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Peter Kreeft is not exactly a household name, but Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College, is well-known—and highly respected—in orthodox Catholic and Evangelical circles for his many books of Christian apologetics. Kreeft typically employs a Socratic dialogue format featuring college-age and young adult characters who challenge each other on the issues of the day, as well as on issues of eternal importance. As a consequence, his books are widely read on Christian college campuses.
Unfortunately, considering his wide appeal, Kreeft’s latest book is basically an apology for Islam. Between Allah and Jesus: What Christians Can Learn from Muslims is devoted to the proposition that the things that we (Muslims and Christians) have in common are more important than the things that separate us. In fact, writes Kreeft in his Introduction, we have a lot to learn from Islam: “…I also say that Islam has great and deep resources of morality and sanctity that should inspire us and shame us and prod us to admiration and imitation.” Instead of fearing Islam, Kreeft says that Christians should join together with Muslims in an “ecumenical jihad” against our common enemies, sin and secularism.
Kreeft’s thesis is similar to the one put forward a few years ago by Dinesh D’Souza in The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. D’Souza argued that Muslims hate us for our decadence—and not just because of Britney and Eminem and rap music, but also because of illegitimacy, divorce, abortion and gay marriage. Thus, more than anything else, it was American decadence that provoked the 9/11 attack. D’Souza, like Kreeft, wants us to believe that traditional Americans and traditional Muslims are natural allies because both are religiously and socially conservative, and share many of the same values. Both authors seem to think that the surest way to patch up relations with Islam is for Westerners to return to more wholesome habits. Not surprisingly, Kreeft’s new book features a blurb by D’Souza on the front cover.
In Between Allah and Jesus, the strongest arguments for traditional morality are made by the Muslim student, Isa (the Arabic name for Jesus.) In fact, throughout the entire dialogue Isa has all the best lines. Isa is not only a defender of the sanctity of all human life, he is also a strong defender of the Jews (the six million who lost their lives to Hitler were “martyrs”), and a great respecter of women (“…all I’m doing is defending womanhood and motherhood and families”). In his appreciation of feminine virtues Isa sometimes sounds more like a Victorian seminary student than a twenty first-century Muslim male. Isa even makes the case that women in Muslim societies are happier and more contented than women in Western societies because “we let women be women,” whereas Western women are the victims of a sexual revolution which mainly benefits men. One of Isa’s dialogue sparring partners, Libby (a liberated feminist), objects to all this with vehemence, but she is plainly no match for Isa. She spouts feminist slogans; Isa is a master of logical argumentation.
Kreeft advises his readers that he “does not necessarily agree with everything said by Isa as a Muslim,” but his sympathies clearly lie with Isa. For example, Fr. Heerema, who represents the orthodox Catholic position in the dialogues, usually finds himself in agreement with Isa. Moreover the sentiments expressed by Isa are quite similar to those expressed by Kreeft in his Introduction: for example, says Kreeft, one of the most important things Christians “should learn from Muslims or be reminded of by Muslims” is “the sacredness of the family and children.”
“Sacredness of the family?” In this and in other parts of his book, Kreeft seems to be inadvertently transposing Christian notions into Islam. While there may be some highly spiritualized Sufi sect somewhere that looks at marriage and family in this light, this is not the picture of family life that emerges in the accounts of ex-Muslims such as Nonie Darwish, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Wafa Sultan. Here’s Nonie Darwish on first seeing a church wedding in an old Hollywood movie:
“I was very touched by the holiness of the marriage vows, especially when the husband promised to love, honor, and cherish his one and only wife ‘till death do us part’…I now realize that my innocent mind was touched not only by the romance of the marriage vows but also by the way a Christian woman was honored and elevated by her husband and society…In sharp contrast, Muslim weddings are more about sex and money. They do not convey the holy covenant of marriage.”
To illustrate the point, Darwish reproduces a standard Egyptian marriage contract complete with questions about the bride’s virginity status, the amount of the dowry, and three spaces for the husband to record the names and addresses of wife number one, wife number two, and wife number three. To a Westerner overdosed on multiculturalism that last item might seem to be just another bright thread in the rich tapestry of diversity. But how do such arrangements work out in an actual marriage? Wafa Sultan recounts how her grandfather in Syria forced her grandmother to solicit a young woman to be his new bride. And, to compound the humiliation, when the wedding took place she was forced to “welcome the bridal procession by dancing before it with a bowl of incense on her head.” “After the wedding,” writes Sultan, “my grandmother was reduced to the status of a servant in her own home. She served my grandfather, his wife, and the ten boys that wife would bear for him.”
Though individual Muslims may rise above the system, official mainstream Islam looks upon wives and children essentially as commodities—possessions for the father or husband to dispose of as he sees fit. The result, according to ex-Muslims who are now free to talk about their experiences, is a tangle of family pathologies. Significantly, many of the pathologies can be traced back to Muhammad himself who had eleven wives, and several slave girl concubines. As is well known, Muhammad married a nine-year old; what is less well known is that one of his conquests was his own daughter-in-law. Seeing Muhammad’s evident interest, the young step-son graciously or, perhaps, prudently, divorced his wife to clear the way for the marriage. On another occasion, Muhammad “married” (took to bed) an attractive captive on the same day that his troops killed her husband, father, and brother in battle.
Yet Isa and Fr. Heerema keep referring to Muhammad as a man of “honor” and “compassion” and “a great moral reformer” who gave the Arab world “morality and peace and universal justice and mercy.” It wasn’t the sword that sold Islam, says Isa; Islam “sold” because “it completed human nature by adding the tender part.”
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