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Pope Francis’ Policy toward Islam Makes Sense

Recently Raymond Ibrahim, a Shillman fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and a Rosen fellow at the Middle East Forum, joined the fray with an essay entitled “How Pope Francis Betrayed His Name.”  Ibrahim attempted to draw a comparison between Saint Francis, who traveled to the Middle East in the year 1212 seeking an audience with Sultan al-Kamil to bring him the truth of Christianity, and Pope Francis who Ibrahim says fails to live up to his courageous namesake. Ibrahim then doubled down with a second essay entitled “The pope’s song and dance with Islam.”

Ibrahim’s comparison fails on a number or levels, but mainly in one key respect: St. Francis sought an audience with Sultan al-Kamil as one man, a simple friar, walking into the lion’s den all by himself. If he failed, the only life lost might be his own.

Pope Francis, as the head of a church of 1.2 billion people, has to take a path that is much different than the one travelled by St. Francis. It is not the cowardly approach that Ibrahim thinks it is. It is well thought out, reasoned, Catholic approach.

Austin Ivereigh succinctly explained Pope Francis’ strategy in dealing with Islam in an article entitled “Pope Francis’s six-fold response to jihadist terror.“ He also explained why the approach is correct:

“…a war with Christianity is key to its [ISIS’] worldview. The Islamic State awaits the army of “Rome,” whose defeat at Dabiq, Syria, will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse.

To precipitate it, they are determined to bring their war out of the Middle East into our airports and concert halls and even our churches. Their violence is strategic, and has an aim: to spread terror, not for its own sake but to produce a reaction, one that will confirm to them their own worldview, which is that secular societies are rotten and degenerate, and the Christian religion false and idolatrous.

To demonstrate the truth of this narrative, they need a war — a religious war, each side with its armies and martyrs — which begins by taking the fight to the soft belly of the west to spread terror to provoke a reaction, one that polarizes society.

The Islamic State believes that, with sufficient provocation, ‘Christians’ — westerners — will turn on Muslims, Muslims will look to the Islamic State to defend them, and eventually there will be a showdown between the two.”

Forgetting for a moment that the Islamic concept of God is one that is both at odds with Christianity and entirely unreasonable from a Christian point of view, and that the Quran is full of contradictory verses on how ‘infidels’ should be treated, there are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world compared to 1.6 billion Catholics or even 2.2 billion Christians. Suggesting a strategy or a policy that might provoke a war between Christians and Muslims is just not a very good idea. If Pope Francis’ were to speak out against Islam it might be enough to trigger the war between Muslims and Christians that ISIS may actually want.

According to Pew data, the majority of Muslims in the world do not support the tactics and atrocities being committed by ISIS:

“More generally, Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified, including 92% in Indonesia and 91% in Iraq. In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say that such tactics are rarely or never justified.”

Critics might contend that those Muslims who say they don’t support ISIS are probably lying because ‘taqiyah’ permits Muslims to lie to non-Muslims. Whether or not this is an accurate portrayal of taqiyah, however, is debatable. As Dr. Robert A Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, and an authority on contemporary Muslim societies and movements, has explained:

“The various interpretations [of taqiyah] offered at the blogsites that pop up on Google are bogus both from the standpoint of a clear reading of the text and the classical Muslim interpretive tradition. They appear to be trying to manufacture fear and mistrust where none is justified.”

Regardless, those who are critical of the religion of Islam will argue that Islam is certainly not a religion of peace, that the overriding goal of Islam is to kill or convert all non-believers and establish Sharia Law throughout the world by whatever means possible. There may some truth to this. But there may also some be truth to the notion that a sizable majority of Muslims really are moderate practitioners of mainstream Islam who do not adhere to the geopolitical precepts of their religion.

The question of whether or not Islam is a religion of peace has been the subject of numerous articles and discussions in recent years. One of the more interesting debates on the subject was one hosted by the Intelligence Squared U.S. organization. The statement being debated in fact was “Islam is a Religion of Peace.” Prior to the debate 41% of the audience supported the statement, while 34% were undecided and only 25% disagreed. Following the debate 55% said Islam was not a religion of peace, only 9% were undecided and those supporting the statement had dropped to 36%. Clearly the ‘Islam is not a religion of peace’ side won the debate.

But one of the more interesting points made during the debate was that “the leaders of Islam, the heads of religion in Saudi Arabia and Iran, are the ones speaking for the religion, not Islam’s moderates.” This statement is worthy of some discussion all by itself.

The leaders of Islam may be the ones doing all the talking, but just how likely is it that “Islam’s moderates” are listening, let alone agreeing? And how likely is it that the Muslim moderates would be willing to wage global jihad against non-believers?

If the leaders of ISIS, or even the militant leaders of Iran for that matter, really were speaking for the majority of Muslims, Muslims from all over the world should be flocking to join the cause. But this is not the case. Even though ISIS is recruiting some radical Islamic extremists to their ranks, thousands of Muslims are fleeing ISIS and the Middle East in droves. It just may be that the moderates are sick and tired of wars and killing and only want to live in peace.

Here in the U.S., and in Europe as well, many Christians who say they are practicing members of an organized religion don’t bother to obey God’s Commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. Many Christians have also become dissidents — agreeing with only some of the doctrines their denomination teaches.  And many Christians are leaving their organized religions altogether and identifying as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ Why should we take it for granted then that all Muslims are more religious than all Christians?

This same ‘I’ll decide for myself’ tendency may be very well be present amongst Muslims just as it is amongst Christians. There is also evidence that many Muslims are even converting to Christianity once they no longer live in a country that forbids conversion on pain of death. So maybe the vast majority of Muslims just don’t agree with those leaders of Islam who are doing all the talking.

The vast majority of people in the world, no matter what their ethnicity or religious beliefs just want to live out their lives in peace. They want to work, buy a home, provide for their families, grow old and retire, and watch their grandchildren grow up.

Pope Francis has called on the governments of the world to put an end to the likes of ISIS and the atrocities they are committing, and to welcome the refugees. The only hitch in Francis’ policy is that it has to rely on the various governments and their often inept bureaucracies to both prosecute the war against ISIS and to adequately vet the refugees. Separating those who really are fleeing ISIS and just want to live in peace from the radical extremists hiding amongst the refugees can’t be an easy task. ‘Confronting Islam,’ however, would only be playing right into ISIS’ hands.

There is no quick fix to ending the terrorism and atrocities of which the radical extremists of ISIS and Al Qaeda are guilty. And as long as radical Islamic extremists and terrorists can find safe havens in corrupt sovereign countries throughout the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa, the war on terror will continue to be fought.

Most of the civilized world is united against the radical Islamic extremist terrorists and terrorism in general. Time is the biggest enemy radical extremists face. Hate-filled extremist organizations never last for long. They die out over time. So too will the likes of ISIS and Al Qaeda. The very nature of terrorism and ‘extremist’ ideologies is usually a death sentence in and of itself.

Once the radical extremists are out of the picture and only those who wish to live in peace remain, we just might find that many of the problems the Middle East is exporting have gone away as well. And as the moderates continue to be exposed to Western thought and education, Christianity and a God of love and reason, democracy and equality, we may even see a decline in the number of Muslims in the world and a corresponding increase in the number of Christians.

Gene M. Van Son writes about politics, religion and other topics and issues that interest him for www.AmericanThinker.com, www.crisesmagazine.com, and www.catholicstand.com.