Pope Francis has frequently claimed that Islam and Catholicism share much in common and he has often drawn a moral equivalence between the two faiths. For example, after the murder of French priest Father Jacques Hamel by two Islamic terrorists, he compared the murder to violence in Italy: “this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law…and these are baptized Catholics!… If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence.”

But this is quite misleading. There is no moral equivalence between the two faiths. Instead, there are vast moral differences.

To illustrate, take the recent horrific attack on a concert hall in Moscow by a branch of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K. Armed with automatic weapon, and Molotov cocktails, the terrorists managed to kill 137 and injure dozens more.

The world was shocked at the news, but perhaps a bit less shocked when Islamist terrorist took credit for the attack. There is a long history of jihad attacks on concert halls and other public gatherings both in Russia and in several European nations

Now, for some contrast, consider this hypothetical event. Suppose you saw a headline or a TV report to the effect that Catholic terrorists had stormed a concert hall in a large city and had brutally murdered and injured hundreds of innocent people. That would be shocking, of course, but it would also be quite surprising. Who knew that there were any Catholic terrorist groups?

This is not to say, however, that there are no terrorist groups made up of Catholics. We can assume for example that the murderous Mexican drug cartels number a great many baptized Catholics among their ranks. Yet the gangs are never referred to as Catholic cartels. And rightly so. They are motivated not by Catholic principles but by criminal gain. Their activities are obvious violations of Catholic teachings. Likewise, a Catholic “who has murdered his girlfriend” (to use Pope Francis’s faulty comparison) can’t justify his actions by appeal to the Catholic faith. The commandment against murder does not make an exception for girlfriends.

On the other hand, it seems appropriate to call Islamist terrorist attacks “Islamist,” because the terrorists justify them by reference to Islamic beliefs.

Among these scripture-supported justifications are the following:

  • Muslims are commanded both in the Koran and the Hadith to spread Islam by force if necessary and by use of terror. The Koran urges Muslims to “slay them [the unbelievers] wherever you find them “(2: 191) and Muhammad boasted “I have been made victorious through terror “(Bukhari 4: 52: 220).
  • A high value is placed on jihad in Islamic scripture. In fact, it is the highest value. The man who “fights for God’s cause” is more worthy than “he who gives a drink to the pilgrims and pays a visit to the Sacred Mosque” (Koran 9: 19). Moreover, “If you do not go to war, He [Allah] will punish you sternly (9: 39).
  • Muhammad, who is considered to be a model for all Muslims, engaged in terror. Ibn Ishaq’s The Life of Muhammad, one of the three main sources of Islamic belief, shows us that Muhammad was a long-time practitioner of terror. Two-thirds of the 800-page book are taken up with accounts of Muhammad’s jihad raids, his beheading of captured prisoners, his slave trading, his endorsement of rape, and his use of torture.
  • Jihad terror is richly rewarded in paradise. Those who kill or are killed in battle are guaranteed entrance into paradise where they will enjoy “gardens and vineyards and high-bosomed maidens for companions” (78: 31-34).  In short, it appears that Allah sanctions terror.
  • Jihad terrorists are highly honored on earth as well. In the West Bank, for instance, streets, squares, parks and schools are named in honor of “martyrs” even if they had “earned” their martyrdom by torturing and murdering innocent civilians including women and children. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority pays a handsome lifetime stipend to the terrorist’s relatives. This “pay to slay program” acts as an incentive to further jihad attacks and also acts to reinforce the indoctrination that most Palestinians receive in school—namely, that killing for the sake of Allah is life’s highest calling.

Contrary to what Francis believes and teaches, Catholics and Muslims do not share the same moral values. This is because, despite what many Catholics believe, Catholics and Muslim do not worship the same God, nor do they “revere” the same Jesus as the Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate, claims.

There are, of course, surface similarities between the two faiths, but below the surface are deep divisions that Catholics need to know and understand.

Why do Catholics still believe in the rose-colored version of Islam pedaled by Pope Francis? Perhaps because they want to believe that Islam is a religion of peace. Otherwise, they might be forced, as John Foster Dulles said in a different context, to make “an agonizing reappraisal” of their comfortable illusions.

Those who keep these illusions alive are only guaranteeing that we can expect to see many more murderous attacks like the one that happened in Moscow last week.

By the way, don’t be fooled by the prayer that Francis offered up on Palm Sunday for the perpetrators. He prayed that God may “convert the hearts of those who plan, organize, and carry out these inhuman actions, which offend God who commanded, ‘You shall not kill.’” As is quite evident by what he has said and written elsewhere, Francis is not asking that they be converted to Christianity, but to “true” or “authentic” Islam which, he has written, “is opposed to every form of violence.” Furthermore, contrary to what Francis seems to believe, there is no Islamic commandment against killing unbelievers. His knowledge of Islam seems to be based largely on what his imam friends tell him.

Pictured above: empty concert hall

Photo credit: Pixabay