Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
The Church should not defend Islam “at all costs” and seek to “exonerate it from the horrors committed every day in its name” or else “one ends up betraying the truth,” a leading Jesuit scholar of Islam has asserted.
Greek Melkite Jesuit Father Henri Boulad believes that when it comes to dealing with Islam, the Catholic Church has succumbed to a “liberal left ideology which is destroying the West” based on the pretext of “openness, tolerance and Christian charity.”
In a June 10 interview with the Register, Father Boulad reveals that he shared these sentiments with Pope Francis in a letter he wrote to him last August, telling him that many think the Pope’s own views on Islam are “aligned with this ideology, and that, from complacency, you go from concessions to concessions, and compromises in compromises, at the expense of the truth.”
“Christians,” he wrote, “are expecting something from you other than vague and harmless declarations that may obscure reality.”
Some said the Pope took a diplomatic yet slightly firmer line on Islam when he gave an address to Al Azhar university in Cairo at the end of April.
Father Boulad, 85, an Egyptian and a relative of the Jesuit scholar of Islam, Father Samir Khalil Samir, also discusses in this interview why he believes Islamists are merely carrying out what their religion teaches, whether Islam is capable of reform, and how, despite its problems, the religion can help the Church in acting as a bulwark against secularist ideology.
Father Boulad, what evidence is there to show that Islam is inherently violent?
Here are clear statements of the Koran itself :
"Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them." Koran 2:191
"Make war on the infidels living in your neighbourhood." Koran 9:123
"When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you catch them." Koran 9:5
"Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable." Koran 3:85
"The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them."... Koran 9:30
"Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam" Koran 5:33
"Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies." Koran 22:19
"The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them." Koran 8:65
"Muslims must not take the infidels as friends." Koran 3:28
"Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Qur'an." Koran 8:12
"Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorize the infidels." Koran 8:60
Added to these are a few samples of Muhammad’s teachings and life. Here are some quotations taken from Muslim sources:
- "I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" - (Muslim 1:33)
- "Fight everyone in the way of Allah and kill those who disbelieve in Allah." (Ibn Ishaq 992). Muhammad’s life was a succession of warfare, plundering and killings… and every Muslim is invited to imitate this supreme “model”.
- Muhammad owned and traded slaves - (Sahih Muslim 3901), and ordered his followers to stone women for adultery. - (Muslim 4206)
- He himself beheaded 800 Jewish men and boys, (Abu Dawud 4390) ordered the murder of women (Ibn Ishaq 819, 995) and killed those who insulted him. - (Bukhari 56:369, 4:241)
- According to him, Jihad in the way of Allah elevates one's position in Paradise by a hundred fold. - (Muslim 4645)
- In his last ten years, he ordered 65 military campaigns and raids. - (Ibn Ishaq) and killed captives taken in battle. - (Ibn Ishaq 451)
- He encouraged his men to rape enslaved women, (Abu Dawood 2150, Quran 4:24), he put apostates to death, plundered and lived off the wealth of others, captured and enslaved non-Muslim people.
- After Mohammed’s death, his followers attacked and conquered the populations of 28 countries and declared holy war on the people of five major world religions.
Examples from Islamic history:
- In the first 240 years, 11 of the first 32 caliphs were murdered by fellow Muslims.
- Muslim clerics have always engaged in or condoned terrorism all along history and up till now.
- We witness daily religious violence against Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians. The converts to Christianity are beheaded.
- The victims of slave traffic done by the Arabs during almost ten centuries amount to tens of millions of people.
- Each year, thousands of Christian homes and churches are torched or bombed by Muslim mobs, and hundreds of Christians, priests, pastors, nuns and other church workers are murdered at the hands of Islamic extremists. The so-called justification varies, from charges of apostasy or evangelism, to purported "blasphemy" or " insulting" Islam. Innocent people have even been hacked to death by devout Muslims over cartoons. Islam is an open-ended declaration of war against non-Muslims.
Are the extremists simply being faithful to an authentic Islam in your view?
Clearly YES. Extremists are just applying what their religion teaches them to do.
Should the Pope and the Vatican shed what some view as political correctness and address Islam for what scholars and others believe it really is?
Of course. To illustrate my view, I quote here some excerpts of my personal letter to Pope Francis addressed to him last August:
“It seems to me that — on the pretext of openness, tolerance and Christian charity — the Catholic Church has fallen into the trap of the liberal left ideology which is destroying the West. Anything that does not espouse this ideology is immediately stigmatized in the name of "political correctness". Many think that a certain number of your positions are aligned with this ideology and that, from complacency, you go from concessions to concessions and compromises in compromises at the expense of the truth.”
“The West is in an ethical and moral debacle, both religious and spiritual. And it is not by relativizing the painful reality that these societies will be helped to emerge from their disarray. By defending at all costs Islam and seeking to exonerate it from the horrors committed every day in its name, one ends up betraying the truth.”
“Jesus said to us, 'the Truth will set you free.' It is because he refused any compromise on this point that he knew the fate which was his. Following him, countless Christians preferred martyrdom to compromise, as is the case in Egypt and elsewhere to this day.”
“In the extreme fragility of Christians — both in the West and in the East — they are expecting something from you other than vague and harmless declarations that may obscure reality. Your predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had the courage to take a clear and unambiguous position. His attitude has raised a lot of shields and earned him many enemies. But is not a frank confrontation healthier than a dialogue based on compromise? When the Jewish hierarchs asked the apostles to stop announcing the Gospel, they replied: "As for us, we cannot not proclaim what we have seen and heard ..." (Acts 4:20).
“It is high time to emerge from a shameful and embarrassed silence in the face of this Islamism that attacks the West and the rest of the world. A systematically conciliatory attitude is interpreted by the majority of Muslims as a sign of fear and weakness. If Jesus said to us: Blessed are the peacemakers, he did not say to us: Blessed are the pacifists. Peace is peace at any cost, at any price. Such an attitude is a pure and simple betrayal of truth.”
How much is violence more of an Arabic problem, given the significantly fewer violent attacks in, for example, Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation?
One can say that ‘Arabs’ are naturally violent. But the same could be said of the Barbarians who conquered Europe in the past. These invaders have been progressively ‘civilized’ by the Christian faith to become what they are now. In my opinion, the religious element plays an essential role in shaping a society. The fact that Christian ‘Arabs’ are different than Muslim Arabs is a proof of the strong connection between religion and society.
Are there genuine and workable possibilities for reform of Islam and can dialogue ever be effective?
All attempts to reform Islam by liberal open-minded Muslims have tragically failed so far and I doubt that a ‘reformed Islam’ will still remain ‘Islam’. Here are six unsuccessful attempts to reform Islam in the last two centuries:
1. Reformism in the 19th century: Afghani, Mohamed Abdo, Rashid Reda
2. The Renaissance — or Nahda — in late 19th-early 20th century: Yasji, Girgi Zeidan, Taha Hussein, Salama Moussa, Tewfik el-Hakim…
3. Kemalism and the secularization of the Turkish state — Kemal Atatürk — 1923
4. The Baath and its Pan-Arabism ideology: Michel Aflaq, Bitar, George Habash and the PLO
5. Egyptian nationalism and the neutrality of the state (principle of secularism) – 1919 : Saad Zaghloul: "Religion is God’s affair and the State everybody’s. "
6. Reversal of the decree on the abrogating and abrogated. At the instigation of El-Azhar institution, Mahmoud Mohamed Taha was hanged in Khartoum on 18.1.1985 for wanting to give the pre-eminence to the Mekkan verses over the Medina ones inciting to war, hated and intolerance.
The Church has often allied with Islamic countries in the past in defense of life issues. Islamic countries can also act as a filter against secularist ideas, preventing such trends as gender ideology from entering their society. How can Islam’s strengths in these areas be best promoted despite its associations with violence?
On such ethical issues, and others, the Church should ally with Muslims to fight against whatever demeans and degrades the human being. This is fertile ground for understanding between the two religions. It can also pave the way for us to denounce anything which is morally unacceptable in Islamic teaching.