Rev. James V. Schall’s brilliant analysis of Islam, ISIS and the West


CHARLOTTE, NC, October 10, 2014 – Recently Rev. James V. Schall, S.J. wrote a brilliant analysis of Islam, the Islamic State and how the West is coping with understanding and dealing with the problem of global terrorism.

Rev. Schall is an American Jesuit Roman Catholic priest who retired from teaching at Georgetown University in 2012. He has written numerous books and is regarded highly for his intellectual prowess as a thinker and philosopher.

The following commentary is an edited version of Schall’s opinions which capture the true essence of the current situation the world is coping with in the Middle East and with ISIS. The article appeared on the “ACT for America” website hosted by Brigitte Gabriel who is an outspoken Lebanese critic of Islamic jihad.

In an effort to retain the integrity of Rev. Schall’s words, the article is slightly longer than usual, however it should be understood that the explanations are so dynamic, that further editing would diminish the message.

“Islam has no central or definitive body or figure authorized to define what exactly it is.

“Many outside Islam seek to separate “terror” and “Islam” as if they were independent or even opposed ideas. This latter view is almost impossible seriously to maintain in the light of Islamic history and the text of the Qur’an itself.

“The Obama administration seems to have a rule never to identify Islam with “terrorism,”

“English hate-laws prevent frank and honest discussion of what actually goes on in Islamic countries or communities in the West. Not even Winston Churchill’s critical view of Islam is permitted to be read in public.”

Following is Winston Churchill’s opinion of Islam as referenced by Dr. Schall above. It is important to remember that Churchill’s comments were expressed long before oil was a factor in the Middle East and that his references remain relevant nearly a century later.

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on it votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems show splendid qualities. But the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science – the science against which it had vainly struggled – the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

Continuing with Rev. Schall’s brilliant observations about Islam:

“Is terror intrinsic to Islam?

“What I want to propose here is an opinion. I do not conceive this as definitive.

“This comment is an apologia for the Islamic State in the sense that it accepts its sincerity and religious purpose.

“The Islamic State and the broader jihadist movements throughout the world that agree with it are, I think, correct in their basic understanding of Islam. The purpose of Islam is to extend its rule, in the name of Allah, to all the world. The world cannot be at “peace” until it is all Muslim. The “terror” we see does not primarily arise from modern totalitarian theories, nationalism, or from anywhere else but what is considered to be a faithful reading of a mission assigned by Allah to the Islamic world.

“The tendency among pragmatic Western thinkers, locked into their own narrow views, is to exclude any such motivation as an excuse of raw power. This view shows the intellectual shortcomings of Western leaders and the narrowness of much Western thought.

“A recent essay in the “American Thinker” calculated that over the years of its expansion, from its beginning in the seventh and eighth centuries, some 250 million people have been killed in wars and persecutions caused by Islam. Nothing else in the history of the world, including the totalitarianisms of the last century, has been so lethal.

“If Islam is a religion of peace, what sort of peace does it bring?

“It may be possible for some to read Islam as a religion of “peace.” But “peace,” in its own terms, means the peace of Allah within its boundaries. With the rest of the outside world, it is at war in order to accomplish a religious purpose to have all submitted to Allah in the passive way that the Qur’an specifies.

“To picture the jihadists and leaders of the Islamic State as mere “terrorists” or thugs is to use Western political terms to blind ourselves to the religious dynamism of this movement. No wonder our leaders cannot or will not understand it. This purpose, when successful, is a terrible thing. The roots of Islam are theological, rather bad theology, but still coherent within its own orbit and presuppositions.

“Briefly put, Islam, in its founding, is intended to be, literally, the world religion. Nothing else has any standing in comparison. It is a belief, based on a supposed revelation to Mohammed, of which there is little evidence.

“In Muslim doctrine, everyone born into the world is a Muslim. No one has any right or reason not to be. Hence, everyone who is not a Muslim is to be converted or eliminated.

“It is the religious responsibility of Islam to carry out its assigned mission of subduing the world to Allah.

“From the outside, it is almost impossible to see how this system coheres within itself.

“Whenever incidents of violence are witnessed in the Islamic world, or in other parts of the world caused by Islamic agents, we hear complaints that almost no Muslim voices rise to condemn this violence. When the original 9/11 happened, there was not condemnation coming from within Islam, but widespread celebration.

“All Muslim scholars know that they cannot, on the basis of the Qur’an, condemn the use of violence to expand their religion. There is simply too much evidence that this usage is permitted. To deny it would be to undermine the integrity of the Qur’an. (Emphasis added)

“Islam wars with itself. The Sunni/Shiite struggles are legendary. It is important to note that one of the first things on the Islamic State’s agenda, if it is successful in surviving, is to unite all of Islam in its creedal unity. The unfinished business from Tours and Vienna

“Almost all standing Muslim governments recognize the danger to themselves of a successful Caliphate. They all have some form of jihadist presence within their boundaries that seek to control it in the name of their very survival.

“There are now significant Muslim enclaves in every part of America and Europe to be of great concern as centers of future uprisings within each city. There are now thousands of mosques in Europe and America, financed largely by oil money, that are parts of a closed enclave that excludes local law and enforces Muslim law.

“No Islamic state has any serious possibility of defeating modern armies. But, ironically, they no longer think that modern armies will be necessary. They are convinced that widespread use of terrorism and other means of civil disorder can be successful. No one really has the will or the means to control the destructive forces that the Islamic State already has in place. (Emphasis added)

“The Islamic State strategists think it is quite possible to take another step in the expansion of Islam, to take up again the assault on Europe left off at Tours and Vienna. Muslim armies have always been known for cruelty and craftiness. Men often shrank in fear before its threat, as they are intended to do.

“The case of the Islamic State and of the jihadists is not just a threat arising out of Islam’s mission to conquer the world for Allah. It is also a moral case, that the life of the West is atheist and decadent.

“The mission of mankind is the submission to Allah in all things. Once this submission is in place, the sphere of war will be over. No more beheadings or car-bombings will be necessary or tolerated. No dissent within Islam will be possible or permitted. All will be at peace under the law of Islam. This is the religious purpose of the Islamic State.”

“It is easy to write this movement off as fanatical and ruthless, which it is. To the outside world, it sounds horrific, but I suspect not to those who believe its truth and to the degree that we misjudge what is motivating the renewal of Islam, we will never understand why it exists as it does.”

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 (

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  • jcmmanuel

    But how “brilliant” exactly is this ISIS-analysis? Although I understand the argument of James Vincent Schall, I also believe this is the wrong approach. And mind you, I am speaking from an atheist point of view (which should not be confused with the ‘new atheist’ point of view by the way – which is something entirely different).

    Mr. Schall, being a Jesuit, seems to make the obvious mistake people tend to make when they oppose a religion – either from a non-religious point of view or (in this case) a “other-religious” point of view. He clearly takes radical literalism in religion for granted (or, in Islamic terms, he rejects abrogation). Why does he do this? Apparently in order to provoke the “negative-aha-experience” which is supposed to induce the desired U-turn. I can understand the motivation, but I think it’s the wrong approach.

    We’ve seen this happen many times before. In non-religious circles we’ve seen the “new atheists” come up with this approach, against both Christians and Muslims, in particular. It was the same delusion as far as I see: you approve a radical view in order to provoke its rejection by everyone else. But this is a very artificial way to achieve a certain goal, and it’s a dangerous one as well.

    A more realistic approach is to take it for granted that all religious texts are human and therefore have a relative value. As the Muslim(sic!) Abdul Sattar Edhi said: “No religion is higher than humanity”. Therefore, abrogation is the right way to deal with the past and with its many sacred scriptures. Never can a 2000 (or 1400 year old) text be THE guide for people today. There is wisdom in those books because those people in the past had 30 billion brain cells too, they were all humans like us – but those texts fall short in many domains where those people could not possibly foresee what we know today. So those ‘sacred’ texts always contain a bit of a mixture of good and reasonable and bad and very bad things.

    Therefore, abrogation (or text criticism, as we also call it) is the only way to go, and there is NO WAY to say that fundamentalists have it right. Many modern Islamic scholars would agree with that, not to mention the many non-Islamic scholars who understand religion, culture, society, politics and history in realistic (rather than ideological) ways. If we acknowledge radicals to be right, we are also sort of dehumanizing those believers who do not believe those texts so “literally”. I don’t believe in this approach.