There has been a lot of talk about the obvious, unmistakable, natural and expected connection between Islam and terrorism. Donald Trump wants to ban Muslim immigration because Islam, it seems to him, is directly implicated in terrorism.
Pope Francis has a different view. While seeing the problem with the lack of Christian presence in the Middle East, he often says that it is it is wrong to equate Islam with violence.
That is exactly right, I think. First, let me make clear just where I stand on a few questions after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino.
Gun control wouldn’t have worked. The incident teaches the lesson, “gun control doesn’t work” much better than it teaches the lesson “more gun control is needed.” The guns used by the terrorists were bought legally in California, which has among the nation’s strictest gun control laws.
President Obama is botching this. If the media were not so protective of the president, his comments on the eve of the Paris attack that he has ISIS contained (and his earlier comments that he had “Al Qaeda on the run”) would have him plummeting to historic low approval ratings. He is more wrong about the Middle Eastern threat than Bush ever was. We militarily must do better.
Islam has a violent history. The historians who act like the Crusades in general (as opposed to the sack of Constantinople and a couple of other incidents in particular) are a black stain on Christianity’s record don’t know the facts, or they are willfully ignoring the Islamic conquests that necessitated the defensive Crusade wars of the West.
Okay then, if I believe all of that, why am I not jumping on the band-wagon and fearing that Islam naturally leads to terrorism?
Because I know the case could even more easily be made that Catholicism is responsible for the culture of death.
Catholic politicians were key to the legalization, preservation and promotion of abortion in America. Leading architects of the abortion-friendly legal situation are Catholic; Catholic raised, Catholic educated, and still described themselves as Catholic: Joe Biden, Mario Cuomo, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Daschle, Chris Dodd, Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Mikulski, Nancy Pelosi, Jennifer Granholm, Kathleen Sebelius, George Pataki … the list goes on.
I know that denying the right to life of the unborn is inimical to the Gospel. I also know that bishops and popes have denounced abortion thoroughly. But a non-Christian observer could be forgiven, I think, for assuming that Catholics don’t really think abortion is a big deal, and assuming that the official Church’s denunciations of it aren’t all that serious.
They would even point to statistics that suggest that states with higher concentrations of Catholics have higher abortion rates. Or statistics saying that Catholics abort at a higher rate than Protestants, and Hispanics at a higher rate than whites.
And while you and I know that Christianity doesn’t really condone abortion, it is probably true that a much higher percentage of Christians are involved in abortion than the percentage of Muslims who are involved in terrorism. And the death rate of innocents is immeasurably higher.
And it is also possible that a Muslim could make the case that centuries of Christian beliefs (and Bible passages) about mercy and “judge not lest ye be judged” and tolerance led inexorably to the today’s abortion epidemic.
I would argue that they are wrong, but they might think I’m nuts for saying that in the face of clear evidence.
“Of course the culture of death is Catholic. Killing was made legal by Catholics, it is practiced by Catholics, and it is condoned by Catholics. Yes, I know the Pope is against it, but he’s also against contraception, and pornography and extramarital sex, but so many Catholics seem to accept those things, too. Face it. Abortion is the true face of Catholicism.”
The truth is it is hard to judge a religion from the outside.
John A. Azumah, an associate professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary in Dacatur, Ga., points this out at First Things:
It is “simplistic if not misleading to argue that groups like IS and Boko Haram have nothing to do with Islam,” he says.
But adds, “Nevertheless, it is equally misleading to argue that the jihadi groups represent the true face of Islam.”
Remember how unIslamic the 9/11 hijackers were in their final days? As Mehdi Hasan pointed out in the New Statesman last year they were not the exception.
“In 2008, a classified briefing note on radicalization, prepared by MI5’s behavioral science unit, was leaked to the Guardian. It revealed that, ‘far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practice their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could … be regarded as religious novices.’ The analysts concluded that ‘a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization,’ the newspaper said.”
What are they motivated by? “Moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, for a sense of belonging and purpose,” said the report. Just like America’s affluent killers from Dylan Klebald onward.
But ISIS clearly is enthusiastic about Islam, right? Dr. Andrew Salzmann, in Small Wars Journal, describes how historical narratives about Islam’s past victories loom large in their minds — but not necessarily orthodox Islamic submission to Allah.
Reading Salzmann makes you reazlie that ISIS’s relation to Islam is more like the Ku Klux Klan’s relation to Christianity than it is like the Crusaders’ relation to Christianity: The KKK may see themselves as Christian heroes and may use the cross as an emblem, but Christians don’t see them as heroes, and they think their use of the cross is misapplied.
Or, if you prefer, they are like a Catholic pro-abortion politician who speaks with sweetness and appreciation of Catholic imagery. They thrive on feeling Catholic even while they do very little that is truly Catholic.
But Catholicism has a magisterium that clearly teaches against these things, you say? The First Things article is eye-opening:
ISIS Muslims are heretics, it says.
“By declaring and conducting jihad on their own, al-Qaeda, IS, Boko Haram, and other such groups act as heretical usurpers.”
Their definition of jihad is out of sync with their magisterial bodies:
“When it comes to the conduct of jihad, Islamic terrorist groups are also at odds with all the main traditions of Islam. All four orthodox schools of law, including the conservative Hanbali school, declare that women, children, the elderly, the disabled, priests, traders, farmers, and all noncombatant civilians should not be targeted and killed in a jihad.”
But their Scriptures say to kill infidels, you might point out. Ours says “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” Of course we don’t mean “abortion” when we pray it – we mean what St. Benedict described: Kill temptations when they have just started by dashing them against Christ.
Well, what do they mean when they pray the Koran? Says the article:
“The truth about religious lives is not so simple. The vast majority of Christians and Muslims don’t live by sola scriptura, or by Qur’an and sunna alone — and this is the case even when they claim to do so.”
Does terrorism have nothing to do with Islam? Of course it has something to do with Islam.
Does Islam naturally lead to terrorism? No more than Christianity naturally leads to the disgusting bloodshed of the Culture of Death that the Christian West has created, deepened, defended and aggressively exported all over the world.