Pope Francis’ most recent comments attempting to separate Islamic religious beliefs from Islamic violence are deeply misleading. They are not just slightly or partially incorrect, but dangerously wrong. They stand in direct contradiction to the Church and her saints’ long history of experience and understanding of the Islamic world.
In the context of yet another airplane interview — this time returning from World Youth Day in Poland, Francis was asked to discuss the threat posed by Islamic violence — now occurring with alarming frequency throughout the world — against the backdrop of the murder of French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel at the hands of jihadis as he offered Mass. I have included the full text of the pope’s comments below in block quotes, broken into sections to allow for my commentary:
I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy… this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics!
This answer is a complete diversion. Of course there are violent people in any religion, race, or culture. This fact is an undeniable result of our fallen nature on account of original sin. So yes, there are violent people everywhere.
But what makes Islamic violence unique are its origins and purpose. Where it comes from, to whom it is directed, and how it is justified cannot merely be ignored or dismissed. In an Islamic context, the use of violence against another is rooted in the Islamic understanding of the person. Per Islamic theology, man is a mere creation, made not in the image of God, but as a mere animal. His humanity is believed to be an extrinsic quality that is bestowed upon him with his creation, but is not a permanent part of him. Rather, it is the Islamic belief that to be a human is to be a Muslim in good standing.
As far as non-Muslims are concerned, Islam regards them as men and women who by their own will have mutilated themselves by rejecting Islam. It is therefore permitted to kill these unbelievers on account of their non-belief. In the case of children, the teaching of Islam is that since they did not have a “choice” in their “apostasy,” they may legitimately be taken from their families and forcibly converted to Islam.
When it comes to the Muslim treatment of other Muslims, it is believed that a Muslim who either does not practice Islam or who practices a heterodox form of Islam makes himself an apostate and can be treated the same as a non-Muslim. While violence is not mandated in Islam, it is wholly permitted and no moral penalty is attached to the use of it. It is a permissible individual choice, and one Muslim cannot, in a moral sense, tell another Muslim not to use violence against a non-Muslim if he so wishes.
The perfect model for Islamic behavior and life is none other than Muhammad himself. Christians say “What would Jesus do,” and Muslims say “What would Muhammad do.” Muhammad is even called “al-insan al-kamil,” meaning “the perfect man” because all his actions are regarded as a perfect model for human behavior. The question when evaluating the morality of Islamic action according to their own internal system of belief therefore becomes, what did Muhammad do? By all of the orthodox Islamic accounts, Muhammad was a mass-murderer, a pedophile, a necrophile, a serial rapist, a man who claimed he was possessed by demons, a highway robber, a liar, a deceiver, and a tyrant who placed his concept of divine beatitude at the service of his own acquisition of power, money, and sex in this life with the promise that these same ill-gotten pleasures would endure perpetually in the afterlife. As St. Alphonsus Liguori said, “the Mahometan paradise is fit only for beasts, for only filthy sensual pleasure is there.”
Pope Francis’ statement is simply false. In the Islamic system of belief, violence is given a divine blessing in a way that no other religion does.
If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence . . . and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent.
Catholic violence? Which Catholic violence is that, exactly? I have never seen a Catholic blow up a bus of Muslim school children while screaming “JESUS IS LORD,” or use dull blades to behead countless Muslims in internet videos — all while praising the saints — or any number more of the gruesome things that are a daily suffering for Christians and others living in Muslim lands. To the contrary, in my many years of studying Islam, I have seen Muslims do these things regularly, and with impunity.
To even suggest that an equivalency exists between Islamic brutality and some imaginary “Catholic violence” is a blasphemy against the true God and an insult to those persons who suffer under the very real oppression of Islamic tyranny.
It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything. There are violent persons of this religion… this is true: I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them. When fundamentalism comes to kill, it can kill with the language — the Apostle James says this, not me — and even with a knife, no?
Again, Francis uses “fundamentalism” as a pejorative, as he has so often done before. But this is not an accurate usage of the term.
The word “fundamentalism” finds its origin in a Protestant series of books published in the early 20th century. These books set out to articulate the “fundamentals” of Protestant belief. As such, “fundamentalism” in a modern sense means a belief in the fundamentals of faith — not a bad thing in relation to a faith worth believing in. As mentioned earlier, however, for a Muslim, “fundamentalism” means the denial of the humanity of non-Muslims and the supremacy of Islam — all of which leads to heinous violence, cultural incompatibility, and more. The fundamentals of Islam are thus not favorably disposed toward a peaceful world, or toward the co-existence of Muslims and non-Muslims.
In a Catholic sense, “fundamentalism” could simply be another term for “orthodoxy.” Catholic “fundamentalism” is admittedly in short supply today, but is necessary. Catholic “fundamentalism” — following the fundamentals of the Faith — is a path to holiness. All of the saints, blesseds, and holy men and women of the Church were fundamentalists; they practiced the very essence of what the Catholic Faith teaches. The more “fundamentalist” a Catholic becomes, the more they grow in faith, hope, and charity.
A Catholic fundamentalist will probably offer a daily Mass and rosary for you.
A Muslim fundamentalist would attack and behead you.
These two types of fundamentalism could not be more different. To treat them as the same thing is a diabolical deception.
I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence. This is not right or true. I had a long conversation with the imam, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, and I know how they think . . .
It is ironic then, that this is the same imam who said that apostates from Islam must be executed. This is not unique or surprising, despite Francis’ ignorance of it. Such thinking is Islamic doctrine, and has been for 14 centuries.
If Pope Francis really knew about Islam, he would be aware of taqiyya, which is the doctrine that allows Muslims to lie to non-Muslims for the advancement of Islam. In severe cases, there is even the doctrine of muruna, a sub-branch of taqiyya that permits for the open violation of Islamic law in order to advance Islam among non-Muslims.
This is one of the principal reasons why Muslims cannot be trusted. Their religion allows them to lie to others for their own gain, and it is not considered sinful.
They seek peace, encounter . . . The nuncio to an African country told me that the capital where he is there is a trail of people, always full, at the Jubilee Holy Door. And some approach the confessionals — Catholics — others to the benches to pray, but the majority go forward, to pray at the altar of Our Lady… these are Muslims, who want to make the Jubilee. They are brothers, they live… When I was in Central Africa, I went to them, and even the imam came up on the Popemobile…
Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa are very different from those in the rest of the Muslim world. African Muslims have proven themselves to be the most open to becoming Christians, and right now the biggest missionary expansion into Muslim territory is taking place in this area. So yes, it is no surprise that many Muslims are approaching the Faith, and this is certainly to the good. However, in the larger world there has been increased violence perpetrated by Muslims upon the citizens of the (post-Christian, but still identifiable with Christianity) west, because Islam sanctions this.
I also write for Shoebat.com, the website of Walid Shoebat, self-described as a former “radicalized Muslim willing to die for the cause of Jihad” until he converted to Christianity, and now works to expose the harsh realities of Islam. Practically every day, we are reporting on some heinous act of Muslim violence in regions dominated by Muslims. For the unquestioning majority of cases, they are (a) Muslims attacking Christians because (b) they are “infidels” and (c) they are wholly unprovoked.
We can coexist well… But there are fundamentalist groups, and even I ask… there is a question… How many young people, how many young people of our Europe, whom we have left empty of ideals, who do not have work… they take drugs, alcohol, or go there to enlist in fundamentalist groups.
Muslims do not co-exist well with others. There are periods of peace in which Christians and Muslims get along well, but they never last, because Islam is a religion which seeks, as a matter of its own ideology, complete domination over all non-Muslims. To conflate the patience of many Muslims in achieving Islamic aims with peace and harmony is a mistake. With Islam, it is only a matter of time — and of achieving a demographic majority — before the mask comes off and the true goals of Islamic dominion are asserted.
The idea that the Islamic religion is ancillary to violence perpetrated by Muslims could not be further from the truth. It is the Muslims from good homes with a strong religious upbringing who are the most likely to become terrorists. This has been shown to be so repeatedly, because the violence of Islam is a natural fruit of its anti-human dogma, and as such, a person who has been well-formed in Islamic teaching will be more likely to become radicalized. On the other hand, a Muslim who has been poorly formed or is not particularly devout in their religious practice is far more likely to be secular, “moderate,” or apostatize completely.
The claims that economic disadvantages, unemployment, or lack of education are the catalysts for Islamic violence have been repeatedly shown to be wrong. It is a more attentive study of the Islamic faith, or some event that moves a Muslim to a more devout practice of that faith, that most often leads to radicalization.
One can say that the so-called ISIS, but it is an Islamic State which presents itself as violent . . . because when they show us their identity cards, they show us how on the Libyan coast how they slit the Egyptians’ throats or other things… But this is a fundamentalist group which is called ISIS… but you cannot say, I do not believe, that it is true or right that Islam is terrorist.
It would be nice to identify those “Egyptians” as “Christians,” because that is the reason why ISIS beheaded them.
Yes, ISIS is a fundamentalist group. They are faithful Muslims doing what Muhammad did. If you don’t believe me, read the first biography of Muhammad ever written — The Life of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq. You will find little difference between Muhammad’s actions and those of ISIS. Or read the critique that the Islamic State has just published in response to Pope Francis’ attempts to frame Islam as a religion of peace. It is a complete rejection of his claims, and it quotes Islamic teaching to bolster its case.
Yes, it’s true that not all (or even most) Muslims are terrorists. However, terrorism is an inherent part of Islam. Terrorism is a means by which to compel men to join Islam.
Izoard: Your concrete initiatives to counteract terrorism, violence?
Pope Francis: Terrorism is everywhere. You think of the tribal terrorism of some African countries. It is terrorism and also . . . But I don’t know if I say it because it is a little dangerous… Terrorism grows when there are no other options, and when the center of the global economy is the god of money and not the person — men and women — this is already the first terrorism! You have cast out the wonder of creation — man and woman — and you have put money in its place. This is a basic terrorism against all of humanity! Think about it!
I have thought about it for 18 years actually. I began my intensive study of Islam in 1998. I have spent more than half of my life in this field, so I can say I know a few things about it.
Islamic terrorism is not about money. Or education. Or politics. Those are, at best, influencing factors. They are not the root cause.
The root cause is Islamic theology. The same theology that denies the intrinsic nature of man and instead places eternal beatitude in pursuing the path of a 7th century Arabian madman who is regarded as the perfect model for humanity when he was one of the most inhumane men who ever lived.
The problem is Islam and the Muslims, since it is through the Muslims that Islam’s power is able to be made manifest on the earth.
We can love people all we want and be good to them, but it does not mean they will be good to us. In the case of Islam, Muslims regard Christian charity and mercy as weakness, and they exploit it to advance themselves and Islam at our expense.
Mercy, something which Pope Francis talks about a lot, is but one part of love, which is the nature of God (1 John 4:8). The other part is justice. While justice without mercy is legalism, mercy without justice is license. Both are sins.
Jesus said to St. Faustina that “he who refuses to pass through the door of my mercy must pass through the door of my justice.”
The Catholic Church’s hierarchy in modern times has been merciful to Muslims to the point of licentiousness. For the honor of God and the dignity of the Faith, with regard to what Islam and Muslims have done, a strong dose of justice is necessary and long overdue. That begins with allowing ourselves to understand the truth of what we face, not covering it over with wishful thinking.
Originally published on August 3rd, 2016.
Andrew Bieszad has an MA in Islamic Studies from Hartford Seminary with concentration in the Islamic equivalent of Dogmatic Theology. He is the author of Lions of the Faith: Saints, Blesseds, and Heroes of the Catholic Faith in the Struggle with Islam and 20 Answers: Islam. He is a sought after writer and speaker on Islamic topics.