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The Dialogue Delusion

I’ll never forget my first day of graduate school. It was in the fall of 2007, and I had beeen accepted to Hartford Seminary’s Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations program. It was familiar territory for me, as I had attended Hartford Seminary for the past two years as an undergraduate to study the Arabic language for my degree in Religious Studies. I knew many of the professors, if not personally, at least by name and face.

My experiences, which I wrote about in an article published via the National Association of Scholars Journal, include the following event from my first class, “Dialogue in a World of Difference”:

I had done interfaith dialogue before, so this was not a new experience for me. We were separated into groups for the dialogue, and when I was permitted to speak, I said, “I am Catholic, and I do not believe in Islam.” Following me, one of the Muslim students spoke. She said that she was Muslim, and then she addressed me directly. In a soft, Arabic accented voice, she told me, “You are an infidel because you do not accept Islam. According to Islam, you do not deserve to live.” A second Muslim student heartily agreed, and after repeating the first student’s comments she added, “In Islam, the Koran and the tradition of the prophet are very clear about this. You deserve to die.”

There is nothing quite like receiving a death threat on your first day of class, especially when the rest of the group acts as though it never happened.  It was the first of several similar experiences I was to have at Hartford Seminary.

I retell this story because it reminds me of something that Pope Francis recently published:

 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 (my emphasis added).

I’ve been studying Islam since 1998, after I took an interest in it while reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Since then I’ve earned a master’s degree in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, published the first ever hagiographic work on Catholic saints and Islam Lions of the Faith: Saints, Blesseds, and Heroes of the Catholic Faith in the Struggle with Islam, and have been involved in numerous works involving Islam and Muslims.

Sobieski at Vienna by Juliusz Kossak
Sobieski at Vienna by Juliusz Kossak

I have a lot to say about Islam because there’s a lot that needs to be said that is NOT being said, and the Catholic faithful are suffering because of it. But I’ll begin with a simple proposition, one I will develop in future posts: The current, post-Vatican II view on Islam and Catholic-Muslim relations is in direct opposition to all related Catholic teaching that came before it.

“Dialogue” is not a solution to the problems of sin and salvation. That’s why Christ lived and died, established the Church on Peter, instituted the sacraments, and so on. This is understood intellectually by many Catholics involved in “dialogue,”  but it is almost never realized in practice. The fact is, most “interreligious dialogue,” especially with Muslims, is a poor excuse for the inability or failure of those Catholics to evangelize. They choose to seek acknowledgement, approval, and even friendship from others instead of addressing the important issues of death, judgment, Hell, and Heaven with them.

There is no easy way to address any of these issues because Catholicism and Islam are dogmatically irreconcilable. One must accept one and reject the other or vice versa. There is no “common ground” with Islam except in mere superficialities, and even those “similarities” are often rooted in directly opposing dogmas. It’s like two people agreeing that doughnuts are bad because one doesn’t like the way doughnuts taste, while the other thinks doughnuts are an unhealthy, nutrient-void substitute for real food.

But the greater issue, I believe, is the unspoken statement by the two Muslim women who called me an infidel: Dialogue cannot exist with non-Muslims because they are infidels.

 Muslim apologists and their supporters love to quote Koran 2:256 with the following translation in support of “interfaith dialogue”:

لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَدْ تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ  فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. (Yusuf Ali Translation)

It should be noted that in the phrase “Truth stands out clear from error” (تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ), the word used for “truth” (الرُّشْدُ) also means “reason,” and it implies “right guidance,” as in Harun Ar-Rashid (Harun the Rightly-Guided, a 9th century ‘Abbasid Caliph). Likewise, the word for “falsehood” ( الْغَيِّ) means “something which has been cancelled.”


Yes, because Islam teaches that all previous “revelations” — meaning Judaism,  Christianity, and other religions — have been eternally “cancelled” and replaced by the preaching of “Al-Islam” that Allah channeled to Mohammed through the “Angel Gabriel.”

But it gets better. The next phrase, “whoever rejects evil” (فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ), literally translates as “whoever becomes an infidel to idolatry.” The word for idolatry (الطَّاغُوتِ) literally means “rebellion,” but is always understood in Islamic theology to mean idolatry. This is because according to Islam, Christians are idolaters who worship three gods:

وَقَالُوا كُونُوا هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَىٰ تَهْتَدُوا ۗ قُلْ بَلْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا ۖ وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

They say: “Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (to salvation).” Say thou: “Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.” (Quran 2:135- Yusuf Ali Translation)

يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِنْهُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ ۚ انْتَهُوا خَيْرًا لَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا اللَّهُ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ ۘ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا 

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity” : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. (Quran 4:171- Yusuf Ali Translation)

لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلَاثَةٍ ۘ وَمَا مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ إِلَّا إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۚ وَإِنْ لَمْ يَنْتَهُوا عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ 

They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. (Quran 5:73, Yusuf Ali Translation)

These are but a few examples. All of this can be found in not just the Koran but in Islamic sacred tradition, and it’s supported by 14 centuries of Islamic textual exegesis, theology, and history.

This is a very small point, considering the large number of issues within Islamic theology. It illustrates briefly the central problem with Catholic-Muslim dialogue, however, which is this: Any “interfaith dialogue” is absolutely pre-conditioned upon one person wanting to seek an accurate understanding of the other.  Islamic theology dogmatically defines as divinely revealed truth Christian dogma according to its — Islam’s — own understanding. Catholic-Muslim dialogue consistently fails not because of a lack of willingness on the part of the participants — especially in our own Church — but because for any Muslim faithful to orthodox Islamic theological teaching, to dialogue with Christians would be an act of heresy.

As far as Islam is concerned, there is no such thing as “dialogue.” There are only three things: (1) Islam or falsehood; (2) belief in or rejection of Islam; and (3) the subsequent consequences for acceptance or rejection.

This is the reality that the modern Church has, sadly, for the most part refused to acknowledge. It is important to love Muslims and seek to build relationships with them, but these are only means to the greater end, which is communicating the Catholic Faith to them for the sake of their own salvation, as Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no-one comes to the father except through (Him).” (John 14:6)

Originally published on August 1, 2014.

42 thoughts on “The Dialogue Delusion”

  1. Bitwa pod Wiedniem! Who would think that the Turks didn’t really need to conquer Europe by force but just wait some 300 years.

    Thanks for the excellent article. Kossak did made me stop by. 🙂

  2. Ibn Warraq on the Catholic Church’e effete ecumenism:

    Nearly ten years ago, I was the guest of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) of Rome. PISAI is dedicated to interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims. But as the director at the time said to me, “There is no real dialogue, since Muslims never reciprocate the goodwill gestures made by the Christians. The result is we sit down together, and the Christians say what a wonderful religion Islam is, and the Muslims say what a wonderful religion Islam is.”

    Mahomet, as aptly described by Serge Trifkovic, was part David Koresh, part John Gotti, and the reality the Catholic Church has applied the universal solvent of ecumenism to every single thing in the church increases the chances some adept of Mahomet will blow-up your church or your family if you take then to a sporting event.

    The willful blindness about the well-documented history of our ancient and continuing enemy (which history Nostra Aetate tells us to FORGET) along with such things as Pope Benedict XVI facing Mecca and praying with an Imam inside the Blue Mosque makes me wonder if our Hierarchy is capable of making any distinctions anymore or have they collectively pitched their tent in the desert of Indifference?

    Well, include me out. Mahometans do not worship the same God I do; their false religion is a religion of idiocy when it is not merely menacing and murderous and I am sick to death of the death wish our Hierarchy has.

    Between their succoring of sodomites and their embrace of those who intend us evil, it is a wonder they still have time to continue to destroy the Mass.

    O.and the plain and simple truth is that those who imitate the “perfect man,” Mahomet, are the terrorists because it is they who actualise the commands of Allah as recorded in the Koran

  3. Great article. First, I think it’s ironic and very frustrating that women living within the protection of a Western world will adhere to a religion that, when given its way, does not give them the freedom to walk out in public unescorted by a man or even dress in colorful clothing, let alone receive an education. Do they not see how awful their lives would be as women if their Muslims could do away with all “infidels”? And if they see this, and in some twisted act of “faith” believe that is how it should be for women, why are they pursuing education? It seems hypocritical to me. As a woman myself, I find this very hard to understand.

    More importantly, though, what is the answer to the problem? How should Christians go about evangelizing Muslims? If there can be no conversation, and I can see how the notion of “dialogue” is somewhat naive and silly if the other side believes you should be dead by virtue of your faith, but then what is left? Simply praying and fasting? I don’t mean that in a derogatory way as though prayer isn’t enough because of course it can be; it’s an honest question. What should be our approach with Muslims, particularly in the Western world?

    • Personally, I like the St. Francis style:
      Do it not only regardless of threats on one’s life, but because of them.

      Catholics have gotten way too peachy-keen on giving up on people who say we should be killed. Furthermore, the simplest way to start would be to simply share with each other what we know of each other’s religious beliefs, regardless of whether or not that means exchanging information on the proper punishment for infidels. After that, you can establish whether or not the person will listen to reason. From there, you can choose to reason with them, or withdraw and pray for them.

    • How should Christians go about evangelizing Muslims?

      There are numerous apostolates focusing on witnessing to Muslims, perhaps most notably that of the Coptic priest Zakaria Botros, though embarrassingly few are Roman Catholic.

  4. Ask any Chaldean what the Muslims are saying and not saying.
    Ask them about taqiyya. You’re lucky you got the truth Mr. Bieszad.

    • Taqiyyq is by and large a Shi’a doctrine, one that Sunnis (the predominant branch of Islam) reject. (Which is not to say that Sunni intolerance towards Chaldeans is any better than that of the Shi’a.)

      • Tell that to ISIS in Iraq, who’s ranks are swelling, they are Sunni, but don’t appear to have received that memo.

        • If you have have evidence that ISIS, or other Sunni groups, are advocating taqiyya (as opposed to just lying, which is not quite the same thing), by all means cite it. That would be news. If you do not, then I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

  5. When I was in college, had anyone told me I deserved to die, I’d have responded immediately with the foulest denunciation I could and cite my innate human right to self defense using all necessary force to exterminate all who would seek my death. I would have refused to shut up until I was bodily thrown from the class. Then I would have made sure that the entire campus knew of the death threat against me.

    That is the ONLY way to respond to such threats. Take them head on and literally.

  6. We should work hard to convert Muslims. When they invite your church youth group to visit their mosque tell them you will once their youth have visited your church. Ask them hard questions like “why are Muslims so quiet when Christians are being persecuted?’

    • But if they try to convert our youth and our youth are encouraged to visit non-Christian ?services? will the youth be knowledgeable enough to not be converted? Taking them to pray as Muslims is a form of tacit approval of Islam. Why risk the already Catholic youth for a chance at new Catholics? Are you that sure you’ll convert one without a loss? There should be another way to get new Catholics besides swapping youth.

  7. I’ve always understood “there is not compulsion in religion” to mean that it was not all right to force someone to be Muslim (because they could simply lie and say they were Muslim to comply), instead, people were supposed to freely choose to follow Islam — but if they didn’t choose to be Muslims, they were then infidels and more or less enemies. Is that correct?

    • “There is not compulsion in religion”

      I take that to mean something like, “You are free to not be a Muslim and my killing you for not being a Muslim has nothing to do with that.”

      • As a false religion, it can contradict itself as many times as it wants. God made the bible infallible, not Muhammad’s Koran.

  8. Completely true for fundamentalist six pillar Islam. But what about for the other infidels- the five pillar modernists who ALSO claim the name Islam, but do not exclude previous revelations from their studies? What about Universal Sufism? The Druze? The Akbari? The Kharwaji?

    Are they not at least our brothers in martyrdom?

    Perhaps you were just choosing the wrong sects to dialogue with.

  9. Francis isn’t the first one to promote such a policy. JPII did exactly the same thing. He didn’t speak out against Islam’s violent aspects, let alone its persecution of Christians. He didn’t condemn the Palestinian Authority — which produces broadcasts on state television teaching children about “martyrdom” — as a “culture of death.” He not only opposed the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq but also the 1990-91 Gulf War to extricate Iraq from Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein had invaded and attempted to annex. Remember that the Gulf War was a United Nations effort, and the Vatican usually defers to the UN in matters of foreign policy. Had the world listened to JPII, Iraq would have annexed Iraq — just as Nazi Germany annexed Austria and the Czech Sudetenland — thereby motivating him to attack Saudi Arabia, which would have resulted in a larger war with far more casualties.

    Also, let’s not forget that Francis’ attitude is emblematic of Catholicism today, The Catholic Church doesn’t give a rip about stopping the perpetrators of evil or aiding the victims of evil — unless those victims serve to promote the Church’s political agenda.

  10. Dialogue with Islam can be bad for Catholics. As the bible says in Joshua 23:11-13 “As for you, take great care to love the LORD, your God. For if you ever turn away from him and join with the remnant of these nations that survive among you, by intermarrying and intermingling with them, know for certain that the LORD, your God, will no longer dispossess these nations at your approach. Instead they will be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge for your sides and thorns for your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the LORD, your God, has given you.” -NABRE

    • …..Or the NRSVCE:

      “Joshua 23:12-13New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

      12 For if you turn back, and join the survivors of these nations left here among you, and intermarry with them, so that you marry their women and they yours, 13 know assuredly that the Lord your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land that the Lord your God has given you.”

  11. My niece is a Sunni Muslim, by her choice. She insists that “God” in her faith tradition is the same as in Christian faith traditions. Many Catholic, Christian and Agnostic family members agreed with her, accusing me of being divisive when I posted that Allah, for the violent Sunni extremists, is NOT the same as our God; why else would they be killing Shiites, Baathists and other Sunnis with the Christians, Jews and Yazidi? I have re-posted this article to FB. Pray for me.

      • I know that she does not believe in the Triune God, but that her sister, who has embraced the Coptic faith, does. The two share an apartment but that’s all I know about their faith practices. Good questions!

  12. When my Catholic and Christian friends tell me I am intolerant for not believing that God came to Mohammed through the angel Gabriel and delivered the ‘final’ word, I ask them this question:

    So one morning, six centuries after sending his Son to die on the cross for man, God says ” I screwed up. I don’t want men to live in love and harmony with each other. I want only certain men to rule over the infidels and claim dominion over the earth. To heck with the Jews and the followers of my Son, they are fair game to be slaughtered by my new followers.” This is what you believe?

    To accept the premise that Islam is based upon, as a Christian, you have to accept the statement above. Christians who preach tolerance of Islam have never read the Qur’an, the Hadiths, or studied how the history of Islam, starting with Mohammed, is a history of violence and subjugation designed as a war doctrine with the ultimate goal of global domination.

    If there is to be a dialogue, let it be between the tribes of Islam as they slaughter and oppress each other. When millions more Muslims die at the alter of Islam, Muslims may finally reach a point where they decide to put aside the indoctrination they live by and begin to reform their ‘religion’.

    Until that reform takes place, there is no room for dialogue.

  13. ““Dialogue” is not a solution to the problems of sin and salvation.
    That’s why Christ lived and died, established the Church on Peter,
    instituted the sacraments, and so on. This is understood intellectually
    by many Catholics involved in “dialogue,” but it is almost never
    realized in practice. The fact is, most ‘nterreligious dialogue,’
    especially with Muslims, is a poor excuse for the inability or failure
    of those Catholics to evangelize. They choose to seek acknowledgement,
    approval, and even friendship from others instead of addressing the
    important issues of death, judgment, Hell, and Heaven with them.”

    Interesting article, but I wonder if the author could just as easily written this article about Jews rather than Muslims. (With the exception that it isn’t Jewish Doctrine to go around smiting Catholics at their necks.)

  14. Can someone please send this to every member of the Vatican’s “pontifical council for inter-religious dialogue”?

  15. There is a very clear self-reinforcing pattern evident in Western European society with respect to the migrations from Muslim countries. In a few years a number of European countries will be run by right-leaning (and probably anti-catholic) governments which will try and undo all of this, leading to major social chaos in places like Paris, London, Brussels, etc: 5 Reasons Why Western Europe Will Lose the Battle Against Islamic Extremism


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