we are facing when dealing with the piracy issue in the waters off of Somalia. What nation can be held accountable for the acts of war that is taking place? It is not surprising to me that in all three cases, political Islam is at the heart of the issue. The following summary is only a few of the major issues at hand. I am sorry for repeating myself, but as history has demonstrated time and again, these issues are NOT going away without organized violence in the form of warfare.
As a historian, I have read numerous publications favoring Islam, such as some written by Karen Armstrong. I have noticed that in all of these cases, the issues that I have listed below (Plus some others I have left out) are either not covered at all, or are dismissed as not being relevant. They stress the personal behavior of Mohammed and his values. They do not discuss the legal system nor do they discuss the political structure that he built with the Koran. Some ‘political’ issues that are at the cause of the constant warfare that is so common throughout the Muslim world:
1) Tribute – Payment by infidels living in Islamic controlled land to Muslim authorities. I begin with this one because of the undeclared war that the U.S. initiated in 1804 as a result of this issue. The payment of the ‘jizya’ exempts them from military service. This is a clear violation of a sovereign government’s right to conscript people into the military. Not to mention the clear discriminatory nature of the concept in general. In addition, taxation is a function of a government, not a religion.
2) Kill the ‘occupiers’ of Muslim land. Execution of people and the ability to declare war are two of the most important rights of a sovereign government. This is another clear violation of a modern government’s sovereign responsibilities. Islam has no ‘land’ nor ‘waters’ to defend. Governments do.
3) The penalty for leaving Islam is death. This is a primary cause for all of the internal warfare common within the Islamic world. The Sunni/Shiite confrontation or ‘sectarian’ violence between them is a direct result of the fact that the two sides see each other as having left Islam.
4) The act of stoning people to death has to end. This is a punishment that is suitable in a mob mentality. It is a pre-medieval concept that has no place in the modern world. As has been proven time and again, just attempting to rid Islam of this will trigger violence. Clearly a large number of people will violently resist any effort to eliminate just this single ‘law’.
5) Jihad is also a medieval concept. The payment of booty was how armies were commonly paid prior to the rise of the nation-state and professional armies. No wonder the Islamic world is so sensitive about mention of the crusades. Jihad has been and is today the Islamic version of crusade. Jihad must change. Jihad must be converted into a crusade that is SOLELY internal to the individual. History has demonstrated that within Islam, this is far from being the case, even today. This issue may be fading, but it is doing so violently. To expect anything else is not to understand how important this issue is in relation to historical and political Islam.
6) Islamic electoral policy has been classically summarized as "One man, (men only) one vote, once." If this is not political Islam, I don’t know what is.
These issues are clearly hostile concepts to our culture, our governmental system and our way of life. Historically, warfare is commonly the result of these types of differences. Just look at the Israeli-Palestinian problem. No permanent peace can be obtained with these types of differences. Organized violence will continue until these issues are resolved. This is a far larger problem than many believe.
It is commonly believed that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide only endorse a few, if any of these ‘laws’. This is an erroneous view. It may be that the majority of Muslims don’t believe in political Islam as represented by these ‘laws’, but at a minimum, a significant minority must. Just look at the worldwide support that imams enjoy. And the authority they wield is unlike any religious authority in the entire world. Imams can field personal armies. Just look at Iraq. The authority comes from some of the issues I have discussed above. This ability to deploy a personal army is not uncommon throughout the Islamic world. Just look at the trouble that Imams cause in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, just to name two. As Islam is spreading, this problem is also spreading into the non-Islamic world as well. Just look at the problems that Imams are causing in Western Europe and other parts of the world. Unless these issues are addressed forcefully, they will continue to simmer. This can only lead to large explosions from time to time. Unless a systematic change is consistently implemented, ultimately, a large confrontation can be expected. It can only be a matter of time.