The Middle East today presents a bizarre spectacle of intramural Muslim warfare. It is the last region in the world where religious ideology determines the imperatives and the justifications for brutal political power struggles:
Palestinian Arabs massacre Palestinian Arabs. Syria incites and controls that fratricide. Ruled by a military clique from a small Muslim sect, it also slaughters tens of thousands of its own citizens - as now confirmed by an Amnesty International study - who belong to the country's Muslim majority sect.
Muslim Iraq and Muslim Iran (the one Arab, the other Persian) massively kill each other in a war now in its fourth year. And the Iranian theocracy anathemizes and proclaims jihad, holy war, against all Satanic infidels at home and abroad.
If we are to search for the deeper historical/psycho-logical significance of this murderous behavior, it is in militant Islam that its roots can be discerned. Even the fact that the Palestinian warfare hinges on how best to combat and destroy Israel is intimately bound to the red thread of Islam that is inextricably interwoven with this strange pattern.
For believers, Islam is the ultimate dispensation, entitled to universal dominion. Islam rejects pretensions to equality by all other religious and political claimants. Toleration is possible only if Islam's supremacy is accepted and subordination to it acquiesced in. Inescapably, it breeds fanatical sectarianism that leads to extremist, violent confrontations, not least among differing versions of the true faith.
Jihad and Islam are closely related spiritual concepts. The essential meaning of Islam is the attainment of a state of wholeness and peace with God, with man, and within one's own soul.
Jihad is the enterprise of attaining unity, oneness of mankind under God through the supreme worldy rule of Islam. It is called holy war because it is conducted under the banner of the one true faith in order to eradicate the infidel, by sword or through conversion.
Paradise is the highest state to which a faithful Muslim can aspire and martyrdom in holy war guarantees Paradise. So that to kill or be killed in a jihad for Islam, or for any version of it taken to be the only true faith, is the greatest glory.
No wonder, then, that the bile spews forth murderously against the treacherous infidel: the Turkish Muslim massacre of Armenian Christians half a century ago; the mutual declaration of jihad by Iran and Iraq, each assuming the role of sole protector of the true faith against the other's infidel; Iran's war of terror against its 300,000 Bahai citizens. Powerful echoes of this cry can be heard today in the intramural PLO battle.