Pope Francis is at it again, relativizing about Muslim violence, suggesting that it has no ideological component, but is a “perversion” of true Islam, which is peace.
In his new book, Non Sei Solo: Sfide, Risposte, Speranze (“You Are Not Alone: Challenges, Answers, Hopes”), which was published in Italian and released on Tuesday [Oct. 24, 2023], Francis calls on Europeans to be more open to Muslim migrants, insisting that “radical Islam is a problem and represents a perversion of religiosity because Islam, in truth, is a religion of peace and the majority of its members are peaceful…. As they say, either you are a terrorist or you are a Muslim. Then, by the way, we find fundamentalism in all religions. Radical Islam is a perversion because it is a religion that talks about peace.”
The pontiff is certainly consistent; he has been making these relativistic claims for years, no matter the circumstances. For instance, after Fr. Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest, had his throat slit by “Allahu Akbar” shouting Muslims who stormed his church during morning mass in France, 2016, a journalist suggested in an interview with Francis that the octogenarian priest was “killed in the name of Islam.” To this Francis replied:
I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy… this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence . . . and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything.
Is the Pope really that dense? Is he incapable of distinguishing between violence committed in the name of a religion, and violence committed in contradiction of a religion?
Yes, Catholics—and people of all religions, sects, creeds—commit violence. That is because humans are prone to violence (or, to use Christian language, humans are fallen creatures). And yes, the Catholics that Francis cites do not commit crimes—murdering girlfriends and mother-in-laws—because of any teaching contained in Christianity or Catholicism; on the contrary, Christian teachings of mercy and forgiveness are meant to counter such impulses.
On the other hand, the violence that Muslims are committing around the world is, indeed, contained in and a product of Islam—and has been from day one.
As for Francis’s claim in his new book that “we find fundamentalism in all religions,” this too he has been consistent on from the start. After acknowledging in his 2016 interview that there are “violent persons of this religion [Islam],” he immediately added that “in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them.”
This is another sloppy generalization. Sure, “in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists,” but that which is fundamental to them widely differs. One may say that Muslim and Christian fundamentalists adhere to a literalist/strict reading of their scriptures. While that statement may be true, left unsaid by those who think the issue is hereby settled is: what do the Bible and Koran actually teach?
It is because of this all-important (but unpursued question) that the Christian fundamentalist will find himself compelled to pray for his persecutors, and, depending on the situation, maybe even turning the other cheek. Conversely, the Muslim fundamentalist will find himself attacking, subjugating, plundering, enslaving, and slaughtering non-Muslims. In both cases, the scriptures—Bible and Koran—say so.
Take a few examples:
- The New Testament preaches peace, brotherly love, tolerance, and forgiveness — for all humans, believers and non-believers alike. Conversely, the Koran and Hadithcall for war, or jihad, against all non-Muslims, until they either convert, accept subjugation and discrimination (dhimmi status), or die (e.g., Koran 9:5, 9:29, etc.).
- The New Testament prescribes no punishment for the apostate from Christianity. Conversely, Islam’s prophet himself decreedthat “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”
- The New Testament teaches monogamy, one husband and one wife, thereby dignifying the woman. The Koran allows polygamy — up to four wives — and the possession of concubines, or sex-slaves. More literalist readings treat women as possessions.
- The New Testament discourages lying (e.g., Col. 3:9). The Koran permits it. The prophet himself often deceived others, and allowedhis followers to lie, including to their wives.
Clearly, not all “fundamentalists” are the same.
As for Pope Francis, when it comes to the question of whether Islam promotes violence against non-Muslims, surely he falls within the ranks of those Western leaders who are either fools or liars—or a little bit of both.