A lot of Americans are eager to fight the whole of Islam, from its roots with Mohammed and the Koran to its vast reach in the world of today, and especially its involvement in various conflicts, great and small. Basically, the rhetoric is in the evil empire vein, which might be the simplest response, but it’s not very accurate.
It’s pretty weak to condemn modern-day Islam on the basis of its early history of expansion by warfare, or to make generalizations based on warmongering parts of the Koran written during those ancient conflicts. Judaism and Christianity have plenty of murderous aggression in their respective histories and scriptures. In more recent times, all these faiths have advanced to allow mutual respect and tolerance, and judging any of them by the actions of their radical elements is not fair.
The conflict between Israel and the Arab world, on the other hand, is a true hatefest, but it doesn’t stem from religious principles. It’s a war over territory. No appeals to holy scripture or tradition are necessary to fuel that fight.
Islam-bashers also justify themselves by pointing to the supremacy of autocrats over many Islamic countries and the institution of Islam as state religion in those countries.
If the status of Islam as a state religion worries you, consider that Christianity is the official religion of a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Greece, and Argentina; from this we can conclude—nothing. Those states aren’t acting in concert or as individuals to advance the cause of Christianity in other lands—but neither are the Islamic states.
Like Christianity, Islam is now long past its peak of consolidated political control; as a state religion in various lands today, Islam is no more coherent a global power than Christianity is.
What about those Islamic dictators? Well, most of the dictators are neither enemies of Western democracies nor friends of radical Islamists. The House of Saud, Saddam Hussein, and Hosni Mubarak have all been hated enemies of Islamic extremists and brutal oppressors of Islamic radicals.
As both a practical and moral matter, Americans should continue to distinguish between the Islam we can get along with and the radicals we cannot.