Originally published under the title "Pope Francis: A Fool or Liar for Islam?"
At a time when Muslims all around the world are terrorizing and slaughtering non-Muslims in the name of Islam, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, continues trying to distance Islam from violence.
replied that he doesn't like speaking about Islamic violence because there is plenty of Christian violence as well... [He] said that every day when he browses the newspapers, he sees violence in Italy perpetrated by Christians: "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 that some—maybe not Francis—might understand, humans are fallen creatures). And yes, the Catholics that Francis cites do not commit crimes—murdering girlfriends and mothers-in-law—because of any teaching contained in Christianity or Catholicism; on the contrary, Christian teachings of mercy and forgiveness are meant to counter such impulses.
Pope Francis conflates violence committed in the name of a religion with violence committed in contradiction of a religion.
On the other hand, the violence that Muslims are committing around the world—the beheadings, the sex slavery, the church burnings—are indeed contained in and a product of Islam, and they have been from day one.
Francis continued offering half-truths in the interview. After he acknowledged 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 settled right there is: what do the Bible and Koran actually teach?
The long and short of it is, 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, raping, enslaving, and slaughtering non-Muslims. In both cases, the scriptures—Bible and Koran—say so.
Not for Francis. Poverty is supposedly the real reason behind all the Islamic violence plaguing the world:
Terrorism grows when there are no other options, and when the center of the global economy is the god of money and not the person — men and women — this is already the first terrorism! You have cast out the wonder of creation — man and woman — and you have put money in its place. This is a basic terrorism against all of humanity! Think about it!
This has got to be one of the silliest arguments ever devised to justify terrorism. So the Muslims screaming "Allahu Akbar!" while slaughtering a priest or driving a truck into people in France were suffering from poverty? What about the fact that one of the richest nations in the world—Saudi Arabia—is violent to and intolerant of non-Muslims? What about the fact that there are billions of impoverished non-Muslims—yet, strangely, they do not engage in wanton acts of terror against "infidels" in the name of their religion. What to make of these facts?
But apparently none of these questions about scriptures and demographics matter; after all, Francis "knows how Muslims think":
I had a long conversation with the imam, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, and I know how they think. They [Muslims] seek peace, encounter.
This is just plain sad. Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, arguably the most authoritative Islamic institution in the world, did indeed recently visit Francis and inform him of how Muslims desire peace and harmony with the world.
But back home in Egypt, the grand imam and Al Azhar promote an Islam that is virtually indistinguishable from that of ISIS. Indeed, days before he went to take pictures hugging the pope, Tayeb said that it is a criminal offense to apostatize from Islam, and the punishment is death.
In response, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies blasted the grand imam and Al Azhar. After accusing them of being twofaced—preaching a moderate Islam in the West and a radical one in Egypt—the statement concluded with some words that people like Francis should take to heart:
Combating terrorism and radical religious ideologies will not be accomplished by directing at the West and its international institutions religious dialogues that are open, support international peace and respect freedoms and rights, while internally promoting ideas that contribute to the dissemination of violent extremism through the media and educational curricula of Al Azhar and the mosques.
In the end, and when it comes to the question of whether Islam promotes violence against non-Muslims, Pope Francis falls within the ranks of those Western leaders who are either liars or fools, or a little bit of both.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Judith Friedman Rosen fellow at the Middle East Forum and a Shillman fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.