Islamic jihadists have always insisted that they’re fighting a religious war, while the entire intelligentsia of the Western world has lined up to insist that they aren’t, and are actually fighting for quite different motives: economic deprivation, racism, a quest for personal glory, a lack of opportunity, and the like. But now honest analysis of the religious motivation of jihad terrorism has gotten a boost from the unlikeliest of sources: Pope Francis.
On Monday, Muslims murdered 30 Christians who were riding in a bus to a monastery, and in speaking to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said: “The victims, amongst which were also children, were killed after having refused to renounce their Christian faith.” He called the victims “these courageous witnesses, these martyrs,” and asked God to “convert the hearts of the terrorists.”
The idea that Muslims must first invite non-Muslims to convert to Islam and then only kill them if they refuse is not a twisted, hijacked version of Islam; on the contrary, it is based upon Muhammad’s instructions as recorded in a canonical hadith. Muhammad is depicted as saying: “Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war…When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them…. If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294)
Francis did not, of course, refer to the Islamic idea that one must first invite unbelievers to accept Islam or dhimmitude and then go to war with them if they refuse. Nor did he even name the religion that the killers wanted their victims to embrace once they renounced Christianity.
But everyone knows it wasn’t Buddhism, and it was jarring that Pope Francis, of all people, was noting, however, delicately and indirectly, the Islamic character of this attack. After all, Francis has gone to great lengths in the past to downplay or deny altogether the Islamic aspect of Islamic terrorism. Most notoriously, he has said that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” He has also said flatly that “Muslim terrorism does not exist.”
Now, however, if he is to be consistent (which, of course, may not be a high priority for so large-minded a man as Pope Francis), he has to admit that Muslim terrorism does exist, and struck in Egypt on Monday. If, however, he still believes those statements and others he has made about the peaceful nature of Islam, then he must believe that the Muslims who killed these Christians after first demanding that they convert to Islam were misunderstanding their own religion. As one of the world’s foremost non-Muslim imams who pontificate about the nature of Islam, most likely without troubling actually to study Islamic texts and teachings, Francis should correct this: he should either go personally to Egypt in order to instruct these Muslims in the proper reading of the Qur’an, or send teams of Catholics who understand Islam correctly to the Egyptian city of Minya, the site of this jihad massacre, and other jihad hotspots in order to conduct outreach with the local jihad-inclined Muslims and correct their misunderstandings of authentic Islam.
In fact, not to do this is only to open the door to more jihad violence against Christians. Imam Francis owes it to the world to help these misunderstanders of Islam back to the Straight Path.
In reality, reasonable people may hope that Francis’ observations about these martyred Christians’ refusal to renounce their faith will herald a new realism about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, both on his part and in the Catholic Church in general, as well as among political leaders in the West. This is, after all, a very curious religious war: its religious character remain generally unacknowledged, and one of the religions in question seems to think it can make this whole war go away with “dialogue” and “outreach” and gestures of good will.
Will Francis’ remarks about this jihad massacre in Egypt herald a return to realism about the jihad threat in the Catholic Church? Given the deeply entrenched Leftism at all levels of the Church, that seems unlikely. But the Pope’s remarks do illustrate the near-impossibility of wholly preventing reality from breaking through on comforting fantasies.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.