Both Christianity and Islam are large and powerful religious forces in today’s world—forces powerful enough that they have caught the attention of the current ruling class, Western society. Both Christianity and Islam have certain ideals and goals, both have an end towards which they are striving, and both have serious implications for political and military theory. Ever since the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, the Western eye has been turned towards Islam, looking for an explanation for the attack and any hints of future possibilities. Debate has raged over the true nature of Islam, whether or not it is a peaceful religion at its core, and what can be expected in the coming days, months, and years from the community of Muslim believers.
I’ve spent the last few weeks examining the similarities and differences between Christian and Islamic theories of just war. I’ve attempted to trace out the connection between theology and politics, as well as each religions conception of justice as applied to temporal or worldly affairs. It remains to be seen if and how these two religions relate to current Western political views. I set out, at the beginning of this series, to show that Christian just war theory still has, while Islamic just war theory does not have, the possibility of influencing the West as it makes decisions regarding its policy with Muslim nations. The reason for this has to do with each of these religions conceptions of the relationship between religious and political authority, and the compatibility of these conceptions with the Western value of religious pluralism.
The Western secular mind has embraced an ideal of religious tolerance that it hopes is the answer to many world problems. This ideology expresses the desire that all members of the human race would come together and love each other—overlooking each other’s differences if unable to embrace them. The United Nations is a powerful voice in this ethic of tolerance as it seeks to regulate and control the nations of the world, forcing them to treat each other equitably. This is explicitly stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted in 1948 at the close of World War II. The Preamble proclaims,
This Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance."
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights hopes that all men will respect the inherent value and dignity of other men and not infringe upon their rights. The rights are granted to all men, “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The ability to make this claim rests upon a belief that rights can be separated from religion, among other things, and that this universal declaration by a political body supersedes the commandments or injunctions found within any religious creed.