In a sane world (yes, that disqualifies ours), the justification of the horrendously bloody Oct. 7 Hamas massacre by numerous Islamic authorities would have been enough to put an end forever to the comforting fiction that Islam is a religion of peace that condemns terrorism. One place, however, where this myth is alive and well, despite the mountain of theological and historical evidence, as well as contemporary news to the contrary is the Vatican. Pope Francis has just released a new book in which he proclaims once again that Islam is benign and cuddly, to be met by Westerners with nothing less than a full embrace. And he should know, right?
Actually, the specter of the leader of one major religious tradition making authoritative pronouncements about another should be disqualifying on its face. Pope Francis has, presumably, been studying Christianity all his life, although many members of his own flock might dispute that. But does his presumed expertise on Christianity qualify him to speak authoritatively about Islam? Did he study at his buddy Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb’s venerable Sunni institution, al-Azhar? Did he perchance attend a more humble madrassa? Has he actually read the Qur’an or even ever opened one?
Leaving all these questions (and many more like them) unanswered, Francis declares in his new book, “Non Sei Solo: Sfide, Risposte, Speranze (You Are Not Alone: Challenges, Answers, Hopes),” which has yet to be fully translated into English: “As they say, either you are a terrorist or you are a Muslim. Then, by the way, we find fundamentalism in all religions. Radical Islam is a perversion because it is a religion that talks about peace.”
Every aspect of that statement is false. While Francis maintains that “either you are a terrorist or you are a Muslim,” the Qur’an tells Muslims to “strike terror in the enemies of Allah” (8:60). A hadith depicts Muhammad saying: “I have been made victorious through terror” (Bukhari 4:52.220). Terrorists the world over have justified their actions by reference to Islam. The terrorist of terrorists, Osama bin Laden, wrote in a 2003 letter to the American people: “The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.” There have been over 44,000 jihad terror attacks worldwide since 9/11, each committed by Muslims believing that their actions would please the god who directed them to “kill them wherever you find them” (Qur’an 2:191, 4:89, cf. 9:5).
Imam, er, that is, Pope Francis also says that “we find fundamentalism in all religions.” Yeah. “Fundamentalism” is actually a Protestant Christian idea that doesn’t exist in Islam. What he means, of course, is that people who take what they consider to be the plain teachings of the religion seriously and reject the nuanced, sophisticated understandings that people such as Pope Francis will offer you.
Fundamentalist Protestants, however, don’t go around blowing things up while screaming “Jesus is Lord.” They don’t vow genocide of their perceived enemies and claim the sanction of God in doing so. So while the pope may be broadly correct, given his understanding of the term “fundamentalism,” that there are both Christian and Muslim “fundamentalists,” all that does is open the question of why Muslim “fundamentalists” murder people and Christian fundamentalists do not. Could it have something to do with the teachings of the New Testament and the Qur’an? Why, yes.
The pope then asserts that “radical Islam is a perversion because it is a religion that talks about peace.” So ol’ Frank would no doubt consider this statement to be a perversion of Islam because it exhorts Muslims to keep fighting rather than seek peace: “So do not falter and cry out for peace when you have the upper hand, and Allah is with you, and he will not deprive you of your actions.” That exhortation, however, is from the Qur’an (47:35), as is this: “And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah” (8:39).
Fighting to end persecution would be defensive warfare alone. But to fight until “religion is all for Allah” is an open-ended declaration of war upon non-Muslims. And yes, Islam “talks about peace,” but only in the context of the entire non-Muslim world submitting to Islam after this warfare.
These delusions have been comforting to many, as they have made the challenge of jihad seem less formidable and difficult to counter than it is. But that doesn’t make them any less delusions. Only by embracing reality, as unwelcome as it is, will we make any headway in resisting jihad at all. The pope is speaking falsehoods. They must be rejected.