Over the last month or so several friends of mine (Christopher of Ratzinger Fan Club, Chris of Veritas, William of Eagle and Elephant among other friends) have been holding a great conversation and dialog behind the scenes about the Middle-East, the War in Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian Problem and Islam. The fruit of this discussion led Christopher to make a great post on the latter part of this dialog. I highly encourage folks to check his post out and read the comments as well. Here is my humble addition to the public conversation on this topic. I welcome a judgment of this post, both positive and critical.
What is Islam?
Islam in Arabic is referred to as a "Deen." Deen means not a religion but the religion - the one, only, original, true and final religion given to us from God Himself, Allah. The deen of Islam also means a rule, code, path, system, world-view, and way of life. The best translation for deen is ideology. Islam is a complete and total system or ideology encompassing not only religion and spirituality but a complete system of education, economics (interest-free), politics (khalifah), jurisprudence (law), international relations/foreign affairs, warfare/fighting (Jihad), social life, health, etc. The deen of Islam covers every aspect of life for man. The deen of Islam covers (1) the relationship of God to man and (2) the relationship of man to man. The Koran is the revealed "Word of God" to Muslims. The prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) spent more than 20+ years (23 to be exact) revealing (through the example of his own life and oral teachings) to others how to live the deen of Islam. This personal example and oral tradition of the prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was recorded and is known to Muslims as the Hadith, the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). Muslims are obligated to follow the teachings of Allah (contained within the Koran and Hadith) which was given to them through the final or seal of the Prophets, Muhammad (p.b.u.h). One that does not follow the Koran or Hadith is not Muslim, but is considered dhimmi, a Jew or Christian, or a kafur, an infidel.
For further reference to this specific topic refer to these links:
What about the authority in Islam?
A Muslim friend states "there is no hierarchy in Islam. No one speaks for me." He is correct. There is no central authority figure in Islam. Every individual Muslim is their own Pope. The local community leader (Imam) may lead the public prayers, but he has no authority to impose his views on others. This lack of a central authority figure in Islam causes a serious problem - similar to the one in Protestantism. If there is no one to give an official interpretation of the Koran or the Hadith then all views are valid and equal. A radical/militant Muslim's view of the Koran and Hadith is as valid and correct as that of a moderate Muslim. Mr. Aycol (referenced in Christopher's post above) is a Muslim, but his views are no more valid than Osama Bin Laden's.
Considering this issue of authority for Islam, are Muslims capable of their own "Reformation"? Is this even possible?
No not unless the ummah, the entire world-wide Muslim community (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ummah) agrees. With one billion plus Muslims world-wide you have a better chance of walking outside and being struck by lightning than a consensus being reached within the ummah. There is no central authority figure like the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) any longer who received revelation or the deen of Islam. Even if changes were proposed no one would be obligated to follow them. The deen of Islam is a total or complete system and ideology. No updating is necessary. Everything necessary for living (for every aspect of life) has already been given. Muslims only need to follow that which has already been given in the Koran and through the sayings and teachings of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.). This is why learning Arabic is important for Muslims. Even though translations of the Koran and Hadith have been given in other languages they always refer back to the original language of Revelation for Muslims.
What about "The Long War with the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam"?
A Muslim friend states "To be a good Muslim, one needs to abide by the 5 pillars of Islam, which can be done by anyone in any country. None of these pillars entails overthrowing governments." The dean of Islam is much, much more than just following and practicing the five pillars of Islam as described in the answer above on what is Islam. My Muslim friend then states that "being Muslim does not mean becoming more radical," but then says a little later that "if a Muslim gives money to a terrorist organization, I'd say that Muslim is radical." Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and many other Muslims countries are well known to pay off terrorist organizations so they don't make attacks or cause problems within their own countries. By his own definition many of the most powerful and wealthy Muslim countries are therefore radical. Those are countries though and not individuals. Moderate estimates dealing with individual Muslims themselves suggest that 10% of them are actively involved the Radical/Militant (Irreconcilable) Wing of Islam and another 10-20% passively support their efforts through giving money to these groups. Therefore 20-30% of the 1+ billion Muslims world-wide are radical by my friend's own definition. That's 200-300 million radical/militant Muslims. How many radical/militant Muslims did it take on 9-11? Our country has been repeatedly attacked over the last 30 years by radical/militant Muslims. These are well known historical facts. This is a very serious problem and one that we cannot ignore. Radical/Militant Muslims have the specific desire and intent of conquering (through both violent and peaceful means) not only Europe, specifically the Vatican, but the entire West. Even if somehow the Arab - Israeli Conflict (and within that the Palestinian Problem) could be solved there will not be peace with this "Wing of Islam" because they have global domination as their end. This "Wing of Islam" is not all those who adhere to the religion of Islam nor all Muslims.
For more information about "The Long War with the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam" refer to the following links of Former Speaker of House, Newt Gingrich.
Securing America and its Allies by Defeating America's Enemies
Challenge Number One
Focus on the Family audio broadcast featuring Newt: March 9, 2007: The Growing Threat of Radical Islam
What about discrimination of non-Muslims by Muslims?
The Islamic tradition, then and now, is clear on how to discriminate against non-Muslims, i.e. heavier taxes, etc. The Islamic tradition, then and now, is clear on how to deal with Muslims who convert to Christianity. For example, apostates are treated as sub-humans - they can be robbed and killed with no legal repercussions. The Koran, Hadith and Sharia authorize and mandate discrimination of non-Muslims (both against dhimmis, Jews and Christians, and followers of other religions). This is not solely a political problem (yes it is that) but one rooted from within the religious teachings and traditions of Islam itself. The Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) mandates this type of behavior as acceptable. This has serious repercussions on how Muslims relate and interact with non-Muslims.
Is the approach to politics the same in Muslim and Western countries?
No, there is no separation of politics from religion in the deen of Islam. They are forever fused and interconnected. In Catholicism (the roots of Europe and the West) there is a clear autonomy of the temporal order, which includes politics, economics, etc. The Church does not claim to be expert on lay matters. There is no autonomy of the temporal order in the deen of Islam. This is not possible.
Is a Muslim living in the West, either in Europe or America, obligated to assist in forming a Muslim government in the nation-state in which they reside?
Yes, either through passive or active means. It does not mean by violent means though, but neither does Islam restrict a practicing Muslim from using violence in the formation of an Islamic government. Common sense dictates violence will more than likely have to be used because no government will allow a take-over like this to occur. In the world-view of Muslims the world is divided in two parts. The first part is dar al-Islam (House of Islam) and the second part is dar al-harb (House of War). If one claims to be Muslim then you are obligated to turn dar al-harb into dar al-Islam. The means can be by the sword or peaceably or both. Any and all strategies (even lying, dishonesty, etc.) are allowed to accomplish the end-state. The end justifies the means.
What about religious freedom in Muslim countries and the recognition of the centrality of the person?
These topics are of central importance for the West in regards to our relationship with Muslim countries world-wide. The dignity of the human person must be recognized. I stand with Pope B16 and Christopher on this matter. Refer to his post on this topic.
Is anti-semitism accepted within the Muslim world?
Yes, in fact it is openly advocated for in many quarters of the Muslim world today largely as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Various anti-Semitic comments can be found though within the official texts of Islam, both in the Koran and the Hadith, therefore anti-semitism is rooted in the very origin of the religion. This does not mean all Muslims are anti-semitic though.
Considering the above points one must consider (ontologically) if the religious and therefore political positions of the radical/militant wing of Islam are reasonable, meaning are they rooted from within the sacred texts and Islamic tradition themselves?
I myself am convinced they are. This has very serious implications once you come to the same conclusion. Allow me to give just one of many examples for your consideration. The Koran explicitly (not implicitly) teaches that any Christian who believes and professes the Trinity is true will burn in Hell. Therefore Muslims can respond in one of many ways. I will list only five - this is not an extensive list. (1) They can be apathetic and do nothing. (2) They can conduct little Jihad (warfare) on non-Muslims and send them to Hell even quicker. (3) They can give money to radical/militant organizations. (4) They can have 5-10 kids per family and therefore overwhelm Europe and the West demographically and win eventually by majority rule in a democracy. (5) They can compete peacefully in the world of ideas and prove the truth of Islam to others thereby converting people to the One True Faith. For Muslims recognizing the above fact that practicing Christians are burning in Hell requires a practicing and reasonable Muslim to act. Practicing Muslims are required by the demands of their faith to make the entire world Muslim - dar al-Islam. Muslims can act either violently or peacefully using any or all of the above ways and many others.
Is Islam similar to Judaism and Christianity?
Yes it is in the sense that it is monotheistic as the Church Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI's encyclical Ecclesiam Suam and the CCC teaches us. There are significant and irreconcilable theological differences though. As mentioned above, the Koran and therefore believing Muslims, condemn to hell anyone who associate partners to God, i.e. those believing in the Trinity. They also explicitly deny the Incarnation and do not believe the Resurrection actually occurred. I wonder how easy it is to dialog with anyone who believes you are actually burning in hell? What motivation drives Muslims to dialog with the dhimmi or the infidels? A desire to convert you through personal persuasion, either peaceably or forcibly, could be one reason. Or you could have something of value they need or want to get from you could be another reason. Is dialog impossible? No, but it's difficult to do it with those with forked tongues. The Islamic Tradition explicitly allows lying and dishonestly when dealing with non-Muslims. How can we ever know their true intentions? One way is through a long and sustained friendship tested over time.
What is my personal experience with Islam?
I think many folks have a distorted view of Islam because of what they have read in a book or seen on t.v. It's impossible to fully understand a religion or faith without living it from the inside out and even then you'll never fully grasp everything within it in a life-time. For me that's why it's helpful to listen to Christian converts from Islam. They all bring their experiences (baggage) with them, as all converts do, but I find their testimonies most helpful. I am one such convert. For several years I studied Islam and finally in my senior year of college I converted to Islam. I attended community prayers at the local mosque regularly, went to various Islamic classes, and even attended a national Islamic convention. In the end I left Islam for primarily three fundamental reasons. (1) I was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that I would have to become radical/militant Muslim if I took the Islamic faith seriously and to its logical conclusions. (2) I was convinced that a practicing Muslim could not in good conscience support living in a democracy when the Islamic tradition explicitly calls for the formation of an Islamic nation-state. (3) I did not practice ritual prayers as mandated by the faith. To this day though I still have Muslim friends.
Where do we go from here?
We most follow the Holy Father, Pope B16. Mnsgr. Giussani told me "stay faithful to the Holy Father and by doing so we will save the world." The Holy Spirit moves in our days through the human face of the Holy Father. Therefore it is essential that we read and discuss at length his lecture University of Regensburg. This is where I propose we go. Let us set at the feet of the Holy Father and allow him to guide us.
Additional on-line resources are provided for your reference below.
Notable contemporary critics of Islam include Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Ibn Warraq,and Bat Ye'or. Their works are worthy of reading because they provide the history and references from within Muslim sources that one needs to make a judgment of this overall topic. For further research on this here are on some recent links (text & audio) that are worthy of checking out.
OPEN WINDOW ARCHIVES
2/6/07: Religion and Peoples by H. E. Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice
1/22/07: IRAQ: Wojtyla Was Right by Giorgio Vittadini
12/16/06: Turkey and Regensburg: The Same Pope by Samir Khalil Samir, SJ
Fr. Samir's discussion of the Pope's trip to Turkey highlights the center of Benedict XVI’s message: the only thing that can save us from religiously-justified violence is true religiosity, based on reason. Paradoxically, western secularism and political Islamism agree on one thing: the separation of faith and reason. As a result they feed on each other: the suppression of religion in the public sphere incites religious fundamentalism, and vice versa. The Pope breaks this vicious circle by reminding us that true rationality is open to the transcendent, and true religiosity cannot go against reason.
12/6/06: Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam: A Roadmap to Peace? by Wael Farouq
In light of Benedict XVI’s call for a broadening of reason, we offer the text of the speech delivered by Wa’il Farouq in Washington, DC this fall at the invitation of the Crossroads Cultural Center. Farouq is a professor of Islamic Science in Cairo, Egypt. His insightful and profound speech is first and foremost the witness of a Muslim profoundly struck by The Religious Sense, a book by Fr. Giussani. Interpreting the book on a personal level, Farouq highlighted that if inter-religious dialogue is not progressing, it is because the central element of that dialogue, the “I,” is often missing.
19.4.2007 - Why the Real War Is Inside Islam
Shiites against Sunnis, and Sunnis in conflict with each other: totalitarians against mystics. The enemies are not only the Christians. The analysis of a great Muslim expert: Khaled Fouad Allam
Focus on ISLAM
Terrorism, disease of Islam (link to 4 important articles - not all linked below)
Bishops appeal: Save Iraq’s Christians!
As churches close their doors, car bombs explode, forced conversions and kidnappings take place in Baghdad but also in Niniveh, the Bishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako appeals to the world to do something for Iraq’s Christians, who have been a part of the country’s mosaic since time immemorial.
04/23/2007 TURKEY - OIC
The Islamic Conference condemns the “gratuitous” assassination of three Christians in Malatya
The German Chancellor Merkel maintains that the murders will not influence Turkey’s EU membership talks, but they highlight the problem of religious freedom in the Land of the Crescent Moon.
Articles by Samir Khalil Samir S.J.
West weak, Muslims mute when it comes to Islamism and terrorism
Multiculturalism and Islam: Muslims in Europe, no to ghettos, yes to integration
Multiculturalism and Islam; civil unions and homosexuality
03/07/2007 ISLAM – EUROPE
Multiculturalism and Islam: suicide of the West and women’s rights
04/26/2006 Vatican - Islam
Benedict XVI and Islam
Islam needs renewal from within, not withdrawal into itself, to overcome its crisis
Michael Novak on Islam
Dr. John H. Armstrong on Islam
The Riddleblog - The Achillies Heel of Islam?
Kim brings up some essential points and asks some important questions in this post.
Islamization of Europe by Shane Rosenthal
The Qur'an's Challenge to the Bible by Adam S. Francisco
The Convert by Cal Thomas
A great audio resource is the below two-part program linked on this post - http://ressourcement.blogspot.com/2006/10/christianity-confronts-islam-part-1-2.html
Christianity Confronts Islam (Part 1) 10/1/2006 - Sunday
On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Dr. Michael Horton talks with former Muslim and professor of Sharia Law, Sam Solomon, about the true nature of Islam and the significant threat it presents, not only to the western world in general, but specifically to all weak and sentimental forms of the Christian faith.
Christianity Confronts Islam (Part 2) 10/8/2006 - Sunday
On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Dr. Michael Horton continues his conversation with former Muslim and professor of Sharia Law, Sam Solomon about the confrontation between Islamic and Western cultures, and the theological convictions at the root of this conflict.
Ken Samples Course "Islam and Christianity"
Why Can't Islam and Christianity Both Be True (MP3) November 17
Islam: What the West Needs to Know
Obsession - Radical Islam's War Against The West 10/27/06
David Horowitz, "Islamic Fascists," on Your World with Neil Cavuto 8/15/06
FrontPageMag.com - Symposium: One Islam?
Islam and Christianity Video Series by Fr. Mitch Pacwa and Daniel Ali
Islam: Friend or Foe? by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Unholy War by Scott Hahn
Islam Exposed - The Truth About Islam Revealed! by Tim Staples
Fire and Sword: Crusade, Inquisition, Reformation by Matthew Arnold
Here is my second post on this topic, Islam - Part Two.
For further reading material (links) click on the below search of my blog: