For centuries Christians and Muslims have fiercely engaged in battles and wars because they believed they will be rewarded by God for waging war in his name. In recent times we have become very familiar with the Jihad; as the media has covered this topic extensively after the September 11 attack that took place in the United States. This act of terror made the Islamic community a focal point of the media, which educated the populace on the violence of Islam or as they choose to call it “Holy War”. The truth is that, Islam is not the only religion that has committed violence in the name of God. Christianity also has its history of violence and Holy Wars, they were called the Crusades. There were three main reasons given for the Crusades; Rescuing fellow Christians from Invasion and persecution, Conquering or retaking lands in the possession of other religions and fulfilling personal vows to go on a crusade (The Crusades 1). Today we refer to Holy wars as Killing in God’s name, but war and religion have gone hand in hand for centuries. People go to battle after praying and making sacrifices to God, making them believe that God is on their side because they are fighting for his cause. An example is when Joshua destroyed the Anakites in the Bible. Involving God in such violent acts is not supposed to make a war holy.
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress limits…And slay them wherever ye catch them. And turn them out from where they have turned you out; for persecution is worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the sacred Mosque unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who reject faith. But if they cease, Allah is oft-forgiving, most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no more persecution. And the religion becomes Allah’s. But if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression” (The Qur’an, Surah 2:190-193).
The Quran is the holy book of Islam; the above quote is from the Quran it encourages the Holy war. Partly this explains the numerous battles the Muslims were involved in few centuries ago, fortunately in modern times the Jihad is no longer carried on a large scale as compared to the past but there are still some exceptional cases. The Hadith is another important book in Islam and it is second to the Quran. The Hadith contains the recorded sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad and he encourages the Jihad, saying that anyone who dies fighting for Allah will be rewarded, by going to paradise. Many of these sayings have been interpreted in different ways and people have acted according to these interpretations which have lead to brutality and wars. Although in this modern age, with the help of globalization and westernization the frequency and scale of religious wars have declined over time. However, a small percentage of Muslims, the extremists and anti -western ones still dwell on the verses in the Quran that talk about war, conflict and violence. This is what has lead to terrorism and suicide bombings in recent times.
In addition, the duty of all Muslims is to do the utmost against those who do not believe in Allah, this was meant for nearest enemies of Muslims but as more Foes arose with time, the statements supporting the Jihad were updated. (Holy War 123) The Muslims are acting according to what they read in their Holy books, most do not feel remorseful for whatever damage they have caused because they believe this are divine instructions of the holy book. Today we do not hesitate to link the word Jihad which means struggle in Arabic to Terrorism, especially after the September 11 attacks. Religious wars and violence happen in some other countries like Nigeria which is one of the most religious countries in the world. In Nigeria, Muslims and Christians clash frequently, fighting and rioting over one problem or the other, but yet the opposing religions know very little about each other’s believes. Religious wars in Nigeria are fueled by ignorance, tribalism, poverty, politics and struggle for power. Another country that has experienced religious war this modern time is India; with a high population of Hindu, a small number of Muslims and a few Christians. Approximately hundred Christians were killed in a recent religious battles and another ten thousand left without a roofs over their head, telling us that religious wars may have reduced but still occurs in some societies.
Furthermore, there are two forms of Jihad the greater and lesser Jihad. The phrase internal Jihad or greater Jihad refers to the efforts of a believer to live their Muslim faith as well as possible (Internal Jihad1).This definition is thus because after a battle the prophet said this “We are finished with the lesser jihad; now we are starting the greater jihad. “He explained to his followers that fighting against an outer enemy is the lesser jihad and fighting against one’s self is the greater jihad”. (Holy war) This means that the lesser Jihad will refer to the struggle against Unbelievers. Muslims set a great effort to live the way Allah instructed them, the personal Jihad has to do with the teachings while the Jihad against unbelievers is the Practical.
However, some scholars find the Quran teachings of morality and encouragement of violence very contradictory. Many historians believe that the true meaning of Lesser Jihad does not necessary encourage fighting and brutality but states that Muslim should take a stand for their religion only when Islam is threatened. The misinterpretation of the lesser jihad, as a cause or reason to fight and engage in violence and brutality does not make it holy. If Islam is not threatened and Muslims wage war against non-believers then this cannot be referred to as Lesser Jihad. Over the years various people have interpreted the Quran, their interpretations were influenced by the struggles that they were experiencing at that time. Factors such as oppression, depression, anger, suffering, hunger for power, hatred and other factors have influenced the interpreter’s perception of the scriptures. For instance, the Taliban strict and extreme version of Islam has even made other Muslim countries view the Taliban with suspicion. Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist group Al Qaeda has quoted the Quran on several occasions to justify their violent actions on the west. Political leaders use religion to convince and justify their selfish desires. Using religion makes their argument convincing because they twist and interpreted the scriptures to serve the purpose and believers easily embrace them and believe it is just. Al Qaeda has used suicide bombing as tactics for attacks and the Quran forbids this. (burk /Norton)
By large, Christianity is a religion that preaches peace but the record of killings and destruction in the past is contradictory to its teachings. In the past, wars were fought against those who opposed Christianity; the wars were fought primarily against Muslims. This is because the rise of lslam slowed down and threatened spread of Christianity. lslam under the rule of the Umayyad Caliphate spread from what is now Saudi Arabia in the Arabian Peninsula to Spain and parts of France. (The Origins of the Crusade 1) This made lslam a treat to Christianity and the Catholic Church, which was very powerful during the medieval times. The Church had enough political backing to crush anything or anyone that disobeys or treating the beliefs of the Church. Some have argued about the religious cause of the crusades and these are some of their arguments. Some argue that they were a necessary response by Christendom to the oppression of pilgrims in Muslim-controlled Jerusalem. Others claim that it was political imperialism masked by religious piety. Furthermore, others argue that it was a social release for a society that was becoming overburdened by landless nobles. (Crusades and religious violence 1) Whatever the reason, it does not change the fact that a lot of lives and property were lost in the process.
The first Crusades were organized by Pope Urban II in 1095. His main aim was to take Jerusalem from the hands of those he believed were non believers. Pope Urban II helped lay the foundation for many years of bitter and violent fighting between Christianity and other religions. The Crusades were triggered by popes at that time like Pope Urban ll and Pope Eugene III who called for the second crusade (“the crusades”1). The crusades were also used as a form of regaining the lost lands of Christians and getting more power for the Church. The periods of the crusades were from 1905-1291 CE. In total, there were either eight or nine Crusades, depending on your view. Most historians consider the 9th Crusade to be part of the 8th. It was not only believers of other religions that suffered persecution, some Christians also suffered. Church theologians or leaders dealt with anybody who followed another religion or come up with rational thoughts that threatened Christian beliefs an example is the case of Galileo. Galileo’s teachings during the 17th century threatened the geocentric view of the universe. He said that the earth revolved around the sun. The church maintained that the earth was stationary and the sun and heavenly bodies revolved around it and this was an accepted fact. Thus were Galileo’s claims, labeled as the ranting of a heretic and he was confronted by the church leaders and told to recant his theory or face the consequences (which generally meant death). In addition, right after the civil war in the United States, the protestant-led white supremacist Ku Klux Klan members engaged in destruction of property, cross burning, beating, arson, murder rape and whipping against Jew, Catholics and African Americans and other social ethnic minorities. These are grave crimes exhibiting extreme violence and brutality. This was pure Christian radicalism. In addition The Arm of God (AOD) is an underground Christian terrorist organization active in the United States. This group has been involved in anti-abortion violence such as murder, property crimes and kidnapping. All these organization believe they are fighting for the morals of their religion and in the name of God.
Consequently, religious violence has lead to religious and ethnic profiling in society. The recent terrorist attacks have found to be rooted to religion and ethnicity thus causing countries to use profiling as a context for law enforcement and counter terrorism. Profiling can be defined as the use of racial, religious or ethnic stereotypes, rather than individual behavior, as a basis for making law enforcement and investigative decisions about who has been or may be involved in criminal activity. The global generalizations about a particular ethnic or religious group’s propensity to commit a crime has made life difficult for people with certain ethnicity or religion. Society begins to look at such people as potential threats and this affects their daily lives at school work and social interaction.
Finally, today religion is not really considered an act of violence, Christians especially Catholics are not proud of the crusades that happened in the past. This point in history, are now looked upon as a dark period In Christianity. A group of Western Christians recently formed a body, their aim is to repair the damage caused by the crusades by apologizing to the other religions that were affected during that time. “But when have Christians demonstrated this love to Muslims or Jews? We have gone to them with swords and guns. We have gone to them with racism and hatred. We have gone to them with feelings of cultural superiority and economic domination. We have gone to them with colonialism and exploitation. We have even gone to them with the Gospel cloaked in arguments of superiority. Only a few have ever gone with the message of Calvary… We must do more than carry the message, we must be the message” Reconciliation Walk. This kind of movement helps to show that Christians are not willing to carry out the crusade; no recent case has been heard. Today’s Christians want to practice their religion without harming anybody. The same can be said for most Muslims, although some Muslims extremists are obsessed with fighting the west. I believe Muslims and Christians can live together if only they are more welcoming and try to understand each other. In addition, if they abide by the morals and holy teaching of their scriptures then there would be some level of peace and acceptance. Violence in the name of God does not make it holy nor justify it.