Picture of James Foley murdered by ISIS: Man of Incredible Bravery and about his witness of faith: Slain journalist James Foley on praying the rosary in captivity.
The recent slaying of the freelancer journalist James Foley moved me deeply. In the mist of this tragic incident and the displacement and murder of thousands of people in Iraq the Bishop of Mosul, Iraq made a poignant statement:
“I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.”
Amel Shimoun Nona
Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Iraq
This is not radical Islam is taking over the region, but rather Islam reaffirms itself in the region against more moderate and progressive version of Islam. The West in its desperate down spiral identity crisis refuses to admit such a self-evident truth at its own existential peril. The archbishop continues by saying:
“Islam does not say that all men are equal,” and if Westerners “do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed into your home.”
The pity is that anyone in the west, making such statements will be immediately labeled an islamophobe, accused of bigotry, publicly chastised and marginalized by people that either are ignorant of history and Islamic teachings or by people with suspect agendas. The fundamental problem as Pope Benedict XVI identified in his now famous Regensburg address is Islam’s view of the nature of God:
…for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.”
In Muslim teaching, God is pure will and thereby God is not bound by reason. Making it possible for the shifting morality of war observed throughout the rapid Islamic expansion during the six, seven and eight centuries. These expansions were driven by military conquest and forced conversion of conquered populations that are no different from what we are observing in Iraq and other countries. The main difference is that a component of todays “Islamic radicals” grew up in western countries (i.e. England).
The interaction between faith and reason has been a staple of Christian theology since the early apostolic church and serves a stark contract to the Muslim view of God’s absolute transcendence; where such interaction is subjugated to the will of God. This excludes the fundamental logical principle of non-contradiction since the overriding factor is the will of God and not natural law. This is the point of discussion between the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleogus and his Persian interlocutor referred by Pope Benedict in his address and at the crux of today’s barbaric persecution of non-Muslims in Islamic countries. As Pope Benedict XVI quoted the Emperor:
“Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.
The solution is complex, but it starts by confronting the truths about Islam both the good and the bad. On one hand history shows a time, albeit brief period, where Hellenization of Islamic theology led to fruitful and peaceful interactions between Christians and Islamic intellectuals pointing to a possible peaceful way forward, but on the other hand, history also shows us what happen when Islam rejects such principles and adheres to a plain interpretation of the Qur’an. Given the absence of moral certitude in an age of moral relativism so dominant in the West it may be up to the moderate voices in Islam to put an end to such barbaric acts, as some have done in Iraq, at the cost of their own life. The problem is that you can hardly hear them in the West.