“Traitor” movie brings up fundamental question about Islam
Posted by Oliver Renick on December 29, 2008
I recently watched the movie Traitor with Don Cheadle, an entertaining film about a Muslim CIA agent who works his way into a terrorist network in order to prevent a massive scale attack against the U.S. on its own soil. The movie was a good yarn and had some interesting twists; my only complaint is the fact that my previous associations with Don Cheadle, who plays Samir Horn, made it hard for him to be convincing as a Muslim terrorist.
OK, aside from Roger-Ebert-ing.
Without revealing too many spoilers here, the overt motivation for Samir to go under the guise of a terrorist is to provide the U.S. government with information on the terrorist ring-leader. However, he is also doing it for a deeper, more personal reason. As a follower of Islam, Samir believes that “terrorists are the worst enemy of Islam,” and he hopes to open the terrorists’ eyes to the harm they are bringing to Islam’s name.
Which brings up an often debated question: is Islam an innately violent religion that encourages taking all measures to spread a belief, or are its teachings often misconstrued by extremists for their own power or political gain?
Although I am certainly not an expert on Islam, I think it is important to look directly at text from the Qur’an regarding the Jihad (personal and outward struggle to resist sin and spread the faith via Holy War, respectively). Although the Qur’an’s text is interpreted in various ways, here is one translation from the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement at the University of Southern California:
9:29 – “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.” (for other interpretations).
Looking at this quote it seems that the use of violence can be condoned if it is a means to bring infidels below Islam’s followers. However, it is often explained by scholars that this is only the case when Muslim lands are being encroached upon; that this violence is only tolerable in the form of defense of the religion and its people.
9:05 – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
Supporting the killing of idolaters, this verse seems contradicted by another verse of the Qur’an that stresses the value of each individual life, and condemns murder.
5:32 – “For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our messengers came to them with clear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land.”
According to this passage it appears that murder is wrong – however, what entails ‘mischief in the land?’ This verse is also commonly translated as being wrong to kill ‘an innocent soul?’ So this brings us to ask who is innocent? Are the non-believers mentioned earlier innocent?
Times change and contexts become outdated, so it is plausible to say that the Qur’an was not written with the intent to promote the type of acts which are carried out today, but rather merely justified defense of the religion, followers, and their home.
It seems that many contradictions arise when terrorist figureheads align themselves with Islam. They publicly claim that the acts which they commit are for the advancement of Islam and the elimination of infidels. However, many terrorists are known to partake in activities that are prohibited by the Qur’an, and are not pious practitioners of the faith they claim to so strongly uphold.
Of the diverse pool of 3,000 people killed at the hand of Muslim terrorists on September 11th, is it not probable to say that at least one was also a Muslim? It seems no matter what the interpretation of the Qur’an may be, this condemns the terrorists for killing at very least one innocent life.
If these people are corrupting the true meaning of Islam, then doesn’t it follow that there should be a great uprising of Muslims who object toward the terrorists’ actions? However, we see the number of terrorist followers grow each day, and the voice of those who oppose the terrorists’ connection with Islam suppressed. It is clear that the latter group of people exist, so let their voice be heard – as of now, it appears they may be losing the battle.
Are Islam extremists obeying the very word of their text, or should they be charged with malpractice, tarnishing the face of a peaceful religion?