The Pope Is Dangerously Naive To Absolve Islam Of Responsibility For The Islamist Murder Of A Catholic Priest

Pope Francis - Aeroplane Press Conference

Islamist terror alone cannot defeat Western civilisation. Only we have the power to do that – and some of us are doing our darnedest to try

It is difficult to see how Western civilisation and enlightenment values can fight back against the forces of fundamentalist, Islamist terrorism when the spiritual leader of 1.27 billion Catholics worldwide – my spiritual leader – desperately refuses to accept that Islam is connected in any with with Islamist terror attacks, and doggedly insists that there is no real difference between “Catholic violence” and Islamist violence.

From the Huffington Post:

Pope Francis said on Sunday that it was wrong to identify Islam with violence and that social injustice and idolatry of money were among the prime causes of terrorism.

“I think it is not right to identify Islam with violence,” he told reporters aboard the plane taking him back to Rome after a five-day trip to Poland. “This is not right and this is not true.”

Francis was responding to a question about the killing on July 26 of an 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest by knife-wielding attackers who burst into a church service in western France, forced the priest to his knees and slit his throat. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.

“I think that in nearly all religions there is a always a small fundamentalist group,” he said, adding “We have them,” referring to Catholicism.

“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics,” he said.

“If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent,” he said.

The Pope, like every apologist for Islamist terror, is arguing against a straw man here – nobody but people on the lunatic fringe believes that all Muslims are violent. This is simply not an argument being advanced by any serious person or organisation, yet time and again the forces of denial (particularly strong among the political Left and the church) seem to feel the need to waste precious time reminding us of the fact that most Muslims are immensely peaceful and decent.

Newsflash: we get it. Unfortunately, that does not erase the fact that the small proportion who harbour violent and murderous intentions are called to do so by a highly literal and entirely valid (if not mainstream in the West) interpretation of Islam. To take the actions of Al Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists and strip them of their religious justification is to remove the only context in which they make sense and can be properly understood.

The people who flew airplanes into the twin towers, blew up the London Underground, killed the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, massacred Parisian concertgoers at the Bataclan, used a truck to mow down families celebrating Bastille Day in Nice and who last week slit the throat of an elderly Catholic priest while he celebrated Mass did not commit these barbaric acts because of social isolation or economic deprivation. Other people bear far worse isolation and deprivation stoically, and do so without resorting to mass murder. Religion is the catalyst – in this case, a fundamentalist and literalist interpretation of one religion in particular. To deny this much is insane.

And yet Pope Francis proceeds to do just that. “I think it is not right to identify Islam with violence,” he tells us. Well nobody is seriously suggesting that all Muslims are violent, or indeed that Islam has a monopoly on violence. But to deny the causal factor which links hundreds of deadly terror attacks across the world over several decades is sheer lunacy.

Of course all religions have a fundamentalist sect within them, Christianity included. But in the year 2016 there are no armed groups of fundamentalist Christians seizing sovereign territory and declaring their own theocratic state in which horrendous Biblical punishments are meted out to gay people, adulterers, shellfish eaters, blasphemers, those who work on the Sabbath or those who are rash enough to wear clothing made from more than one type of cloth. And while you might get the odd lone wolf deciding to blow up an abortion clinic, there is no worldwide Christian jihad underway – despite Christianity being less favoured and more under threat in Western societies than has been the case for centuries.

Most concerning, though, is when Pope Francis says “if I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent”. Firstly, it is not necessary to balance any criticism of Islam with an equal measure of Christian self-flagellation. This isn’t a children’s party game, ensuring that everyone gets equal time is not an important prerequisite. So no, on does not have to speak of Catholic violence when one speaks of Islamic violence.

Francis then goes on to literally equate “someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law” with Islamist terror attacks. Now, of course murder is murder in God’s eyes, just as all life is sacred. But murder and domestic violence have sadly been with us for as long as humans have existed – since Cain killed Abel, in the Bible. Islamist terror, on the other hand, is not an inherent part of the human condition. It is a political and religious phenomenon which must be closely examined and confronted in isolation, not merely swept up together with all the other violence in the world.

By and large, Catholics who kill do not attempt to use their faith as a pretext or justification for their actions – their faith is incidental to their crime. But with terror attacks and honour killings it is quite the opposite. Islam is placed front and centre as the justification for the crime, not by the evil Islamophobic media but by the expressed words and sentiments of those people who carry out the attacks. It is they who insist that they murder in the name of their Islamic faith. It is they who bring death to those they regard as infidels based on the literal teachings of their holy books. It is they, not the racist and Islamophobic media, who call their organisation the Islamic State.

Why are we so unwilling to take the actions of these mass murderers at face value? If a man turns himself in to a police station and admits killing his neighbour for having an affair with his wife, after corroborating the basic facts we would take the man at his word as to the motive. We would not waste endless days and column inches wringing our hands trying to come up with other, far-fetched reasons why the defendant might have killed the man he caught sleeping with his wife. And so it is with radical Islam.

When Islamist terrorists force an elderly priest to kneel at the altar of his own church before slitting his throat in front of his congregation and do so in the name of the Islamic State, we should accept their sincerity (and their declared religious motive) just as we accepted that those terrorists who brought death to civilians, politicians and soldiers during the Troubles did so because of their desire to bring about a united Ireland. To stubbornly refuse to accept the reality of Islamist terror direct from the mouths of the terrorists is to patronise and condescend to the Islamists, stripping them of agency (and responsibility) for their own actions and turning them into helpless pawns, “forced” to commit their terrible atrocities by dark and mysterious outside forces.

This is dangerous nonsense, which would be bad enough coming from the mouths of cookie-cutter leftist politicians. But coming from the heir to St. Peter and the ultimate boss of the slain Abbé Jacques Hamel – the man who more than anyone should be pained by his murder and determined to confront and root out the violence which caused it – it is doubly depressing. When Islamist terrorists strike, we must take their declared motives at face value just as we would do for any other terrorist or criminal. And then we must harden our resolve to destroy the scourge of fundamentalist Islamism once and for all.

To do anything else is not only to bury our heads in the sand as to the nature and severity of the threat that we face, but it is also to dishonour the memory of the many victims of Islamist terror attacks. For they are casualties in a clash of ideologies and cultures – progessivism versus fundamentalism, moderate Islam versus militant Islam, the enlightenment versus the dark ages – which too many people, nominally on “our” side, seem more than willing to deliberately lose, so long as they can avoid giving offence to certain mystifyingly protected classes and ideas.

 

Postscript: It appears that the Spectator’s Damian Thompson has been thinking along the same lines:

In the 21st-century Middle East, Christianity has been suppressed on an astonishing scale. Countless atrocities have reduced ancient Christian communities to shrivelled and terrified ghettoes or underground churches. Although this persecution has been reported in the West, it is of no great interest to secular politicians or the media. It is, as Neville Chamberlain said in a different context, part of ‘a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing’.

On Tuesday, the blood of a martyr was spilled at the other end of the Channel Tunnel. Now Christians in the West have had a glimpse of what it’s like to be a follower of Jesus in the lands of the Bible and many other countries — not all of them Muslim, but a troubling number of them ‘close allies’ who benefit from British trade deals, foreign aid and general diplomatic brown-nosing.

Will the murder of Father Hamel awake Christendom from its torpor? Let me refer you to the Twitter account of one Dr Austen Ivereigh, hagiographer of Pope Francis and former spokesman for the English Catholic Church. He referred to the ‘pointless banality of the Rouen murder’ and urged us not to glorify it by ‘ascribing religious motives’. There’s your answer.

God help us.

 

Fr Jacques Hamel - Catholic Priest

Top Image: NCR

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Not All Muslims

Muslim call to go to Sunday Mass

After the appalling terrorist murder of a Catholic priest committed in the name of Islamic State, a moving gesture of interfaith solidarity by French Muslims should be acknowledged and applauded

It is important, I think, when criticising the fundamentalist element of Islam and the degree to which it is often tolerated or tacitly encouraged by parts of the mainstream, to give credit where it is due and acknowledge work done and gestures made against extremism by the Muslim community.

One way that we have been doing that this week is by celebrating again the life of slain US army capt. Humayun Khan and his gold star parents, who appeared on stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week to repudiate the anti-Muslim rhetoric spewed forth by the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

And another way should be to acknowledge the moving gesture of so many French Muslims attending Catholic Mass at their nearest church or cathedral, showing solidarity with a Catholic community still reeling from the murder of a beloved parish priest at the hands of Islamist terrorists.

From the Daily Mail, displaying unusual magnanimity:

Muslims in France and Italy flocked to Mass on Sunday, a gesture of interfaith solidarity following a drumbeat of jihadi attacks that threatens to deepen religious divisions across Europe.

From the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few miles from where 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was killed Tuesday by two Muslim fanatics, to Paris’ iconic Notre Dame, where the rector of the Mosque of Paris invoked a papal benediction in Latin, many churchgoers were cheered by the Muslims in their midst.

[..] French television broadcast scenes of interfaith solidarity from all around France, with Muslim women in headscarves and Jewish men in kippot crowding the front rows of Catholic cathedrals in Lille, Calais or the Basilica of St. Denis, the traditional resting place of French royalty.

There were similar scenes in Italy, where the head of Italy’s Union of Islamic communities — Izzedin Elzir — called on his colleagues to “take this historic moment to transform tragedy into a moment of dialogue.” The secretary general of the country’s Islamic Confederation, Abdullah Cozzolino spoke at the Treasure of St. Gennaro chapel; three imams also attended Mass at the St. Maria Church in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, donning their traditional dress as they entered the sanctuary and sat down in the front row.

Ahmed El Balazi, the imam of the Vobarno mosque in Italy’s Lombard province of Brescia, said he did not fear repercussions for speaking out.

“These people are tainting our religion and it is terrible to know that many people consider all Muslim terrorists. That is not the case,” El Balazi said. “Religion is one thing. Another is the behavior of Muslims who don’t represent us.”

This blog and others often focus, reasonably, on the failings within the Muslim community – failure of integration and assimilation, failure to stand up for British values (though we are often just as much at fault for failing to transmit those values), failure to confront and root out the extremism in the midst of families and communities. These things are important.

But it is also sometimes the case that we fail to acknowledge those times when the Muslim community does come out strongly in condemnation of fundamentalist, Islamist terror. Anti-extremist counter-protests by Muslim groups often do not receive the media coverage extended to telegenic extremists and their “behead those who insult Islam” placards. Hard and difficult work accomplished in communities goes unrecognised.

And so, as an outspoken opponent of fundamentalist Islam and as a practising Catholic, it is important that I choose to be magnanimous and welcome this touching gesture made by so many Muslims in France and Italy.

Archbishop Cranmer is also moved:

Praying before a blasphemous icon of another Jesus, standing in the shadow of a sacrificial cross which they deny, beneath the dome of a cathedral church steeped in idolatry, myths and deception, Muslims throughout France and Italy attended Mass yesterday. From Rouen, Nice and Paris to Milan, Naples and Rome, hundreds flocked to express solidarity and compassion with Europe’s Roman Catholics, many still reeling, weeping and mourning the loss of a much-loved elderly priest, Abbé Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit by Islamists as he celebrated Mass last week.

All Muslims are exhorted to the greater jihad, to strive against the flesh and persevere in the purposes of Allah, but not all jihad is holy war. All Muslims are not Islamists, but Muslims are becoming terrorists. It is futile, patronising and dangerous to deny it. Islamists are extremists who kill the innocent; Muslims who are moderate and enlightened seek to worship in peace. Islam is not all about oppressing, torturing, murdering and slaughtering. It just seems like it. And no wonder, when the news dishes up a daily diet of Islamic State videos exhorting the faithful to attack the enemies of Allah; Western Muslims who fight for their country are condemned as apostates; hotels are bombed; ancient shrines blown up; ‘spies’ are beheaded; oil fields blaze; and British imams preach to young boys that it’s okay to have sex slaves. That’s just today’s coverage of degradation and destruction.

Amidst all this global trauma, suffering and strife, it is a cause of great hope that so many Muslims can put aside their theological scruples and multifaith ecumenical aversion to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is profoundly offensive to their beliefs, and utterly repugnant to their teachings: Jesus is not the Son of God; he is not divine; he did not die on a cross; he does not become a wafer; praying with wine is haram.

[..]

There were tears during the sign of the peace. ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself‘ (2Cor 5:19). In their shared humanity, Muslims and Christians bore witness to the humanity of Jesus, his sacrifice and death, his reconciling love, his resurrection and glorification. ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them‘ (Mt 18:20). The Living God is present in the world, if not in bread and wine. We can meet Him, pray to Him and listen to Him. That is our privilege through Christ. And in that communion we stand with all believers in the world and throughout all history. And we stand with all participant peace-loving Muslims, too. ‘This is my blood…

Wordless interfaith dialogue is the best remembrance.

In a sign of just how bad things have gotten in Europe, this blog was actually surprised when there was no major, high-profile terror attack last Friday, perfectly timed to dominate television coverage leading into the weekend, when previous weekends had seen such attacks.

No matter how routine this destruction and insecurity may become in the short and medium term, we should not allow this “new normal” in Europe to become in any way acceptable or excusable, and we should hold European leaders firmly to account for the whole range of bad decisions they have made – from social policy and a lack of focus on protecting national culture and encouraging assimilation right through to the migration crisis – which have increased the risk of Islamist terror attacks on our soil.

But as we witnessed at Catholic Masses across France this Sunday, it is not all bad news – a fact which those of us who report or comment on human events should be careful to acknowledge.

 

Fr Jacques Hamel - Catholic Priest

Top Image: Time

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