CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 19, 2016 — Pope Francis reiterated in an interview this week his stance that Muslims are not to blame for Islamic extremism.
“I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam,” the pope told La Croix. “It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”
Reasonable people can disagree, but it is a stretch to compare the concept of military conquest implied by “jihad” with the Christian concept of evangelization, and likewise to hold the West accountable for the 14 centuries of violence perpetrated by Islam.
The complexity of all things Middle Eastern makes it hard to assign full responsibility for anything that has happened there over the centuries to any one group. Depending upon your frame of reference, any side is culpable for any wrongs that have been committed there. But there can be no doubt that most of the terrorist activity that takes place on any given day in the world can be traced to Islam.
Christ did not send his disciples into the world to vanquish all other religions. His instruction was to spread the word of Christianity, not to kill innocent non-Christians for their beliefs.
“In the face of Islamic terrorism, it would therefore be better to question ourselves about the way an overly Western model of democracy has been exported to countries such as Iraq, where a strong government previously existed. Or in Libya, where a tribal structure exists. We cannot advance without taking these cultures into account. As a Libyan said recently, ‘We used to have one Gaddafi, now we have fifty.’”
This is a valid point. Islam, by design, cannot marry itself to democracy as we know it in the West. There is no separation between church and state in Islam. They are one and the same. Islam is not a religion; it is a way of life. The naivete of Western thinking has pushed us to oust leaders like Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi in the name of democracy in those countries; it is a fool’s errand.
They were “bad guys,” every one, but, they understood their own cultures far better that we ever could. The West doesn’t even understand their religion, so how can we begin to reshape the inner workings of their countries?
Trying to fix the problems of the region informed only by Western values and morals is simply not possible. But that does not justify the terrorist program that has been driven by Islamic values over the centuries.
Long before we intervened in Libya to oust Gaddafi, he had terrorized Western nations. The Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie is one memorable example, and it had nothing to do with our desire to establish Western democracy in his country.
The Foreign Policy magazine posed the question, would a world without Islam be a more peaceful place? It’s an intriguing question.
Islam is a proactive enterprise that attempts to disguise its goals as reactive in order to justify them. The pope is correct when he says that ISIS is just a part of the overall problem. But there are also al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas and Hezbollah mixed in with dozens of other splinter groups that all have a similar agenda carried out in the name of Islam.
Italy and the Vatican are among the places that could be targeted next after Paris and Brussels. What will the Pope say then when he is forced to deal with the reality of international Islamic terrorism on his own soil?
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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