The Catholic Thing
Islam and Us Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Tuesday, 19 January 2010

There was a time when Islam was an historical, literary, or cinematic curiosity with little or no purchase on the American imagination and no measurable impact on our lives. That began to change in earnest on November 4, 1979 when Iranian “students” seized the American embassy in Teheran and held its staff hostage for 444 days. Since then we’ve had many reasons to pay closer attention to what George W. Bush has called – in a speech just five days after the 9/11 attacks – a “religion of peace.”

Among other things, we learned a new word: jihad. Some experts warned us not to accept the Al Qaeda interpretation. Jihad is not the conquest or subjugation of non-believers to the rule of Islam, they argued, but the struggle of the individual Muslim to align his will with God’s.

And we continue to read that Muslim anger against the West is justified, that Islamic violence has its wellspring in various American and European crimes and outrages: the ill-treatment of Palestinians by our Israeli “proxies;” the presence of American troops on holy ground (i.e. Saudi Arabia); the maltreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib; the prison at Guantanamo Bay; the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. Indeed, it has almost seemed as though Islam is everywhere a Grievance-of-the-Month Club. In any event, Western journalists insist that America in particular and Western civilization more generally are to blame (an enduring leftist meme), and they’ve certainly not been discouraged by President Obama’s ongoing World Apology Tour.

Of course America is not sinless. Still, as Greatest Powers Upon Earth have gone throughout the ages, the international interventions of the United States have been benign. As Colin Powell’s told the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in 2003:

We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years . . . and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home . . . to live our own lives in peace.

And lately the news shows Muslims on the attack in various places around the world – not just places where there are Americans – apparently because they object, often violently, to co-existing with Christians or Jews or Hindus.

Late last year in Gojra, a city in Pakistan’s Punjab region, a rumor – false as it happens – spread among Muslims that a copy of the Qur’an had been defaced. A mob descended on a Christian neighborhood and set ablaze forty homes. Six people were immolated inside one house when armed rioters blocked their exit from the inferno. In all, eight died in Gojra.

The Hameed family hid in the bedroom of their house. “We could hear them smashing everything and dividing our belongings amongst themselves,” Almass Hameed recalls. “Then they started beating on the door saying they would teach us a lesson and burn us alive.”

More recently, Malaysia has witnessed a series of attacks on Catholic churches in the wake of a court decision that allowed the Church there to use the word “Allah” to mean “God.” If I understand Islam correctly in this regard, that is what “Allah” means, yet many Malaysian Muslims are literally up in arms about it. Eight churches have been attacked, three of them firebombed.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians are under attack. On Christmas Eve, seven kids near Nag Hamadi were murdered after midnight Mass by Muslim gunmen. According to some reports, local police were tipped off before the attack but refused to offer protection.

In Iran, Christian converts from Islam are often arrested and imprisoned if they refuse to apostatize. Christians are termed “anti-government activists.”

In Saudi Arabia, it remains illegal to own a Bible. The Saudis fund construction of mosques in the West; no churches are allowed in Saudi Arabia.

Sad to say, the list is long and growing longer. Islam may lack a pluralism gene.

As the organization Aid to the Church in Need puts it its recent report, Persecuted & Forgotten, “Leading experts in the field agree that today 200 million Christians suffer for their faith, many of them facing murder and other forms of violence.” One cannot help but recall the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hated. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today. . . . Look for the Church which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God. . . . Look for the Church which amid the confusions of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its Voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly it is other worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself.

Brad Miner, a former literary editor of National Review, is senior editor of The Catholic Thing and author of The Compleat Gentleman.

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Comments (17)Add Comment
Lord Save Us
written by Willie, January 20, 2010
It seems to me that Western Civilization, being steeped in secular humanism, suffers from a cognitive impairment. It seems not able to realize the importance of religion in world dynamics. Islam is a religiously driven culture and thus we have the continuing clash of civilizations. It is the mindset of the Islamic world that eventually we must all submit to Islam. There can never be total accommodation with the West. Centuries ago the West was a religious society with equal fervor, but no more.
Benign Interventions
written by John Duckett, January 20, 2010
Brad, you say: "Still, as Greatest Powers Upon Earth have gone throughout the ages, the international interventions of the United States have been benign." ...There are volumes of argument, pro and con, about this. Such an unqualified statement is out of place in your otherwise excellent piece.
written by Jacob, January 20, 2010
So Mr. Duckett you're going to chastise Mr. Miner for what you see as an unsupported claim with an unsupported claim?

It's quite a game how these countries ask for help and then spend decades calling us murderers to justify taking our aid money while trying to defeat our country with their new kind of guerilla warfare. That's to be expected. What's truly breathtaking is how eager so many American and European leftists are to help them (I'm sure Russia, China, or a caliphate would be better!)
written by Joseph, January 20, 2010
Bishop Sheen nailed it and Brad drew some important contrasts between Islam and true Christianity, but stumbled, as John says below, in portraying U.S. imperialism as "benign." 2 a-bombs dropped, millions killed in Nam, Korea, Panama, Iraq, South America have left America, the so-called "Christian nation," with no room for cover.

We reap what we have sown, and what we have sown, as a government around the world, is hatred -- now being expressed in "Radical Islam." America is not the Church.
Qu'ran, murder weapon
written by Ivan, January 21, 2010
The charge of Koran defacement or abuse, is a sword of Damocles hanging over all the infidels cursed with the bad fortune to live amongst Muslims. It is the failsafe method of Muslims when they need to discharge their rootless fury after weekly prayers. It matters not one bit if the accusations are substantive. The potency of this particular means of murder and harrassment can be judged from the disappearance of so called moderate Muslims, the hand-wringers whenever it is deployed.
An observation
written by Brad Miner, January 21, 2010
I won't get specific in responding to comments on my column, except to say America is a force for good in the world, and jihad has nothing directly to do with American actions. AQ and others may cite excuses, but their real ambition is global submission to Islam. All "chickens-have-come-home-to-roost" palaver is nonsense.
Imperialism, not!
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., January 21, 2010
Joseph, what on Earth do you mean by imperialism? Becuase of space limitations I will only address one event you cited: Korea. At the end of WWII, The Soviets occupied the Northen half of Korea, imposing on it a Stalinist police state. Five years later, under Soviet direction, North Korea invaded a nearly defenseless South Koreea. The US came to the South's rescue. How dare you repeat the propaganda of the world worst tyrants and killers of Christians?
written by William H. Phelan, January 21, 2010
I enjoyed reading Mr. Miner's article and the various replies. The solution of course is each one must educate himself with all the tools for this available. He must also take nothing at face value, but pry underneath to find the goals that are being sought. In order to beat the Russians utilizing the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, the CIA determined to make it a "religious" war to unite the disparate groups. They brought in thousands of Qu'rans in various dialects. They are still using them!
Lack of Catholic Jihad
written by Muhammad Elijah, January 21, 2010
Jihad is the struggle to refuse and resist the claims of the self-styled right of Allah-less(Godless) materialists to power under its different guises throughout its history with its most anti-Allah(Anti-God) variant of liberal democracy implanted in the Muslim world via colonialism which is an aspect which it doesn't share with Catholicism. Islam has remained consistent throughout history in its refusal of secularist rulers while Catholic history has vacillated.
written by Joseph, January 21, 2010
Tom Coleman, the U.S. has more than 700 military and CIA bases, rented or owned, in 130 countries. Look up the definitions of militarism and imperialism and try to be more objective rather than hurling out accusations. These are facts, not opinions.
As for Korea, counterarguments could be made, but space limitations inhibit. Suffice to say, that the U.S. record of violating the sovereignty of foreign nations is unsurpassed in its scope. The result is a term called 'blowback.' Look it up.
Imperialism, not!. II
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., January 21, 2010
Joseph, the number of US military and CIA stations could be twice what it is and still not amount to imperialism if we aren't taking over countries and explointg them. Our bases protect our allies and preserve peace. In re Korea, to suggest that our intervention to protect the ROK and our coninued presence there constitute imperialsim is, again, to parrot the propganda of the world's worst tyrants. I am all too familiar with the Soveit/North Korean "counter-arguments," which are all lies.
Imperialism III (for Thomas)
written by Joseph, January 22, 2010
No doubt Ancient Romans thought they, too, occupied foreign nations "to protect allies and preserve peace." No doubt those living in Gaul, Jerusalem, Greece and elsewhere in the Empire were oppressed, They certainly to overthrow their foreign masters. Ask the people of Okinawa today how they feel about 64 years of American occupation. Ask the Palestinians, Every nation can protect itself. We don't need to police the world. Communism is man's exploitation of man; capitalism is the reverse. :)
Re:Lack of Catholic Jihad
written by Reader, January 22, 2010
Yes, that's right, if only the Catholics had a jihad, a holy war against the infidel. As much as I try, I can't think of any example in history that could possibly fit under this title. The closest possible example is maybe that time in the Middle Ages when Catholics delivered rainbows and puppies to the Holy Land....
To: Reader
written by Brad Miner, January 22, 2010
Of course I know nothing of rainbows and puppies, but I guess you mean the Crusades. You might find the review I did of Rodney Stark's GOD'S BATTALIONS of interest. Just type the following into the TCT URL after the .org backslash: content/view/2600/26/
To: Brad Miner
written by Reader, January 22, 2010
Urban II: "All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ!" Whatever you want to say of the Crusades, it was thought of as a holy war (other notable holy wars: jihads)
Not Occupation
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., January 22, 2010
Joseph, I'm sure you know that the word "occupation" comes from the Latin occuapre, which means to seize. The US occupied deafeated Japan and Germany after WWII. Our occuapation of Japan ended in 1955, and the troops now stationed there are not an occupying force, just as our forces remaining in Germany and South Korea are not occupying forces. By characterizing those forces as occupiers you are unwittingly echoing Communist propganda. Comparing the USA to Rome is ludicrous and odious.
written by Joseph, January 22, 2010
We apparently can't agree on the meaning of words, which undercuts any chance of meaningful discourse. You may have the last word. May I simply add that parallels between America and Ancient Rome are hardly far-fetched and were the grist of the works by many Christian writers, mostly notably Taylor Caldwell, in her brilliant novels, "Dear and Glorious Physician," and "Great Lion of God." Read the prefaces and perhaps you will come around some day.

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