Thursday, January 20, 2005

Further Reflections on Islam

One of my readers takes issue with the subject of yesterday's post (Muslims and the Virgin Mary, January 19, 2005), alleging that I may have succumed to sentimentality in recognizing the Islamic appreciation for Mary:

We have, in my opinion, this sentimental idea that honoring Mary is the common denomintor between Catholicism and Islam. Somehow Mary is to be our Trojan horse. I suggest it is rather the other way around. Mary in the Koran is cut out to be their Trojan horse in converting Christian territory to Islam. And maybe that happened already centuries ago in the spread of Islam. It might happen again through sentimentality.

Trust me, Ccaroline, I have no illusions about the dangers of militant Islam, or the threat it poses to the West. Neither, for that matter, does Fr. Cizik, who -- if you read his essay "Our Lady and Islam" -- writes his article fully conscious of the decades of historial conflict between Islam and Christianity, and actually points to the instrumental power of the rosary (at the behest of St. Pope Pius V) in driving back the Islamic hordes at the battle of Lepanto.

But here is my motivation for posting, in case you were wondering:

As you probably know by now, this week also witnessed the brutal murder of an Egyptian Christian family at the hands of Muslims in what, by initial appearances and reports, was a religiously-motivated crime of hatred -- not in the Middle East but on our home soil, in a New Jersey neighborhood.

There's been much discussion of this story by Christian bloggers -- on Open Book. Many took this as justification for their wholesale indictment of Islam as a religion, to portray all Muslims as inherently suspect. Catholic blogger El Camino Real took the incident as an occasion to call for religious discrimination against Islam in general:

It is certainly time to act. America is no place for the violence and barbarism of the Mohammedan religion. Perhaps an amendment to the Constitution is in order ...

As one commentator observed, "Being a lifelong Protestant who grew up in the Bible belt I thought it was ironic to see people on a Catholic website discussing Islam in the same terms I have heard Catholicism discussed."

As I had written in a previous post:

. . . There [are] two faces to Islam -- there is the violent face of radical militant Islam which, post 9/11, is at the forefront of the public conciousness. There is another face of Islam, which is manifested in religious devotion, works of charity, and spiritual teachings which any Catholic would find worthy of approval. The former has fueled the hatred of terrorists; the latter has inspired many great teachers and saints. It is truly unfortunate that both faces are called "Islam", and I was disturbed by the fact that certain bloggers were giving almost exclusive attention to one face and neglecting the other.

Of course I am not the only member of St. Blog's Parish to be disturbed by this inclination to engage in a wholesale condemnation of the Islamic faith. In July of 2004, Fr. Tucker (Dappled Things) took issue with

the assumption that one's self-described belief in Islam marks him ipso facto as being of suspect loyalty. Or that Islam in none of its manifestations can ever be compatible with Western secular civilization. Or that immigration into the West from Muslim nations is an unmitigated threat and can never mean anything but trouble. These are the fears that drive Frenchmen to ban headscarves.

The present conflict with militant Islamic fundamentalism should not, in my opinion, preclude Christians from recognizing areas of mutual agreement and grounds for cooperation with fellow Muslims. If in asserting such I am guilty of sentimentality, so is Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Arinze, and many others -- and I would be honored to be among such company.

With regards to yesterday's post, I have no reason to impute devious "trojan horse" intentions in Mustafa Aykol's disgust with two French Catholic writers for abandoning their belief in the Virgin Mother. Rather, I take it as grounds for what I would hope to be a positive conversation -- something to consider precisely at this time when the predominant inclination is to invoke a general condemnation of Islam.

Recent arrivals to my blog can read my earlier posts on Islam here:

And for those who are interested, a compilation of articles and essays (critical as well as appreciative) on Muslim-Christian Relations.

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