Pope Francis recently said that he can’t condemn the brutal murder of the Norman priest, Father Jacques, as Islamic terrorism because “It’s not right to identify Islam with violence. It’s not right and it’s not true.”
This unleashed a furor. On the Daily Express website for example, swarms of furious readers wrote in that the Pope was “blind”, “deluded”, “a nutter”, “an old fool”, “brain-damaged”, “an imposter”, “the antichrist”, “pure evil” “ a “Satinist”… Strong stuff!
So let’s unpack this.
Is it right to “identify” Islam with violence?
Bad choice of words. What do we mean by “identify with”—that’s a confusing verb for this discussion. Let’s rephrase it:
Do some people who claim to be Muslims resort to violence to enforce their religious views?
Are they justifying their actions by pointing to what their religion teaches them?
Yes, absolutely. In the holy books of Islam there are passages that unequivocally support violent acts to further their goals, including killing infidels to spread Islam. See link.
Does that mean that Islam is a religion that encourages violent and terroristic acts? Yes and no.
Yes, if you are someone who believes and teaches others that you must follow every word of the Quran. That is what we mean by fundamentalism: follow the holy text. There are from 1 to 5 % of Muslims in Middle Eastern countries who support the fundamentalism of ISIS.
No, if you believe that you can ignore certain parts of the Quran as outdated. See link.
This brings us to the most important part of the Pope’s recent statements: “Nearly all religions” have a “small group of fundamentalists” so don’t tar Islam with that brush.
Holy Cow! What the Pope is saying here is we have to beware of fundamentalism in any religion, including Roman Catholicism. Wow! What that would mean is exactly what Seven Sacraments for Everyone is getting at: we have to get beyond the slavish adherence to texts written thousands of years ago and to traditional practices that developed over centuries. What we should be doing is “editing” those texts, looking into our hearts, looking at human experience to search for those transcendent moments that lead us to the Divine, that point us on our way to the Greater Good. Killing innocent people in cold blood is the antithesis of this path.
Once again, two cheers for Francis!! But he could have been clearer in his condemnation of terrorism under the guise of religion.