Craig Considine's views of Islam rely more on fantasy and science fiction than on history or theology.
Considine, who calls himself a "social media influencer," arrived with books to autograph and sell, but only about six people showed up in the almost-empty event room. Most appeared to be from his host, the Rumi Forum, part of Fethullah Gülen's cultic Hizmet movement, which organized several other events for his local book tour. Considine has also previously published with the Gülenist Blue Dome Press.
For general audiences, Considine's departures from Catholic orthodoxy matter, because he often claims to ground his always-rosy views on Islam in Church teaching and history. This appeal to religious authority, coupled with his academic credentials and post at an elite university, lends them a veneer of legitimacy. On this, as on other occasions, he failed to prove his case.
He struck his usual monotone of interfaith multiculturalism, particularly among Christians and Muslims, as he stated that he had dedicated the book to Pope Francis, whose "spirit [and] essence" it reflects. Francis advocates a "culture of encounter," a "push beyond mere tolerance" in order "to genuinely know" others, Considine said, which has "allowed me to think about my faith outside of the pure angles of theology."
The company the woke Considine keeps is unsurprising, as he listed a who's who of Western Islam apologists as personal influences, including University of Chicago emeritus professor Fred M. Donner, who supposedly showed that Islam "was not purely for Muslims." "The scholarship is coming from all different angles," Considine stated while citing the varied faith backgrounds of the Muslim journalist Mustafa Akyol, the Bahai and University of Michigan Middle East studies professor Juan Cole, and the Catholic author Gary Wills. The self-professed "freelance monotheist" Karen Armstrong is "another great biographer of Prophet Muhammad," Considine cooed of his fellow fantasist.
"Prophet Muhammad," as Considine always reverently addressed Islam's founder, was allegedly a "bridgebuilder" and "knowledge seeker," not a subjugator of non-Muslim dhimmis. He asserted that Muhammad's followers in seventh-century Arabia always engaged in "defensive battles," a claim refuted by the historical record. Using the Charter of Medina, which was in fact a primitive tribal alliance, Muhammad also built a "civic nation" with rights like "freedom of speech," Considine claimed, notwithstanding Islamic accounts of Muhammad ordering assassinations of critics.
Considine said Christians are part of the ummah, because celebrating diversity was Islam's leitmotiv.
Islam's followers historically have ravaged Christendom, but Considine declared that in Muhammad's vision "Christians are part of the ummah," or Islamic community. Celebrating diversity was, he gushed, Islam's leitmotiv, for "Islam being a divine religion is able to make sense, incorporate all of this religious difference into a whole that works." As usual, he cited his fellow Israel-basher, John Andrew Morrow, who has promoted fraudulent documents as protective covenants between Muhammad and various Christian communities. These historic forgeries "burst the stereotypes" of Islamic intolerance, Considine stated.
Considine also tried to make nice towards Jews on Islam's behalf, even though they have suffered under Islamic anti-Semitism since Muhammad. He acknowledged numerous Quranic verses deprecatory towards Jews but, blaming the victim, pleaded a "historical context," as these passages involved Jews who became "enemies of the state, traitors" in Muhammad's Medina community. Yet these seventh-century conflicts reflect that Jews past and present do not recognize Islam's prophetic claims, which under sharia law makes these rejecters into objects of wrath.
Islam not anti-Christian, Considine insisted; it's just anti-Nicene, anti-trinitarian.
Doctrinal laxity undermined Considine's claims of theological authority, as he downplayed Islam's denial of Christ's divinity, proclaimed in the 325 AD Council of Nicaea and its namesake Nicene Creed. Islam "is not anti-Christian, it's just anti-Nicene," he paraphrased Akyol, even though Islam denies other orthodox Christian tenets concerning Jesus, such as his crucifixion. "I don't think you have to be a trinitarian, I don't think you have to be an adherent to the Council of Nicaea rulings to be a Christian. I think that's ridiculous," Considine proclaimed with an unintentionally comical air of magisterial might.
Throughout Considine never indicated the least doubt about Muhammad's miraculous claims. He treated as fact that Muhammad was "struck by this otherworldly entity" during claimed revelatory encounters with the Angel Gabriel, who became "best buds with Muhammad." No skepticism marked Considine's discussion of Muhammad's nocturnal "miraculous journey" from Arabia to Jerusalem to heaven, where Jesus called Muhammad a "brother from another mother."
Considine offered a sci-fi novel view of the apocalypse in which Jesus is part of a team of historic figures having a say.
Considine's intellectual and cultural naivete did not end there. The call in 2000 for a "dialogue of civilizations" by the theocrat Mohammad Khatami, president of the brutal Islamic Republic of Iran, inspired Considine. Looking to the future, Considine speculated about a "sci-fi novel" view of the apocalypse, where, along with Muhammad, "Jesus is part of a team of historic figures that will have a say in this final scenario."
"Sci-fi fantasy" might well best describe Considine's writings on Islam. No facts or logic can unsettle the love he has for the comic book, saccharine Muhammad he has concocted among his interfaith action heroes. Students of Islamic history, including those at his own Rice University, should look elsewhere for evidence-based scholarship.
Andrew E. Harrod, a Campus Watch Fellow, freelance researcher, and writer, is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter at: @AEHarrod.