Converting to Islam

Islam has scored another victory and each success is accomplished by murder or threat to murder.

Steve Centanni, 60, and Olaf Wiig, 36, were released by their “palestinian” Muslim captors today. They left Gaza and have since crossed into Israel after their release. Centanni, in a phone interview shortly after his release, said “I’m fine. I’m just so happy to be free.” Gaza is but another area of Jewish land that has been stolen from us by Arab Muslim thieves and murderers. I doubt that Centanni or Wiig’s Muslim captors would admit that.

Both of the men were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint, Centanni said. “We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint,” Centanni told FOX News. “Don’t get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

So, Centanni and Wiig converted to Islam. This is what Centanni and Wiig chose to do that Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg, Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley and Kenneth Bigley and hundreds of others refused to do, but how can I say for sure, I can only ponder. Perhaps, those five men were beheaded in spite of their submission to Islam. We already know that within 100 years of Mohammed’s death in 632 AD, Muslim armies had swept across North Africa, the Middle East, and India, bloodily conquering Spain and France where they were finally – thankfully – stopped by Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours (often called the Battle of Poitiers). Whoever was found alive converted to Islam or was slaughtered.

This 1,400 year old Muslim conquest, arising out of Arabia over centuries, is done in the name of religion. As Ibn Khaldun, the Islamic historian of the 14th century wrote: “In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.” He also wrote about Jews and Christians that “It is for them to choose between conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death.”

So much for the Muslim partyline “God is great”. The scimitar at your neck, a Ryder truck loaded with explosives, and four jetliners targetting metroplitan cities seem to be greater.

The fiduciary difference between Judaism – specifically, the Torah of Moses – and Islam is that the Torah is a truth for all humanity, whether one is Jewish or not. The Torah (as explained in the Talmud – Sanhedrin 58b) presents seven mitzvot for non-Jews to observe. These seven laws are the pillars of human civilization, and are named the “Seven Laws of Noah,” since all humans are descended from Noah. They are:

1. Do not murder. 2. Do not steal. 3. Do not worship false gods. 4. Do not be sexually immoral. 5. Do not eat the limb of an animal before it is killed. 6. Do not curse God. 7. Set up courts and bring offenders to justice.

Maimonides explains that any human being who faithfully observes these laws earns a proper place in heaven. The Torah is for all humanity, no conversion necessary.

At the risk of offending my Christian readers, the idea that eternal punishment would follow from rejecting Jesus is unkind to me. That someone could live a noble life and not be saved, when another could live a depraved life but through a true conversion of his heart at the end of life still be saved, is hard to tote up on the moral balance sheet. How many times have I heard that the Jews of the Holocaust were killed because it was God’s punishment for their rejection of Christ. I do not accept this doctrine.

And what about Daniel? Daniel prayed to HaShem three times a day. Although the Temple was already destroyed, he faced towards Jerusalem and prayed. A decree was passed that if anyone should pay homage to anyone other than the King, he would be thrown into a lion’s den. Daniel prayed in spite of the decree, and was thrown into the lion’s den. HaShem sealed the mouths’ of the lions and Daniel lived to tell about it the next morning. Daniel refused to deny God.

A hadith says that Muhammad has been ordered by his deity that he should fight until everyone says Allah is God and Mohammed is his messenger. If they do, then their property and lives are safe (Bukhari, Jihad, no. 2946; cf. nos. 25 and 1399). As the risk of being beheaded, how many more of us will become defenseless victims of Islam jihad? Moreso, we know that jihadi terrorism, suicide bombing, genocide bombing, kidnapping, hijacking, and forced religious conversion are wrong. Our belief that these are criminal acts need not be grounded on any single argument, set of arguments, or faith and experience. I do not have to define Judaism to define what is wrong with Islam.

What would I do with a loaded gun pointed at my head? I would try several tactics to stay alive. I would try to escape. If I couldn’t, I would try to kill my captors. If I couldn’t, I would ask to be shot if I were threatened with beheading. If I were to be beheaded, I would curse Mohammed, then say the Shema, then I would die. But I would never convert to Islam.

I would remember Rabbi Akiva, who was declared a criminal for teaching Torah wherever he could, and was eventually captured by the Romans. As he lay dying, tortured and bleeding, he called out joyfully: “All my life I’ve been waiting to fulfill the concept ‘You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources…'[the first paragraph of the Shema] and now I finally have the chance.”

I would remember Kiddush HaShem, the Sanctification of the Name (of God). In the Talmud, it is understood as the willingness to die as a Jewish martyr. I would remember 6 million who said the Shema and then were gassed, shot, disembowled, skinned alive but who all died as Jewish martyrs.

No, I would never convert to Islam.

And what about my spouse and the pain I would cause to my family if I were beheaded and chose to die instead of to live? At least I would not have brought shame to them for being labelled a coward, because according to Judaism, heaven is a wholly spiritual dimension of reality where souls receive a wholly spiritual reward: to bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence. What could be bad about that?

Clearly, it is this knowledge and reason why I strive so hard every day to do the right thing – to bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence – that would forge my decision to die as a Jew than to ever live as a Muslim.

No, I would never convert to Islam and I pray that HaShem prevents others from having to convert to Islam, too.

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