Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and all Greece touched off a firestorm in mid-January when he dared to note, according to the Orthodox Times, that “Islam was not a religion but a political party.” He added: “They are the people of war.” In response, Muslim leaders the world over have rained down condemnations upon the archbishop. He spoke inaccurately when he said that Islam was not a religion at all, but proof that he was wrong about Islam having a political aspect has not been forthcoming.
Muslims in Greece were outraged. The Western Thrace Turkish Minority Consultation Council (BTTADK) declared: “We condemn the statement of the Archbishop of Greece, Mr. Ieronimos….We hope a more peaceful language to be used instead of anti-Islamic discourse in such difficult times of pandemic.” The Xanthi Turkish Union added that Ieronymos’ words were an “Islamophobic attack” and even a “hate crime.” It thundered: “The fact that these statements, filled with insults, came from the number one name in the Greek church increases the gravity of the situation. We see this move as one of the typical examples of the rising Islamophobia and xenophobia in Greece in recent years.”
For its part, the Western Thrace Imam-hatip Schools Graduates and Members Association (BIHLIMDER) asserted that the archbishop was displaying “ambition and jealousy,” and stated: “We are leaving the examination of the psychological state of this person, who uses words that even the most ordinary people wouldn’t use, to the experts. We are condemning such a hostile attitude.” Ahmet Ibram, deputy head of the province of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, said fancifully: “One of Islam’s basic beliefs is to have life based on peace between religions. It can never be accepted to have grudge and hostility against other religions’ members.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also issued a statement: “These provocative expressions of Archbishop Ieronimos, which incite the society to hostility and violence against Islam, also show the frightening level Islamophobia has reached. Such malign ideas are also responsible for the increase of racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in Europe.”
The fact that the Turkish Foreign Ministry would attack the Archbishop of Athens for abetting “the increase of racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in Europe” confirms that the concept of “Islamophobia” is an illegitimate conflation of two distinct phenomena: crimes against innocent Muslims, which are never justified, and honest analysis of the motivating ideology of jihad terror, which is always necessary. Archbishop Ieronymos pointed out that Islam was political and expansionist, which its scripture, doctrine, and history show it to be.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry knows that Archbishop Ieronymos is right. In January 2018, as Turkish troops launched a military operation in Syria against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), 90,000 mosques in Turkey prayed the Qur’an’s “Conquest” sura, sura 48, which calls upon Muslims to be “ruthless against unbelievers.” Why did they do that, unless they assumed that their military action had an Islamic aspect? And in November 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Our God commands us to be violent towards the kuffar (infidels). Who are we? The ummah [nation] of Mohammed. So [God] also commands us to be merciful to each other. So we will be merciful to each other. And we will be violent to the kuffar. Like in Syria.”
Archbishop Ieronymos said: “Islam, its people, is not a religion but a political party and are the people of war…They are the people who seek expansion, that is the characteristic of Islam.” Erdogan proved him right.
Nonetheless, all this led the unnerved Archdiocese of Athens to issue a clarification, claiming that Archbishop Ieronymos was “meaning nothing more than the distortion of the Muslim religion itself by a handful of extreme fundamentalists, who wreak death and destruction all over the world.These are exactly the people the Archbishop was referring to, that is, people who instrumentalize Islam and turn it into a deadly weapon against all those who have a different view from that of ‘unbelievers,’ even that of believers.”
It is understandable that the archdiocese would release this clarification in light of all these denunciations of the archbishop. The archdiocese doesn’t want any violence from Muslims who believe that perceived insults to their faith should be requited with violent attacks, after the pattern of the prophet of Islam himself. But that proves the archbishop’s point yet again.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.