What the terror mastermind's prison manifesto tells us about Islam's God problem.
The mastermind behind the September 11 attacks might have a bone to pick with Secretary of State John Kerry. After meeting with his counterpart in the Vatican last week, Kerry reported that the United States and Holy See have a "common interest in dealing with this issue of poverty, which in many cases is the root cause of terrorism."
Back home, The Huffington Post published a 36-page "manifesto" which begs to differ. In October 2013, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed typed it on a Guantanamo Bay prison laptop. It’s purpose? To convert his captors -- and us. "It is my religious duty in dealing with any non-Muslims," he writes, "to invite them to embrace Islam."
What follows is hardly an invitation, rather a shaming. KSM, as he is known in intelligence circles, is convinced that "under the power and authority of the secularist governments, the fire of atheism is spreading among the Western communities." Where you find "democracy, freedom, money, and liberalism,” he writes, you'll also discover "unbelievable numbers in divorce, suicides, mental illnesses, bankruptcies, in addition to a thousand other evils."
Earlier in his epistle to the infidels, KSM attempts to dispel the notion that he and his jihadist friends fight non-Muslims with the aim "to turn them to Islam or that we are fighting you because you practice democracy, freedom, or claim that you uphold human rights." But just a few pages later, KSM writes "any Democratic or Republican programs are doomed to fail to bring happiness and safety for humans.” He laments we "do not accept God's laws,” and claims any other legislation is blasphemous because we think "maybe the creature is cleverer than the Creator."
KSM then launches into an all-out theological war on Christianity and the Incarnation. Jesus is just another prophet who "never declared to us in the Bible that he is a God," nor did he speak of the Trinity, which Muslims consider polytheism. "If Jesus is God," KSM asks, "how can I believe that God was in a woman's womb then delivered out of her flesh?" No God of his would allow himself to be killed, either. "How can God be stoned and crucified?" KSM probes.
KSM is baffled by the Incarnation because Islam has a God problem. Muslims go to great lengths to protect God's transcendence, but end up not knowing him at all.
Among the 99 names Muslims give Allah are "lawgiver" and "Absolute Will." This is how Muslims relate to Allah: submission to his will. But since Allah is so transcendent and majestic, his will is not bound by the human notion of reason. "Throw reason to the dogs," a sign adorning the office of the Taliban religious police read, "it stinks of corruption." If God is not reasonable, he can will anything -- even terrorist attacks. Here, Secretary Kerry, is your "root cause" of terrorism. Not poverty, foreign occupation, Israeli settlements, or CIA blowback, but this defective theology is what led KSM and his brothers-in-arms to fly commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center towers.
KSM begins his missive with several quotes, one of them from Pope Benedict XVI's infamous 2006 lecture at the University of Regensburg: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Had KSM -- or anyone else, for that matter -- actually read the speech, he would have seen that these were not Benedict's words, but those of a 14th century Byzantine emperor. The emperor was trying to convince an educated Muslim that faith and violence are incompatible because God is logos, the Greek word meaning reason. To act unreasonably would be against God's nature.
The former pope used the emperor's words to identify the chief theological misstep taken by jihadists where "God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions." Benedict takes jihadist theology head on: "God does not become more divine when we push him away from us," he warns, "rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf."
History tells of many captives who convert their captors. Most notable was Saint Paul, who was imprisoned for performing an exorcism. While behind bars and shackled to the floor, Paul prayed and sang hymns to God. Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison and cell doors swung open. Paul's jailor rushed into Paul's cell "trembling with fear" and asked, "what must I do to be saved?"
Let us pray Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has no such luck.
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