Islam and Christian Extremism
Both Leaders are Crying

Americans are well aware of Muslim extremism especially since 9/11. Since then, there has been a long list of terrorist attempts and acts against Americans both here and abroad. What is true for us is equally true in many Western nations. Islamists are on their jihad or holy war against Christianity in particular and Western culture in general.

Recently, Islamists attacked the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Charlie Hebdo is a weekly French magazine, which satirizes all aspects of life. Most of the time, the satirical cartoons do not cause a great deal of outrage. However, on January 7, Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi killed twelve at the Charlie Hebdo office to avenge the prophet, Muhammad. The twelve victims were cartoonists, an office worker, and two police officers, one who happened to be a Muslim. Additionally, another Muslim extremist, Amedy Coulibaly, attacked a Jewish grocery store killing four Jews. Another police officer was killed during the jihadist's attempt to escape.

This jihad resulted in seventeen dead Parisians and three terrorists. While we in the West mourn the deaths of the Parisians, that is not the only result of the Islamist's jihad in Paris. The first result was Parisian defiance.

Note the pencil

Note the pencil

Another group of protestors

Another group of protestors

A million or more defiant protestors

A million or more defiant protestors

There were estimates of a million or more protesters that filled the streets of Paris in the wake of the Islamists' killings. However, there are several issues beyond the overwhelming defiance about which I would like to discuss. I have a problem with killing cartoonists. It seems barbaric to put it mildly, and that modus operandi does not make sense. Since when does one kill a cartoonist with whom he or she disagrees? If someone does not agree with another person, can that person be targeted?

In addition, the Islamist killed in the name of God. Did Allah mandate these murders? Furthermore, can just anyone say that God told him or her to kill people for religious reasons? The Muslim terrorists killed a Muslim police officer. Did Allah command that also?

Another issue or concern was the exegesis of the Quran. These Middle Eastern jihadists interpreted the Quran in one-way. There are in the Middle East about 20% of the world's Muslims. There are 62% of the world's Muslims who live in South and Southeast Asia. Therefore, a very large majority of Muslims throughout the rest of the world did not exegete the Quran the same way that some in the Middle East did.

Even on a darker side, there is the issue of martyrdom. While the three Islamists became martyrs for their cause, did they willingly give up their lives so that they would go to heaven and find 72-virgins awaiting each of them? I cannot find that promise in the Quran either.

If killing Westerners and especially Christians is an exegetical stretch, what about Muslims in the Middle East killing each other? Sunnis and Shia Muslims do not get along and have not for a millennium. There are those in each group that hear Allah's blessing to kill members of the other Muslim group.

Finally, how was it that these terrorists know that Allah is the only true God? Did they go to college and study all the world's religions? After research, did the Islamists determine which was the true religion and God? Maybe or maybe not. I think that their religious beliefs came to them via being born into Islam.

Islamists have some critical issues that need to be addressed among themselves and within the rest of Islam. While the Islamists are contemplating their theological spin on their religious actions, we in the West consider it merely wanton and reckless killing. We are outraged.

This morphs into a broader question. We would have the right to be upset if Christians had not done precisely the same thing from 1096 to 1291. During that timeframe, various popes approved at least seven major Crusades against both Muslims and Jews living in the Middle East. There are varying estimates of the total number of soldiers and civilians killed as a result, but historians generally estimate between one to three million people died due to the Crusaders journeying from Europe to the Holy Lands on their jihads, which we call the Crusades.

Pope Urban II told Christian Europe to go on the First Crusade. Their mission was to reclaim the Holy Lands especially the Holy City, Jerusalem. Urban said, "Christians, hasten to help your brothers in the East, for they are being attacked. Arm for the rescue of Jerusalem under your captain Christ. Wear his cross as your badge. If you are killed your sins will be pardoned."

Urban II did not mention 72-virgins, but at least, the crusaders could go to heaven regardless of their sins. As with the Islamists, I do not know of any passage in the Bible from which Urban II based his inspiration about killing infidels. Nor do I know of a passage that states that if a crusader was killed in battle that he would go to heaven directly.

Additionally, how did the pope come to believe that Christianity was the one true religion? Did he or any Westerner sit down, evaluate all the religions of the world, and pick the correct one? Maybe or maybe not. My guess is that they were born into their true religion, which was precisely the way Muslims determine which was their true religion. Does anyone not see a logical disconnect of having two different religions claiming that their religion is the one true religion?

During the period of the First Crusade in 1096, there were less organized aspects of that crusade. One example was the People's Crusade headed by Peter the Hermit. He led a group of unorganized knights and commoners as a part of the First Crusade. The People's Crusade was the Christian version of the shoe bomber's jihad.

Then in 1212, a German by the name of Nicholas led the Children's Crusade. God had spoken to him presenting God's plan for this particular crusade. However, the Children's Crusade was not limited to just children. Actually, it was a cross-section of very young children, teenagers, the elderly, women, and the poor. Nonetheless, off went Nicholas having heard God's command.

Another parallel between the Islamists and the Christian crusaders was when each group was not killing the other group; they killed within their own belief system. This occurred during the Crusades when Western Christendom attacked the Eastern Church in Constantinople. Additionally, Protestants and Catholics had theological and historical issues, which go back a half millennium. This bitterness among Christians is similar to the bitterness that exists between Sunni and Shia. Tens of thousands died as the result of the various Inquisitions and wars related to Protestant and Catholic differences.

Therefore, the issue of which religion is the most extreme is a double-edged sword since both vie for that distinction. After the Paris jihad on Charlie Hebdo, this edition appeared.

The senseless killings in Paris moves Muhammed to cry.

The senseless killings in Paris moves Muhammed to cry.

A similar one should have appeared during the Crusades with the Christ crying. Over his head would read the same as the one in Charlie Hebdo, "All is forgiven," and Christ's sign would have read, "We are Muslims."

I wrote this essay soon after the Islamist attack against Charlie Hebdo in January. President Obama addressed the same issue of extremism in both Islam and Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast a week ago.