Robert Reilly, former director of the Voice of America, has written a seminal article on the religiously-motivated threat America currently faces. The original was published on Tuesday by the Liberty Fund and is reposted with permission.
Nothing could be more curious to Muslims than Western non-Muslims telling them what their religion is about.
Would not Christians find it odd to hear from Muslims what the true meaning of their religion is? Nevertheless, after almost every terrorist act against a Westerner, particularly the more gruesome ones like beheadings, Western heads of state reflexively react with protestations that such acts are absolutely un-Islamic, despite the explicit claims of their perpetrators that they are done precisely as religious acts, as they exultantly declare, “Allahu Akbar.”
For example, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron, noted Muslim scholars both, were the first to assure us that the Islamic State or ISIS, after it had decapitated an American and a British citizen, has nothing to do with Islam. (Of course, we can trace the genealogy of this thinking at least back to former President George W. Bush who said, after 9/11, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. . . Islam is peace.) Their subalterns also chimed in. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Islam is a “peaceful religion based on the dignity of all human beings.” He denounced the Islamic State as “this enemy of Islam.” U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond asserted that the Islamic State “goes against the most basic beliefs of Islam.”
Clerics were not far behind. The Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia, Mark Coleridge said, “It has nothing to do with real Islam.” At a September press conference, retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick claimed that “Catholic social teaching is based on the dignity of the human person . . . [and] as you study the holy Koran, as you study Islam, basically, this is what Muhammad the prophet, peace be upon him, has been teaching.” Therefore, these killings were not canonically correct. So they must not be due to Islam, but to a lack of opportunity—something we can fix.
This sort of exculpation happens so frequently that I can only understand it as a kind of preemptive Stockholm Syndrome. Because we don’t want to face the consequences if such acts are Islamic, we will simply insist that they are not: they can’t be because we find that unacceptable. The preemptive Stockholm Syndrome not only provides huge psychological relief to us, but it also lets Islam off the hook.
Why don’t we wait to hear from Muslims on this? Wouldn’t they be in a better position to say? In Jordan, politician Muhammad Bayoudh Al-Tamimi, a Palestinian, adamantly defended ISIS during a television appearance posted online in late August. Islamic State ideology “stems from the Quran and the Sunna,” he said, according to the translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “The Quran and the Sunna constitute their ideology, doctrine, and conduct. . . . There is no such thing as ‘ISIS ideology’—it’s Islam.”
That of course supports the position of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who has declared himself caliph and claims descent from Mohammed. Unlike Obama and Cameron, he has a PhD in Islamic studies. As any good caliph would, he has commanded the allegiance of all Muslims in order that they might reclaim their “dignity, might, rights and leadership,” and announced that ISIS would march on Rome. If he is a real caliph, there is nothing particularly unorthodox about this, and it would resonate with a desire in the hearts of many Muslims.
“We look forward to the coming, as soon as possible, of the caliphate,” said Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most popular preacher and scholar in the Sunni Muslim world. However, he cautioned, the “declaration issued by the Islamic State is void under sharia and has dangerous consequences for the Sunnis in Iraq and for the revolt in Syria,” adding that the title of caliph can “only be given by the entire Muslim nation,” not by a single group.
So the problem is not with the idea of the caliphate, but with this particular pretender to the title. However, as the long history of Islam has shown, power is self-legitimating in the Muslim world. Power comes from Allah; otherwise, how could one have it? Therefore, further success in battle and more oaths of allegiance from other Muslim groups may vindicate Al-Baghdadi’s claim. That is why Muslim rulers, particularly in the Middle East, are particularly anxious that he be defeated. Otherwise, their goose is cooked.
This is essentially a Muslim quarrel. In fact, the Muslim opponents of ISIS refer to its members as Kharijites, referring to a 7thcentury intramural conflict over the caliphate that was likewise settled with a great deal of blood.
However, we in the West are unlikely to hear of the struggle in these terms. More likely, we are assuaged by statements like that made in August by former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who said: “There is no place for violence in Islam. Islam is a religion of peace and some people have wrongly interpreted the religion.” No doubt, and there have been many such protestations from Muslim leaders and religious figures.
But how is peace defined in Islam? The key is to understand the Islamic jurisprudential context in which these things are said. I have no doubt of the sincerity of most Muslim leaders in saying the things they do, but we in the West are largely unaware of what they mean by what they say. This is due to our ignorance of Islam.
Read more at Breitbart
Robert Reilly is the Senior Fellow for Strategic Communication at the American Foreign Policy Council. He is the author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis (ISI Books, 2010) and The Prospects and Perils of Catholic-Muslim Dialogue (Isaac Publishing, 2013) .