In Fox’s Book of Martyrs there is poignant story of a teenager who was sent out to die as entertainment for throngs of Romans. The beautiful young girl sentenced to die a horrific death was guilty of but one crime, she was an unrepentant Christian. As she was marched out into the middle of the arena there was tense sadistic excitement among those in attendance. They were imagining the great fun of watching the poor girl running about and screaming from the lion caged nearby. What they did not anticipate was an event that would change them forever.
The teenage girl did not move from the spot the soldiers left her, not even when the lion approached. No screams were heard, only the growling of the breast and the beating of a thousand hearts. The lion reached out and knocked the girl down with a swipe of his great paw. The girl, seemingly unfazed, just got back up and stood in silence. Again and again the scene would play out, sometimes the beast would grab her in his mouth and fling her small frail body like one would toss aside an old rag. Bloody and with hunks of flesh hanging off her, still she would get back up and just would stand in silence. The crowd would get no entertainment from her that day.
At first the crowd was angry and screamed at the girl, cursing her for depriving them of the joy of her torment. Slowly, their reactions started to turn to compassion and finally horror. Such a brave girl being tortured gave them no enjoyment, only stabs of guilt and shame. Finally, and without notice, the captain of the guard came out and with a swift expert stab of Roman steel put an end to it all. As the crowd filed out there was none of the usual gaiety, no laughter nor speaking of any kind. A eery silence as every man and woman reflected on what they had witnessed. It was said many of the crown converted that day, some openly but most in secret.
The young girl’s bravery was but a reflection of many of the Christian martyrs. Following Jesus’ example: every one of Christ’s disciples, save the one who betrayed him, chose death rather than deny their faith. In fact, the whole of Christendom was founded on the sacrifices of those who chose death rather than denial. From them rose a religion that set the standard for charity and the Western world’s views of right and wrong. A measuring stick by which societies and religions are judged.
Islam has its Martyrs as well, although Christians would hardly recognize them as such. In fact, the Koran recognizes many kinds of martyrs, even a woman who dies in child birth is given such a title. The highest form of martyrdom is to die fighting for Islam. Death in the service of military Jihad (lesser Jihad) is a one way ticket to paradise. It is the vision of the warrior martyr that mesmerizes the Islamic mind and has since its inception. Whereas Christian scripture teaches that they battle not against flesh and blood but against the world’s dark spiritual forces, for most of Islamic history their fight has been both a spiritual and a physical one (greater and lesser Jihad). Where Christianity was born of love and grew from sacrifice, the cradle of Islam was forged in battle and grew from conquest. It is these differences more than any other that creates an unspannable divide between the two religions.
While the Koran does admonish Muslims to live to very high standards, and it says things all religions can admire, it also has tinges of Islam’s bloody and violent roots woven into it as well. Today, the Islamic world seems to be reawakening to those roots. Sequestered away by their own account, the Islamic world has languished in the back water of economic progress. In response to this and years of repressive regimes, many Islamic scholars have called for military jihad. Although the vast majority of Western Muslims reject the Islamist movement’s seventh century tactics and mindset, the Islamist expanding influence is undeniable.
Today many Islamic countries have huge majorities that believe it is acceptable to kill anyone who leaves the faith. When people hear of a woman lashed after being raped, punished for exposing herself after having her clothes ripped from her body, a Christian sentenced to death for questionable accusations of blasphemy, women sentenced to death for adultery while the man she is accused of being with helps pass the stones, Christian converts killed for following their conscious and even daughters executed by their family for wearing the wrong clothes, it strains the conscious of non-Muslims even to attempt to understand such evil.
Here in lies the paradox, how can a religion, that holds itself to be peaceful, condone violent and evil acts in the name of God? Moderate Muslims claim to hold such acts in as much contempt as Christians, but even from among them come recruits rushing to the side of Al Qaeda and IS. A cult of death seems to be enveloping Islam, hypnotizing many to love death more than life. Recent events in Ottawa and New York are testament to the impact radical Islamist theology is having on impressionable minds.
A contest for the soul of Islam is being waged in mosques and on the battlefield, a great civil war that, for now, the moderates seem to be losing. Part of the problem may be that Islamic history does little to exemplify their more reasonable path. Their founder did not pray for the forgiveness of his tormentors, he sought to crush all who opposed him. Nor did his disciples unite to preach peace and charity but often waged war on each other. They are lacking examples like the innocent young Christian martyr who was a living symbol of meekness, faith and courage in the face of certain death. A void the Islamist seek to fill with madness and hate.
- Deputy Leader of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: “a nation that does not excel at the industry of death does not deserve life”
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