Francesco Sisci asks whether Muslims can work with Christians against what he calls “bloodthirsty pseudo-Muslims.” It is commonplace for Westerners to argue that ISIS (for example) is not true Islam. George W. Bush insisted that Islam is “a religion of peace.” It seems odd, though, for non-Muslims to tell Muslims what their religion might be. The Vatican Islamologist Fr. Samir Khalid Samir has argued convincingly that Islam can be whatever Muslims make of it. One cannot establish an authoritative tradition in Islam, Fr. Samir explains, because the Quran itself is an artifact of heaven itself, the equivalent in Islam of the person of Jesus Christ in Christianity. Absent an authoritative tradition (like the Catholic Magisterium or Jewish mesorah), “It is up to the individual Muslim to decide what he wants Islam to be:”
Many Westerners fear Islam as a “religion of violence”. Muslims often call simultaneously for tolerance and understanding as well as for violence and aggression. In fact, both options are present in the Qur’an and the sunna. These are two legitimate manners—two distinct ways to inter pret, to understand, and to live Islam. It is up to the individual Muslim to decide what he wants Islam to be. . . . ( 111 Questions on Islam, p 18)
. . . Consequently, in the Qur’an there are two different choices, the aggressive and the peaceful, and both of them are acceptable. There is a need for an authority, unanimously acknowledged by Muslims, that could say: From now on, only this verse is valid. But this does not—and probably will never—happen. . . . (p. 71)
. . . If the Qur’an was indeed “sent down” by Allah, there is no possibility of a critical or historical interpretation, not even for those aspects that are evidently related to the customs of a particular historical period and culture. In the history of Islam, at a certain point, it was decided that it was no longer possible to interpret the text. Hence, today, even the mere attempt to understand its meaning and what message it aims to communicate in a certain context is regarded as a desire to challenge it. . . . (p. 42)
Egypt’s President al-Sisi earlier thisyear called for a reform of Islam in a widely-commented speech; he is by all accounts a pious Muslim. If the leader of the largest Arab country takes this position, the answer to Francesco’s question is a clear “yes.” Having overthrown the Muslim Brotherhood government in July 2013 to enormous public approval, al-Sisi with Israel to suppress Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. I would assume that the terrorists of Hamas fit into the category of “pseudo-Muslim” that Francesco employs. Muslims and Jews, that is, already are working together against extremists. An unprecedented public dialogue between a top Israeli official, Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold, and former Saudi government advisor Anwar Ekshi, is another expression of Jewish-Muslim collaboration against Muslim extremists, namely the Tehran regime. In this context it is of great importance that Turkey’s ruling party, the biggest supporter of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, has lost its parliamentary majority and most of its credibility. These are all welcome developments in the Muslim world.
The question is: Where are the Christians?
Most of the notionally Christian world, including the European Community, has already resigned itself to a deal including Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist organization that Egypt is helping Israel to contain. A Palestinian state at this juncture would be controlled by Hamas, as I explained in a May 13 essay–as every European diplomat knows. The Vatican just recognized a “Palestinian State,” which under present circumstances is a nod to Hamas. The Vatican’s support Palestinian Christians in communion with the Vatican are openly supportive of Hamas. In Washington, the Christians of both political parties gave tentative backing to the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt in the expectation that “Muslim democracy” would arise from Islamist parties, and attacked al-Sisi for overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood regime in July 2013.
While Muslim leaders have taken important steps to align themselves with Jews against terror-prone Muslim extremists, the Christian world in general, and the Vatican in particular, have in general accomodated the extremists. This, I believe, arises from the confluence of liberal universalism (which believes that it can engineer solutions for everyone) and a Christian millinearian hope for universal salvation. Rather than ally with responsible Muslims to suppress extremism, the Vatican is encouraging the extremists.
Francesco raises the issue of the longevity of the Jewish people. The explanation is to be found in Hamas’ oft-repeated taunt: “You love life, and we love death.” The Jews survive because they love life, because Judaism consists of sanctifying the activities of everyday life, of “planting eternal life among us,” as the blessing over Torah reading states. Hamas self-proclaimed love of death is no different from Nietzsche’s nihilism–the advice that the forest-god Silenus gave to King Midas as quoted in “The Birth of Tragedy,” that best of all is never to have been born, to be nothing, not to be at all. That proposition is raised and refuted by Ecclesiastes. The Jews will continue to have to opportunity to live and the likes of Hamas will have the opportunity to die–and both sides will get what they wish for.
Categories: Chatham House Rules