Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

In the U.S., all of those embracing Islam and thus the tenets of the Islamic faith are not enemies of the U.S. because in reality, a very small number of the millions of Muslim believers support a violent and extreme view of their faith.


I agree with you.  However, this is still significant.  Estimates vary widely, but if only 5 percent of those claiming the Muslim faith are radical, and there are 3 million Muslims in the U.S., that would mean there are 150,000 Muslims in this country that believe the only sure way to Paradise (where the 73 virgins are waiting for them) is to die in jihad – holy war against the infidels (that would be us).  150,000 is scary, since it took a relative handful (25-100 or so with their support network) to give us 9-11.

Regarding the vast majority of “good” Muslims who are peaceful, they are largely irrelevant in the big scheme of things, as were the majority of Germans during Nazi Germany.  Actually they are not irrelevant.  If there are so many, and they are so virtuous, where are the letters to the editor and the vocal, public opposition to the Muslim radicals?  Wouldn’t that carry more weight with their Muslim brothers than voices from non-Muslims?  By their silence, they condone the murder of thousands of Americans.  Those red stains on their hands are the blood of 9-11 victims.

It is interesting that Walid Shoebat, a former Muslim terrorist before he turned to Christ, says that you are either a Muslim or you are not.  If you follow the Koran, then you are a Muslim.  Not a moderate Muslim.

Let’s look at this from a spiritual perspective.  From the Koran, there are the believers and the non-believers, and there is war between them.  The moderates may not be enemies of the U.S., but they deny that Christ was the Son of the sovereign, living God who came to free us from our sins.

The U.S. supported the Shah of Iran, a cruel, maniacal and ruthless dictator who allowed U.S. petrochemical companies to own and take from the country 80% of the profits from Iran’s extensive oil resources. The Shah sold out his own countrymen and his death squads (secret police) murdered hundreds of thousands of his critics.  All the while the U.S. provided arms and military support to protect its very profitable arrangement with him and the U.S. oil companies.

However, my friend said that what provoked the Islamic population the most was the decadence and wickedness that U.S. business interests introduced to the country, mostly in Tehran.  Alcohol abuse and dependence soared along with the concurrent problems during those years.  As did male and female prostitution, pornography, and other sex-oriented businesses AND the concurrent problems of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases.  These problems were almost unknown before the influences of the western oil companies, and especially the USA.  A growing resentment towards the U.S. was ignored by both the Shah’s government and the U.S. State Dept. and business interests.  They figured the Shah and his “police” could handle it.


Very interesting.  I was not aware of the negative influence of the Western culture, particularly the U.S. on Moslem cultures.  We just finished listening to a book-on-tape called “The Road to Hell” by a retired CIA official who was in charge of the Bin Laden unit.  His description of Bin Laden described him as a man of integrity who told the world what his grievances were against the West, and what he would do if they were not addressed (provoke attacks in 13 nations).  They were not addressed, and he did as he promised.  Ironically, his integrity greatly exceeds that of Muhammad.

You get the picture.  Western interests–especially US. interests–corrupted the major city in a traditionally Islamic city.  The first Ayatollah came to power, as a throw-back to a rigid and extreme version of a religious system that was better than the wickedness that our culture offered.  My friend also explained the rather complicated and numerous different and sometimes violent (to each other) sects of Islamic influence that are both unique to certain regions and nations and in some cases spill over into different regions and countries.  Up to that point, I thought that Muslim people were pretty much located in a couple of ethnically Arab countries, those which opposed Israel going all the way back to Ishmael.  And well, I guess part of that was correct–the ethnic Arab part.


I understand why many Iranians would want to get rid of the Shah.  At the same time, many may not have understood what was in store with them when Khomeni came to power.  They went from one extreme to another.  Incidentally, I believe the conflict between different Muslim sects is prophesied in the Bible:  “The angel of the Lord said to Hagar, Sarah’s maid and the mother of Ishmael: ‘Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son.  You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction.  He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.”  Genesis 16:11-12

Most of the violent Islamic attacks in the West have been perpetrated by extremists with political and ethnic ties that may very well be a greater influence than their religious beliefs.  The numbers of Islamic peoples worldwide are far more numerous outside of Arab nationalities, yet those perpetrating violence in the name of Allah are dominated numerically by those with Arabic heritage.  Islam isn’t the culprit in the terrorism we have experienced; social, political, military, and economic influences are far more powerful.


I agree that most of the violent Islamic attacks on the West have come from ethnically Arab countries.  In part that is because that is where we have concentrated our military interventions, primarily because that is where the OIL is.  We were invited by Saudi Arabia to come in and protect Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait from the tyrannical Saddam Hussein, a fellow Muslim state.  This outraged many Muslims.

  • But a more intriguing observation is that the very poorest Islamic states, such as Bangladesh have historically produced far fewer terrorists than the wealthiest (Saudi Arabia).  It appears that it is the nations that are experiencing rapid economic growth that experience subsequent increases in terrorist activity.
  • In his recent book “Secrets of the Koran”, Don Richardson contends that the Islamic extremists who have perpetuated the most violence in the West are the most literate about the Koran and its exhortation on how to live and how to interact with non-believers.  For example, Richard Reid, the attempted shoe bomber, had memorized huge amounts of the Koran.  This is common among the extremists.  These are the fundamentalists of Islam, who take the Koran literally, including its 109 war verses, exhorting violence against non-believers (Source:  Richardson above).  
  • This would be one strong factor that would lead us to believe it is Islam, as expressed in the Koran that is the driving force for this violence.
  • Another factor is that in Islam, the separation between social, political, and religious facets of our society largely do not exist.  Islam is a total system, in which all facets of life are dictated by the Koran and the religious mullahs of a nation.  Turkey is perhaps the only Muslim nation with a secular government, and even there, radical Muslim mullahs seek to take power.
  • I would add that in non-Arabic nations with significant Muslim populations, most of the attacks seem to be focused on those governments.

Apparently you and I are in agreement that poverty, limited educational and vocational opportunities and oppressive governing regimes seem to be rich environments for extremist cultivation.  But in the Arab world, the U.S. bears much responsibility for the hatred that has evolved in the past half-century.  


I agree that on the surface, poverty, limited educational and vocational opportunities and oppressive governing regimes seem to be rich environments for extremist cultivation.  And I agree that the U.S. bears significant responsibility for the hatred that has evolved in the past half-century.  However, it is important to examine the root causes of poverty, limited educational and vocational opportunities, and oppressive governing regimes:

  • Why are millions of young Muslim boys and youth put in madrasses – Islamic religious schools – where radical Islam is taught, but math, science, and other basic subjects are not? 
  • How smart does the religious/political leadership of a nation have to be to understand that this is a formula for developing suicide bombers, not a work force capable of successfully competing in the world economy?  This doesn’t make sense to us, but it makes perfect sense to those seeking to establish a global Islamic empire by force.
  • The terrorists who gave their lives attacking the World Trade Center were obviously motivated by something other than economic considerations.  A considerable body of research indicates that terrorists are generally better-educated and financially better off than the vast majority of their fellow citizens.  Far from poverty being the root cause of violence of violence and stability – or terrorism, experience suggests that the process of economic modernization more often works to magnify the appeal of radical ideologies, as individuals compare their status with consumer lifestyles of New York, London, or Paris.
  • Why are nearly all Islamic states dictatorships, with a history of violating human rights of their own people?  Can they blame that on us?  Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of the book “Infidel” describes this violence in her life experience of being raised in a Muslim family and culture in Somalia and Saudi Arabia.  She has received numerous death threats for raising these issues.

I had an English professor at Ouachita who was a Lebanese Christian.  He grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp and honestly asked a question I’d never even considered at the time.  “Why does the U.S. support a country (Israel) that is clearly non-Christian? Why would the U.S. openly support a country (Israel) that openly mistreated millions of Christians?”  And he made it clear that he was referring to “Christians” in the faith sense, not just in the political sense.


Our support of Israel would stem from multiple sources:

  • Christianity was grafted on to the tree of Judaism.  Jesus was a Jew, who was born in Israel, conducted His ministry there, called His disciples there, died there, rose again there, and will return there.  God chose the Jewish people as a vehicle through whom the Messiah would come, Who would bless all nations.  And Jesus is coming back – not to Mecca or New Jersey, but to Israel.  So many Christians have a strong connection to Judaism.
  • There are millions of Jews in the U.S. who have clout in the financial, economic, political, and media arenas that they exert on behalf of Israel.
  • Unlike the vast majority of its Islamic neighbors, Israel shares many basic values with the U.S., such as a belief in the importance of a democracy and basic human rights.

My concern is the assumption that Islam is the problem.  It appears to me that other influences have had a much greater poisonous effect upon Middle Eastern extremists.  Those extremists have some justification in their hatred of the West, unfortunately. And I suspect that the “Little and Big Satans” are a result of perhaps the same kind of religious bias that we have been promoting against millions of Muslims who haven’t even got a dog in this hunt.


I agree that extremists have some justification for their hatred of the West, but to contend that other influences have had a much greater effect upon the extremists seems unwarranted.  We can discover some valuable clues by taking a look at Islam and Christianity, particularly their founders:

  • Muhammad led dozens of raids on Jewish and native caravans in Saudi Arabia, for spoil, plunder, and women.  If they died in the raid, they would go straight to Paradise, where 72 virgins would be waiting for them.  Life is good, but death is even better…
  • Muhammad killed many people who opposed his offensive raids, and attacking Jewish communities in Medina because they would not support him and his religion that worshipped Allah, the Moon God of Arabia.
  • Muhammad used his religion for his own lustful desires.  It is commonly known that, while Islam allows a man to have four wives, Muhammad had at least twice that number.  Furthermore, after his own son married a beautiful young woman, “Allah” told Muhammad that she was to become HIS wife.  So he took her away from his own son and added her to his harem.
  • Muhammad consummated the marriage to his youngest wife when she was only 9 years of age, the legal definition of a pedophile.
  • Muhammad embraced deception and institutionalized it within Islam.  The Arabic name for this deception is Taqiyya, and the president of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Islamic nation, invoked this very principle in a speech to a gathering of Islamic nations a few years ago.

In contrast, Jesus urged His followers to love their enemies, to marry one wife, to not even think about lusting after another, and to be honest in all matters.

It would appear to me historically that any religious system can be perverted into justification for violence.  Certainly, even Christianity has had its shameful periods of violence.  But even those times were more influenced by political, economic and power grabbing motivations.


I agree that any religious system can be perverted into justification for violence, but what if that religious system has embraced and even institutionalized violence within it?  We can gain further insight into Islam by looking at CURRENT practices in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other fundamentalist Islamic nations:

  • If a woman is raped, she can be returned to her family (as spoiled goods), who are entitled to kill her to preserve the family honor.  Is this not barbaric, and an expression of male chauvinism to the ultimate extreme?
  • If a Muslim converts to another religion, his family is to kill him/her, also to protect the family “honor”.  An Egyptian scholar and professor of Islamic Culture at the University of Cairo, the largest university in Egypt recently converted to Christianity.  Because of his conversion, he had to flee Egypt because his father set out to kill him.
  • Female genital mutilation is common.

A mother in Gaza stated that the happiest day of her life was when her son blew himself up as a suicide bomber in Israel.  Is this not a culture of death?  Islam exhorts its followers to die for Islam, while Christ died for our sins on the cross.

One HUGE difference between Islam and Christianity is that violence is justified and institutionalized within Islam, while periods of violence within Christianity (the crusades, inquisition, etc.) typically represent behavior conducted by a worldly, legalistic, and/or fleshly “church” (usually the Roman Catholic Church) in direct disobedience to the message from the New Testament.  Thus the distinction between the remnant – the true, Spirit-led living body of Christ and the large, political/religious systems that use Christian terminology and claim authority from Christ for their own purposes is absolutely critical.  Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world, yet the Roman Catholic Church is considered a political entity, and sends out ambassadors, owns hospitals, seminaries, universities, commercial property, and consorts with world leaders.

I am not particularly well-informed as to the specific potential for religious abuses in the Islamic faith and traditions.  What I do see in the potential for violence with the right combination of wealth, power and political influence (in that order) with nations who are predominantly Islamic is scary.  Saudi Arabia comes to mind– one of our “allies”.  Weren’t 17 of the 18, 9/11 suicide attackers from Saudi Arabia?  


I am sure that there are religious abuses of all religions.  But what if violence is embedded in the religion itself?  What other religion claims that the only sure way to paradise is to die in holy war against infidels?  What other religion is known for its schools for suicide bombers?

I agree with you about scary scenarios involving Islam.  And in an era of asymmetrical warfare (planes flown into skyscrapers, etc.), it doesn’t take as much money to cause great destruction.

Finally, I think that whenever we reduce human behavior to material terms, and consequently give primacy to materialist solutions, we overlook more significant causes of violent behavior.  Ultimately, this perspective is humanist and even Marxist.  Marx believed if we could create a society in which all human needs were met, people would become virtuous, and there would be no need for police (he said the police state would “wither away”).  And yet, the track record of Marxist nations is over 100 million people being killed in service of this humanist, utopian dream.

In contrast, Christianity recognizes that we are fallen, that we sin of our own volition, and that people can and do really bad things, regardless of their economic condition.  It is even worse when a political or religious system encourages this.  When a nation is built on Christian assumptions about human nature, which our nation was, it not only leads to greater economic prosperity, it leads to less violence as well.   

Yours is a good question.  What comes first in this dangerous spiral; the chicken or the egg?  


It all started in the garden, where sin entered into a perfect environment.  And that sin took place in an environment of perfect economic prosperity – all of their needs were met.  And yet they sinned.  You know the rest of the story.

Seven Incredible Stories – Following Jesus is Like Wiring a House With the Current on

Notes from The 2010 Gathering on Lake Ouachita

                                                                                                    April 23-25, 2010

Following Jesus is like wiring a house with the current on.  It is exciting, and you never know when you are going to get a shot of juice.

We are used to taking in information and making decisions.  A life of faith is different.

It is not natural for grown men to get up before a large group of men and bare their souls, confessing their sins to each other and to God.  But that’s what happened.  It is supernatural, and reflects the convicting presence of the sovereign, living God.  What is natural is for men to get together, talk about women and cars, and lie about how many fish they caught.

Incredible Story #1 – Jesus as a Peacekeeper

In 1991, South Africa was on the verge of violent civil war.  Henry Kissinger from the U.S. and a top diplomat from Great Britain came to South Africa and tried to negotiate a peace.  They were unsuccessful and left. Then a pastor from Dublin called a prayer breakfast in a soccer stadium, and invited the leaders of the Zulus, Nelson Mandela, and the head of the South African government to attend. 

As they were sitting at the front table and people were singing, the head of the Zulus wrote on a piece of paper a simple plan for elections.  He passed it to Mandela and to the South African leader, and asked if this would work.  They said yes, and it was all settled.  Away from their assistants and attorneys, these leaders resolved a dangerous national crisis that would have led to enormous loss of life, while they were sitting at the head table of a Jesus rally!  God truly moves in strange and wondrous ways.

Sin leads us to cover up, to hide, and to blame each other.  That’s the way it was in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve covered up with leaves, they hid in the bushes, and they blamed each other. 

And that is the way it still is today.  God wants us to take the cover off, come out from in the bushes, and take responsibility.  The work of the Lord is that we believe Him and His mercy and love.  Soak yourselves in the Gospels.

Incredible Story #2 – the Peace of the Lord Which Passes All Human      Understanding

In Rwanda, a country of 10 million people with 100% of its land arable, two thousand people were killed every day for 200 days – 800,000 people were killed.  (Comparatively speaking, it would be like 60,000 people in the U.S. being killed every day for 200 days).  The speaker of their parliament, a woman who would be the equivalent of Nancy Pelosi, was in a vehicle with our speaker and a few other leaders, and they were traveling through the countryside.  They were all singing, with great joy.  She showed where her family had been killed.  She now has a new family.  She is a Tsuti, she married a Hutu, and they adopted two Tsuti children and two Hutu children.  This kind of joy is not natural; it is supernatural.

“Jesus didn’t come to eliminate suffering; He came to fill it with His presence.”                                                                      C.S. Lewis

Incredible Story #3 – If My people who are called by My name…

When Ronald Reagan took the oath of office to become the 40th president of the United States, he opened his Bible and put his hand on this verse:  “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”     

II Chronicles 7:14

How did Jesus spend His time?  How did He talk?  How did He think?  Who did He spend time with?  Jesus trained his guys to Be, Think, and Do.  Do the things Jesus would have us do.

Community – communion – Jesus reproduced what was in His heart with people in all kinds of ways.  When Jesus encountered the rich young ruler, He spoke to his heart. 

Jesus always talked in stories, He never bored anyone, and He always loved them.

Incredible Story #4 – The Cross as a Sign of Encouragement

Dr. Martin Luther King was wounded by a man with a knife who tried to kill him.  This left a scar the shape of a cross near his heart.  Dr. King stated:  “Every morning I am encouraged – I see this cross near my heart.”

We are human beings, not human doings.  We need to be who we are in Christ, not just always be doing things.

A ship is safe in the harbor, but a harbor is not what a ship is built for.

What is Going on in Washington, D.C.

You have been lied to.  Washington, D.C. is worse than you can possibly imagine.   There are 500,000 people in D.C. who are trying to keep fights and battles going.  We are going to put 535 people in D.C. in one building whose primary motivation is greed, and expect anything good to happen?  The natural state is toward chaos.  The second law of thermodynamics:  the natural state of things is to move toward chaos.  The gap between the people who give you the laws and you is like the Grand Canyon times ten.  They are cynical, critical people, and their pride always comes through.  But the power of God is greater than you can imagine. 

          (Our speaker was involved in the political scene in Washington)

We have the ball, and they can’t beat us.

Incredible Story #5 – Servant Leadership

When Colin Powell met with the aging Norman Vincent Peale, he noticed that his shoe laces were untied.  He knelt down and tied them.  A guard standing nearby said to his buddy: “Now you know why we are willing to follow that guy into battle.”

Be absolutely sure you are involved with a small group of guys who will hold you accountable.  Al Gore said every leader who does not have a small group of people to whom he is accountable is an accident waiting to happen.

Friendship is one means through which God reveals Himself.

Incredible Story #6 – God Makes Things Happen

When we hold a national prayer breakfast, we cast a wide net and invite a lot of people.  We invited some leaders from the United Arab Republic.  UAR is almost completely Moslem and is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, with 1 out of 5 people being millionaires.  Three guys came, and after the breakfast, they took out their checkbooks, and asked how much money we wanted.  We told them that we didn’t want their money, but encouraged them to hold a Jesus discussion group when they got back to UAR. 

When they got back, they learned that George Bush Sr. was coming, so they called us and said, “why don’t we invite him to come to our Jesus discussion group?”  We asked when he was coming, and they said “tomorrow morning”.  This led to frantic calls, including calling Barbara Bush in the middle of the night.  They finally reached George Bush Sr., who was only going to be in UAR for four hours!  So these guys started their Jesus discussion group, when there was a knock on the door.  It was George Bush, Sr., who said he only had 5 minutes.  He told them four things:  “This is the most important thing going on in the United Arab Republic.  Keep it up!  This is probably the most important thing going on in the Middle East!  Good by.”  Now what are the chances a former U.S. president could drop in on the first Jesus discussion group in the United Arab Republic?  God truly moves in wondrous ways.

God brings people into our lives who will speak truth to us.

Incredible Story #7 – Discussing the Life of Jesus

A U.S. insurance executive was living in Bangladesh when the floods came.  Bangladesh is a large flood plain, so when the rain water comes down from the mountains, it floods huge areas.  Because his house was on stilts two feet higher than the houses around him, when the floods came, it flooded all of his neighbors’ houses.  He and his wife invited eight neighbor families to come and stay with them while the water was up.  Wednesday came around, and he told them they always have a Bible study on Wednesday evenings.  So he asked them if they would like to join him and his wife.  They would spend half of the time reading the Koran and half of the time reading the Bible.  They said yes, that would be fine. 

This went on for some time, and then the Moslem families said, it’s OK with us if we don’t read the Koran – yours is a little more interesting.  This went on for some time, and then the host said: “Why don’t we try an experiment, by going out to villages, and starting Jesus discussion groups with the people in the villages, just as an experiment.  They said sure.  So they took the Jesus discussion groups out to villages.  Someone asked the insurance executive how many people they had reached so far.  With tears in his eyes, he said “over a million people.  But don’t tell anyone!  This is under the radar, and if the radical Moslems find out about it, there will be big trouble.” 

As soon as Jesus puts something on our hearts, act on it. 

Walking with the Lord is a great adventure.  Pray to be available to carry out His will.

Thanks so much to The Gathering team that put this retreat together, to our guest speaker from Minneapolis, to everyone who came, and to our Lord, for revealing Himself through this experience, this fellowship, and His Spirit.

To God be the glory

Mark Peterson