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Furthermore, the Koran (2:194) requires that principles of "discrimination" and "proportionality" be observed in responding to acts of violent warfare, prohibiting responding in a worse or more harsh or destructive manner that is disproportionate to the type of violence, warfare, or harm inflicted upon Muslim.
In general, the Koran restricts the use of violent warfare to the responses to very egregious and prolonged direct persecution against Muslim and otherwise, (2:251) as a response to evil of such profound magnitude (Smith 1997) as to threaten to corrupt the entire earth. Contrary to popularized Western beliefs among many about Islam, the Koran does not promote the use of warfare to convert believers in false faiths to acceptance of Allah. In fact, the Koran very specifically provides (2:256) that religious faith is not a matter of "compulsion," that separate societies are destined to remain different in their beliefs (11:118), and that it is essentially impossible to change another's beliefs by force or obligation if they are not motivated to do so by themselves (12:103).
Whereas the Koran authorizes warfare only under righteous circumstances, once permitted in self-defense (2:190), in the defense of those unable to defend themselves upon their plea for help (4:75), or as a response to attacks on the free exercise of religious faith (22:40), participation in jihad is obligatory (Fouad 1999). Nevertheless, despite participation in jihad being a moral obligation, doing so remains voluntary and the Koran distinguishes "urging" the faithful in this regard (4:64) from forced "conscription."
During the execution of just wars, the Koran requires the faithful to refrain from attacking or laying waste to a city before issuing an offer of peace (Scheuer 2004), and at the conclusion of war, the Koran (2:193) commands the faithful to stop fighting and resume the Greater Jihad of pursuing conduct and states of mind that are "good" and kind" (22:41). The Koran further instructs the faithful to honor their treaties (16:91).
In fact, the Koran so emphasizes the obligation to honor and respect treaties in general, as well as those arising in conjunction with the cessation of justified hostilities (8:72), that it even forbids rescuing the oppressed upon their pleas, if their oppressors enjoy the protections of a treaty with the Muslim people. Finally, in much the same way that the Koran prohibits warfare against non- combatants and civilians, it also prescribes principles for the humane treatment of vanquished enemy combatants and prisoners of war in the same spirit of God's own forgiveness (8:70), and instructing Muslim victors to "tighten the bonds" of the vanquished initially, but "set them free" thereafter (47:4).
In Western society, "jihad" has become synonymous with a holy war against non-
Muslims despite the fact that forced conversion was, historically, a feature of Christian societies rather than of Islam. In fact, the Koran specifically prohibits any such use of warfare and cautions against the futility of forced conversion to faith in Allah. In contemporary times, radical Muslim extremists have occasionally fed the fires of these misconceptions by advocating "jihad" in retaliation for insults to the Prophet Mohammad and the presence of Western military forces in parts of the Holy Land, as well as for their role in assisting the nation of Israel and, most recently, for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In fact, the Faithful do oppose many Western influences and projections of military power in the Middle East, but true followers of Islam still heed the restrictions in the Koran against taking up arms without sufficient justification in the form of direct religious persecution or attack on the Faithful. The true spirit of the Prophet Mohammad expressed in the Koran requires much greater restraint and forgiveness than many of the uninformed suggest. Ultimately, the radical extremists who call for a "religious jihad" without justification only contribute to this misunderstanding by perpetuating it thereby.
Ajami, Fouad. (1999) the Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey. New York: Vintage Friedman, Thomas, L. (1995) From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York: Anchor
Lewis, Bernard. (2004) From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press.
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