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Ah yes!—the tender trap. But, as any objective scholar of Islam can attest, this is sheer nonsense. Islam didn’t sell itself through tenderness but through terror. Once, when a Jewish tribe surrendered to Muhammad’s forces, he ordered the beheading of over 700 of the captives. On another occasion he ordered that some captured thieves have their eyes gouged out, and their arms and legs cut off on opposite sides. Inquiring students at places such as Boston College, Calvin College and Wheaton might want to supplement their Kreeft with some samplings from the Hadith and The Life of Muhammad.
Kreeft’s tendency to confuse Islamic concepts with Christian beliefs continues in his treatment of jihad. The secular media, says Kreeft, has created the false impression that jihad is a duty to wage war against unbelievers. But, according to Isa, jihad, is, in reality, “the inner struggle against evil.” The trouble is, the evidence for this interpretation is minimal. In one Hadith—the one which Isa quotes—Muhammad is reported to have said, “the most excellent jihad is for the conquest of self.” But this is from a Hadith of doubtful provenance and, in any event, the Koran makes it quite clear in several places which is the more excellent jihad. For example: “Do you pretend that he who gives a drink to the pilgrims and pays a visit to the Sacred Mosque is as worthy as the man who believes in God and the Last Day, and fights for God’s cause? These are not held equal by God.” (9. 19-20)
Once again, Kreeft seems to be projecting Christian concerns onto Islam—in this case, the notion of an interior spiritual struggle against sin. In fact, there is very little sense of “soul struggling” in Islam. As Nonie Darwish puts it:
“This ‘inner struggle’ business is hogwash. In the Arab world there is only one meaning for jihad, and that is: a religious holy war against infidels…I have never heard of any discussion of inner struggle in my thirty years living in the Middle East. Such nonsense is a PR ploy for Western consumption only…”
Western style soul searching is a rare commodity in Muslim lands. As Raphael Patai points out in his classic study, The Arab Mind, “One of the important differences between the Arab and the Western personality is that in Arab culture, shame is more pronounced than guilt.” In other words, there is less sense of personal sin and personal responsibility in the Arab world. One behaves oneself to avoid censure. Thus, Isa’s preoccupation with the “war against evil within” is entirely unrepresentative of Muslim thinking. Kreeft is right in his contention that many Christians have lost the sense of sin and spiritual struggle, but it’s quite a stretch to think that they are going to find it again by looking to Islam.
Isa’s attitudes may be unrepresentative of Muslims but, unluckily, Kreeft’s favorable disposition toward Islam is representative of many influential Christians. He is not alone in his attempt to “reach across the aisle” and find common ground with Islam. Despite the increasingly bloody persecution of Christians in the Muslim world, many Christian leaders still cling to the pious hope that there is some slight misunderstanding between Islam and Christianity that can be cleared up by more dialogue. Dialogue with Islam has, in fact, become something of a growth industry. It’s no longer confined to high-level theologians: it’s become the in-thing for parishes and congregations. In the last few years, numerous Christian churches across America have invited Islamic speakers to come in and explain Islam to them. The rationale is that “people fear what they don’t understand,” and once we understand Islam we will see that there is nothing to fear.
Kreeft shares that hope. As he puts it, “I think this high and honorable dialogue between two high and honorable faiths will continue…and that something great will come of it.” But what if he’s wrong? If, in reality, there is little common ground between Islam and Christianity, Christians will find not only that they have been misinformed, but also that they have been put at a serious disadvantage. The time that Christians waste pursuing false hopes is time that Islamic activists will use to press their agenda. Instead of finding common ground with Islam, Christians will find that they have lost ground—in both the cultural and geographical sense.
We are in a high stakes struggle with Islam. It’s one that doesn’t allow for much margin of error. You can misinterpret or completely ignore the beliefs of Jains or Buddhists, and still rest secure that your life will go on as before. But misinterpreting Islam could turn out to be fatal mistake. If it turns out that jihad is not, after all, an interior spiritual struggle, but rather a serious obligation to subdue non-Muslims, a lot of Western Christians are going to be woefully unprepared for the kind of things that are already happening to Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Peter Kreeft has written some of the finest works of Christian apologetics of the last four decades. But he’s off base with this one. Seeing that Kreeft has been highly influenced by C.S. Lewis, and is considered by many to be a worthy successor to Lewis, he might want to take a second look at Lewis’ views on finding common ground with an alien faith. In The Last Battle, Lewis’ fictional account of the conflict between the Christian-like Narnians and the Muslim-like Calormenes, the Narnian have been deceived into believing that their God, Aslan, and Tash, the demonic God of the Calormenes actually have much in common. “Tash” and “Aslan” they are told are only two different names for the same God. In reality, “Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.” After a while, the hybrid God is simply referred to as “Tashlan.” As time passes, however, the worship of Tashlan becomes simply the worship of Tash, and the Narnians find themselves enslaved by the followers of Tash.
It may be that the same God listens to the prayers of both Christians and Muslims, but Muslims take their marching orders from the God of the Koran. And in many respects the Allah of the Koran is as different from the God of the New Testament as Tash is from Aslan. Today’s common-ground-at-any-cost Christians would do well to ponder Lewis’ instructive tale about the dangers of cultivating a “Tashlan” mentality.
William Kilpatrick’s articles have appeared in FrontPage Magazine, First Things,Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Jihad Watch, World, and Investor’s Business Daily.
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