I watched Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan because John Krasinski (Jim Halpert of The Office) plays the former Marine CIA analyst. After The Quiet Place Krasinski earned his place among those whose films will be watched in this house regardless of the quality, like Maggie Smith or Chris Pratt. (I actually liked The Passengers — there, I said it.)
What was surprising for me in this series is how accurately it portrayed the diversity of those who live under Islam. When I give talks about my conversion, I talk about Allah, Muhammad and the Quran. I talk about an ideology that many do not ever question. I do not talk about the people who were born into a religion that is built around fear and blind obedience.
Many Christians have taken offense at my description of Islam, since the criticism of the religion was perceived as the criticism of its followers. This accusation would be akin to claiming that everyone who criticized slavery hated the slaves. On the contrary, we all need to be more honest about Islam so that we can fulfill the Great Commission.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan provides an array of Muslims at different stage of life and different levels of belief, despite the series’ occasional foray into political correctness. (Note also that the show is rated TV-MA.)
Three characters are worth mentioning regarding Islam: James Greer, the bad Muslim; Hanin, the mistreated wife of the villain; and Mousa Suleiman, the jihadist mastermind. I tried to avoid spoilers, but there is revealing information below about the plot.
Greer is Ryan’s boss who occasionally breaks out a tasbih that his imam gave him during one of the first episodes. I haven’t read Clancy’s novels, but my husband says the character, who is Muslim in the show, is not Muslim in the books. At first, I rolled my eyes at the attempt to appease by making a high-ranking CIA official Muslim. But, then I realized why the character of Greer works: he is a really bad Muslim. He is clearly having some marital problems. If an imam didn’t show up to give him advice and a French cop didn’t talk about Muslims while in a car with Greer, we wouldn’t have guessed he is Muslim. Just like the majority of the Christians in the West, the majority of Muslims go about their life trying to make it through the day, not thinking about the afterlife.
Consider how much the average Westerner knows about the Bible, the Apostles, the teachings of Christ and Church history. The average Muslim knows to fast during Ramadan, pray five times a day and refrain from drinking alcohol. He was taught from an early age not ever to doubt Allah or question his prophet Muhammed. So, he never does. There is hardly ever an occasion to ponder the deep questions of life. Then comes life and all its worries about food, jobs, marriage and houses.
The difference between Greer and Hussein, your average Muslim, is that Greer was raised and lives in the United States where the culture is still somewhat shaped by a Christian past. But the culture of Hussein in Iraq, Indonesia or Turkey is shaped by the teachings of Islam, where human dignity and equality are foreign concepts that belong to the kuffar. Greer is the perfect example of the “Bad Muslim” described in the debate between Peter Kreeft and Robert Spence titled Good Muslim/Bad Muslim:
As Catholics who are charged to spread the Good News of Christ, we need to recognize that most Muslims are like Greer. Some know about Islam more than others. Some practice more than others, but the overwhelming majority of those who were born in Muslim lands are trying to appease the God who wrote his law in their hearts. They are not necessarily trying to kill the infidels, even though the Muslim culture is domineering and the sharia law looks appealing in the face of West’s decent into madness.
Thank God for having been born in a country where you can learn about Christ and his Church freely, and remember that you could have easily been born as the old man in Jack Ryan whose son was killed by mistake. Our duty to people like Greer is clear. If our Muslim neighbor has never heard about Christ or witnessed a true Christian life, it is our fault and one day we will answer the Lord.
Hanin is the beautiful wife of the villain Mousa Suleiman. She is depicted as a devoted mother and a wife who tries to protect her children from the ugliness of the world. We get glimpses of her playing soccer with her kids while armed jihadists stand guard. She scolds her teenage daughter for lingering too long in the presence of her husband’s young associates. We find out that Hanin’s father offered her to Suleiman who fell in love with her instead of using her for the night. As normal as her life looks occasionally, it is clear that she lives at the mercy of men around her. Unfortunately, most Muslim men around her are not like Greer. She is trapped. She did not choose that life.
As she becomes more and more aware of her husband’s dealings, she decides to flee with her kids. Her two daughters join her and but her only son chooses to remain with his father. She struggles to get to Turkey while her husband sends a bloodthirsty rapist after her. Not once, however, does she question Islam or removes her hijab in the presence of strangers. Islam runs deep.
Women are inherently inferior to men in Islam. This is what they hear all their lives. This is what they believe. Women must submit and obey men without question. Hanin is an exception that dares to dream a different life. Most don’t. Their blind obedience solidifies a system where little girls are raised to be inferior and little boys are raised to become controlling, power hungry men.
The culture Islam breeds has no room for equality, a concept that was conjured up by the infidels. Muslim women, just like all other women, need the protection Christ offers. The Church’s teaching on sexuality protects women against sinful men. As long as Islam is the dominant religion in a country, women will get used, abused and sold.
It’s always someone else’s fault. Unless one has a true encounter with one’s sin through the crucifixion of Christ, we all blame someone else. Adam did it. Eve did it. Suleiman does it. After losing most of his family during an air strike, Suleiman immigrates to France where he gets a university degree.
When his job search is not fruitful, he blames it on discrimination. He believes men like him don’t get a fair evaluation because of their names and background. This may be true. Assimilation is hard wherever you go. It is easier in the U.S., but everywhere else national identity trumps many other concerns. No matter how long one lives in Turkey or how well one speaks Turkish, one remains a foreigner forever. This is true in most of the world, as it is in France. But Suleiman gets frustrated with life’s troubles, and the blame rests easily on the French.
Then a couple of French policemen try to arrest Suleiman’s little brother for smoking weed, and Suleiman attacks the cops, landing himself in prison. Even in the United States, prisons are prime mission fields for Islam. The men who find themselves incarcerated already come from compromised backgrounds. They do not belong. Islam offers a home behind bars, giving protection. In addition, Islam is rife with a multitude of benefits for men whose masculinity is already defined with violence. Unlike Christ, Muhammad doesn’t ask for the conversion of one’s heart, repentance and selflessness. Muhammad asks for obedience and promises riches and women in return. In the prison, Suleiman’s anger and frustration find a cozy home where he can blossom into an international terrorist. Now, he has a purpose. Now, he can avenge himself and his people. Now, he is a good Muslim who follows his prophet’s every commandment.
At one point Jack Ryan says the obligatory phrase: “He is not a Muslim, he is a psychopath.” Greer responds: “That’s what he wants you to think.” Greer, the bad Muslim, is right. He is aware that Suleiman is a true Muslim who knows the Quran and the life of Muhammad. Thankfully, he is in the minority. When a Muslim is radicalized, he becomes a Suleiman, a follower of Suleiman, or someone who aids and abets men like Suleiman. When a Catholic is radicalized he becomes Padre Pio or she becomes Mother Teresa.
The truth is that there is a wide spectrum of Muslims between Suleiman and Greer, just like the wide spectrum of Catholics between Padre Pio and Joe Biden. As faithful Catholics, what do we do then?
We learn the truth about Islam, and recognize that the first victims of Islam are the Muslims. Then, we preach the Good News of Christ, instead of repeating the politically correct lies that help no one. We learn how to reach people’s hearts without watering down the truth. We learn to speak with charity and clarity. We live faithful lives that resonate joy, love and hope. This is the case for the 99 percent of the Muslims we might encounter daily.
For the 1 percent of Suleimans that is depicted in Jack Ryan, we must recognize that these men fight for an ideology and a way of life. Islam has always spread by the sword. The true followers of Muhammad will continue to spread it by force. The state has the obligation and the authority to defend its citizens from such threats. Read history and ask the Poles and the Hungarians how non-Muslims fared in the Ottoman Empire.
We must pray. We must fast. We must ask for the intercession of saints and Our Lady. This is first and foremost a spiritual struggle, and Our Lord loves each and every Muslim and desires their salvation. The only true way to free slaves is to fight slavery physically and spiritually, as St. John Chrysostom said: “There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others.”
Born and raised in Muslim Turkey, Derya Little rejected her family’s Islamic faith and became an atheist after her parents’ divorce. During her stormy adolescence, she tried to convince a Christian missionary that there is no God but was converted to Christ instead.
While attending a Turkish university and serving as a Christian youth minister, Derya began to compare the teachings of Protestantism and Catholicism, and during her doctoral studies in England, she entered the Catholic Church.
Little has an MA in History and a PhD in Politics. She has written articles for academic journals, Catholic World Report, Crisis Magazine and other Catholic publications. Her conversion story, From Islam to Christ, is published by Ignatius Press.