By Jean H Charles
The Arab world is in a fury following the viewing on YouTube of a 17-minute film, badly edited, named Innocence of Muslims, which allegedly offends the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of the Muslim religion. Ambassador J Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a riot in Benghazi, Libya. Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan have all follow suit in deadly skirmishes with the police, causing several deaths and useless material destruction amongst the local population.
Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
Why could a gross private initiative that has nothing to do with the American government or the American people create so much animosity against Americans in particular and the Western world in general from the Muslim faith? To answer this question we will look into the power of faith amongst the major one-God religions.
The story of faith
The power of faith began when it began to associate itself with justice and equity. The practice of justice and morality upon one another offered finer incense to the God of Abraham than all the offerings of sacrificial animals (Proverbs XXI-3). Before Abraham, it was naught. In my own empirical opinion, four religious institutions have impregnated the planet with lasting effect, bringing civilization one step further in its trajectory towards perfection.
- First, Judaism, with Abraham as its founder after he had received an order from God to move from Mesopotamia (Iraq) to the Promised Land some 2,000 years BC.
- Christianity in general, Catholicism in particular, with Jesus the Christ as the initiator when He became man to endure and perfect our mortality some two thousand years ago.
- The Muslim religion, founded by Muhammad in a revelation around 620 AD
- And the Episcopal Church, prompted by a dispute between Henry VIII and the Catholic pope in 1534.
The Anglican Faith
For a religion that has its origin in a dispute about a woman (Catherine d’Aragon), who Henry VIII wanted to divorce, and enter into matrimony with Anne Boleyn to produce a child, against the edict of Pope Clement VII, the Anglican Church, as it is also called, has done well for itself and for the world. The worldwide Anglican communion, albeit an aristocrat institution in the north, rivaled the Catholic Church in services to the poor, sacramental ritual, theological research and global presence.
The Anglican Church has even succeeded in a matter that is still in dispute within the Catholic communion: whether priests can have a wife and still perform their priestly duties. They are doing very well, with a power of faith that moves mountains. There is, though, a dispute whether the church can go so far as admitting an admitted homosexual as a parish minister. The challenge is elegant and not deadly. The southern church, mostly African, is confronting the northern church in the United States and England in resolving that issue through the power of faith not the power of the bullet.
The Muslim Faith
By contrast, the Muslim faith and religion, which has a worldwide presence, is in full convulsion after the translation of the film Innocence of Muslims into Arabic from English. The Muslim religion started around the year 620 AD. Muhammad, who married a rich widow named Khadijah, had the leisure of time to reflect and ponder on the concept of faith and power. In dreams, the Archangel Gabriel dictated to him the verses of the Koran, a manual of living based on justice, equity and morality as the final edict of God to man.
Starting the same way as Christianity, with Muhammad’s own friends and family, the Muslim religion has spread throughout the world. Some 1.6 billion people, representing 20% of the entire 6.8 billion people on the planet, practice the five pillars of the religion: believing in Allah and his prophet Muhammad, performing five rituals of prayer per day, offering to the poor a percentage of one’s income once a year, fasting during the month of Ramadan and pilgrimage to the Mecca once in your lifetime.
Departing from Christianity, Islam believes the Koran is the final word, not the Bible; Jesus the Christ is just another prophet, not the Messiah sent to redeem man from eternal sin. More controversial is the issue of Jihad. Is it holy war to fight the infidels (anyone who is not Muslim or even Muslims such as Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses) or striving to better one-self and one’s community? The practices of destruction and immolation in the Muslim world are inimical to the belief that Allah reserves severe punishment for those involved in acts of violence and terrorism.
Whether this principle is applied and enforced will define the future of Islam! Because all faith and belief that refuses to practice the tenets of tolerance, justice and equity will fall into history as a religion that was.
The Catholic Faith
The Catholic faith has its origin on the rock laid down by Jesus the Christ, when he told the apostle Peter, “On this rock I will build my church.” From a humble beginning of 12 apostles, if one counts Saul who became Paul, the church grew into a universal institution of 1.5 billion people in the Latin rite and 35 million in the 22 autonomous Eastern orthodox rites. The Catholic faith is the world’s largest non-profit institution, dispensing comfort to the afflicted, care to the neglected, and solace to the sick.
The church through the years was involved in the Crusades against the Muslims to reclaim the Holy Land, in selling penance that incensed Luther, and more recently several bishops were found complicit in supporting priests involved in pedophilia. Yet the power of faith of the Catholic Church is strong and vibrant; it keeps moving the mountains of ignorance, superstition and barbarism towards a better world.
The Hebrew Faith
Before Abraham, men worshipped the moon, the sky and the serpent, offering honey, fruits and human beings as sacrifices to appease the gods. In an expression of faith, Abraham left his clan of Our in Iraq (Mesopotamia) to travel to the hills of Harran (Turkey) to begin, as said Ernest Renan, the historian of religions, to travel towards Canaan to become “the father of a multitude of human beings”.
Through this expression of faith, rationality took birth. With the exception of Egypt, the island of Crete and Mesopotamia, where the prince Hammurabi proposed a code of conduct based on equity and the adoration of one god named Mardonk, it was barbarism as the world order of the time.
Abraham, without children, had received from God the promise that he would have posterity as numerous as the stars that he can count in the sky. His servant would give him first a child named Ishmael, but his wife Sarah would produce a child while almost a centenarian, Isaac. There is the story of the legitimate child being made a burnt offering to God but, because of the faith of Abraham in his God, the child was saved at the last minute by an angel. It is the story of complete submission to the higher being. From Isaac to Jacob, from Joseph to Jesus, the story of the Jews is one of faith in God, mercy and tolerance, with punishments when a critical mass chose to stray away from God’s edicts and commandments.
The power of faith has led the world into a better condition, a world of helping each other, a world where peace is the standard and the common denominator. Each one of the monotheist religions must play its part in continuing and bettering God’s creation of milk and honey for all.
The Jewish miracle that produced Jesus the Christ, has surpassed the Greek miracle (with all its gods and the idolaters of antiquity), which is history. The kingdom of God that the Jewish people wanted from Christ was not a kingdom of bricks and mortar, it was rather the idea as described by Renan the atheist of being all powerful by suffering and resignation and of triumphing over force by purity of heart, which is indeed the power of faith brought by Jesus the Christ, the man/God that came to earth some two thousand years ago.
The power of faith in one God has brought the culture of modern thought, of reason and of science spreading prosperity to more people.
The Muslim world must discipline the very few amongst them who, through terrorism and destruction, want to bring back the world of barbarism before the Prophet Mohammed, before Jesus the Christ and before Abraham.
A more perfect world is possible if only the Muslim world wants to follow the model of Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore, where tolerance brings peace and prosperity.