More Unswers to Your Questings
The fact that this is a good question is problematic, isn't it? It's almost a rhetorical question that provides it's own answer, like "why are you such a jerk?"
It's especially problematic that it is possible to ask such a question of a religion. If a religion doesn't even make you a better person, then what good is it? And what evidence do we have that Islam is producing superior and spiritually evolved people, cultures, institutions, and nations?
I didn't know anything about Islam on 9-10-01. However, even on 9-12-01, I retained an open mind. I was fully receptive to the MSM bromide that Islam was an essentially peaceful religion that had simply been hijacked by a few lunatics and radicals.
I am familiar with all the world's most venerated scripture and sacred writings--the Torah, New Testament, Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, Tao Te Ching, etc.--and I have very high regard for each of them. Although each is "relatively absolute" and complete in its way, I nevertheless feel that they all supplement and complement one another and that, for example, a Christian can benefit by trying to reconcile the Upanishads with the Gospel of John.
Once you are on a spiritual path, you start to develop a sort of sixth sense, or "third eye" that helps you understand spiritual matters. I don't want to overly romanticize this notion--I don't think it's really fundamentally different from any other kind of expertise. For example, a trained psychoanalyst is able to "see" or "feel" unconscious communication in a way that the untutored individual cannot. Or even a baseball or hockey fan can watch a game and see all kinds of things that the non-fan misses. The fan and non-fan literally see a different reality on the field or ice.
Anyway, I read the Koran with my spiritual detector switched on, but it was a sobering experience. I really don't want to be accused of bigotry here. Certainly you could say that my response was subjective, and that's fine. But I actually found the Koran to be rather disturbing. Although there are undoubtedly some passages that contain spiritual "light," there are also many passages that convey a deep darkness--again, based only on my subjective experience. I find no such darkness at all in, say, the Upanishads or Tao Te Ching. They are almost pure light.
One thing we must do at the outset is distinguish between the revealed vs. the "natural" religions. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are revealed religions, whereas the Upanishads are unrevealed, "positivistic" scriptures. Rather, they are much more explicitly philosophical and metaphysical. In fact, they are mainly experiential. Both Buddhism and Jnana yoga say to the spiritual aspirant: do this, and you will experience that. In their purest form--such as Vedanta or Zen--these traditions are very much free of dogma.
In a certain way, all of the revealed religions are more inherently problematic, because even if we are dealing with a pure revelation from God, it still has to be revealed to someone, specifically, a flawed human being. Judaism, to my knowledge, has never pretended that the prophets were perfect people. Nor does Christian doctrine maintain that the writers of the gospels were perfect beings who simply took dictation from God. In Judaism the Torah is perfect, but it still must be interpreted. In Christianity the perfect ideal is located in Christ, but in a very complex way that I won't get into here.
But in Islam, both Mohammed and his message are considered perfect, inerrant, and not subject to interpretation. This is problematic, for a great deal is known about the historical Mohammed, and the fact of the matter is, he was not just your average quiet, introspective spiritual seeker. For one thing, unlike Jesus or Buddha or Lao Tsu, he was a warrior, a conqueror. Like it or not, he was also a worldly man. He was married, not just to one woman, but to many women. Christians are told to "imitate Christ." How different would Christianity be if Christ had been a violent warrior with several wives?
Of course, one could say, "look at history. Are you naive? What about the crusades? The inquisition? The endless religious wars?" First of all, the crusades were largely a defensive action against an expansive Islam. But even leaving that aside, I believe that the Christian message is entirely self-correcting, given enough time. That is, there is no possible justification in the gospels for violent conquest, for treating others as less than fully human, for unfair treatment of women, etc.
I would be happy to stand corrected, but I don't see a clear-cut, self-correcting mechanism in Islam. Islam has a long and bloody history, but instead of being a departure from Mohammed's message, there are many, many passages in the Koran that quite clearly and explicitly justify and encourage such behavior. Again, this is not Muslim bashing. I'm simply repeating what I read in the Koran with my own three eyes.
Does this mean that all Muslims are bad people? Of course not. I actually tried to dislike the music of Cat Stevens, but I can't. He seems like a genuinely sweet and well-intentioned person who does a lot of good in the world.
But one thing that really troubles me is the lack of outrage in the Muslim world about the almost irreparable damage the terrorists are doing to something they hold sacred. I think about that poor journalist who has been captured in Iraq. Why aren't Muslims all over the world--millions upon millions of them--standing up, demonstrating, and demanding that she be released? Let's just focus on America, where Muslims enjoy the fruits of Judeo-Christian liberty. Why are our most prominent Muslim groups, such as CAIR, such dubious people? Every time they open their mouths, they just do further damage to Islam, and make one suspicious of their real motives.
Can one even imagine Christians sitting by quietly while such evil were being perpetrated in the name of their religion? The largest demonstration in the history of Israel occurred after that savage, may his memory be cursed, opened fire on Muslims in a Mosque. Why has there never been anything comparable in the Muslim world except recently in Jordan, but only after they were attacked?
By the way, just to show that I am not inherently anti-Islam, I've studied a fair amount of Sufism, and I am quite favorably disposed to it. They seem to have succeeded in eliminating the darkness and retaining the light. However, my understanding is that they are generally regarded by mainstream Muslims as a fringe, if not downright heretical movement.
Again, my mind remains open, and I would love for it to be changed. The main reason I supported the liberation of Iraq was that I felt--whether naively or not--that it would engender a transformation of that part of the world, and show that Muslims could create a decent, tolerant, and democratic society. I pray that I was right. The world-historical implications of being wrong about the capacity of Muslim nations to transform themselves are just too awful to contemplate.