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This week on Register Radio: how should a Catholic respond to terror attacks? Dan Burke and Jeanette De Melo discuss Islam, last week's terror attacks in Paris, and how a Catholic should respond. They’re speaking with guest Robert Reilly, author of the book Closing of the Muslim Mind.
Robert Reilly has taught at the National Defense University and served in the Office of The Secretary of Defense. He participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 as Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of information. Mr. Reilly has served in the White House as a Special Assistant to the President, and in the U.S. Information Agency both in DC and abroad. He is author of a number of books on Islam, and his latest is The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis.
“Islam arose in the seventh century during the first half of which, Muhammad thought he was receiving revelations from God directly from the Angel Gabriel,” Reilly said. The revelations informed Muhammad of these things: that Judaism and Christianity were corrupted forms of God’s initial revelation. God, therefore, was going to give Muhammad that revelation one more time.
This revelation differed significantly from both the Old and New Testaments. The way people were to live and the missionary zeal were vastly different. There were two types of evangelization: by word (da’wah) and by sword (jihad).
“As Islam developed its theology, it accepted a concept of God that we call voluntaristic,” Reilly said, “God is pure will and power, he is not reason and justice. He can do anything he wants. He is inaccessible to man. He is incomprehensible to man. He is so omnipotent that he does everything. Man is not so much as potent. In other words, what you do is what Allah is doing. Cause and effect does not exist in the natural world. Everything is done directly by Allah.”
The majority expression is Sunni Islam. Shia Islam, the other expression, was developed after there was a dispute within Islam whether the caliphs (successors of Muhammad) should be selected by tribal leaders or be a direct male descendent of Muhammad.
In addition to this civil war within Islam, there is also a civil war within the Sunni sect about what Islam means and what jihad means. Are they obligated to slaughter unbelievers and force conversion of Christians? One side says yes, according to Reilly, and they’re using attacks on the West to galvanize those they’re trying to attract.
“I’d say the most dangerous thing about Sunni Islam is its rejection of reason,” Reilly said. “Within Christianity, even though there have been similar movements toward voluntarism and occasionalism — the denial of cause and effect in the natural world — they were arrested by that arresting statement at the beginning of the Gospel of Saint John that ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ The Gospel is in Greek and the word is logos, and logos translates as reason. So God introduces himself in the Gospel of Saint John as reason. So any anti-rational movements within Christianity eventually bump up against this revelation.”
Reilly continued, explaining how Islam is different: “In Islam, there isn’t a comparable statement in the Quran. Though it’s not necessarily anti-rational; the Quran is very much like the Old Testament, very unlike the New. But within the theology that God is not reason, that he’s above reason, and that reason is incapable of knowing the difference between good and evil, the only way one can know that is through the revelation in the Quran and the Sunnah.”
“This reduces the role of reason in life to almost nothing,” Reilly explained. “And this is why the Muslim world — the Sunni Muslim world — is so dysfunctional. It has a deformed theology; in other words, the wrong idea of who God is.”
Reilly discussed some of the problems with the hopes for constitutional rule in the Middle East. First, Muslims do not believe all people are created equal, whether men and women, Jew and Muslim, Christian and Muslim. Reilly cited this as a major stumbling block.
The only political form that is natural to Sunni Islam is the caliphate. Without that, there’s no clear form for them to assume, and “since they denigrate reason, and are based on the primacy of will and force, the only way they have of settling things is sword, to fight it out,” Reilly said.
“The self-delusion is continuing,” Reilly said, citing the blindness in the West to the Islam mindset that creates the actions of violence and terror. “Muslim intellectual reformers receive no support from the West and are personally endangered because of the reforms they call for.”
The fundamental aspect that needs to change, according to these reformers, is the theology of Islam itself: the deformed theology, Reilly said, citing an Iranian philosopher who said that, to achieve democratic government, “you have to change your idea of God.”
“The Muslims in the United States, for the most part, have fled the dysfunctional Middle East because they don’t want to live under this kind of tyranny,” Reilly said. “I’ve worked with Muslims for years, and they’re extraordinarily fine people and fine American citizens. Treat them with respect and charity, and also keep in mind the advice of Thomas Aquinas when his fellow Dominicans asked him how they should deal with the Muslims.”
Reilly shared that Aquinas said, “You can’t deal with them from our revelation, because they don’t accept, and you can’t deal with them from their revelation, because we don’t accept it. Therefore you have to treat them as natural men.”
Many inter-religious dialogues are phony, according to Reilly, because they fail to consider that the pre-condition for dialogue is freedom of conscience. We have to know, at the beginning, what Muslim is and is not and also what Catholicism is and is not.
Links of note:
- Listen to the entire conversation with Robert Reilly.
- Islam’s Demotion of Reason — Father C. John McCloskey’s review of The Closing of the Muslim Mind
- The Prospects and Perils of Catholic-Muslim Dialogue — Reilly’s pamphlet about dialogue between Catholics and Muslims mentioned in the show