William Kilpatrick, who taught for many years at Boston College and is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, has an important new book out, What Catholics Need to Know About Islam. He was kind enough to answer a few questions I asked him about it:
Robert Spencer: You speak a good bit in the book about the risks of Catholics misunderstanding Islam. Can you adumbrate a few of those risks and explain what is at stake?
William Kilpatrick: Catholics are, in general, poorly informed about Islam because the Catholic leadership continues to present a whitewashed picture of Islam.
Catholics are taught that Islam is a religion of peace, that terror has nothing to do with Islam, and that Muslims and Catholics share the same moral values. In addition,
Catholics are taught that Islamic beliefs are quite similar to Catholic beliefs and that Catholics ought to declare their solidarity with Islam, and do their best to fight against the “sin” of Islamophobia. Of course, if what Catholic clerics and teachers say about Islam is true, then there is little to fear from Islam.
As a result, a great many Catholics have been left totally unprepared for the kind of persecution that many Christians in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are now suffering at the hands of Muslims.
For example, after Islamic terrorists in Sri Lanka killed three hundred in attacks on three churches, the Archbishop of Colombo said it is “a very sad situation for all of us because we never expected such a thing to happen and especially on Easter Sunday.”
Never expected? Didn’t the Archbishop know about the numerous attacks on Christian churches by Muslims in just the last few years? Didn’t he know that jihadists prefer to attack churches on Christian holy days such as Easter, Palm Sunday, and Christmas? Was he unacquainted with the Islamic obligation to wage jihad on unbelievers?
Sadly, the Archbishop’s naiveté about Islam is not an exception. It’s the rule for many in the hierarchy. As long as the Vatican persists in keeping alive this misleading narrative about Islam, the persecution of Christians will grow worse, and it will spread into the West.
Many Catholics assume that to criticize Islam is to return to an age of triumphalism and ethnocentrism that has rightly been consigned to the dustbin of history, and that ecumenism and dialogue are the only way forward. How would you respond?
Although criticism should be offered as tactfully as possible, we have a duty to criticize Islam—not only for our own sake but for the sake of Muslims as well. Many are afraid that criticism of Islam will drive moderate Muslims into the radical camp. But, in fact, it was lack of criticism that allowed Islamic radicalism to spread around the world after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Europeans, in particular, refrained from criticizing Islam even as rising rates of immigration were accompanied by rising rates of crime and terrorism. Indeed, Europeans bent over backwards to defend Islam and Islamic immigration. More than anything else, it was silence about the problems with Islam that enabled radicalization to spread through France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
Because of its aggressive nature and bloody history, Islam invites criticism. It would be highly irresponsible not to subject it to a searching analysis. We had little hesitation in criticizing Nazi beliefs and communist beliefs when we felt that those ideologies were a threat to our existence. But the situation is somewhat different with Islam. Islam is not simply a political ideology, it’s also a religion; and in the present age, criticism of religion (except for Christianity) is considered off-limits. For example, in recent years, various Catholic documents have encouraged Catholics to respect all religions, but this blanket respect is rather simplistic. Should we respect the beliefs of Satanists? And, more to the point, should we respect Islam’s misogynistic view of women, its encouragement of polygamy and its draconian punishments for blasphemy, apostasy and theft? If we fail to criticize these aspects of the Islamic system, we are doing no favor to the Muslim men, women, and children who suffer under them. We should, of course, strive to respect the humanity of individual Muslims, but it would be foolish to respect all their beliefs and practices.
Pope Benedict observed that the problem with Nostra Aetate (the document on non-Christian religions) was that it focused only on the positive aspects of religion, but neglected to speak of the “sick and distorted forms of religion.” This also is the problem with the Catholic dialogue with Muslims. It stresses the positive and avoids the difficulties. Thus, the Catholic dialogue partners are prohibited from raising the most crucial issues—such as the widespread persecution of Christians at the hands of Muslims.
You write that there is another jihad besides violent jihad that we need to be concerned about. Isn’t this simply the struggle within the soul to conform to God’s will, and is something Catholics should encourage, rather than discourage?
The other jihad is stealth jihad (or cultural jihad). It’s basically a long-march-through- the -institutions strategy which aims at influencing and co-opting key social institutions such as schools, media, courts, corporations, big tech, political parties, and even churches. In many ways stealth jihad is more effective than violent jihad because it’s more difficult to detect and resist.
The attempt to convince Catholics and others that the word “jihad” refers to an interior struggle rather than armed struggle is an example of a stealth jihad operation. Several years ago, a Muslim activist group (I don’t remember which one) conducted a bus ad campaign in several large cities which was aimed at convincing the public that “jihad” was an inner struggle for self-betterment and, thus nothing to be feared. For example, an ad on the side of the bus might picture a young man studying for exams, with the caption, “My jihad is to study hard so I can become a doctor and help find a cure for cancer” Those weren’t the exact words but they are representative of this campaign to put a positive spin on the word “jihad.” These campaigns have been quite effective. Most Catholic schools, for example, now teach that jihad is an interior struggle.
The thing is, there are thousands of such influence operations which are aimed at eventually transforming America into a sharia society, Stealth jihadists are particularly interested in influencing the education system. For example, since 2012, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states have poured billions of dollars into dozens of elite American universities in order to ensure that Islam is presented in a positive light.
Pope Francis has repeatedly insisted that it would be un-Christian for Catholics to oppose mass Muslim migration into Europe, and that we have a Gospel duty to welcome the stranger. Yet you speak about this mass migration in terms of cultural suicide. How do you reconcile these two positions?
I don’t try to reconcile the two positions. I think Pope Francis has endangered Europeans by misusing the Gospel texts and by scolding Europeans for their inhospitality. Moreover, all of the Gospel analogies he uses can be turned on their head. For example, he sometimes says that “in the face of the migrant we see the face of Jesus.” Well that’s true in a sense: we ought to strive to see the face of Jesus in all people. But it can also be said that we can see the face of Jesus in the victims of criminal migrants—for example in the acid-scared face of a delivery driver who is attacked as he enters a Muslim zone in London, or Liverpool. Yet the pope never mentions the victims.
In a similar vein Pope Francis urges us to see the child Jesus in the face of suffering migrant children. But why can’t we see the child Jesus in the face of the child victims of Muslim migrants? Why shouldn’t we be just as concerned with the many child victims of the jihad truck massacre in Nice, France, the child victims of the jihad attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, or the 1,400 teenage victims of Muslim rape gangs in Rotherham, England?
In facilitating the migration of Islamic peoples into Europe, Pope Francis is also facilitating the migration of Islamic beliefs. The only scenario in which this would make sense would be if Europe were a vibrantly Christian continent capable of assimilating masses of Muslims and possibly converting them. But that is not the case. As things now stand, the Pope’s policy seems a recipe for disaster.
How does the LGBT agenda aid and abet the advancing jihad in the West?
The question is, what happens when a gender-confused society meets a hyper-masculine culture? As boys in the Western world become more feminized and more confused about their sexual-identity, boys in the Muslim world are encouraged to think of themselves as warriors for Allah.
The LGBT movement in the West celebrates and encourages experimentation with gender identity and sexual orientation, thus paving the way for an eventual takeover by more aggressive cultures. “Islam” means “submission.” Muslims are expected to submit to Allah. And other cultures and religions are expected to submit to Islam. The kind of young men who were able to turn back the Axis powers in World War II are now in short supply. Instead, our academic and cultural elites have managed to create a generation of “snowflakes”—young men who seek safe-spaces when faced with the slightest challenge.
The snowflake generation also appears to be a submissive generation. They submit to mandatory speech codes in college and, when they enter the workplace, they submit to coercive “diversity training” sessions. They are, in short, lacking in the kind of fighting spirit that will be necessary to resist both armed and stealth jihad.
Another problem with the LGBT movement is that same-sex unions don’t produce future generations. Islamic leaders often boast that they won’t need armies to subdue the West because they are winning the “war of the wombs.” This certainly seems to be the case in Europe where the birth rate for native Europeans is far below replacement level, while the birth rate for Muslims suggests that the future of Europe will belong to Islam.
Experiments in gender-fluidity and alternative families will only exacerbate the growing population imbalance between Islam and the West. So, they are dangerous experiments. The LGBT experiments with gender are on the same level of sophistication as Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments with electricity and corpses.
Many Catholics, including even bishops, respond to data about Islam’s aggressive and violent teachings by pointing out that innumerable Muslims are kind, gentle, loving people. How do you account for this?
If one reads the Koran, it’s quite clear that Allah is not especially kind, gentle, and loving. So, it may be that Muslims who are kind and loving are better than their religion. They ignore the harsher mandates of Islam and pay more attention to the sprinkling of merciful passages in the Koran.
Many moderate Muslims can be compared to “Cafeteria Catholics.” In other words, they pick and choose those aspects of their religion they find acceptable, and leave the rest. Their attachment to Islam is largely a family or cultural one. Islam is part of their life, but they are not true believers who spend their lives studying the Koran. In fact, several European research studies have shown that increased devotion among Muslims is highly correlated with increased radicalization. One extensive German study concluded that Islam is the “only religion that makes people more prone to violence the more religious one becomes.”
This observation is borne out by the fact that for much of the twentieth century the Islamic world was far more moderate than it is today. And this period of moderation coincided with a loss or weakening of faith in Islam. So, there is much to suggest that the kinder, gentler Muslim gets that way by taking his faith less seriously rather than more seriously.
Were the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to invite you to address them regarding Islam, what would you tell them?
In that unlikely event, I’d remind them that the Church is suffering greatly from the sex-abuse crisis, and the subsequent cover-up. I’d tell them that if they continue on their present course, they risk creating an even greater scandal.
The USCCB’s policy on Islam is very much like the Vatican’s policy: emphasize the commonalities between Catholicism and Islam and ignore the differences, warn about the dangers of “Islamophobia,” and call for increased Muslim immigration into the U.S.
As with the Vatican, the American bishops present a misleading, smiley-faced picture of Islam. By withholding the full truth about Islam, they are putting millions of Catholics and others at risk. In encouraging indiscriminate Muslim migration into America, they are simply repeating the very obvious and possibly irreversible mistake that Europeans have already made.
When Catholics wake up to the fact that Islam is not a religion of peace, and that Muslim leaders consider immigration a form of jihad, they will justifiably feel betrayed. They will wonder why their shepherds felt no obligation to inform them. When they discover that the USCCB has profited immensely from government subsidized refugee resettlement programs, their doubts about the credibility of the American hierarchy will increase. They will also wonder why the bishops seem more concerned about “Islamophobia,” than about the widespread slaughter of Christians in the name of Allah.
As with the sex-abuse crisis, the bishops are involved in a massive cover-up. Only this time, it’s a cover-up of the full truth about Islam. This new cover-up promises to be much more devastating than the abuse crisis. For example, in Europe, the elite cover-up of the truth about Islamic immigration has already damaged countless lives. In Rotherham, England, more than 1,400 young teenage girls were raped, drugged, and prostituted by Muslim rape gangs. Tens of thousands more have suffered a similar fate in towns and cities across the English Midlands.
European and American bishops are not directly responsible for the crimes of Muslim migrants but they bear a heavy burden of responsibility for promoting a fantasy-based narrative about Islam. Many in the hierarchy talk about the importance of building bridges, not walls. But they have managed, nevertheless, to build a massive protective wall around Islam. The wall protects Islam from criticism, and it prevents Catholics from seeing the darker aspects of the Muslim faith.
What can Catholics and all people of good will do now to stop the West’s cultural suicide, inside and outside the Catholic Church?
Those who want to prevent our cultural suicide must first convince themselves and others that they have something worth defending. They need to regain their cultural confidence. Instead of apologizing for our Greco-Roman, Judaeo-Christian heritage, we need to defend it against the constant attempts by leftists and Islamists to undermine it.
The will to resist totalitarian movements depends a lot on our ability to resist relativism—the pernicious notion that all cultures, religions and political systems are equally good. Because so much ground has already been lost, it will take a great deal of courage and resolve to retake it.
Many Americans are confident of their ability to resist at the barricades when the time comes, but resisting at the barricades is to resist rather late in the game.
Leftists and Islamists are conducting a long march through the institutions—a gradual co-opting of schools, social media, churches, political parties, and even government agencies. It’s at this level that the struggle must be fought and, because many people in these institutions have already gone over to the other side, it will be a difficult struggle. How many parents for example, want to get involved in a nasty fight over the introduction of school curriculums that are anti-Christian and pro-socialist?
Cultural confidence means the confidence to say “no” to the unreasonable, irrational, and destructive demands of leftists and Islamists, and it means the willingness to say it over and over. The flip side of cultural confidence is the confidence to make demands of our own on cultural subversives, and the willingness to enforce those demands.
Order What Catholics Need to Know About Islam here.
This interview originally appeared in the October 4, 2020 edition of JihadWatch.
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