In order to sustain dialogue with Islam, suitable training is essential for all involved, not only so that they can be solidly and joyfully grounded in their own identity, but so that they can also acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs. We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition. I ask and I humbly entreat those countries to grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries! Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.
Now in one of our early posts I remark about how at times folks in the Church make statements that lack even a remote grounding in reality. One of our very first posts makes mention of this here. We have discussed it some more in the context of the Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s comments regarding Islam here. It is even all well and good to suggest that as Christians we act kindly to Muslim immigrants. Nonetheless, making this comment without a little more forceful reference to the acts of terror perpetrated by Islamic immigrants, (beyond noting their disconcerting nature) is a little tough to take seriously. After all concern about Muslim immigration is bound to occur when a subset of such immigrants is engaged in episodes of mass murder, such as with the Boston marathon bombing, ( see the Religion of Peaces victim list here ,) or the Fort Hood Shooting, ( remember that here), or other kinds of particularly grisly killings like the near decapitation of Lee Rigby in London, (noted fully here ), not to mention assorted honor killings of young women in the name of Shari, (described here,). The concern with Muslim immigrants in this context seems a little more reasonable. In fact where I a Muslim I would be concerned about by brethren giving us a bad name, just like my parents and grandparents were concerned that the likes of the Gambino crime family were not making Italians look like uniformly law abiding gentle souls never given to violence or crime. It is a bit puzzling when the Pope thinks the major issue regarding Islam is “hateful generalizations” about it. It reaches the utterly incredible when the Pope’s asserts that the Koran is opposed to every form of violence. This assertion is so out of touch with reality we need to challenge it.
It is very difficult to not mock this statement, since it is so obviously and breathtakingly false. Out of respect for the Pope’s office and his personal holiness we will refrain from doing so. Still let’s look at some simple facts.
First the Pope has not been reading his Aquinas lately… let’s look at what St Thomas has to say about Islam:
“On the other hand, those who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to this, The point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.”
So in the view of St Thomas, Islam spread primarily through force of arms. I think given the fact that Islam spread via force under Muhammad’s leadership it is obvious that the Koran is not “opposed to every form of violence”. Well, perhaps St. Thomas was wrong, you may say. After all maybe Pope Francis is just in that long line of Jesuits who had issues with the Dominicans.
What does the actual history of Islam suggest? Well even those very sympathetic to Islam acknowledge that for the first couple of hundred years Islam spread as St Thomas describes via military conquest. You can see what some of those representing Islam say here.
Beyond that point, Who can actually tell us what the Koran really means anyway? Is it fair to ask the Pope? It would seem unconvincing from a Muslim viewpoint for a Roman Catholic Pontiff to state what the Koran “really means”. After all I would not regard a Muslim Imam as an authority on what the Catholic Church teaches. Keep in mind that from an Islamic viewpoint the idea it really does not matter what you believe so long as you are seeking God’s will is very foreign. Although this comes close to what the average Catholic thinks, and it sounds sometimes like what the post- Vatican II church often articulates, this is very different from what your average Muslim thinks. They think Islam is true and failure to be a Muslim is to violate God’s will and thereby offends him. The Koran is quite specific, The Pope is a non- believer; he is an infidel, doomed to eternal damnation. Those who worship Jesus will end up in hell. As it says:
They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah – Allah will forbid him the garden and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help..
— Sura 5:72
Based on the above the Pope ( along with the those who follow him) are blasphemers and the fire will be their abode. Given this fact it would seem reasonable that an actual Muslim might not consider the Pope an authority on a proper reading of the Koran. Who would be an alternative? Well Islam does not have a single scholar who is like an Islamic “Pope”, but let’s try to look at what some Imams have said: A recent piece describing what Dr. Abdul Fatah Idris, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al Azhar University in Egypt discusses this, and the full article can be found here . Anyway Dr Idris has this to say:
“But jihad in the path of Allah, to make his word supreme, spread his religion, defend the honor of the Islamic nation [umma], and respond to the aggression against Muslims all around the earth — this is jihad: when a Muslim fights an infidel without treaty to make the word of Allah Most High supreme, forcing him to fight or invading his land, this is a permissible matter according to the consensus of the jurists. Indeed, it is an obligation for all Muslims. Now if the deeds of the jihad — including fighting the infidels and breaking their spine through all possible means — are permissible according to Sharia, then it is impossible to define those acts as terrorism,”
Sounds to me like the professor is saying that to spread Islam, invading his land and forcing him to fight and breaking his spine through all possible means, it’s not terrorism and in fact is not only not prohibited, its commanded. Now I ask you why is the Pope more of an expert on the authentic meaning of the Koran than an Egyptian Islamic scholar.
Hmm.. Let’s see are there some other scholars who somehow see that the Koran rejects all forms of violence (Not just some forms mind you, but all forms. Does this mean that authentic Muslims are pacifists? ) In reality the problem is that while some Muslims would claim Jihadism does not represent them, others claim it does. There were even defenders of the grotesque murder of Lee Rigby on a London street. You can read about the killing here (it is horrific and I include the link only to illustrate how horrific). The link of the Imam refusing to condemn it on British TV is here. Given the willingness of Islamic clerics to defend this kind of thing I am skeptical that “an authentic “interpretation of the Koran is opposed to “every form” of violence. Upon what is this assertion based?
But wait there is more… If the authentic meaning of the Koran rejects “every form of violence”, one might reasonably expect that at least in some Islamic dominated countries Christians and Jews would not be treated violently. As even the Pope knows the persecution and murder of Christians in the Islamic world is rampant, you can read about it here. You can see a little more here . In fact the Pope even spoke about it himself here .
The problem is that the Pope for reasons of post Vatican II political correctness He is the need to assert something that is palpably false. In fact Islam by its very nature is based on coercion of Non-Christians. Not so much that they are forced to convert, but rather that they are forced to obey Sharia and live in dhimmitude. You can read about this here as well as here .
So let’s summarize. In spite of the fact that the historical record ( even agreed to by Islamic friendly sources) demonstrates that Islam spread via warfare at its birth, and contrary to St. Thomas, the “angelic doctor” that this is the case, notwithstanding the statements of at least some Islamic scholars defending various attacks on non-Muslims, and finally even in the face of wide spread global persecution and even murder of Christians in the Islamic world, It is asserted that an “authentic interpretation” of the Koran forswears every type of violence. Really?
You may as well ask me to accept the idea that 2 + 2= 7! In fact this is not entirely consistent with what the Pope’s immediate predecessor said, in his Regensburg lecture (which can be read in its entirety here ). In that lecture he made the point that Islam at its core does not view God in the same manner the Christian West does. Specifically we would believe that God is the source of all reason and that ultimately moral laws spring from God’s very nature and the nature of the reality God created. Muslims do not believe this. They believe in divine command theory and the idea that God is so inscrutable his will cannot be contained by human reason. If he wanted he could command things we would call evil but based on God’ s command they would be good. If that means flying planes into buildings, well so be it. As Pope Benedict XVI noted in the lecture:
“The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practice idolatry.”
Of course the Regensburg lecture was met with great push back from the Islamic world, and even threats demanding an apology. The Jihadist fearing media roundly criticized the Pope at the time. Nonetheless who could deny the obvious fact that Pope Benedict XVI comments are a lot closer to the truth than the statement just issued by Pope Francis.
Interestingly Pope Francis while going pretty easy on Islam ( adherents of which are actually killing Christians) has much stronger words for those whose major sin is a devotion to the Latin Mass and ( according to the Pope) the desire to classify others… He states:
This worldliness can be fueled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism.
Take that traditionalist! By the way how many people could say with certainty what “anthropocentric immanentism” means? We will come back to that phrase in a later post, because once you understand it you will see it makes about as much sense to say that of Traditionalists as it does to accuse the Koran of forbidding violence.. but that will need to wait another day.
I think I will make note however of one last thing about the exhortation, and that is the sheer impenetrability at times of the post Vatican II jargon. Here is a sample:
“A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness evokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, “time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space.
This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation, and to give a priority to time. One of the faults which we occasionally observe in sociopolitical activity is that spaces and power are preferred to time and processes. Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power and of self-assertion; it is to crystallize processes and presume to hold them back. Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces. Time governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return. What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.”
Is that passage comprehensible to anyone? Do the Bishops really think like that?
How about this gem:
“There also exists a constant tension between ideas and realities. Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out. There has to be continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric. So a third principle comes into play: realities are greater than ideas. This calls for rejecting the various means of masking reality: angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, empty rhetoric, objectives more ideal than real, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems bereft of kindness, intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom.
Ideas – conceptual elaborations – are at the service of communication, understanding, and praxis. Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism and nominalism, capable at most of classifying and defining, but certainly not calling to action. What calls us to action are realities illuminated by reason. Formal nominalism has to give way to harmonious objectivity. Otherwise, the truth is manipulated, cosmetics take the place of real care for our bodies. We have politicians – and even religious leaders – who wonder why people do not understand and follow them, since their proposals are so clear and logical. Perhaps it is because they are stuck in the realm of pure ideas and end up reducing politics or faith to rhetoric. Others have left simplicity behind and have imported a rationality foreign to most people.
Realities are greater than ideas. This principle has to do with incarnation of the word and its being put into practice:”
I am sorry. I am sure the Pope is a holy man, and I know he kisses and hugs lots of people, and is not given to the trappings of pomp and majesty that at times was associated with the Papacy (although certainly neither was John Paul II who kissed a fair number of babies as well..) But if the above passage is not an example of what it attacks, than I have no idea what is. After all It surely has “left simplicity behind” and has imported if not a “rationality” a language foreign to most people.
I could go on like this for a very long time, picking out gems of impenetrable prose that can mean pretty much anything and therefore no doubt will be fodder for the modernists in the Church for a long time. If this is what will characterize Pope Francis’s papacy, well… we are in for a very long ride.
Ok that’s it for now. We will close with a few summary comments in our next post.