Islam is a very practical religion, very unburdensome. It is a nice communal religion much easier than Judaism. Judaism aims at creating a morally pure society. The goal of Islam is simply a decent society, a degree of civilization for barbarous Arabs. Islam does not regulate the daily lives of its adherents beyond simple religious demands and basic ethical norms.

Islam exercises less control over daily lives than Rabbinical Judaism and classic Pauline Christianity. Every Muslim cleric, theoretically, can issue fatwas, but so can any rabbi. The Jewish Conservative Movement institutionalized that chaotic approach: every half-educated rabbi (including lesbian “rabbis”) in a backwater synagogue can issue halacha, legal opinion, which is obligatory for his flock. On other hand, the extreme centralization of religious authority in Catholicism led to scores of wars much bloodier than jihad. The Fatwas of small-time clerics hold very little value in Islam. They have to come from recognized religious authorities, ideally from a (non-existent) caliph. Radicals interpret Islam to their ends, but Christian radicals similarly interpret their religion. Muslims are monotheists, do not worship images, follow reasonable laws, and substantially observe the Noahide laws for Gentiles. Islam is democratic, and beyond the core values—liberal.

Islam has a wonderful instrument for venting the mob’s feelings: communal prayer-like lectures. Often politicized, they supercharge the masses and perhaps recruit a few terrorists, most of whom would volunteer anyway. The Zeal of the masses escalates to unsustainable levels and soon evaporates. Muslim communal prayers are more like Western boxing matches than modern Christian preaching. Jews, with their formalized prayers, lack the psychological vent of fiery religious propaganda. Communal prayers convey powerful symbolism of their own: photos of million-strong crowds praying in Mecca are popular computer screensavers among Muslims.

Religions cannot afford tolerance, but like any corporations, erect monopolistic barriers against competitors. Zeal and a degree of violence are indispensable to religions. Polytheistic religions competed like small firms—attracting others to their temples, but not attempting to put other temples out of business by legislative pressure. Monotheist Islam and relatively monotheist Christianity act as global corporations, influencing legislation to banish competitors. Islamist zeal is a natural behavior for a monopolist religion. Christianity answered the encroachment of Islam into Europe with the Crusades. Monopolists resort to as much violence as they can within a given legal framework; the stakes are very high, and global religions cannot be picky about means.

Just like with corporations, successful restructuring of mature religions is uncommon. Christianity reformed itself through Protestantism and survived as an active religion for another four centuries. Muslims lack the relative cultural homogeneity of Western Christians, and the reformation of Islam is unlikely to succeed. Moderate Islam will remove the already low cultural barriers and allow the assimilation of Muslims into the culture. Zealous Islam is the only Islam which can survive as something other than an indigenous tint on American culture in the Middle East.

Islam-baiters love to cry wolf about the alleged signs of female oppression, such as veil. In the 24th sura, women are commanded not to display their beauty—a reasonable suggestion among Bedu people, a matter of safety as well as modesty. The sura enjoins men similarly. In the 33rd sura, women are commanded to wear a cloak in order to be recognized as related to Mohammed—also a measure of safety. The purported reference to the veil in the same sura is just the opposite of the Islamic tradition: ibn Malik tells Mohammed’s guests to talk to his wives from behind a curtain (hijab), among other suggestions on how to avoid bothering him. It is men rather than women who need the curtain. In that case, the curtain acts like a wall, protecting the privacy of women in the house, so that the men don’t enter their space unannounced. There is no veil in the Koran. It is Christianity that expressly prescribes a veil in 1Cor11:6.

Islam prohibits usury, but Mohammed left the term undefined. Koran 2:282 deals at length with loans. 3:130 prohibits usury which doubles and compounds the original amount. 2:275 equates trade with usury, but allows trade. It seems that the Koran bans only excessive interest, rather than business loans. Judaism, more practically, prohibits interest charged to neighbors only. Classical Christianity prohibited interest altogether.

No religion differentiates between political and religious life. Islam is no exception. Jewish society was a theocracy for most of recorded history. The Vatican sought political dominance, and Protestantism shaped the legal systems of its host countries. Think of how religious beliefs shape American life, from Christmas holidays to the prohibition of polygamy to opposition to the Islamic enemy. Iraq under Saddam was only a bit more religious than America. Egypt, Palestine, Dubai, and Bahrain are hardly religious at all. The Saudis like to legitimize themselves with religious nonsense, but other Muslims are skeptical about the Saudis’ Islamic credentials.

Rome was cynical about religion. Medieval Europeans were superstitious atheists rather than fervent Christians—look at the French cathedrals with their persistent pagan themes. The Renaissance swept dogmas away. Then came the religious resurgence. Something that the human psyche needs as deeply as religion cannot go away. Look at the number of books on Christianity and Buddhism at the US bookstores. Look at many Americans’ experimentation with Hinduism and various types of Buddhism.
Christian sentiment is behind the anti-Muslim clash-of-civilizations hysteria. How are Iraq and Afghanistan different from the crusades? Both are the Christian world’s reaction to Muslim encroachment. Politically correct societies substitute “culture” for “religion” and “Islamism” for “Islam.” Or witness the public debates over gay marriage and abortion—a purely religious issue. Children are as much afraid of entering dark rooms in the twenty-first century as they were three thousand years ago. Religion—call it culture, civilization, psychology, or ideology—is the most powerful drive of human beings, transforming a powerless individual into an interconnected part of a transcendent all-powerful system, whether angelic or equally superstitious nationalist.

It’s a delusion that suicide bombers feed on earthly failures and religious extremism. They are common nationalists, ready to die for their cause. Secular Russians were conducting suicide missions en masse during WWII.

There is no Judeo-Christianity. Rabbis permit Jews to attend mosques, but never churches. Islam is very close to Judaism in its affirmation of a single God and prohibition against worshiping images. And whatever the atheists say, no piece of Arab literature comes close to the language of the Koran.

Mohammed meets his nine-year old wife