A Jihadist Conquest?

Editor’s Note: Given the ongoing debate about the nature of Islam, we will be presenting two views this week. Today, Fr. Schall lays out a case for why we cannot simply deny that Jihadism is a legitimate interpretation of the Koran. Tomorrow, Emina Melonic, an American Muslim born in Bosnia, will argue that Islam can practice something approximating the dialogue of faith and reason familiar to most Catholics. George Marlin will be staying up late this evening, but his analysis of the meaning of the election results for various Catholic concerns will appear on Thursday. – Robert Royal

What follows is an opinion. An opinion means that, of two sides of a contradictory proposition, both sides have evidence, neither conclusive. The proposition I address, and it needs frank address, is this: That faction of active, believing, and armed Muslims, who hold that Islam must set forth to conquer the remaining world for Allah, whatever their relative size, not only have the better side of the argument about whether the Koran and actual Muslim history support them, but that they have, in the next half-century, if persistent, a high probability of success. The contradictory opinion is: Islam is peaceful and, in any case, has no chance so to prevail.<

For what it is worth, though many recent books support the latter contention (list on request), objectively, the first side has the better argument and, on this basis, is acting, as we speak. Don’t be scandalized if Schall and Bin Laden agree on this view of Islam. These militant representatives, who to us are mere “terrorists,” do intend to conquer rest of the world for Allah, as he commanded them to do. Progress is being made. It will not be stopped unless made to stop. I do hope for, but don’t count on, another Tours or Lepanto – military defeats terrorists plan to avenge. The Jihadist mind is shrewd. It reads western cultural and moral decline as indicating its own “historic moment,” which, as Belloc said at the end of The Crusades, offers it the chance to do exactly as it did before.

While much cynicism and corruption are found among the Jihadists, a genuine motive we call “religious” is evident. That is why most of our sociologists and philosophers cannot get a handle on it. Scientific methodology excludes the spiritual. We really do have “martyrs” who, in the name of Allah’s reign, seriatim blow themselves up with tens to thousands of innocent people (whom they think are “guilty”). As a result of such “noble” deeds, theologians tell them that they are in heaven. Many Muslims believe them.

Hassan-i Sabah, 11th-century grandmaster of the Hashshashin (assassins), an early Jihadist.

This interpretation, that it is legitimate to kill the innocent to expand Allah’s reign, is one of two “nuclear bombs” the Muslim world possesses. The first is their relative population increase and our decrease. The second is the suicide bomber universalized. This is why Benedict XVI made a point about the latter in his “Regensburg Lecture.” Philosophic voluntarism that justifies violence has to be confronted head on. When detonated, the suicide bomber is more lethal than anything Iran is developing. The suicide bomber can explode himself any time, any place in the world, among the small or the great. His potential for civil disruptiveness in world cities is almost infinite, once widely put into effect. Jihadist theorists know this potential. Our unused atom bombs worry us. The randomly exploding pipe bomb is intended to terrify us.

Shamir Kalid Shamir, the authoritative Egyptian Jesuit, in his book, 111 Questions on Islam, concludes precisely that, in the Koran, it is possible to discover good evidence for both sides of this proposition – Holy War is/is not justified. Both are there. The Jihadists are not deranged for finding it there; nor are those uninformed who don’t. I conclude from this position that those whom we designate as “terrorists,” mainly not to face the issue of whether what they propose follows from their “religious” beliefs, are faithful to the Koran and to Muslim history. That history also recalls the arms that conquered much of the Islamic world, as we now know it, much of it Christian lands held by those who wouldn’t or couldn’t prevent the conquest.

I am quite prepared to analyze Islamic power in terms of the Aristotelian category of regimes. In structure and practice, most actual Muslim regimes are monarchic or tyrannical in rule. I doubt, however, that the legal structure of these states, whose boundaries were often drawn by European colonial powers, are particularly effective for the more recent across-all-borders awakening of Islam to the possibility of world conquest. Nor do I think some Machiavellian, Leninist, or Nietzschean “will to power,” rather than religious belief, is what is primarily behind it all. The religious belief that the world should be subjected to Allah and his law under a universal caliphate is what is operative. World conquest in praise of Allah is an idea, almost unfathomable to us, that has lasted down the centuries since Mohammed’s blinding military career.

I am somewhat sympathetic to this Muslim project to complete what is considered to be the “mission” of Islam in the world, that all be “subject” to Allah. I think it is a contorted version of “go forth and teach all nations.” Both the understanding of God and the means are different. That is the problem. We do not want to face it. The Jihadists do.

James V. Schall, S.J. (1928-2019), who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, was one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. Among his many books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught, Catholicism and Intelligence, and, most recently, On Islam: A Chronological Record, 2002-2018.

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