Tag Archives: Islam

Catholic universities and the other culture war

William Kilpatrick

William Kilpatrick

While the rest of America is wondering where Islamic jihadists will strike next, the biggest concern at Georgetown University is not with Islamic terrorism but with “Islamophobia.”

On April 30, the Jesuit university sponsored a “Conversation on Islamophobia.” It featured a lineup of Islamic apologists all testifying to the societal threat posed by anti-Muslim “hysteria.”

If you’re inclined to think that Islamic terrorism is a bigger threat than Islamophobia, Georgetown will set you straight. For two decades, the folks at Georgetown’s Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding have worked diligently to put a friendly face on Islam and to demonize its critics. Alwaleed bin Talal? He’s just a friendly Arab prince who has donated over $20 million to the center. And if you’re thinking that his largesse may explain Georgetown’s pro-Islam posture, consider that such thoughts will be taken as proof positive of your Islamophobia.

While Georgetown is worrying about people who worry about Islam, over at John Carroll University in Ohio, retired Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald is teaching students about the wonders of the Koran. He urges Catholics to look for commonalities with their own religion, and he suggests that, in its own way, the Koran is a sacrament — “a sign of the presence of God.”

The search for commonalities with Islam is the order of the day in many Catholic colleges — and in seminaries, too. At one Catholic seminary, a professor who took note of some major differences between Islam and Catholicism had his course canceled because it contradicted another course extolling the similarities. When Catholic schools, colleges, and seminaries teach about Islam, the main effort is to find common ground with Catholicism. Thus, Catholic students learn that Muslims revere Jesus, give alms, and go on pilgrimages. They’re less likely to learn that the Jesus Muslims revere is not the Jesus of the Gospels, that the alms are only meant for other Muslims, and that Christians are not allowed to enter Mecca, the main destination for Muslim pilgrims.

The same half-truth approach is used to teach about jihad. Catholic students are usually taught that jihad is an interior spiritual struggle. Although that definition resonates with Catholics and although it is one possible meaning of the word, it’s not the way that jihad is typically understood in the Muslim world. According to the vast majority of Islamic scholars, the primary meaning of jihad is “holy war against non-Muslims.”

One way to understand Islam today is to understand its history. But, even though Islam was one of the great imperial and slave-holding powers of all time, textbooks used in Catholic colleges tend to present a rose-colored picture of Islamic history. Thus, textbooks present a romanticized view of Islam’s “Golden Age,” and Islam’s brutal conquests are typically portrayed as little more than a peaceful “spread” or “expansion” into surrounding territories. Without a knowledge of Islam’s bloody past, students are easy prey to the notion that today’s violent jihad “has nothing to do with Islam.”

It’s not that Catholic students aren’t learning about Islam, it’s that they’re learning only a heavily edited, “Disneyfied” version of it. Why is that dangerous? Because it leaves them unprepared for the kind of persecution being suffered by Catholics and other Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Libya, and other parts of the Muslim world. Catholics who think that Islam means “peace,” that jihad is a spiritual struggle, and that Islamophobia is the greatest threat to national security are in for a rude surprise.

Catholics have been lulled into complacency by the oft-repeated emphasis on the similarities between their faith and the faith of Muslims. This puts them at a disadvantage not only in regard to armed jihad, but also in regard to cultural jihad — the steady incremental advance of Islamic law and culture. Cultural jihad is more insidious than the armed variety and thus more difficult to detect and resist. How well does it work? Some experts predict that several European countries will succumb to stealth conquest within two decades.

The co-option of Georgetown by Islamic interests is an example of cultural jihad at work. But, unless you want to be branded as a hate-filled Islamophobe, it’s better not to mention it. Indeed, the concept of Islamophobia was invented in order to dissuade people from looking too closely at the phenomenon of cultural jihad.

Georgetown long ago switched sides in the other culture war — the one against militant secularism. By presenting a benign view of Islam and by embracing the concept of Islamophobia, it looks like Georgetown, along with some other Catholic colleges, has taken sides in another, possibly much more deadly culture war.

WILLIAM KILPATRICK is the author of Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West. His website is: TurningPointProject.com.

Pope Francis’ Muslim outreach

Paul Kengor gives a nod to the Pope’s remarkable, successful outreach to Muslims . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor

If you listen to the media, you’ll catch takes on Pope Francis on everything from reforming the Curia to analyses of his comments and interviews. Look deeper and you’ll also find a surprising amount of material on his outreach to Muslims.

This openness is something that few expected, but given the pontiff’s past — as well as the papal name he chose — it shouldn’t be a shock. In retrospect, we had some hints to this outreach seven years ago, back in 2006. Recall Pope Benedict XVI’s “controversial” Regensburg address. Benedict quoted a learned 14th century Byzantine emperor: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Benedict was speaking in a scholarly forum and didn’t openly endorse this particular observation. Nonetheless, there was significant worldwide backlash — and not just the Islamic world.

In Argentina, a cardinal named Jorge Mario Bergoglio was notably displeased. “Pope Benedict’s statements don’t reflect my own opinions,” said the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires. “These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last 20 years.”

Upon assuming the reins of the papacy, Bergoglio has sought a decidedly different tone. Pope Francis has consistently and repeatedly reached out to Muslims. Here are just a few examples:

• In one of his first papal speeches, given on March 22, Francis announced he wanted to “intensify dialogue among the various religions. And I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam.” • Just days later, celebrating his first Holy Thursday Mass, Francis broke with tradition, washing the feet of a Serbian Muslim woman — an inmate from a prison in Rome. • In an Aug. 2 message, Francis took the rare step of extending a personal message to Muslims preparing to celebrate Ramadan. In the past, such ecumenical greetings came from the Vatican’s office of interfaith dialogue. This time, the Bishop of Rome took the personal initiative, extending his “esteem and friendship” to Muslims. • Francis again reached out at the end of Ramadan. In an Angelus message, he urged Christians and Muslims to strive together to “promote mutual respect.” • Two weeks later, the Holy Father made another eye-opening move when he bowed to a smiling Queen Rania of Jordan who was visiting the Vatican. Rania, wife of King Abdullah II, presides over the largest Palestinian population of any country. Why Francis chose to bow to her isn’t entirely clear, but it certainly was noticed.

Amid the many such gestures in such a short period, Francis has also been staunch in his calls for peace in the conflict in Syria, which is a matter of Muslims killing Muslims in a terrible civil war. He opposed President Barack Obama’s desire for a military strike against the Assad regime. Then he went further, calling for an international day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria on Sept. 7.

Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria, who is the spiritual leader of Syrian Sunni Muslims, was so affected by Francis’ appeal that he publicly expressed his wish to join the pope in St. Peter’s for the vigil. The mufti asked his fellow Muslims to “welcome the appeal to pray for peace.” He invited them to pray on Sept. 7, simultaneously and in communion with Pope Francis, and to do so in mosques throughout Syria. In striking language, speaking of the Pope as a “father,” the mufti said that Syrian Muslims view the Holy Father as a “true spiritual leader … who speaks for the true good of the Syrian people.”

In all, this is quite remarkable. Should we be surprised at this outreach to Muslims by Pope Francis? I don’t think so.

When Cardinal Bergoglio looked to St. Francis for his papal name, it wasn’t to witness to birds and trees. Many forget that the 13th century saint stepped off the battlefield of the crusades to reach out to Muslims. In 1219 AD, a time of terrible religious strife, Francis headed by foot and horse to Egypt where he hoped to win over the world’s most powerful Muslim: Sultan Malik al-Kamil.

For the record, that voyage did not convert the sultan, but it impressed him greatly, giving him a much more positive view of Christians and their faith — and their representative. Pope Francis has thus far done the same. Here’s hoping he has even greater success over the months and years ahead.

PAUL KENGOR is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include “The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand” and “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.”

Changing the culture for Christ

Patrick Novecosky writes that our culture has forgotten that it needs a Redeemer . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

If you’ve been following the news at all lately, you probably noticed that in our sophisticated, highly evolved and cultured world, the entire human race is at peace. Harmony among races and between nations allows mankind to live a truly sublime and carefree existence.

Wrong. Muslim radicals are running roughshod over the Christian minority in Egypt, burning churches of Coptic Christians who have lived in that country for nearly 2,000 years. Racial tensions are high in our own country after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in July. At the same time, friction between liberals and conservatives — both in the media and in politics — is at a fever pitch.

So, what’s the problem? Why can’t we find a way to bridge the gaps and create that utopian world described in the opening paragraph? We have advanced technology: We can communicate with people on the other side of the planet at the click of a button. We have volumes of eloquent books filled with theology and philosophy. Surely we could all agree on one of them. And the human race even has the capability to feed every person on the planet if we’d all work together.

The simple answer to this complex problem is this: We need a redeemer … and we are not capable of redeeming ourselves. In fact, self-redemption is an oxymoron. A quick check of the dictionary tells me that “to redeem” means “to buy back” or “to pay a ransom.”

Why do we need to be redeemed? “Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Is 59:2). And St. Peter explains that “you were not redeemed with corruptible things— like silver or gold — from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pt 1:18-19).

The challenge is to convince our immoral and decaying culture that it needs a redeemer — and then to introduce it to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Thankfully, Legatus members are leaders in changing the culture for Christ. They’re producing films, writing books, giving talks, launching media campaigns, filing lawsuits, running for public office and so much more. Curtis Martin and his Fellowship of Catholic University Students are directly evangelizing thousands of young people every year — and training them to go out and do the same. (Click here for related story.)

The workers are few, but the harvest is great. Satan is working hard to destroy God’s ultimate creation — you and me. But if we are faithful and claim the victory in Christ, our destiny is heaven where mankind’s utopian dreams will pale in comparison to what the Lord has in store for us.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Martyrs of Otranto (1480)

The heroic and newly canonized martyrs of Otranto are the Bravehearts of Italy . . .

Martyrs of Otranto

Martyrs of Otranto

Feast Day: August 14
Canonized: May 12, 2013

The martyrs of Otranto are the Bravehearts of Italy. Their story starts with Constantinople’s fall in 1453. After destroying almost every vestige of Christianity there, Sultan Mehmet II set his sights on Rome

By 1480, a great armada set sail. An ill wind blew it off course, forcing them to land at the city of Otranto. Inhabitants defended their city for two weeks, buying Italian defenders enough time to reach them, but it was too late. The Muslims had breached the city’s walls, slaughtering or enslaving survivors.

They offered 800 men freedom if they would apostatize. Speaking for the rest, an elderly tailor named Antonio Primaldo refused, telling the others, “Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for Our Lord. Since he died on the cross for us, it’s fitting we should die for him.”

They put him to death first. However, a strange thing happened. His body stood and, despite efforts to remove it, remained fixed in place until the last man’s execution. While it wasn’t the first time a city had to mount a defense of its Christian faith, it was the first and only time an entire municipality underwent martyrdom.

BRIAN O’NEEL is a writer, husband and father of six living in southeast Pennsylvania. His latest book is 39 New Saints You Should Know.

Ignatius Maloyan (1869-1915)

Ignatius Maloyan is a model for today’s suffering Christians around the world . . .

Ignatius Maloyan

Ignatius Maloyan

Feast Day: June 11
Beatified: October 7, 2001

More Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries combined. Representative of these is Ignatius Maloyan, an Armenian Rite Catholic bishop who died in the Armenian genocide.

Ordained in 1896, he became a bishop 15 years later. By this time, the Turkish Muslim government had placed extremely harsh restrictions on their citizens. A police chief named Mahmdouh Bey arrested Maloyan and 800 others. During the kangaroo trial that followed, he encouraged the bishop to become a Muslim.

“There is no way I would reject my religion and my Savior,” he replied. “You can beat me and cut me into pieces, but I will never deny my faith.”

Maloyan’s captors responded by torturing him. On the Feast of the Sacred Heart in 1915, Bey ordered the bishop and 416 prisoners marched into the desert in chains. He then had every man shot before Maloyan’s eyes. Before shooting the bishop, he asked again if he would become a Muslim. Maloyan replied, “I glory only in the cross of my sweet Savior.” As Maloyan died, he was heard to say, “Have mercy on me, O Lord Jesus. Into your hands I entrust my soul.”

BRIAN O’NEEL is a writer, husband and father of six living in southeast Pennsylvania. His latest book is “39 New Saints You Should Know.”

Christianity, Islam and Atheism

William Kilpatrick writes that despite 9/11, most Americans do not understand Islam . . .

KilpatrickChristianity, Islam and Atheism
William Kilpatrick
Ignatius Press, 2012
330 pages, $24.95 hardcover

For many Americans, 9/11 was the first time they had considered the nature of Islam. In his book subtitled The Struggle for the Soul of the West, Kilpatrick argues that Islam is a religion of conquest and subjugation and that despite 9/11, many Americans still don’t know this truth because it conflicts with their belief that all cultures and religions are equal.

Christians have been lulled into complacency by the unexamined assumption that Christians and Muslims share similar beliefs. While Christians pursue common ground, Islamic activists are busy pressing their militant agenda.

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