Like Christianity, the Islamic religion has been plagued with extremists and cruel practitioners who use “religion” as a pretext and justification for their crimes against humanity. In the early days of my intensive reading, I read many religious texts. I’ve read the Koran (English translation), the Book of Mormon (along with several of their other sacred texts—Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, etc.) and I’ve read the complete Bible (old and new testaments in several different translations) and I’ve translated the New Testament from Greek into English. Reverence for one’s sacred book as a guide seems to be an essential element for a meaningful religious experience, and surprisingly, the organized (often very disorganized) form of the religion differs from the picture given in the sacred book.
However, like Christians who fail to read and follow the spirit of the Bible, many followers of Islam have gotten off track. In fact, it’s so extreme that it’s gotten weird. I think one reason I so enjoyed the movie, Kingdom of Heaven, was because of the theme of possible harmony between the religions. Now, I know that we have hardly proved ourselves innocent in this conflict. Yet, the car bombs and the suicide bombers and the injury and destruction that results does not help world opinion. The intense violence only seems to be escalating. I read, or perhaps heard on NPR, one writer who described suicide bombing as the crack cocaine of terrorism.
Even in the 18th century, some of our poets (who are the true prophets of society) sensed that the Islam of the extremists is not the same Islam that helped bring Europe out of the dark ages through its accumulated and developed arts, texts, and sciences. For example, Thomas Moore (1779-1852), an Irish poet and friend and biographer of Byron, wrote some lines that are fitting on this topic. The lines come from a narrative poem of Moore’s entitled, Lalla Rookh: an Oriental Romance (1817).
“One of that Saintly, murd’rous brood
To Carnage and the Koran giv’n,
Who think that through unbelievers’ blood
Lies their directed path to heaven.
. . . .
Just Allah, what must be thy look,
When such a wretch before thee stands
Unblushing with thy sacred book
Turning the leaves with blood-stained hands
And Wresting from its page sublime
Creed of lust, and hate, and crime.”