Can You Talk About “True Islam”?

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There is a section of Evangelii Gaudium that I’m not clear I agree with, but it’s not the economic sections. Near the end, Pope Francis has some pointed things to say both about toleration for immigrating from Muslim countries and about the necessity that Muslim countries protect the safety and religious freedom of their Christian residents. However, he wraps up by saying:

Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.

One hears this sort of thing every so often, but I’m not clear what it means to talk about “authentic Islam” or a “proper reading of the Koran”.

It could mean, “To the extent that Islam is true, it rejects violence as a means of spreading its beliefs,” and if so, I can certainly agree with that.

But what people seem to mean when talking about true Islam being a religion of peace is that somehow those Muslims who believe that their faith endorses the use of force at times to spread the faith of punish unbelievers are incorrectly interpreting Islam and that if they were better Muslims, they would reject violence.

However, it’s problematic to say what is “true Islam” and what is “false Islam” — especially given that I don’t think Islam is actually true, except to the extent it happens to hold things which are also held by Catholicism (such as, say, the existence of God.)

There are some things one can say definitely are, at least, held by Muslims. For instance “there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet” would seem to be something held by Muslims, and I think that even an outsider could be confident in saying that if someone believes in no God or many gods, or if he doesn’t believe that Mohammad was God’s prophet, then that person is not a “good Muslim” or a “true Muslim”.

When it comes to a point which is disputed among Muslims themselves, however, I’m not clear how to distinguish right from wrong interpretations. There is no central authority in Islam similar to the pope in the Catholicism, and even with Catholicism, if you’re an outsider and don’t believe that the Church is Christ’s true Church on Earth, who is to say that the magisterium is actually “true Catholicism” and not some distortion of it. At most, it seems like one could talk about “what Catholics believe” in some sociological sense.

This isn’t a problem unique to Islam. For instance, do “true Protestants” believe in predestination? I’m not clear one can answer that claim. Some Protestants believe in predestination and others don’t. Who is to say who the “true Protestants” are? Unless you are Protestant and you’re committed to believing a specific set of beliefs within the range of what various Protestants believe, I’m not clear how you can rule on that question.

Certainly, I think that Muslims should not endorse religious violence, and I support those who believe their religion rejects it. However, I’m not clear how we can claim one way or the other what “true Islam” says on the matter.

More to explorer

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  News that I missed, courtesy of The Babylon Bee:   WASHINGTON, D.C.—Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is busy celebrating her victory over the


  1. Don,

    There are Muslims who claim that a proper reading of the Koran is opposed to violence. Personally, I think that’s pretty ridiculous given some of the passages in the Koran itself and how Mohammad actually lived his life. However, given that I don’t think the Koran is an inspired holy book, and that I don’t think Islam is a true religion, I’m not clear how I can say which reaching of the Koran is “correct” in religious terms. I suppose it kind of like how I’ve have atheists tell me that it’s ludicrous to read the Bible and not hold that it authoritatively teaches creationism or geocentrism. I can tell them that that’s not the right way to read the bible, but since they don’t accept that the Church and Tradition hold the key to understanding scripture, I don’t really have a way to prove my point with them.

  2. Also, let me just note: I just deleted a comment off this thread which I considered to cross the line. I will continue to delete comments that I consider to be offensive. As I hope I make clear above, I do not believe in Islam, but I don’t see that as an excuse for being offensive.

  3. “However, given that I don’t think the Koran is an inspired holy book, and that I don’t think Islam is a true religion, I’m not clear how I can say which reaching of the Koran is “correct” in religious terms.”

    In religious terms I wouldn’t make the attempt to judge. In terms of how the Koran actually reads it is clearly not opposed to violence. Since the Pope is not a muslim, I would assume that he would be limited to the actual text of what the Koran says, assuming he ever bothered to read it.

  4. I’m not sure it’s the Pope’s place to be pronouncing on what is or is not “authentic Islam,” anymore this it’s the place of some imam or a NY Times reporter to instruct the Pope on “authentic Catholicism.”

  5. I don’t know that you can speak of any religion but Catholicism and Judaism having a defining identity, because all other religions are human institutions. They have a mix of intellectual and spiritual truths, demonic distortions, and borrowed elements. But they don’t have a soul, except for (God forbid) a purely evil religion.

  6. The ‘problem’ is that there is both a violent and a peaceful ‘content’ or ‘stream’ in the Quran. Now on one level, that could be said of passages within the Old Testament calling for ‘holy war’ and ‘putting everyone to the sword’ in such Scripture as the Book of Joshua and Judges. A very literal and fundamentalist reading of the Book of Revelation could give the same intention, although in that Book it is almost always angels that are doing the killing. “Killing in the Name of God” has certainly been done by members of the synagogue and church, whether they backed it with Scripture or not.

    That being said, I am not equating Islam with either Judaism or the Church (and those Christians not in full communion with the Church). While God is indeed One, as both Judaism and Christianity affirm, reason alone can arrive at this truth (see Romans 1, Vatican I) I do not believe Mohammed to be ‘the seal of the prophets’-I give that title to Saint John the Baptist. Jesus, the Son of Mary, is not only the Messiah (affirmed by the Quran) but the very Word (Son) of God become flesh Who indeed died upon the Cross (denied by the Quran) for our sins and rose for our justification. I say none of this to condemn Islam. I am only confessing what I believe as a Catholic and that our two religions, while having some common ground, differ in very great and grave ways.

    Returning to the violent and the peaceful Islam, as already said, there is no real authority within Islam, despite what might appear to the contrary. Everything is ‘reduced’ to interpretation.

    Vatican II in its Declaration Nostra Aetate gave a brief, relatively positive but really non-declarative statement on Islam. This was added at the specific request of the Patriarchs and bishops of the Eastern Churches present at Vatican II who feared that the substantial and positive statements concerning Judaism might be read by their Islamic neighbors as a real slight. We certainly have moved into a new era of relations with Islam in the 21st century. Rightly, no Catholic is calling for any form of ‘crusade’ in order to combat fundamentalist Islam [Islamicists]. While it is horrifying, the ancient truth ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church’ is our true response, our true ‘taking up of the cross’ (the old rallying cry of the crusaders).

    At this point, papal teaching in this area has been simple: “No one can or should kill in the Name of God”. While segments of Islam do not believe this, we (and I include Pope Francis’ statement in Evangelii Gaudium in this) will continue to dialogue with those Moslems who believe like we do: that no one can kill in the Name of God.

  7. “that no one can kill in the Name of God.”

    Which would have come as a vast shock to Pope Urban II:

    “In the year of our Lord’s Incarnation one thousand and ninety-five, a great council was celebrated within the bounds of Gaul, in Auvergne, in the city which is called Clermont. Over this Pope Urban II presided, with the Roman bishops and cardinals. This council was a famous one on account of the concourse of both French and German bishops, and of princes as well. Having arranged the matters relating to the Church, the lord pope went forth into a certain spacious plain, for no building was large enough to hold all the people. The pope-then, with sweet and persuasive eloquence, addressed those present in words something like the following, saying:

    “Oh, race of Franks, race from across the mountains, race beloved and chosen by God, – as is clear from many of your works,- set apart from all other nations by the situation of your country as well as by your Catholic faith and the honor which you render to the holy Church: to you our discourse is addressed, and for you our exhortations are intended. We wish you to know what a grievous cause has led us to your country, for it is the imminent peril threatening you and all the faithful which has brought us hither.

    From the confines of Jerusalem and from the city of Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth and has -repeatedly been brought to our ears; namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race wholly alienated from God, `a generation that set not their heart aright and whose spirit was not steadfast with God,’ violently invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by pillage and fire. They have led away ap art of the captives into their own country, and a part have they have killed by cruel tortures. They have either destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of their own religion. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness….The kingdom of the Greeks is now dismembered by them and has been deprived of territory so vast in extent that it could be traversed in two months’ time.

    “On whom, therefore, is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering this territory incumbent, if not upon you, you upon whom, above all other nations, God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great courage, bodily activity, and strength to humble the heads of those who resist you ? Let the deeds of your ancestors encourage you and incite your minds to manly achievements:-the greatness of King Charlemagne, and of his son Louis, and of your other monarchs, who have destroyed the kingdoms of the Turks and have extended the sway of Church over lands previously possessed by the pagan. Let the holy sepulcher of our Lord and Saviour, which is possessed by unclean nations, especially arouse you, and the holy places which are now treated, with ignominy and irreverently polluted with the filth of the unclean. Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, do not degenerate; our progenitors., but recall the valor of your progenitors.

    “But if you are hindered by love of children, parents, or of wife, remember what the Lord says in the Gospel, `He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me’, ‘Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.’ Let none of your possessions retain you, nor solicitude for you, family affairs. For this land which you inhabit, shut in on all sides by the seas and surrounded by the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder and devour one another, that you wage war, and that very many among you perish in intestine strife.’

    [Another of those present at the Council of Clermont, Fulcher of Chartres, thus reports this part of Urban’s speech: “Let those who have formerly been accustomed to contend wickedly in private warfare against the faithful fight against the infidel, and bring to a victorious end the war which ought already to have been begun. Let those who have hitherto been robbers now become soldiers. Let those who have formerly contended against their brothers and relatives now fight against the barbarians as they ought. Let those who have formerly been mercenaries at low wages now gain eternal rewards. Let those who have been exhausting themselves to the detriment both of body and soul now strive for a twofold reward” See a complete translation of Fulcher’s report of Urban’s speech in Translations and Reprints, Vol. 1. No. 2.]

    “Let hatred therefore depart from among you, let your quarrels end, let wars cease, and let all dissensions and controversies slumber. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulcher-, wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves. That land which, as the Scripture says, `floweth with milk and honey’ was given by God into the power of the children of Israel. Jerusalem is the center of the earth ; the land is fruitful above all others, like another paradise of delights. This spot the Redeemer of mankind has made illustrious by his advent, has beautified by his sojourn, has consecrated by his passion, has redeemed by his death, has glorified by his burial.

    “This royal city, however, situated at the center of the earth, is now held captive by the enemies of Christ and is subjected, by those who do not know God, to the worship the heathen. She seeks, therefore, and desires to be liberated and ceases not to implore you to come to her aid. From you especially she asks succor, because as we have already said, God has conferred upon you above all other nations great glory in arms. Accordingly, undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the reward of imperishable glory in the kingdon of heaven..”

    When Pope Urban had urbanely said thes and very similar things, he so centered in one purpose the desires all who were present that all cried out, ” It is the will of God! I It is the. will of God ” When the venerable Roman pontiff heard that, with eyes uplifted to heaven, he gave thanks to God and, commanding silence with his hand, said:

    “Most beloved brethren, today is manifest in you what the Lord says in the Gospel, `Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’; for unless God had been present in your spirits, all of you would not have uttered the same cry; since, although the cry issued from numerous mouths, yet the origin of the cry as one. Therefore I say to you that God, who implanted is in your breasts, has drawn it forth from you. Let that then be your war cry in combats, because it is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: ‘It is the will of God! It is the will of God!’ [Deus vult! Deus Vult!]

    “And we neither command nor advise that the old or those incapable of bearing arms, undertake this journey. Nor ought women to set out at all without their husbands, or brother, or legal guardians. For such are more of a hindrance than aid, more of a burden than an advantage. Let the rich aid the needy and according to their wealth let them take with them experienced soldiers. The priests and other clerks, whether secular or regulars are not to go without the consent of their bishop; for this journey would profit them nothing if they went without permission. Also, it is not fitting that laymen should enter upon the pilgrimage without the blessing of their priests.

    “Whoever, therefore, shall determine upon this holy pilgrimage, and shall make his vow to God to that effect, and shall offer himself to him for sacrifice, as a living victim, holy and acceptable to God, shall wear the sign of the cross of the Lord on his forehead or on his breast. When, indeed, he shall return from his journey, having fulfilled his vow, let him place the cross on his back between his shoulders. Thus shall ye, indeed, by this twofold action, fulfill the precept of the Lord, as lie commands in the Gospel, ‘he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”‘”

  8. “Which would have come as a vast shock to pope Urban II”

    Ahhh good. You do agree with what I said within my post: that both Judaism and Christians have killed in the Name of God. Now the question: so what should we do today, in the 21st century? Shall we read and interpret Pope Urban II’s statement within its historical context, in which he was asked by the Byzantine Emperor to raise up troops to fight a DEFENSIVE versus OFFENSIVE campaign [that is indeed what the Crusades were, a defensive campaign-one which they ultimately lost] or as an absolute ‘statement’ for all times for Christians to take up arms against all Moslems? If the first is your/our option, then the papal teaching that ‘no one should kill in the Name of God” is not a problem [i.e. no hermeneutic of disruption]. However, if the second is your/our option we have bigger problems than simply someone disagreeing with Pope Francis’ statement about working with the portion of Islam that agrees with this position {no killing in the Name of God; being a religion of peace, etc]

  9. I think Botolph that history is a good deal more complicated than we in the twenty-first century normally realize, and that the Catholic Church has a very great problem in this area with most of its heritage prior to Vatican II being shunted down a memory hole. Evangelii Gaudium is a very good example of this with only one citation to a papal document prior to 1964. In regard to Islam and Christianity the simple truth is that the most common relationship between the two faiths is one of war since the birth of Islam, unless one counts the fifth class existence that Christians luckless enough to be born in Islamic lands endure. I understand that the Vatican currently, largely to spare Christians in Islamic countries, adopts the language of diplomacy regarding Islam, but the rest of us need not participate in this humbug of historical amnesia of the past and wishful thinking for the future.

  10. Certainly, I think that Muslims should not endorse religious violence, and I support those who believe their religion rejects it.


    And there’s the rub…a fair reading of the Koran will produce a distribution of convictions, but a significant portion of honest readers will fall in two worrisome categories. The first category will find it commendable to behead a man based on a pro-military T-shirt, or to throw acid in the face of a sexually wayward female dependent. The second might consider such actions unpalatable, but since Islam has no Pope or priests, and leaves to each believer the task of working out his or her path, they would also find it presumptuous to oppose or interfere with those in the first category. And that should be alarming to all of us.


    Yes, there are many others who would shrink in horror at such deeds and work to oppose them, but as much as I commend and encourage them, I do not see how they can consider themselves faithful followers of what is in the Koran, and I can understand why some would say they are not very good Muslims. (I feel similarly grateful for, and puzzled by, the atheists who go around acting selflessly and charitably.)


    I myself don’t agree with those who, after reading the Bible, claim that we must all sell our goods and follow a life of mendicant poverty, or violently protest at a nuclear facility, or oppose the teaching of evolution (or, more worryingly, avoid all contacts with Jews and homosexuals) but I cannot claim, based on the Bible alone, that those who have come to such conclusions are acting un-Biblically. For better or worse, there will always be at least a minority faction in most any Christian body (at least any sola scriptura body) that will be motivated to engage in that kind of behavior.


    Likewise, there is something inherent in Islam as it has been practiced and interpreted that will, for the foreseeable future, predispose a significant portion of its followers to violence and cruelty. It will take a significant change in doctrine (or, equivalently, a significant shift towards secularism) to change that, and any moves in that direction will meet with violent opposition.


    And to follow up on the Islam-has-no-priesthood point, whomever Muslims look to for guidance on what it means to be a true Muslim, I do not believe it will be Francis. I think his reading of “true Islam”, so heavy with wishful thinking, is issued primarily in order to create a balance to his more relevant appeals that those Muslims who are in the business of murdering Copts and Syrian Christians are stopped. In that effort, I wish him well.

  11. Donald,

    I see that you and I disagree over whether there is continuity or discontinuity of and within the Church before, during and after Vatican II. I obviously believe that Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic of continuity and reform is key. There are many Catholics both progressive and traditionalists who do not. I recognize that. So we will ‘agree to disagree’ here [since this hermeneutic has not (yet at least) been defined De Fide]

    To the point however, I see we disagree over the matter of Islam (and I am no romanticist who believes all Moslems are misunderstood etc) I have already given the context of how and why the brief statement was made within the Council concerning Moslems: the desire to make a statement by the Eastern Churches given our positive statements concerning Judaism and the Jews. VII, drawing on Scripture, the Fathers of the Church etc. put forth an understanding (could we say: vision?) of the Church in this synthesis [given by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985]: “The Church as communion is the Sacrament of Salvation for the world”. The Church sees a fundamental unity and communion (if not full) among all Christians in and through the sacrament of Baptism. While ‘communion’ is our identity, how do we relate to/and how do non Christians relate with/to us? The Church uses the specific term: ‘relates/relatedness’. In other words, while Christians are in communion with (of not yet fully) the Church, we are in relatio to and with non-Christians most especially with the Jews but also with Moslems who ‘worship the One God, the Creator, the merciful’, and who ‘claim Abraham’. These are not really ‘political’ statements. They are a positive expression of how we are indeed in relatio with the rest of humanity. We believe that we, as communion are the Sacrament of Salvation for the world. There can be no sacrament and no salvation if we are not in some relatio with the five billion other human beings in this world and more specifically, the one billion followers of Mohammed [There are 7 billion people, a little more than 1 billion are Catholic, another one billion are other Christians not in full communion with the Church]

  12. However, given that I don’t think the Koran is an inspired holy book, and that I don’t think Islam is a true religion, I’m not clear how I can say which reaching of the Koran is “correct” in religious terms. I suppose it kind of like how I’ve have atheists tell me that it’s ludicrous to read the Bible and not hold that it authoritatively teaches creationism or geocentrism. I can tell them that that’s not the right way to read the bible, but since they don’t accept that the Church and Tradition hold the key to understanding scripture, I don’t really have a way to prove my point with them.

    Seems to me that Jesus gave us an answer already. (and not just relating to believers, but life in general)
    Matthew 7:16-20 (NIV)
    “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

    Is the fruit of Islam peace? Or war?

  13. From St. Augustine: We should love Muslims in Christian charity, i.e, bring them the Gospel. For as long as they live they may come to a better mind and join the “blessed endeavor.”

  14. I cannot recall whether it was Robert Spencer or Daniel Pipes who said “moderate Islam is a cultural habit; radical Islam is authentic Islam”.

    What bothers one about the contemporary episcopate in the West is the alacrity with which they slide into Eurotrash attitudes. So, a state governor with a death warrant on his desk is sure to get a call from the local ordinary and perhaps the papal nuncio, no matter what the convict in question did to whom. And here again we see a bishop promoting social fictions that the political apparat and the chatterati find convenient. The Holy See under John Paul adopted a diplomatic posture that was functionally pacifist. The Holy See’s diplomatic service was also a great promoter of various and sundry supranational institutions, which just seems perverse. It is embarrassing, and depressing.

  15. This is an excellent topic. I resolve to take time to read all of your comments. I’ll hazard a brief observation of mine. By their works you shall know them and history is replete with the works of the followers of Mohammad. However, Pope Francis is wise to tread lightly around such a dangerous creature.

  16. Botolph,

    A big problem is the fact that there are persons that would judge that comment (hat tip to St. Augustine) and Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospels) essentially to be offensive.

    AD: I love you, man!

    “Eurotrash attitudes”

    “social fictions”

    “the political apparat”


    “functionally pacifist”

    “sundry supranational institutions”


  17. An interesting element of Islam we all want to observe is the behavior of the followers outside of arabic culture. We all know the immense “control” the region has on the world’s muslim population — and will it ever mature to a point that allows for a less combative influence??

  18. Botolph writes: “….we are in relatio to and with non-Christians most especially with the Jews but also with Moslems who ‘worship the One God, the Creator, the merciful’, and who ‘claim Abraham’. …”

    Does the Catholic Church understand Allah …”the One God, the Creator, the merciful”….to be the same Trinitarian God we worship in Catholicism?

    If not, doesn’t the entirety of Catholic tradition and divine Revelation require us to convert Moslems to Christ, not just engage in tolerance?

  19. Slainte,

    Yes, in so much as all ‘men’ by using their intellect-reason can come to know that God exists, that He is one, and that He is the Creator of the everything. God has first revealed Himself in and through creation, thus giving evidence of Himself to all people (and leaving no excuses for those refusing to believe or worshiping many gods etc). What we are speaking of here is what the Catechism teaches as the first two covenants [with Adam: marriage and Noah: family] The next Covenant in which God reveals Himself is the Covenant with Abraham. It is here that things get ‘tricky’ Jews and Christians believe that this Covenant was fulfilled and realized with Isaac and his descendants. Moslems believe that this Covenant was fulfilled with and through Ishmael. While the Covenant of Abraham continues and is furthered with the Covenant with Israel [Moses and David] and now in Jesus Christ, Son of Abraham, Son of David, the Son of God, Moslems while holding all these biblical figures as prophets do not believe in or hold to these covenants, most especially Jesus Christ.

    They see Jesus, Son of Mary, as the Messiah but not the Son of God. Moslems do not believe He died on the Cross period-and certainly not for our sins. Instead they believe He ascended into heaven, where He specifically carries on a conversation with God saying He did not understand why His disciples ‘made Him god”. They also believe that Christians believe Mary is the third person of the Trinity. This is all in the Quran which is according to Moslem belief, the direct, unhindered, word of God spoken byy God in Arabic and put to parchment by Mohammed

    Slainte, in short, together we worship the one true God, the Creator of the Universe. However, we believe that this One God has revealed Himself in and through Jesus Christ and thus God is a Trinity of Persons, One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They reject that utterly and completely.

  20. Matthew 28:19-20

    19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    Catholic missions for hundreds of years spread the Good News globally based upon the foregoing divine directive. I would submit that Ecumenism, to the extent it embraces tolerance, effectively estops Catholic missions from affirmatively evangelizing the Moslems.

  21. Slainte/Botolph: Do we and the Muslims indeed worship the same God? We understand that God is Love. Do they?

  22. Slainte,

    First let me make just a slight correction of terms. “Ecumenism” is that activity and spirituality that pertains to, and only to Christians. Ecumenism is based on our common baptism and the faith in the triune God we profess at baptism. By baptism, every Christian is a member of the Church of Christ which subsides in the Catholic Church. However, sadly, not all Christians are in full communion with the Church. Thus ‘ecumenism’ seeks to answer the prayer of Christ at the Last Supper, “Father, that they may be one”. While it is a tough process of conversion, growth in faith and most of all charity, we actually are now seeing some fruit: for example the Anglican Ordinariate, and what is being called the ‘ecumenism of the martyrs’. Not all Christian martyrs today come from the same Church or ecclesial community, yet all are united in the confession of Jesus Christ.

    What you are referring to is “Interfaith” or “Interreligious relations”, case in point, with Islam. Interfaith relations must be founded on genuine RESPECT for the individuals in that ‘faith’ or ‘religion’, even when that respect is not reciprocated. This ‘respect” is not to be equated with the secular bastardized version called “toleration” which is not actually respectful or charitable but actually ghettoizes various religions and their followers into a ‘secular’ ’cause no harm but keep your mouth shut” mentality. “Toleration” is, like ‘multiculturalism’, an ideology that actually believes there is no real (religious) truth so ‘why can’t we just get along’. In so far as ‘toleration’ does not condone killing, religious wars etc, fine, but as I said, it is a bastardization of the real virtue: respect.

    Interfaith Dialogue, if it is really dialogue, should enable for ‘both parties’ to come to the table so to speak as themselves fully. In other words, in real interfaith dialogue Catholics and Moslems can dialogue not only about what they do share in common but their differences, without covering up or glossing them over.One of the key issues in dialogue with Moslems in Moslem countries are the laws against blasphemy. These laws prevent a Christian to say anything about Mohammed other than that he is Allah’s Prophet. In other words, a Christian cannot, under blasphemy laws, state they do not believe Mohammed to be a prophet, etc or could not say that Jesus is not only the Messiah but the Son of God. Since these contradict the Quran, they are considered blasphemy. This obviously does not make for good dialogue (;-))

    An even bigger issue is the Islamic understanding of the fusion of “mosque and state”. Note I said fusion! There is no sense of distinction between Mosque and State in an Islamic country [there are indeed some countries that make some breathing room: for example the Kingdom of Jordan, or the Emirates on the Persian Gulf where Catholics can really breathe etc -as well as all other Christians]. However when you hear of an Islamic revolution etc you can almost bet Sharia Law (religious law) is becoming law of the land and freedom of religion and not just worship will lose. Also in Moslem countries Christians are supposed to pay a ‘tax’ which is really more of a fine for being Christian, with stiff penalties if not paid.

    In Islamic countries there is actual religious oppression and persecution. It varies from country to country, but some have ‘religion police’ while others depend upon mobs. All one has to do is drop a rumor, falsely accuse someone and that person is as good as dead. Christians are dying daily in these countries. Even so called secular Moslem states, such as Turkey have their own way of oppressing. What Turkey has done in connection with the patriarch of Constantinople (attempting to make the patriarchate go out of existence), converting what was once their Cathedral of Hagia Sophia-that had been turned into a Mosque but is now a museum-wanting to convert it again into a mosque; only yesterday they announced they were converting another ancient Greek Church into a mosque.

    What I am getting at is that the foundations of real interfaith dialogue is based on mutual respect not whimpy toleration. These kinds of things must and are being brought to the table in the on again off again interfaith dialogues.

    I will end, Slainte, by distinguishing “evangelization” and “proseletyzing”. Evangelizing is sharing the Gospel, the “good new” of Jesus Christ with those who do not yet know Him. It is done by the witness of lives primarily. Here I am thinking of Charles De Foucald or the Trappist monks of Algeria. Evangelization is incarnate, embodied. It is a daily witness of life and care for others with respect for others. When asked why their/my life is so different, that is when one can give the reason for one’s hope, as Saint Peter puts it in his Letter (1 Peter 3). Proselytizing however is very different. It begins with a real lack of respect for the other, and moves to ‘showing how and why that religion is wrong’ [We Catholicshave experienced it sometimes from Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons and even some Evangelicals] Proselytism i nothing more than religious imperialism and conquest. It has nothing to do with the Mission Mandate of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28.

    Rodney Stark, a sociologist studying Christianity has made note that between 30 AD and 400 AD, the Church increased in its membership by 40% every ten years! How? Through their relationships, first within families and circles of friends, then with their neighbors. Read the Acts again and except for the one time at the Aeropagus in Athens (which was basically a failure) the Apostles went first to the synagogues: in that context it was ‘within the family’ and then attracted some of the Jews and some of the believing Gentiles who were present for Sabbath worship. The apostles announced that what they were waiting for, the Messiah, had come in the Person of Jesus Christ. Later on, after the barbarian invasions etc a new missionary spirit came, as we see in Patrick or Boniface, but again it was not religious imperialism but genuine charity that motivated their missionary zeal

    I believe real interfaith dialogue to be the real foundations and beginning of evangelization in our post modern context and world

  23. William Walsh,

    Catholics (Christians) and Moslems believe in One God, the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth [I am using those words specifically from the Creed]. Notice I left out “the Father”. Because they do not believe substantially in the covenant with Israel (Moses and then David), they do not believe first of all in God’s “fatherly love” for His People, How many times does the Lord God speak of Israel or Ephraim etc as “his son”. For the Moslem, God’s relationship with mankind (and all people are created/born Moslems-if they are not Moslems for whatever reason they are ‘infidels’) is one of Master to servant. The word “Islam” itself means ‘submission’. While they profess God to be merciful, I frankly am not sure what that means., unless it means He is a merciful Master. Islam does not see God as ‘loving’ and definitely not ‘fatherly’.

    William, you bring up that important text from the First Letter of Saint John “God is love” (1 John 4). As I am sure you realize that means more than “God is loving”. It actually is a confession of faith that Jesus Christ has come into the world to reveal God’s love: His love for us in giving us His Son as the expiation for our sins but even deeper: that in His very Being, essence (what makes God God) He is ‘relationship”, ‘Communion” (‘family”) God is Father (not merely father-like) Son and Holy Spirit. Saint Augustine in his long treatise on the Trinity puts it this way: The love between the Father and the Son and the Son and the Father IS the Holy Spirit. Or he also says, in God there is “the Lover'[Father], “the Beloved” [Son] and Love [Holy Spirit]. “GOd is love” is an unbelievably deep, succinct way of speaking of the Most Blessed Trinity.

    The Moslems would and do reject this outright. According to them, Jesus is not the Son so God is not a ‘father’ and there is no ‘holy spirit’. For the Moslems God definitely and definitively is not love. One further note. Of all the religions of the world, only Islam declares categorically and definitively denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Judaism does not (I am not saying that Jews believe He is the Son of GOd, but simply they do not have a defined doctrine concerning Him-very interesting). Only Islam definitively denies the Divinity of Christ-just as definitively as Christians define that He is!

  24. Readers must google ” Islam and abrogation” which will bring you to various posts like this:

    There are peaceful sayings in the Koran but chapter 9 of the Koran is violent and contradicts those ( 9:5 and 9:29 contradict c120 peaceful verses). The problem is chapter 9 was written in the last year of Muhammad’s life and later verses abrogate earlier verses. Peaceful muslims restrict chapter 9 to an historical context in Muhammad’s life but others and especially jihadists do not restrict it to that context but take its violent passages as the latter rule that voids the peaceful passages of the Koran. So it is the opposite development that one sees in the Bible. The Bible moves from the massacres done by Joshua at God’s order through e.g. a smaller one done by Jehu to the House of Ahab to a final one in 70 AD done by God through
    the Romans against Jews in Jerusalem. But as for Christians, Christ rebukes the disciples in Luke 9 because they wish to bring fire down from heaven ( as Elijah did twice to heretical army companies) on a Samaritan town who refused hospitality to Christ because his face was set for Jerusalem and not Mt.Gerizim.
    The Bible moved from Divine and intimately inspired violence toward human and restricted violence as in
    a just war ( cf Rom.13:4). The Koran moved from earlier tolerance passages to the violence of chapter 9….the reverse…keeping in mind that peaceful Muslims do not see 9 as having abrogation authority.

    In the Bible, only God knew when a group’s sin had reached completion. Only then at sin’s completion would God massacre or use a group to do so because He punished groups lightly for centuries before commanding an herem or ban or massacre (read Wisdom 12:10 on that). Read Genesis 15:16…God is telling Abraham it will be 400 years before He loses patience with the Canaanites…” the wickedness of the Amorites will not have reached full measure until then.”. All that while God sought their repentance while they were sacrificing their children to Baal…but they ignored Him. Christ repeats this concept of completed sin from Gen.15:16 as He warns Jerusalem’s leaders in Mt.23:32…” now fill up what your ancestors measured out.”
    Any Jew who heard those words and connected them to Gen.15:16 quaked inside and knew to get out of Jerusalem or warn their young ones because Exodus 20:5 reads: ” I…am a jealous God…inflicting punishment for their ancestors wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation”.
    Remember when Christ told Jerusalem that their preborns would die within their women because they had not known the day if their visitation…third and fourth generation….see Luke 19:44 ” They will smash you to the ground and your children within you ….because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
    That Biblical violence stops at 70 AD because only God knows which groups have reached complete, filled up sin and only God can order an herem that encompasses innocent children who by the way I think are now in Heaven. David’s baby died for David’s sin. Ezekiel tells us by God’s inspiration that ” the son shall not die for the sin of the father”… ie the son will not go to hell for the father’s sin but he can die physically for the father’s sin per David’s example.

    So the Bible moves from great violence by God’s command due to filled up sin….to Christ forbidding the disciples to burn the Samaritans in Luke 9. Christ’s followers are no longer to kill groups because only God knows when a group have completed sin.
    Many muslims see the Koran as moving in the opposite direction…from tolerance to chapter 9 in which killing groups is commanded if they don’t convert etc.

  25. Islam is a seventh century heresy in whatever form it takes or shows itself.

    I have repeatedly said here that Pelayo, Queen Isabel the Catholic (and her ancestor, King Alfonso the Avenger), Don Juan of Austria and King John Sobieski showed how best to deal with Islam. Smack it in the teeth.

    There is great evil in the world. Porn, homosexualism, the progressive political garbage, Islam….it takes a strong spine, armed with the Church founded by Christ and His Gospel, to stand against it.

  26. It probably is impossible to answer the question raised in the article regarding peace. One thing I know: Islam spread by force. It owes its widespread adherence to force. Every religion, I guess, promotes an ideal or vision of peace and that’s another thing.

  27. “it’s problematic to say what is “true Islam” and what is “false Islam” — especially given that I don’t think Islam is actually”

    I really do not see that. After all, I do not need to be a Platonist, or believe “Platonism” to be true, in order to discuss whether Arcesilaus or Carneades or Proclus were faithful to and merely developed Plato’s teaching or “corrupted” it, that is introduced elements foreign to his thought.

    The question is certainly not meaningless; whether anyone has succeeded in answering it is another matter.

  28. As I said, Pope Francis is wise to tread lightly around the Islam creature. It is dangerous when aroused. Poor Pope Benedict found that out after his innocent historical observation at Regensburg. The practitioners of the “Religion of Peace” went out and shot an innocent nun to register their objection to the truth. I see Christianity and Islam revealed by the respective results of the degree of devotion to each. The more closely one follows Christ, the more peaceful the Christian. The more closely one follows Mohammed, the more violent the Muslim. Give me lax, cafeteria-type Muslims-in-Name-Only* any day. (* MINOs)

  29. Readers must google ” Islam and abrogation” which will bring you to…


    The early, relatively pacific surahs of the Koran are customarily assumed to have been written at the beginning of Muhammad’s “prophecy”, when his followers were a small minority willing to ingratiate and placate others. The later, bloodier ones were written when Muhammad was a victorious warlord.


    I suspect that the lesson that some Muslims draw from this, perhaps in a collective kind of understanding, is the following: they are to blend in and integrate and speak of peace only until they have the means to overthrow or outvote those who stand in their way, at which point, the veil comes off and they can show everyone what they really mean by peace.

  30. “Authentic” Islam is found mostly in two sources: the Koran, and the teachings/examples of Muhammad. For topics not covered in these two sources, one looks to the consensus of authoritative Islamic scholars.

    In order to understand the Koran you have to do what knowledgeable Muslims have done for centuries: look to the “tafsirs,” the Koran commentaries that explain the meaning of each verse. More of these are being translated into English, and I recommend the “Tafsir Ibn Kathir.” It is a 10 volume work, and although it was written in the 14th century, it is still considered among the most authoritative tafsirs and it is very popular among Muslims of our day. An authoritative one-volume tafsir is the “Tafsir Al-Jalalayn” written in the 15th century. For comparison sake, there is the “Tafsir Ahsanul-Bayan,” which was written and published in Urdu in 1995. There is a four volume English translation of this tafsir covering chapters 1-41 of the Koran, and another translation titled “Tafsir Ahsanul-Bayan (Part 30)” which is a small pocket book covering chapters 78-114 of the Koran. You will find general continuity across the centuries in how the verses of the Koran are interpreted.

    This general continuity comes from the fact that in order to understand the Koran, Muslim scholars look to the “hadiths,” reports of the teachings and example of Muhammad related by those who were there with Muhammad. There are six hadith collections that are considered the most authoritative; they have been translated into English and consist of 39 volumes. Here they are:

    Sahih Al-Bukhari
    Sahih Muslim
    Sunan Ibn Majah
    Sunan An-Nasa’i
    Sunan Abu Dawud
    Jami’ At-Tirmidhi

    The two “sahih’s” are considered the most authoritative, with Al-Bukhari being the top.

    Once a subject has been dealt with/decided in the Koran or the teachings of Muhammad, it is set in stone. No one after Muhammad has the authority to change that decision. Although, there can be some disagreement among authoritative scholars on aspects of a particular matter. The best a “moderate” Muslim can do is ignore a particular teaching. But if he chooses to do so, this is best done quietly and not bragged about inside his mosque.

    Over the centuries the authoritativeness of a scholar has been determined by the Muslims themselves, and it continues today.

    The confusion about Islam today stems largely from the reluctance/fear to hold Islam up to the same scrutiny that has been used on other religions. This resulting lack of knowledge results in the spreading of misinformation and myths about Islam. When we combine this with the personal interpretations of Islam by individual Muslims, who might not even know their own religion that well, it creates a sense that there is no “authentic” Islam.

    The answer is to look to their own canonical texts: the Koran, the tafsirs, and the hadith collections.

  31. Thank you, Botolph, for your erudite disquisition on God is Love and that “Islam does not see God as ‘loving’ and definitely not ‘fatherly’. It is interesting to contemplate that Muslims track their history from Ismael of whom Genesis 16:12 says, “He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” Genesis 5:18 goes on to say, “The Ishmaelites dwelt from Hevila to Sur, on the border of Egypt on the way to Assur. He died in conflict with all his kinsmen.” One might expect a people to decline an association with an ancestor of such poor reputation but perhaps there is evidence of an ancestral connection to Ismael for the population of the Arabian Peninsula, albeit whimsical to assign the inheritance of a trait by the same.

  32. William P Walsh

    Thanks for your kind words. I have made my own thoughts on Islam clear (I hope lol) HOwever one thing keeps coming back to my mind. I do believe the connection of Arabs with Ishmael. Some cultures kept those ethnic and racial memories more vividly than, say Europeans [and any and all of us descended from Europeans] who tend to identify with nation or kingdom,

    This being the case, I keep coming back to something that simply will not go away in my mind. The Arabs-are not descended from Abraham through Isaac, but Ishmael. Therefore they were not ‘privy’ to the covenants with Israel [Moses, and David, from whom the Messiah was/is descended] When Arabs became Christians they were grafted into all of this through Christ. But what of those who didn’t come to Christ, and later followed Mohammed and the Quran. [Here I am not at all saying that Quran is revelation or that Mohammed is God’s prophet] All Arabs descended from Ishamel are still blessed in and through Abraham. Yes, they do not share in, participate all the rest, but what does it mean to be a descendant of Abraham. Paul of course says physical descent is by no means enough. This is absolutely true when we see the glorious inheritance we have in Christ. But does that mean the blessing to Abraham, signing that connection with circumcision, attempting to live in Abraham’s blessing, is and or means nothing? [I am not saying it is enough for salvation etc I am simply saying (since they are obviously not Jews) they are more than ‘pagans’ aren’t they? These are simply my thoughts out loud: my own thoughts, nothing more.

    Then I wonder, since there is so much of a struggle between the elder brother (Ishmael) and Isaac-and his physical (Jews) and spiritual (us) descendants-is not ‘salvation’ for them going to include a deep reconciliation between the two brothers in and through Christ who breaks down the walls of separation, as Saint Paul writes in Ephesians.

    Don’t mind me. These are just ‘musings’, but I am left wondering

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