We often hear polytheists attacking Christianity for its past and present wrongs. Although it is entirely in the right to do so, many (if not most) forget of its dangerous counterpart, Islam. Owing to a lack of knowledge on the subject as well as political concerns with prejudice against Muslims, not much is advanced towards understanding Islam as a force fiercely opposed to polytheism and all its ideas. It is unfortunate that Judaism, even as limited as its scope may be, usually takes its place, considering that many believe it to be the first monotheism, something only half-true.* Below are five reasons, gathered from research, why we should fear Islam more than Christianity and oppose it accordingly. Note that this is an attack on Islam, rather than on Muslims; separating between ideology and people is something I have done consistently and will continue to do, seeing that it is fair.
1. The greatest sin in Islam is literally “polytheism”
While in Christianity there is strong opposition to idolatry and ancient ritual in general, there are considerable remnants of polytheism within the structure. The Trinity is clearly an acknowledgement of the plurality of the divine, and in various pantheons we see parallels in the relationship between the father and the son as well as the mother and son. But in Islam, this is entirely stamped out; Allah is purely male and in Mohammed’s Quran, the Trinity is explicitly attacked, as are also Goddesses. Mohammed and his successors falsely claimed that Allah could forgive all sins except polytheism**, and (after the conquest of Mecca) he ended all toleration towards polytheists throughout Arabia by forcing them to convert on pain of death.
2. Islam allows of little cultural and regional integration
Unlike Christianity which spread slowly and communally throughout many parts of the Roman Empire and beyond, Islam developed and matured quickly within one culture at the hands of one man and a few of his successors. If the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, it was only because that was the prevailing language in the Eastern Roman Empire where Christianity arose. But Mohammed hailed the Quran as being written down in Arabic before the creation of the world, and believed he and his culture were selected for the task of spreading the message. Unlike in Christianity, where regional languages and cultures can become incorporated into worship, Islamic liturgy is only conducted in Arabic and only the teachings of Mohamed in the 7th century are believed to be orthodox. It is also an obligation on every Muslim to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime, thereby reinforcing the centrality of Mohammed’s native city and culture. While there are Islamic sects that have long since sprung up regionally, mixing with older rituals, these are often regarded as heretical by the Sunni majority and sometimes dealt with far more harshly than Christianity, as in the case of the Yazidi minority.
3. Islam was hailed by Mohammed as the final truth
Mohammed believed, unlike all other predecessors within his larger monotheistic tradition, that he was the final prophet in a line of divinely inspired men. No other revelation was to succeed him and it was he who was to complete the last step in the monotheistic mission for humankind. This mentality, always adopted by Muslims, makes for a very unyielding and overbearing religion that resists reform or compromise. It may be true that Jesus similarly held himself to be the only true redeemer and intercessor (as well as the son of God), but this is not actually documented by the man himself, nor was there a whole body of scripture (like the Quran) left by Jesus in the form of direct revelation.
4. Islam is very comfortable with war and sometimes encourages it
Having developed in a tribal society within a comparatively harsh environment, it may be that early Muslims needed to fight for survival at first. However, since the Quran is regarded as a holy text for all time, the parts associated with going to war against “disbelievers” have been used over the centuries to justify Islamic imperialism. In fact, one the greatest deeds in Islam is to conduct Jihad, which literally means “struggle” but usually means some form of spreading the religion, which can be done either kindly or forcefully as needed. Death in battle for the sake of Islam is the highest honor a man could have, and a martyr is said to go to paradise immediately without judgment. Taking slaves from war is sanctioned in the Quran and was never forbidden by Mohammed; and while a man may marry four wives, there is no limit on the number of female concubines he may have. In Christianity, none of this is encouraged by the New Testament, and if it is, the part is obscure and rarely mentioned. The whole tradition of conquest in Christendom was rather derived from the practices of the Roman Empire, which (ironically) Christianity had originally spread to stop. It is often overlooked that the Crusades, however misguided and violent, were a set of collective responses to centuries of Islamic raiding in Europe. There is no need to add anything on the subject of modern Islamic terrorism, which is too well known.
5. The gap between the rise of Islam and the first Islamic Empire is slim
It took 300 years for Christianity to become an imperial religion but less than 50 for Islam. Within 120 years of the death of Mohammed, the Islamic empire (otherwise known as the Caliphate) stretched from Persia in the East to Spain & Morocco in the West and in the North from Armenia to Yemen in the South. The large gap between the rise of Christianity and its first empire allows for an argument to be made for the existence of two distinct Christian traditions, a peaceful communal one that resisted injustice and a violent imperial one that furthered old injustices. This is however difficult, if not impossible for Islam. In many ways, the fast spread of the religion by nomadic Arab tribes resembles the rapid conquests of the Mongolian hordes***, except the latter was by far bloodier and therefore less lasting in its continuance.
Conclusion: It is certainly true that Christian imperialism began before Islam even developed, and thus contributed to its inspiration. However, Islam seems to relapse into many ideas and practices of the Old Testament, which originally applied to different circumstances entirely with the pagan Jews. The real danger of Islam therefore is that it mixes its native tribalism with Christian universalism/imperialism, creating a force of a kind that not only weakens but can wipe away cultural diversity as well as almost all traces of polytheism, while seeming more and more convincing as “the final truth” as it spreads. It is as dangerous as the Roman Empire in general and certainly more dangerous as far as cultural and religious toleration in particular (a very important consideration) is concerned. Let us therefore never overlook Islam as a huge rival to our nascent movement, especially in the case of our brothers and sisters who seek to become polytheists free from fear in lands occupied by this infamous religion.
* Monotheism, as has been pointed out elsewhere on this site, was first developed by Akhenaten. The Jews were mostly henotheistic until the Hasmonean Kingdom of the 2nd century BCE, and their monotheism was fueled directly by threats from foreign imperialism.
**Allah was originally one God among many, comparable to the Canaanite El. He had a female consort and children, as in other pantheons. Mohammed however believed that people later attributed these family relations to him out of ignorance of and disobedience to his will.
***Some of the descendants of the Mongols became Muslim, and one ruler in particular among these was as ruthless as his ancestors, namely, Tamerlane.