An excellent, must read article from Catholic World Report.
The truck slaughter in Barcelona on August 17 brings up a question that the North Koreans must be pondering. Attacks with trucks receive as much world attention as nuclear weapons; they are also far less expensive. Surely, the ISIS method of getting world attention is much cheaper and more effective than the furious North Korean effort to produce and deliver nuclear weapons on target. Indeed, we see ISIS’s hold of its formally controlled areas in Iraq and Syria becoming more and more tenuous. But it does not follow that we will see a corresponding lessening of jihadist activity elsewhere. It may well increase. Ideas and “divine” missions do not always need a safe place to be effective.
The drawback in this comparison with ISIS is that North Korea is overwhelmingly matched. If it decided to use its nuclear devices, it would mean its own destruction. The North Koreans are not daft. They know the potential consequences to themselves. The Muslim jihadists don’t care about death. They have the tactical advantage, month after month, of actually killing perceived enemies. They are not afraid to die for their cause, while the North Koreans only cautiously threaten.
Besides, potential Muslim violent incidents can and do happen anywhere in the world at any time. Almost the whole planet is now set up with various screenings and searches to protect from random Muslim jihadists. With massive recent Muslim immigration into Europe and America, however, few places in these areas are really safe. Western law and custom often work to the advantage of the jihadists. A new fear has become the norm in all societies in which citizens were once able to move about in their own cities and towns without worry.
Muslims of all kinds, as noted, are everywhere, while the North Koreans are largely confined to North Korea, an out-of-the-way corner of the world. There are twenty-five million North Koreans, but we count some billion or more Muslims of various origins, persuasions, and sects. North Korea cannot hope to take over the world or make it Korean. It can only disrupt or destroy parts of it to obtain what it wants.
The Muslims have played their cards well. They have already succeeded in significantly expanding into Europe and America, where they quickly establish their own exclusive enclaves. They have mostly reached the goal of eliminating all significant non-Muslim presence from what are claimed to be exclusively Muslim areas in the mid-East. All branches of Islam, moreover, think the world ought to be Muslim. The only controversy, and not a very vigorous one at the moment, concerns what means to use for this purpose: war, numbers, or both—and both are sanctioned by the Qur’an. These means can be used separately or in coordination.
In his 1933 book on St. Francis of Assisi, Chesterton remarked on St. Francis’ failed efforts to convert Muslims in Francis’ lifetime (1181-1220). Chesterton added that in Francis’ view “it was better to create Christians (by conversion) than to destroy Muslims. If Islam had been converted, the world would have been immeasurably more united and happier; for one thing, three-quarters of the wars of modern history would never have taken place.” Francis met the Sultan and even seems to have proposed a trial by fire as to the truth of either religion. “Indeed, throwing himself into the fire was hardly more desperate, in any case, than throwing himself among the weapons and tools of torture of a horde of fanatical Mahomedans and asking them to renounce Mahomet” (293). In many cases, to propose that one renounce his Muslim faith is itself sufficient to cause the death of the one who proposes it.
What interests me in these remarks of Chesterton on Francis of Assisi, however, is the theme of conversion as the only real way of dealing with the long-term issue of Islam. This topic is not wholly unmindful of the famous Donatist heresy in Augustine’s time. The central issue then came down to the futility of reasonable efforts to counteract Donatist violence short of forced conversion. Chesterton noted the failure to “build bridges” between these religions and the resulting consequences that separated peoples from one another. The fact is that some positions are incompatible with each other. This fact would seem to result a pragmatic consequence. Differing but incompatible cultures live separately side-by-side but rely on some Hobbesian all-powerful state apparatus that ruthlessly suppresses any manifestations of violence. This latter view assumed that the state apparatus was not itself in control of the jihadists.
Certainly, in principle, Islam itself sees the solution to the modern project as the conversion of the world to Allah. This aim is a powerful motivation. It inspires millions to take whatever steps are needed to achieve it, including war and terror. Most of the areas that are now Muslim were once populated by Christians. Their conversion was, in one way or another, usually by force or social pressure. It should not surprise us today that the most popular baby boy’s name in London is said to be “Mohammed”. In many ways, from a betting angle based on today’s estimates, the conversion of the world to Islam is, in the long run, more likely than its conversion to Christianity. Aside from the Reconquista in Spain and some similar moves in the Balkans, there has been no real success of Christians to convert Islam. The Crusaders were ultimately defeated. As a result of this seemingly impossible project of converting Islam, several Christian thinkers have developed dubious theories that see the Qur’an and its observance to be “salvific” in Christian terms.
The cause of turmoil coming from Islam cannot, as many seek to do, be attributed to poverty, development, politics, nationalism, or any other motivation. The basic cause is a religious belief in the truth of the Muslim mission as set down in the Qur’an. Until that motivation is taken seriously and taken for what it is, we will not understand what is happening, and has been happening since Islam’s foundation in the world in the seventh century. Many cannot or will not believe that such abiding motivation over time is possible. They thus propose other causes that must be, so they hold, the “real” cause of Muslim aggression. But in fact, in its own terms it is a religious motivation. It can only be met if we begin with that truth. The question then becomes, as it should have been all along, whether this religion is true or not.
Islam presents itself, in spite of its jihadist elements or perhaps because of them, as a religion of peace. The string of bombings and truck caused deaths that we have seen in the past decade seems at first to belie this affirmation. The Qur’an itself certainly gives sufficient reason to make every effort to expand Islam, by violent jihad if opportune or necessary. But in most Islamic thought, peace can only happen after the world is converted to Allah. Until that time, the world is divided into areas of peace, that is, areas under Muslim control, and areas of war, areas in which it is not. Technically, all those not in the sphere of Islam are enemies and at war with Islam. When the suicide bomber kills any enemy, the question of any guilt over a crime against the innocent does not come up. There are no innocent people in the zone of war. So if one is killed while killing enemies, he, not the enemy, is the martyr….
Islam stands as a judgment on the nations. It also stands as a judgment on thought itself. Once any culture including our own abandons as the basis of its legal, political, philosophical, or religious thought the central role of the principle of non-contradiction, almost anything can follow. Islam, ironically, stands as the great teacher of mankind. It teaches it at least one of the things that happen when we keep our faith but reject the guidance of our reason.