If a group of Jews or Christians had been responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center, few would have attributed it to the beliefs of mainstream Judaism or Christianity. The assassination of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin by a Jewish fundamentalist was not attributed to something in mainstream Judaism; nor was the clergy sex abuse scandal attributed to the heart of Catholicism. The most heinous crimes committed by Jewish or Christian extremists are not tagged as reflections of militant radical Christianity or Judaism. The individuals who commit such crimes are often dismissed as fanatics, extremists, or madmen rather than labeled Christian or Jewish fundamentalists. By contrast, too often the statements and acts of Muslim extremists and terrorists are portrayed as integral to mainstream Islam (p. 6).Is he correct? I don't think so. In the case of the Roman Catholic sex scandals, the offending priests knew they were acting in violation of their religion. They did not offer a scriptural or theological defense of their actions. In the case of the assassination of Yitzsak Rabin (in 1995), this was the act of a single individual who had misinterpreted an obscure Jewish Law (din rodef). Similarly, in the case of Christian fundamentalists who kill abortion doctors, they tend to be "lone actors" not part of a coordinated effort.
Radical Islam, on the other hand, is an organized group(s) with definite religious leaders who claim that their actions are based on scriptural authority. Granted, these extremists are a small minority within Islam, they are much larger and better organized than similar extremist Christian or Jewish groups. More importantly, I think that the Islamic extremists do have a scriptural basis for their actions. Islam has always been a violent religion. It spread rapidly across the Middle East and North Africa at its beginning because of the sword. Those that would not submit to Allah were infidels and deserved death. One could make an argument that this is a central tenet of Islam and the radicals are merely doing what fundamentalists do--taking their Scripture literally.
Mark Durie writes:
The classical approach to violence in the Koran was neatly summed up in an essay on jihad in the Koran by Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Hamid, former chief justice of Saudi Arabia: “So at first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory: (1) against those who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims)… (2) And against all those who worship others along with Allah.”The fact is that all three of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have violent pasts. All are guilty of murdering large groups of people. The question, though, is: Does this violence reflect the teaching of the religion's founder or scriptures? I think the case can be made that violence is much more reflective of the teaching of Muhammad than it was Moses or Jesus. I think a further case can be made that violence is more of the heart and core of Islam than it is of Judaism or Christianity.
At the beginning, in Mohammed’s Meccan period, when he was weaker and his followers few, passages of the Koran encouraged peaceful relations and avoidance of conflict: “Many of the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) wish that they could turn you away as disbelievers… But forgive and overlook, till Allah brings his command.” (2:109).
Later, after persecution and emigration to Medina in the first year of the Islamic calendar, authority was given to engage in warfare for defensive purposes only: “Fight in the path of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits, for God does not love transgressors.” (2:190)
As the Muslim community grew stronger, and conflict with its neighbors did not abate, further revelations expanded the license for waging war, until in Sura 9, regarded as one of the last chapters to be revealed, it is concluded that war against non-Muslims could be waged more or less at any time and in any place to extend the dominance of Islam.
Sura 9 distinguished idolators, who were to be fought until they converted – “When the sacred months are past, kill the idolators wherever you find them, and seize them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every place of ambush” (9:5, the ‘verse of the sword’) – from “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews), who were to be given a further option of surrendering and living under Islamic rule while keeping their religion: “Fight… the People of the Book until they pay the poll tax out of hand, having been humbled.” (9:29) ("Does the Koran Incite Violence?")
One could argue that the modern state of Israel and/or the United States of America are guilty of much violence. However, in both cases, the violence is fueled by political concerns not religious dogma. Israel and the United States are both secular nations not theocracies. Islamic states, however, such as the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and the current regime in Iran are Islamic theocracies and both have advocated terrorism in the name of Allah.