Why Do Muslims Hate Americans?
By Kyle Pope
I first began looking into this topic, after Mike asked me to write the
article, I found it relatively easy to find any number of sources that provided
political, economic and historical answers to the above question. What was striking by its absence was
the lack of sources which addressed the moral, religious and cultural
answers. This seemed to me to be a
vital “piece of the puzzle” which was missing and a subject which
Christians need to consider.
begin by considering some of the standard answers to this question:
1. America’s Support of Israel. To the West the establishment of the nation of Israel is a grand attempt to provide a safe-haven
for the millions of Jews dispersed throughout the world. These Jews, who have faced persecution
and attempts (such as the Holocaust) to annihilate them, to the Western mind
deserve their own homeland. This comes on the one-hand from a sense of shame on
the part of the civilized nations of the world which allowed the gas chambers
and concentration camps to treat the Jews in this way. On the other-hand, this comes from the
strong connection between Israel and America. Many Israeli citizens share dual-citizenship and moved from
America to Israel when the nation was established. This created a relationship not unlike that which exists
between England and America, her former colony. In addition, the fact that Israel is the only representative
democracy in the Middle East, further cements this bond.
many Muslims the existence of Israel is not viewed the same way. In spite of the fact that Palestine,
prior to Israeli independence, was not under the organized control of the
Palestinians--and the fact that many Palestinian Muslims are citizens of Israel,
some view the very existence of Israel as something which has displaced
Palestinians from their homeland leaving them “robbed of life, property
and dignity” (Batarfi).
Israel has made concession after concession to provide for an independent
Palestinian state, some segments of the Muslim community throughout the world
continue to affirm the goal of destroying the nation of Israel. This was true of Saddam Hussein’s
Baathist party, who repeatedly expressed its desire to “push Israel into
the sea” (Shuster). It is
true of the current President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In an October 5, 2005 conference in
Tehran, entitled The World Without Zionism, he quoted Iran’s noted Imam, Ayat Allah
Khomeini declaring, “Israel must be wiped off the map”
continues to be true of the elected Hamas party leadership in Palestine. With the United States as the largest
political, economic and military ally of Israel there is no way to avoid
incurring the hatred of those within the Islamic world who foster such contempt
2. US Military Presence in Saudi
Arabia. To Muslims, the Saudi Arabian peninsula is
“holy” ground. It
houses two cities sacred to Islamic tradition: Mecca & Medina. When the United States first stood in
alliance with other countries to oppose Saddam Hussein’s seizure of
Kuwait in the first Gulf War, the government of Saudi Arabia allowed the United
States to set up military bases on this “sacred ground” because it
feared that Saddam would move from Kuwait into Saudi Arabia. These bases are still in Saudi Arabia,
and are one of the main reasons that Osama Bin Laden opposes the United States
3. Western “Imperialism” of
the Past. William Beeman, of Brown University, in a paper entitled,
“Why Middle Eastern Terrorists Hate the United States” takes the
problem back even further in history.
Beeman argues that the imperialism of Britain, and France led to the
rise in the 1800s of a leader named Jalal al-Din al-Afghani. He claims “Al-Afghani sought to
mobilize Muslim nations to fight
against Western imperialism and gain military power through modern
technology.” Beeman claims that, “the current revolutionaries,
including bin-Laden, have political pedigrees leading directly back to the
original reformer, al-Afghani.”
He pessimistically argues that the European division of the Middle East
after World Wars I & II, coupled with the support (then opposition) of
Saddam in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan has left little hope for the US
to be seen as anything other than an aggressor interested only in our own
imperialism of Britain and France and the European establishment of many of the
modern Middle Eastern states is a fact of history (Stewart, p. 49). Whether, this historical framework is a
clear motivation to modern Muslim extremists is uncertain.
4. The Response to 9/11. The great debate in the political world continues to revolve around the
connection between the attacks of September 11th and the wars now raging in
Iraq and Afghanistan. The right
side of the political aisle sees both conflicts as a proportionate response to
the attacks. The left argues that
Afghanistan and bin Laden are appropriate targets but not Iraq.
Muslim world, again, sees both questions much differently. Many of us remember seeing on the news,
Iraqi and Palestinian citizens dancing for joy when news of the death and
destruction of 9/11 broke. This
contempt for Americans only grew when American forces struck back. In an April 2004 report in Arab
News, Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi reported that in the year 2000 75% of Muslims in
Indonesia had a favorable view of the US.
After what Batarfi calls the “insane response to Sept. 11”
only 15% still hold such a view (Batarfi).
debates whether America is safer now than before 9/11. Whether we are more or less secure, the
fact is that some Muslims hated America before the wars and some hate us now
that didn’t before 9/11. I
believe it is also clear that some would have hated America even if we had
folded our hands and done nothing at all in response to the attacks.
& Religious Factors. While there may be merit to all of these ideas, it is
a mistake to imagine that the hatred felt by some Muslims towards America is
purely political or economic.
There are religious and moral factors which fuel these attitudes as
1. “Crusader” Rhetoric. What America sees as a National Security issue, many Muslims see as a
disproportionate excuse to wage a “crusade” against Muslims. This attitude is fueled by the rhetoric
of Muslim leaders. Osama Bin
Laden, in a taped speech broadcast over Al-Jazeera on February 12, 2003 claimed to watch “with great interest and
concern the crusaders’ preparations for war” (“Bin Laden
tape: Text”). This was a
deliberate attempt to paint Western military efforts as synonymous with the
aggression of the past religious crusades fought between Catholic and Muslim
forces over the “Holy Land.”
In the face of such rhetoric, it is very difficult for Western leaders
to convince the Muslim populace that their motive is not imperialistic. Claims made by American opponents of
the war that it is “blood for oil” do little to discourage
2. “Jihad” Mentality. After the attacks of September 11th, President Bush, in an attempt to
avoid alienating moderate Muslims described Islam as a religion of peace
(Bush). While it is true that not
all Muslims hate America or advocate violence against the United States, there
is no question that Islam has a bloody history. The very notion of Jihad (i.e. “holy war”) testifies to this
fact. While many Muslims
understand this term in a spiritual sense, similar to the Christian concept of
spiritual warfare (cf. Ephesians 6:12), others take it quite literally.
Qur’an itself is contradictory on this matter. At some points it will teach, “let there be no
compulsion in religion” (Sura 2:256) and at others it will command,
“fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them,
beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)”
(Sura 9.5). This contradictory
mindset, which reflects the man-made nature of this false religion leads some
Muslims to hate anyone that they see as a threat to their faith.
3. Greed and Covetousness. America is the most prosperous nation in human history. Even the poor among us live “like
kings” compared to many in the world. Many in “Third World” countries look to American
prosperity with both resentment and a measure of covetousness. Lois Ramando, in his article in the
June 2002 National Geographic, entitled
“The Long Road Home,” interviewed a Pashtun member of the Northern
Alliance in Afghanistan. Ramando
related the man’s view of US culture as given over to “rampant
materialism” (Ramando, p. 95).
Christians would agree. However, a
sad, yet unseen consequence of materialism, is the covetousness and jealousy it
engenders in those who want what someone else has. While statistics indicate that America is also a generous
nation, those who feel that they should have what America possesses either work
to take away this wealth or rejoice when it is diminished.
4. American Arrogance. I am proud that in the providence of God I was was born in America. I am proud that I live in a country
with a heritage of reverence for God and enjoy the freedom to worship Him in
truth. I am proud that in the
providence of God this nation has been preserved in the face of threats from
Fascism, Communism and Terrorism.
Yet, the Scripture teaches, “Pride goes before destruction, and a
haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
Americans see as simply Nationalistic Patriotism, may be seen by others as
arrogance. Beyond simply
nationalistic pride, even Christians in America sometimes act as if our culture
and traditions are the best and only true way to live. As Christians we must not have such a
narrow view. In some cases, Middle
Eastern culture may reflect a greater sense of respect for one’s elders,
obedience to parents and even (as apostate as it may be) daily acknowledgement
of duty to God. When Muslims
observe a secularized American culture coupled with an arrogance that holds
other cultures in ignorance or contempt, it motivates hatred.
5. America’s Promotion of
Bin Laden, in the speech cited above, referred to the conflict with the West as
“the war of infidels and debauchees led by America” (“Bin
Laden tape: Text”). Such
statements show there is (by their way of thinking) a moral battle going on in
which they see the West promoting immorality and wickedness. Some of this comes from a
disproportionate understanding of American behavior and values as a whole. An Islamic book published in Kuwait in 1982 entitled Modesty and
Chastity in Islam, cites false (or
distorted) statistics about the United States, claiming that sixty percent of
US young people have gonorrhea (Nadvi, p. 42). The book also cites the now infamous Kinsey Report, claiming
that one-third of American men have had homosexual relations (ibid.,
p.44). (Kinsey, as it is now
known, utilized prisoners for much of his research, which can hardly be viewed
as representative cross-section of the population). Even so, these distorted
claims were written well before the rise of the internet, which has blasted
pornographic material to the furthest corners of the globe. Even, mainstream American radio,
television, books and magazines have grown more and more explicit and tolerant
of immoral behavior. To the Muslim
world this is seen as a moral threat which must be averted at any cost.
many Christians would share this contempt for immorality in America, we
appreciate the freedom of speech which allows us to communicate the truth and
worship God according to the dictates of our conscience. In many Muslim countries their external
adherence to moral principles is coupled with harsh restrictions on freedom of
religious speech. Curtis Pope, in
his 2002 lecture at Florida College, entitled Reaching Muslims With the
Gospel,observed that while Western
culture expects the individual to exercise moral self-control from within,
Muslim culture often imposes control from without. Bro. Pope related his own conversation with a Muslim in
America concerned that his growing boys might not be able to control themselves
around the scantily clad women in American schools, shops and public
civilized culture should expect both internal control and appropriate external
restrictions on dress and behavior.
As such restrictions have loosened in America in recent generations,
this has created a dramatic difference between America and the Middle
East. These differences are
incompatible with one another. For
example, in Saudi Arabia, there is a moral police force known as the Muttawwiun. These
officials use camel prods to rebuke women who violate public dress codes
(Alireza, p. 433). The Taliban, in Afghanistan vigorously punished any woman
who went out in public without the full-covering known as the burka. Even now, out of fear or conviction many women in that country still
wear the burka (Giradet, p. 98).
Such cultures cannot help but feel contempt for a country like America
who plasters bikini-clad models on billboards, advertisements and t-shirts in
the name of freedom of speech.
just as there are hypocritical Christians in America, there are Muslims who do
not adhere consistently to the morality which Islam teaches. Investigation into
the activities of those who carried out the attacks of 9/11 has revealed that
the night before their “martyrdom” for their faith, some of the
hijackers visited strips clubs and gave themselves to the drunkenness and
immorality they professed to oppose (Martin). In addition to this, many Muslims have no reservation about
having harems, concubines and multiple-wives, which Christians recognize (under
the Gospel of Christ) to be systematic adultery (Matthew 19:1-9). Yet, the fact that their faith
officially opposes what modern American culture promotes leads to contempt and
Observations -- An Odd Alliance. As Christians in America who value our
country’s freedoms and esteem the faith of many of the founding fathers
we must recognize the odd position in which we are placed by the current
conflicts. While Islam is a
deplorable false religion, its adherents are those who believe that there is a
God who has revealed Himself to man, expects certain behavior from Him and will
bring mankind into judgment for this behavior. Although steeped in false
notions of morality, they are (by and large) a people to whom modesty, sobriety
and self-control mean something.
And yet, as we stand against the assaults of Muslim terrorist extremists
we stand allied with our fellow Americans who may be godless, immoral,
drunkards in outright rebellion to any accountability to Divine judgment. This was illustrated clearly in the
death of the former NFL football player Pat Tillman. Tillman was idealized by many in America for leaving a
lucrative career to volunteer as an Army Ranger. Yet, after his death in Afghanistan his family made it clear
that this was a man who did not esteem or worship God (Knapp).
must be very careful that we do not, in our devotion to freedom and love of
country, forget that God’s word is our standard, guide and true
allegiance. We may appreciate
fellow-citizens who stand up for freedom, but our alliance with them must go only so far as the pages of
God’s word would allow us.
We must always recognize that our true “citizenship” lies
in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
& Ishmael. The Qur’an makes the outlandish
claim that Abraham and Ishmael laid the foundation for their holy shrine in
Mecca, known as the Ka’ba (Sura
2.125-127). Muslims also believe
that Muhammad traced his ancestry back to Ishmael (Ali, p. 779). The Bible said of Ishmael, “He
shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s
hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his
brethren.” (Genesis 16:12).
this undoubtedly looked ahead to conflicts that would arise between the Jews
& Arabs in history, we must not understand this to say that these people
are just “destined” to fight forever. Not all Muslims are of Arabic descent and not all of Arabic descent
are Muslim. There were Arab
proselytes in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost who may have been among those
who obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:11).
It is unclear whether modern Arabs have any genuine blood link back to
Ishmael. Yet, even if modern day Arab
Muslims may have some lineage back to Ishmael, they can obey the gospel and
serve God in peace in Christ Jesus just like any other people in the rest of
the world. At the same time, it is
humbling that God in His foreknowledge foresaw the very kind of hatred and
conflict that we see reflected today.
Sin of Hatred. John taught, through the Holy Spirit,that
“whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (I John 3:15). The question that we ultimately must
ask is why does any person ever allow themselves to hate another? Sin! When human beings forget that all men are creatures made in
the image of God (James 3:9); when they allow the color of one’s skin,
the culture that they adopt or the language that they speak to cause them to
hate someone (James 2:1,2) they commit sin. John further asks Christians the question, that all men who
are brothers in the flesh should consider - “If someone says, ‘I
love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love
his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
(I John 4:20). This is a powerful
question to consider, whether one is a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian.
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