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By Emina Melonic   
Tuesday, 02 November 2010

Can western democracies have successful dialogue with the Islamic world? As both a Westerner and a Muslim, I might be someone who could answer that, yet almost everything I hear and read leads to bewilderment. I search in vain the libraries and bookstores for new scholarship and sensible social commentary on Islam but find myself being led into a maze of ideology. To most leftists, Muslims have become another protected class under the aegis of multiculturalism; to some on the right, Islam is a monolithic and implacable enemy, as bad as or worse than communism or Nazism.

Then I picked up Robert R. Reilly’s new book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis. Finally some clarity!

Mr. Reilly has written a work of precise and exhaustive research about Islamic theology and philosophy. And he superbly explains that foul and unbearable perversion of the faith called Islamism

I often hear that Christianity and Islam will never be able to reason together because Islam is inherently unreasonable, and this is certainly true today in many Muslim countries. Christianity’s doctrinal roots in Hellenism allow faith and reason to flourish together, and, for a student of Catholicism as I am, it is one of the most significant aspects about the faith. I now understand why what is happening in much of the Muslim world leads many to assume that that Islam (in both its early development and its current manifestations) is irrational. What will surprise readers of The Closing of the Muslim Mind is that Islam also has Hellenistic roots. In order to defend their faith in encounters with Christians and Jews, Muslim scholars employed the philosophical methods of the Greeks, and this led to conflict among Muslims over the question of whether and to what extent God may be known rationally. 

Those who welcomed the question and answered it affirmatively were rationalist theologians known as Mu’tazilites. According to Mr. Reilly, they “created the first fully developed theological school in Islam.” For them, reason had a significant place in faith because Man is endowed with free will. Al-Kindi, an important Mu’tazilite philosopher, said that “nothing should be dearer to the seeker after truth than truth itself.”  The Mu’tazilite school believed that God gave us the use of reason so that we can “come to know moral order in creation and its Creator.” Mu’tazilite teaching agreed with St. Thomas Aquinas that man “can apprehend the created things with his mind because they were first thought by God.” In other words, the fact that God is intelligible gives rise to the intelligibility of creation.


       Al-Kindi, philosopher of faith & reason 

What a difference from what we encounter with Islam these days! How is it that the Muslim world (primarily Arab) seems to be so backward? Mr. Reilly discusses the emergence of another theological school, the eleventh-century Ash’arites. In contrast to the Mu’tazilites, they denied the primacy of reason and free will and placed God’s will at the center of Islam: Allah is the “Doer” and “Effecter” of anything He wills. If God wills it, only He can change it. As Mr. Reilly points out, an all-powerful God is part of all monotheistic religions, but the Ash’arite interpretation pits God’s omnipotence against God’s reason. Unity between faith and reason is impossible, and God becomes a kind of “legal positivist.” 

If God wishes to misguide us, He will. Al-Kindi would certainly disagree with this, but by the thirteenth century, the Mu’tazilites lost standing as an intellectually vigorous authority, and the Ash’arites triumphed.

It is, of course, Ash’arite Islamism that is the source of contemporary terrorism. But a distinction must be made. Islamism’s strange theology (or lack thereof, depending how one looks at it) is really an ideology, not a religion. In fact, Mr. Reilly writes that Islamism is structurally quite similar to Marxism. 

The most significant modern philosopher behind Marxist Islamism was Sayyid Qutb, one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood. He saw the West as a debauchery that must be saved and obliterated by Islam. He applied Marxist rhetoric to a religion, calling Islam an “emancipatory movement” with “an active revolutionary creed.” Such an unreasoning and ahistorical view yields nothing but the most dire consequences for the world. 

In its emphasis on political salvation, Islamism is in many ways similar to liberation theology, which was also comfortable with Marxism. Coercion through “salvific politics” is the way to achieve the “inner perfectibility of history” and with it justice. But we cannot have justice without truth.

The Closing of the Muslim Mind generates many questions: How much of the current situation in Islam is merely a cultural and political trend? Is Islamist ideology limited to Arab nations and their satellites? How can Islam most effectively and quickly enter the democratic public square? 

The answer to the last question is to recognize individual liberty and, above all, human dignity. But in order to adopt and accept such ideas, many Muslim groups (perhaps Islam as a whole) will have to undergo a kind of reformation.

As Mr. Reilly suggests, someone needs to do for Islam what Aquinas did for Christianity. But can anyone do this? Being fully aware of the evil and hatred behind the terrorism that has seared our imaginations and altered our lives, I am inclined to skepticism. But I also believe there is always hope.

 
Emina Melonic immigrated to the U.S. in 1996 and became an American citizen in 2003. She received an MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago, an MA in Theology from Christ the King Seminary, and is currently completing a thesis on Bernard Lonergan and the Trinity. She is pursuing a PhD in medieval philosophy at SUNY Buffalo.
 
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Comments (28)Add Comment
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written by Bangwell Putt, November 03, 2010
When human effort fails, the prescribed remedy is prayer and fasting.
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written by Richard A, November 03, 2010
Christianity (the Church) has a magisterium - the bishops in union with the bishop of Rome. It is able to state definitively what Christianity is, and what it is not, and has done so on numerous occasions in the past. If Islam has a magisterium, it would appear to have decided in favor of the Ash’arites. Or has there been no "decision", and the question of whether Islam is "reasonable" still an open one? Someone has to act against the suicide bombers and stoners of rape victims and their murderous ideology; when he does will he be acting against "Islam"? Do we have to wait for a definitive answer before taking action?
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written by James, November 03, 2010
Islam "undergo a reformation"? Wishful thinking.

Oil and water don't mix; neither do Christianity and Islam. It's a fight to the end.

'Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?' 2 Corinthians 6:14
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written by Fr. Bevil Bramwell OMI, November 03, 2010
Emina, thank you for a most useful column. One teeny point, the word 'Hellenism' has an enormous body of literature around it. Benedict XVI argues extensively against Christianity being identified with Hellenism because this is one of the Protestant charges and it is not true. You are probably using 'Hellenism' as shorthand for Catholicism 'using Greek philosophy is some purified form' to explicate its meaning. In trying to be compact you may have strayed into the whole field of controversy.
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written by Brian Jones, November 03, 2010
Very insightful article. There is one thing, I believe, that still needs to be discussed more deeply concerning Islam. The Holy Father, in his Regensburg Address, highlighted the disconnect of a religion from a logos, or a reasonableness (not that Revelation is reducible to reason). The question is this: Why has the "loss of reason" in Islam resorted to extreme violence, hatred, and suicide bombers? An erroneous Christianity, one that lacks an authentic integration with reason, does not seem to turn to outright violence. Fundamentalist Christians who have a tendency to be fideistic and truly distort the totality of the Christian life, do not seem to pose a societal threat. I know there is more to it than what I have written. These are just preliminary thoughts. Thank you.
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written by John McCarthy, November 03, 2010
Ms. Melonic, What a helpful and illuminating essay. I hope that we (The Catholic Thing) will hear more from you. But I have a question for your next essay. You close this essay by saying that you are "hopeful." Could you tell us why???
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written by Louise, November 03, 2010
And not only "why you are hopeful", but what you are hoping for. The American people have already been deceived by a vague and undifferentiated "hope". Fool me once. . .

I do not find your essay helpful at all. I don't understand what your point is or where you are going with your hopefulness, or what you hope to accomplish with your studies. Explanations may be interesting and somewhat informative, but quite irrelevant to the world we live in today.

Every time I read your essay, my spine stiffens when I come to the words "what Aquinas did for Christianity" as if the Catholic Faith was somehow misshapen or inadequate or deformed in some way. Did it really take 12 centuries for the concept of the intelligibility of God and creation to enter the Faith? I have heard lecturers on early Catholicism say otherwise.

I could swear that the word "merely" was used in quite a shocking way when I read this essay the first time, but it seems to have disappeared. Am I mistaken?

Catholicism is not just one of "all monotheistic religions". Catholicism is THE revealed Word of God, not one of many.

I agree that the West is a "debauchery", and the farther it moves from the Catholic Faith, the more debauched it gets.

"The Closing..." generates many questions." It seems not to have generated the most important question of all, or at least not discussed here: Is Islam (in any of its incarnations), true? We still have that pesky little issue that, if Islam is true, Catholicism is a lie, because two contradictory ideas cannot both be true. Is Jesus the Incarnate Word of God or is He just a prophet? (We're not talking about a paradox, here.) If Catholicism is, indeed, the revealed Word of God, then Islam is the lie. "By their fruits you will know them."

I am happy for you that, although skeptical, you are still hopeful. I am neither. As long as bombs are being carried on planes and my daughter and her husband in their Catholic apostolate are making several cross-country trips a year on a plane, I am just a little nervous. I'm not sure I am comfortable waiting for whatever it is you are hoping for.

By the way, what do you believe is the purpose of dialogue between Catholicism and Islam? To come to some compromise? a halfway point on which we can both agree? When we all come to understand each other, will that put an end to the threat of bombs exploding over Chicago?
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written by Howard Kainz, November 03, 2010
Some hopeful signs for the stemming of irrationality in Islam are already on the horizon: Since 9-11, many are becoming educated about the basic tenets of Islam, while previously hardly anyone in the Western world knew anything about that religion. Along with this, Muslims, many of whom are not familiar with the Qur'an and the Hadith, are becoming more conversant with their own scriptures, including the incitements to violence and hatred of unbelievers, which should raise some ethical "red flags" for believers. Also, the vast proliferation of information through TV and the internet will eventually make it impossible for Islamism or any religious ideology to close off its adherents from competing ideas. The innate human drive toward the truth can be the key to overcoming religious enmities.
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written by jason taylor, November 03, 2010
"Oil and water don't mix; neither do Christianity and Islam. It's a fight to the end.

'Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?' 2 Corinthians 6:1"

Which does not necessarily mean we have to shoot at each other, does it?

And even if it does, should we not at least be polite about it? To put it in romantic orientalist terms, Ms Melonic is a guest and has eaten of our salt by coming here and a little more graciousness might be honorable even if we come from rival tribes.
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written by James, November 03, 2010
And even if it does, should we not at least be polite about it? To put it in romantic orientalist terms, Ms Melonic is a guest and has eaten of our salt by coming here and a little more graciousness might be honorable even if we come from rival tribes.
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I was just quoting from a Book that Christians, but perhaps not Catholics, are supposed to consider the inerrant "Word of God." Maybe you should ask St. Paul to be more "polite".
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written by Emina Melonic, November 03, 2010
Thank you all for reading my column and commenting. Let me give a few responses. I will try to be as clear as possible.
@James: I have not implied that Christianity and Islam ought to mix. As for your quote 2 Cor 6:14--are you implying then that Muslims are unbelievers? If so, then that is simply not factual.
@Fr. Bramwell: Thank you, Father, for your comment; and yes, I only meant the use of Greek philosophy. Thanks for your correction. I am always interested in precise commentary, so this is very helpful.
@Brian Jones: You raise some excellent questions. Does this fundamentalist behavior have to do with Islam as a religion or Arab culture? I can say that I don't have an answer to that question yet (philosophically, that is). At this point, I can only speak from experience of growing up in Bosnia, and that indicates a peaceful religion and culture.
@John McCarthy: By nature, I am a hopeful person. It might be useful very briefly to mention that after surviving the war, witnessing genocide of most of the Muslim population in Bosnia, living in a refugee camp for four years before coming to America, and losing so many family members to war, I know that there is always hope for mankind. Hope and faith in God is what gives me strength during the dark nights that I very often experience.
@Louise: I am hoping and praying for dialogue and peace.
I am not sure what my studies have to do with the review of Mr. Reilly's book. I do not think that the Catholic faith was "misshapen" before Aquinas came along. In fact, intellectually, philosophically and theologically, I am more of an Augustinian than a Thomist myself. In this case, I was merely paraphrasing Mr. Reilly's positions.
Re: my "hopefulness" that you seem to object to: perhaps you, like many Americans (and I am one of them) are sick and tired of groups like New Ageists and others taking over abstract concepts like justice, beauty, hope, love. Rest assured, I am not one of them, but I will also not invent new words to make my point known.
If you don't know what exactly am I hoping for, then how can you be uncomfortable about it?
You say that every time you read my essay, your spine stiffens. Does this mean you read this essay more than once, or are you referring to other columns? And finally, I should say that you are most certainly not obligated to read my column (this or any others).
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written by Boutros al-Rumi, November 03, 2010
The author should take Mr. Reilly's discussion of the dichotomy between Mu'tazilism and Asharite Islam one step further.

Imam Ashari was the first of the Sunni theologians and was the first Sunni theologian in that he was the first to effectively argue to a broad audience that all Islamic theology can be found through an examination of the Sunna of Muhammad as expressed in the hadith. It was Ashari who deterimned which collections of hadith were canonical (Bukhari, Muslim, Malik, Ibn Hanbal, Dawudi, Tirmidhi) and which were not (Razi, Ibn Abi Hatim).

Mu'tazilite theology and reasoning has lived on in the Shi'a sects of Islam, the Zaydis and Twelvers. Ismailis derive their theology from a gnostic tradition.

The problem with the lack of reasoning in the modern Muslim world owes to the fact that the vast majority of the Muslim world is Sunni.
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written by Achilles, November 03, 2010
Dear Ms. Melonic, I thank you for the interesting article and I applaud your courage. I also thank you for the past suggestion of Muslim Jasser Zuhdi Islam’s Luther—or its Don Quixote?” ( Timothy R. Furnish) who seems to speak with much reason. When I heard him talk, my first thoughts went to how other Muslim’s might perceive him and in my ignorance the thought of a fatwa crossed my mind. I wish it were not this way, because when we meet people they are easy to love, but when we have to deal with ideologies, whether Islamism, Liberation Theology, Communism etc.. no matter how sweet the individuals are, in all groups, the morality is such that all these groups would cause grave harm to civilization and individual people.
It seems we have been soaking in the juices of multiculturalism for so long and the art victimology, especially since Edward Said, has been cultivated to such a degree, that we are all desensitized to its corrosive effects, except Louise. As I read her comments, they felt a little like sandpaper to my sentimentality soaked sensibilities, but on further reflection, all things being equal, which they are not, her questions are good and deserve answers from a noble opponent.
I hope a true dialogue is possible, and with you I know it is, but I doubt Islamism is able to have honest dialogue on an equal playing field, at any rate, the evidence is mounting against the possibility.
Thanks again for putting yourself out there, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be, Pax Christi tecum, Achilles
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written by Louise, November 03, 2010
Dear Miss Melonic,

Please read carefully:
"Every time I read your essay, my spine stiffens when I come to the words 'what Aquinas did for Christianity, . . .' "

I read (past tense) your essay several times, perhaps as many as five. It was those particular words I was referring to. Perhaps it wasn't always clear what were your words and what were Mr. Reilly's words.

However, you still have not answered the question about what you hope dialogue will accomplish and why you even hope for dialogue, for that matter.

"If you don't know what exactly am I hoping for, then how can you be uncomfortable about it?"

It is because I don't know that I am uncomfortable about it. I don't think you have told us. That's the trouble with words such as "hope" and "change". Everybody reads into them what they want to read into them. Your hopes and my hopes may not always be the same, and the word "hope" may bring one image to your mind and another to my mind. However, more often than not, we assume that they are the same image, only to find that we don't understand each other at all when we thought we did. I hope that makes sense.

Also, as a "student of Catholicism", you still haven't addressed the issue that I mentioned: Who is Jesus Christ?? If you remember, that was Jesus's question to his apostles: "Who do you say that I am?" That is the fundamental question upon which all understanding of Catholicism rests. I believe that until one answers that question in the way that Jesus expected his apostles to answer it, one cannot begin to understand Catholicism on its own terms, and it must be understood on its own terms. I was a Protestant all my life and thought I understood Catholicism because I lived around it so much. When I became Catholic, I found that I hadn't understood a thing, and no amount of reading or studying would have substituted for the actual experience. I believe that that is a very common experience among converts. We just didn't know what we didn't know, and without the indwelling Holy Spirit received in Baptism to lead us unto all truth, reading wouldn't have done it, at least without special graces--which is not out of the question in some instances.

You have my heartfelt sympathy for the dreadful experiences you have lived through. We Americans have lived a life of great ease compared with most of the rest of the world. My son, who has lived and worked in Moscow for almost 20 years, has said that the Russian people have no sympathy for the Joad family (of "The Grapes of Wrath) because "They had a truck. How poor can they be?"

It is not my intention to give you a difficult time, only to get to the core and the goal of your thinking and study, especially when you fail to address the very basic questions of what you are studying--the questions upon which everything else rests. Perhaps the very first response to your essay by Mr. Puff, is the one deserving of your closest attention.

May God bless you and bring you safely aboard the Barque of Peter where you will find the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other.
In Christ,
Louise
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written by Louise, November 03, 2010
Dear Mr. Achilles,

You are very astute. I am not a sentimental person, Never have been. Sentiment, yes. Sentimental, no. It's my hard-nosed, no nonsense Yankee upbringing, I guess. I'll be happy to send you some ointment for your abrasions, but you'll probably discover that they will heal on their own. Thank you for your vote of confidence. At 77, I don't have all that much time left to beat around the bush. My grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to have to live in this world, and I want them live in a world of mutual trust and respect and basic Christian goodness that I grew up in, where people knew that the values they held dear were the common values of their neighbors and the country as a whole. I don't want them to live in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. I have simply not seen any evidence that those qualities exist in any but a Judeo-Christian culture, and we are fast losing our Christian patrimony. My son tells me that suspicion was a weapon that Stalin used to control the Russian people, and, over time, it has become the norm in human interaction. I felt it and saw it when I visited him there. It isn't a pleasant way to live. Miss Melonic mentioned the prevalence of Marxism in Islam, so is it safe to conclude that suspicion is a way of life among Muslims? It is corrosive and fatal to human society. God protect us from it. Thank you again for your vote of confidence. Louise
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written by Emina Melonic, November 03, 2010
In case I haven't done this, I want to thank everyone for your words of kindness and encouragement. This really means a lot to me.
@Achilles: Thank you for being so charitable in your response. I don't think that dialogue with Islamism is possible at all. Nor should we try to have one, since it is an ideology. And when something is essentially an untruth, there is no starting point. But a dialogue with Islam is possible.
@Louise: Your question why do I want to have a dialogue? Well, one thing is certainly a catalyst: 9/11. Secondly, I should say something about a nature of interreligious dialogue (and I promise I will be short): this type of dialogue is not based on the principle of compromise in order to reach some point that both parties will feel is beneficial. There is also no desire to reconcile two belief systems simply because they exist separately, and are not dependent on each other for each belief system's existence. But what we can "accomplish" in an interreligious dialogue is a common desire and committement to truth, respect for one another and most of all, dignity of human being. (There is much more I can say about the nature of dialogue but I don't want to end up writing a treatise in a comment box).
I find your comment about "hope" and "change" quite interesting. We have all become so numb to someone proposing a dialogue or some kind of "hopey, changey" stuff. I really understand you, and completely empathize with your frustrations! However, I do not belong in a group of those "anything goes" people--besides, you will not find that kind of sneaky rhetoric on TCT at all!!
What I'm studying and how am I going about those studies was really not part of the column--line "As a student of Catholicism" is in this case synonymous with "as someone who is highly respectful (and sympathetic) of the Catholic faith."
As for "who is Jesus Christ," that is really for another theological investigation. I am not sure how is that directly related to the column (perhaps I am missing something...).
And finally, earlier, I have expressed what I meant by hope through describing some events in my life, which had one thing in common--evil. Because of this, I have hope. Hope and faith in my life are directly and fully related to the suffering I have experienced. Now, the other facet of my own hopefulness as relating to Mr. Reilly's brilliant book (which I highly recommend!!) is the fact that at the beginning of Islam's doctrinal development, we see theologians using Greek philosophy to explain God as seen through the prism of Islamic thought. As someone who has been studying both philosophy and theology, I find this most exciting!! If indeed, Islam has roots in Greek thought, then reformation is possible. Whether that will happen in my lifetime or ever, I have no clue. But the thought that I can search the wisdom of the Ancients in relation to Islamic theology is very hopeful indeed.
So, I hope I have answered some of these questions.

And by the way, I admire your strong desire to defend the Catholic faith.

Peace,

Emina
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written by Howard, November 03, 2010
Louise meant 'Mr. Putt', of course.
Putt = A light golf stroke made on the putting green in an effort to place the ball into the hole.
Puff = A short, forceful exhalation of breath. My, my, we wordsmiths could have a field day with this rich typo in the context of the content and underlying personalities manifest in the present exchanges.

But let’s not digress. I’d like to opine a couple of points of my own.
1)In your exchange with Louise, I believe she is dead-on-target with respect of your present state of mind [and state of life], especially where she says, ‘I found that I hadn't understood a thing [about Catholicism] and no amount of reading or studying would have substituted for the actual experience’. Emina, I think that if you take Louise’s experience as a tacit invitation to go ahead and make that personal commitment to Catholicism, you too will become a living, practicing, irreversible, joyous Catholic…not merely a ‘student of Catholicism’.

2)Considering that your essay is supposed to be something of a response, or at least a counterpoint, to Fr. James Schall’s essay of the previous day, I am more impressed with his argumentation. He concludes a brief but stirring, convincing case that forceful Islam is a ‘contorted version [of the Christian Great Commission] ’ and strongly implies we ought to ‘face it’, which means, I assume, resolve and action, not incessant academic debate and deliberation.
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written by Quaecumque Vera, November 03, 2010
Emina: In responding to Louise you state that you can't understand how the question of who Jesus was relates to your column but in your column you say that we cannot have justice without truth. If you sincerely believe this then you will have to come to grips with the One who said " I am the Way, the Truth and the Life". This is the reason I have no hope for Islam. The only way that the ideology can be protected is to find ways to prevent people from ever hearing about Jesus Christ--no churches , no bibles allowed.
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written by ONeal, November 04, 2010
I have read Mr. Reilly's book and I agree with Ms. Melonic that it provides excellent background and clarity on the causes of the irrationality exhibited by the Islamists. As is pointed out by the author, his work primarily describes the Sunni faction of Islam. I have come away with the conviction that the Ash'arite interpretation of Islam reduces all believing Sunni Muslims to the level of human robots that exist in a world with only one degree of freedom (a scientific term). The Islamists, who reject reason and causality simply extend the trajectory to all humanity. Concepts of natural reason and morality, free will, natural law(science) or human law (democracy)are rejected by them as blasphemy against Allah. Since the Quran commands them to subject everyone to Islam, they can justify any atrocity to achieve this as conforming to the will of Allah. They have no personal responsibility for the morality of their actions. Without reformation of Islam (and there are reformers in hiding)I see no possible way that Muslims and non-Muslims can co-exist as equals in a Christian and democratic society.
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written by Louise, November 04, 2010
God bless you, Emina.
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written by Howard, November 04, 2010
As regards the Robert Reilly book Miss Melonic mentions in her essay, for the interested, a podcast is available (to listen or download) of the author talking up the content of his book, conversing with Patrick Coffin, and taking questions from callers on the nature and history of Islam. Originally broadcast a few days ago, on November 1, 2010, it lasts about one hour and can be found on the Catholic Answers website, on the Radio-Calendar page. The substance of the dialogues heard is riveting, edifying and sometimes frightening…well, the latter in the sense that the options for a reasonable, non-violent Christian/Islamic peace seem slim, indeed. The one ray of hope Mr. Reilly mentions (there may be more, I was listening to the podcast at 2:00am and could have fallen asleep) was the deep mutual respect that Islam and Catholicism have for the Virgin Mary, especially in her manifestation at Fatima.
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written by Emina Melonic, November 04, 2010
@Quaecumque Vera: I meant that I was not discussing Christological issues in my column. The nature of historical and Paschal Jesus (which are of course never separate) was not the subject of the column. "Louise" was going in many different theological directions, and I was trying to bring things tighter and more precise into the subject whether there is a possibility of a reformation of Islam. Which was the original question and issue of the column.
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written by Achilles, November 04, 2010
Dear Louise,
Thank you for your kind and good note. We share purposes, I would like for my children what you do. My abrasions have already started to scab over, thank you so much. Your comment on the Marxist element to much Muslim thinking is of paramount importance. There is no peace without the proper order and that order is revealed through Christ. We are not contemplating war with Islam, war is upon us. We in America do a grave injustice to human dignity when we are complicit in agreements that label groups ‘victims’ and through social institution try to counter balance the with weights and measures the injustice. The short term appearance of material gain and progress has an eternal price tag.

Cheterton told us to be closed minded, but open hearted, just as Christ tells us, his disciples, to be “wise as serpents but gentle as doves.” After 40 years in the desert of sentimentality un tethered to reason or common sense, imagine the shock of being “called out” to join the body of Christ. Leo XIII told who the superintendent of schools would be and he is having his way the world over at the moment. There is no time to mince words. Many of us Catholics have fallen for the corrupt version of social justice propagated by the world. Look at the peacenik comment of Melani Statom on Fr. Schall’s excellent piece. Ronald Knox said “we are colonizing heaven, not improving conditions here.”

I for one, delicate though I am, appreciate and applaud you speaking your sharp and cultivated mind, it is a gift to those souls in full awareness of their dignity. You have more than my vote of confidence, you have my gratitude. Pax Christi vobiscum, Achilles
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written by Achilles, November 04, 2010
Ms. Melonic, thank you so much for all the earnest and honorable responses. I heartily agree that dialogue with Islamism is impossible because of the fundamental lack of Truth. I also agree that our focus must shift to dialogue with Islam itself. I hope we agree that compromise on Christ’s principles is impossible as well. I would be interested to see what true dialogue would look like. Any hope would have to hinge on the essential prerequisite of elevating the human personhood, Imago Dei, above cultural and religious labels and then follow the Way the Truth and the life through its proper course to its proper end, and if this were done properly, I believe we would be left with only one True Church. Difficult to imagine because the requisite humility would be, well, it would have to be Christ like. May God keep and bless you Ms. Melonic, you are a beautiful soul! Achilles
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written by Louise, November 05, 2010
Dear Miss Melonic,

If I was "going in many theological directions", it was because I was hoping that you would follow me through the maze of the general, and, in my mind, unresolvable and time-wasting arguments about whether Islam is "good" or "bad", or how, historically, it got from "good" to "bad". I based my remarks on your own statement that truth is required. Indeed, as Mr. Achilles and others have graciously agreed, Truth is the very bedrock foundation of any discussion. I was hoping that you would look deeper and ask yourself, why am I engaged in this exercise?, what is it that am I seeking? It is not only your interior well-being, but your soul I am concerned with.

If you are an Augustinian, you might find an article by R.R. Reno from the February 2005 (I think) issue of First Things (sorry, TCT editors), I believe the title is "Out of the Ruins". Misreading Augustine, Reno thought that Augustine was recommending the intellectual search for truth an end in itself, until one day--reading Augustine, he saw (and understood) the words, "What was I but a path to my own destruction". He realized that the Truth could not be found in retracing the same intellectual circles over and over again--that was the path to his own destruction. The truth was to be found in making one decision: to stop avoiding The Truth (because there is only one) and accept it and leave the rest to God.

May God bless you and lead you to the Truth, Who is His own incarnate Son. "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me . . . and you will find rest for your soul."
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written by Michael, November 05, 2010
In answer to the first question you pose, "Can western democracies have successful dialogue with the Islamic world?" I believe the answer is yes, mediated by their own Muslim citizens.

In Europe, where I live, I see some hopeful signs, where Muslim women, especially, are manifesting their confidence in democracy and proclaiming their adherence to its values.

In France, the president of the Muslim women’s movement Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither sluts nor door-mats) Sihen Habchi, in a forceful attack on “multi-culturalism” has demanded “No more justifications of our oppression in the name of the right to be different and of respect toward those who force us to bow our heads” and Rachida Dati, herself a Muslim and former French Minister of Justice told the National Assembly that the Republic was capable of uniting men and women of different origins, colours and religions around the principles of tolerance, liberty, solidarity and laïcité, making the Republic truly one and indivisible. Likewise, Fadela Amara, another Muslim and Secretary of State for Urban Policies has declared that “for this generation, the crucial issues are laïcité, gender equality and gender desegregation, based upon living together in harmony throughout the world, and not only in France.”

It is a pity that such voices are not reported more often in the media
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written by Louise, November 05, 2010
P.S.: Was it Newman, Belloc, Chesterton, Knox, or ? who said,
"Every question is a theological question."?
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written by Emina Melonic, November 05, 2010
Thank you, Louise for your kind comments. I will make sure to check out Mr. Reno's essay (I probably have it on a shelf laying somewhere!); I like Mr. Reno's essays a lot. And I don't have an answer to your PS question but by the sound of it, it could be Newman...

Michael, thanks for your comment. It's good to hear the news that you bring from Europe, and I agree that it's a shame that we don't hear more of it. Either there aren't that many Muslim voices like that or they are being suppressed. And there is also a strange human need to hear more bad news than the good.

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