JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 27, 2001 – Dr. James Chancellor, W.O. Carver Professor of World Religion and World Missions at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the foremost authorities on Islam in Southern Baptist life, said that while his intentions were well-motivated, President Bush’s statement that Islam means peace “is just goofy.”
“That’s the only word that comes to mind,” Chancellor said, in a lecture at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. “Islam means submission – submission to the will of God and how do you get submission to the will of God? In Islamic tradition, you use whatever means available.”
The idea of mixing violence and religion is foreign to Americans, said Chancellor, who holds a Ph.D. in Islam and World Religions from Duke University, and so it is seen as evil. However, many religions have a history of violence, Christianity not excluded. Chancellor cited wars and invasions like the Crusades, the Thirty Years War as well as the 17th and 18th centuries when thousands of Anabaptists were murdered by Calvinists, Lutherans and Roman Catholics. It was not until the early 1800’s that the Christian West gradually began separating religion and political power, dividing faith from a legitimate use of force and authorization to kill.
The Islamic world has not yet made the same transition, Chancellor stated.
“Mohammed was a prophet, but he was also a warrior wounded twice in battle,” said Chancellor. “He was a political ruler and while full blown theocracy has been rare in Islam, the use of political force and violence for legitimate needs for achieving goals remains an aspect of Islamic tradition.”
According to Chancellor, in the early part of the world’s history, Muslims dominated in nearly every area of academics and culture including architecture, philosophy, science and mathematics. After Western Christian thought exploded onto the scene, virtually the entire Islamic world was over run by 1915 and for almost two centuries, the Islamic response remained the same: the West was stronger and smarter, and in order to retain dominance, Muslims would have to emulate the West. However, that thought has now changed, said Chancellor, and instead of emulating, Muslims see the only way of re-achieving world dominance is by ridding themselves of the “oppression of the West and establish a true Islamic system for all society,” said Chancellor.
Chancellor stressed that while Osama bin Laden and countless others represent the most extreme and violent aspects Islamic fundamentalism and very few Muslims condoned what happened to the United States on September 11, he believes that a substantial number fully condone the reasons for why bin Laden and his organization attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and four commercial planes.
“Muslim fundamentalists are called, by the very nature of their faith, to be active in the accomplishments of their goals,” stated Chancellor, and one main characteristic of all Muslims is a profound certainty that they are right and that God is on their side.
Muslims are strongly distinctive in their worldview, added Chancellor, which is a very simple one – there is God’s place and Satan’s place.
“I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what place you live in,” Chancellor said to the silent Union audience.
Until some measure is taken of the religious sensibilities of the Muslim people around the world, a sensitivity “that has been deeply sharpened by oppressive poverty and political oppression,” Chancellor said he believes that there will be no resolution. But he added, “I also believe there is still time and there is still hope.”
Sara B. Horn,