After the San Bernardino massacre, The Angelus, the Los Angeles archdiocesan newspaper, carried an article calling for “greater solidarity with Islam.”
The piece by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser is a particularly egregious example of the kind of nonsense about Islam that passes for wisdom in some ecclesiastical circles.
He starts off by observing that “this is not a good time to be a Muslim in the Western world.” Well, maybe. Muslims in the West are probably getting a lot of suspicious stares these days. On the other hand, you could just as easily say that it’s not a good time to be a non-Muslim in the Western world.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily
Judging by the body count, Western citizens have more cause for concern. Muslims killed 130 Europeans during the Paris massacre and wounded another 370. Muslims killed 14 in the San Bernardino massacre and wounded 21. Muslims killed 12 in the Charlie Hebdo massacre and 4 more in the Hyper-Cache food market. The Madrid train bombings left 200 dead and 2,000 wounded. In the attack on the London transit system, 56 people were killed and 700 were wounded. In the Boston Marathon bombing, three were killed and several hundred were wounded. A Muslim killed 13 at Fort Hood and injured more than 30 others. On September 11, 2001, a group of 19 Muslims managed to kill nearly 3,000 Americans.
And that’s just the short list. Moreover, it doesn’t include other types of violent crimes perpetrated by Muslims on Western citizens: the more than 600 victims of the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, the 1,400 rape victims in Rotherham, England, and the numerous victims of rape in Sweden which, thanks to Muslim immigration, now has the world’s second highest incidence of rape.
But Fr. Rolheiser’s piece is not exactly what you’d call a fact-based article. He is more interested in defending the standard narrative about Islam than in adducing any facts to support the narrative. Part of the narrative says that Islam is a religion of peace, and Fr. Rolheiser dutifully informs his readers that “the word ‘Islam/Muslim’ has its origins in the word ‘peace.’” However, The Compendium of Muslim Texts compiled by the Muslim Student Association at the University of Southern California states flatly that the “claim that ‘Islam’ is derived primarily from ‘peace’ is not true.”
When the author does proffer the occasional bit of data, it seems to be drawn from thin air. Thus:
For more than 90 percent of Muslims in the world, that is exactly what it means to be a Muslim, namely, to be a man or woman of peace who has surrendered to God and who now tries to live a life that is centered on faith, prayer, responsibility, and hospitality.
Ninety percent? How does he know that? The number seems a bit excessive. If you were to say that more than ninety percent of Catholics are trying to live a life “that is centered on faith, prayer, responsibility, and hospitality,” you would be laughed out of town. But if you say that the vast majority of Muslims are as saintly as Mother Teresa, no one will bat an eye.
Are there a few bad apples who call themselves Muslims? Fr. Rolheiser admits that there are, but he cautions that we should “always judge a religion by its best expressions, by its saints and graced-history, rather than by its psychopaths and aberrations.” Here again, he seems unconcerned with facts. The greatest “saint” in Islam is Muhammad. He is considered to be the perfect man, the one on whom Muslims should model their lives. But if you were to judge Islam by the facts of Muhammad’s life, you would soon find yourself in muddy waters. Muhammad was a warlord who sanctioned rape, torture, and amputation. On one occasion, he presided over the beheading of 700 captured prisoners, and then ordered that their wives and children be sold into slavery.
His personal life was not exemplary, either. In addition to his child bride, his eleven wives included his own daughter-in-law, and the widows of men his troops had slain in battle. Judged by current Western standards of behavior, Muhammad looks like one of those psychopathic “aberrations” who give Islam a bad name.
Fr. Rolheiser seems to have only a superficial knowledge of Islam, but that doesn’t prevent him from expounding on its true nature. The words “true Islam” and “true Muslim” recur throughout the article. In Rolheiser’s fantasy Islam, any Muslim who commits violence is automatically a “false” Muslim who has deviated from the “true Islam.” How do we know? Because “there is nothing inherent in either the Koran or in Islam itself that morally or religiously undergirds this kind of violence.” That’s funny. In a commentary on Rolheiser’s article, Robert Spencer provides eleven separate verses from the Koran that do justify slaying nonbelievers. He could have provided many more.
Spencer offers facts, Fr. Rolheiser offers circular arguments. A circular argument, in case you’ve forgotten your college logic course, is one which assumes what it is attempting to prove. If you boil it down to its essentials, Fr. Rolheiser’s reasoning goes something like this: “True Islam is peaceful because, as we all know, Islam is a truly peaceful religion.” Once that’s established as a self-evident principle, the rest is easy. Thus, Fr. Rolheiser assures us that “Islamic extremists [the ‘false’ Muslims] don’t speak for God, Mohammed [or] Islam.” Well, yes, if you take it for granted that Islam is all about peace, then it stands to reason that violent Muslims don’t speak for Islam’s God or its prophet.
But the claim of the extremists is not that they speak for God, but that they are letting God speak for himself. The official statements of ISIS, Boko Haram, and suchlike groups are replete with quotations from the Koran (the word of Allah) and from the Hadith (the word of Muhammad). Like evangelical Christians spreading the Good Word, they say that they are only delivering the message that they have received. “Read it for yourself,” they say to fence-sitting Muslims, “and come join us.”
Whatever you may think of the extremists, they at least offer scriptural evidence for their beliefs. Fr. Rolheiser, on the other hand, can’t be bothered with such details. His article doesn’t contain a single quotation from the Koran or from any other source. Apparently, we are to accept the truth of his assertions about Islam on faith alone.
Like so many of the arguments we hear about victimized Muslims and their misunderstood religion, Fr. Rolheiser’s arguments are meant to appeal to the emotions, not the intellect. For example, toward the end of his article he offers his own version of Shylock’s “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech. It goes like this:
We are both [Muslims and Christians] part of the same family: we have the same God, suffer the same anxieties, are subject to the same mortality, and will share the same heaven.
Nice sentiments. But, once again, the author comes up short in the facts department. Take that phrase “suffer the same anxieties.” Well, yes. Everybody worries about money and health and family problems. But Christians who live in Muslim lands have some added anxieties that are largely caused by Muslims: Will our church be firebombed? Will I be beheaded in the morning? Will my children be sold into slavery?
According to Fr. Rolheiser, we will also “share the same heaven.” But the fact is, Muslims have a somewhat racier concept of paradise than do Christians, and do not wish to share it with infidels who say that Jesus is the Son of God (9:30). “Share the same heaven”? Does that mean that Muslims look forward to sharing in the life of the Trinity (a concept they vehemently reject)? Or does it mean that Christian men can look forward to the company of 72 virgins apiece?
Apparently, the details of the merger between Catholicism and Islam haven’t as yet been worked out. But to a certain kind of Catholic, the details are unimportant. It doesn’t matter to him that his head is in the sand as long as his heart is in the right place.
Fr. Rolheiser says that “it’s time to establish a greater solidarity with Islam.” Why? Because “Muslims more than ever need our understanding, sympathy, support, and fellowship in faith.” Given the massive worldwide persecution of Christians, one would think that it’s time to establish a greater solidarity with them. But leaving that aside, what exactly is this “fellowship in faith” that we share with Muslims?
Do we really want a greater solidarity with a religion that was founded by a slave-owning warlord? That envisions heaven as a harem? That holds Christians accursed for believing in the divinity of Jesus? That allows Muslims to rape non-Muslims? That requires apostates to be killed? And that has made war on Christians for 1400 years?
That the Catholic leadership has not thought very deeply about this “fellowship-in-faith” business is demonstrated by the fact that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ main dialogue partner is the Islamic Society of North America. For the last two decades, the bishops have been seeking greater fellowship with a Muslim Brotherhood front group that was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the nation’s largest terrorist funding case. In his book Catastrophic Failure, Stephen Coughlin makes a convincing case that ISNA and other Muslim Brotherhood groups are simply using the bishops to further their agenda of bringing sharia law to America. And once that happens, Muslims will not be seeking fellowship with Catholics, they will be seeking dominance over them.
Not a good time to be a Muslim in the West? Perhaps. But it’s certainly not a good time to be naïve about the nature and aims of Islam.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is a protest against Muslim refugees following the harassment and rape of multiple women by groups of migrants on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany.