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Open Letter to his Holiness Pope Francis

The following open letter to Pope Francis was written today by Geert Wilders, the leader of the PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid, Party for Freedom) in the Netherlands.

Your Holiness,

In your recent exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Paragraphs 247-248) you draw the world’s attention to the indebtedness of Christianity to the Jews and their faith. The exhortation also contains a sharp condemnation of the terrible persecutions which the Jews have endured from Christians in the past.

Your words are words which might inspire many.

Unfortunately, they are in sharp contrast to the expressions of hatred which were voiced last October by the spiritual leader of Sunni Islam, Ahmad Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Institute in Cairo.

During an interview, aired on Egyptian television on October 25, Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayeb reaffirmed the relevance of Koranic verse 5:82, which states that of all people the Christians are closest to the Muslims, while the Jews are strongest in enmity towards them. This verse has inspired centuries of Islamic hatred of Jews.

Al-Tayeb’s invocation of Koranic Jew-hatred is in line with fourteen centuries of Islamic teaching. Grand Imam Al-Tayeb’s predecessor at Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, even wrote a book, entitled The Children of Israel in the Koran and the Sunna, in defense of Jew-hatred based on Koranic teachings.

The current suffering of Christians from Islamic persecution in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, and so many other countries, clearly indicates what Christians have to endure from the followers of the Koran. What atheists and Jews, who are considered the worst enemies, have to endure from Islam is even worse.

In your exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (paragraphs 252-253) you state that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Reality does not confirm this statement.

The Koran is full of bellicose and hate-mongering verses against non-Muslims. Your Holiness will be able to find them if he reads the Koran, but I will name just a few:

 2:191-193: “And slay them wherever you come upon them, […] Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s.”
 4:89: “If they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”
 5:33: “This is the recompense of those who fight against Allah and His Messenger, […]: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land.”
 8:60: “Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to terrify thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”
 9:5: “When the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush.”
 9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah.”
 9:30: “The Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them.”
 9:123: “O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you; and let them find in you a harshness; and know that Allah is with the godfearing.”
 47:4: “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks.”
 

I hope that the Holy Father will help us defend the West’s Judeo-Christian and humanistic civilization, to which even atheists and agnostics owe their freedom and democracy.

Nothing will be gained by a refusal to face reality.

We must speak the truth about Islam — the largest threat to mankind in this present age.

Very respectfully,
Geert Wilders

Member of the Dutch Parliament
Leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV)

http://gatesofvienna.net/2013/12/open-letter-to-his-holiness-pope-f...

Update: Dr. Andrew Bostom has addressed the same issue extensively, backed up by appropriate citations. He notes:

Former Pope Benedict XVI, and current Pope Francis have openly expressed their ecumenism toward Jews and Judaism, while acknowledging Christianity’s indebtedness to Jewish ethical values. This ecumenical message has been coupled to frank, mea culpa-based contrition for the tragic legacy of Christian antisemitism. The disparity between their attitudes and their two contemporary Sunni Muslim equivalents, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi and Ahmad Al-Tayeb — the latter having emphatically and triumphantly re-asserted the modern relevance of canonical Islam’s conspiratorial Jew-hatred — could not be more striking.

Both Tantawi’s and his successor Ahmad Al-Tayeb’s career trajectories to the pinnacle of Sunni Islamic religious education, despite their own public endorsements of virulent, if “sacralized” Islamic Jew-hatred, reflect the profound moral pathology at the very heart and soul of mainstream, institutional Islam.

Pope Benedict in 2006

In this context of quoting church sources let me quote what Pope Benedict XVI said in his September 12th, 2006 at the University of Regensburg, Germany.  He quoted the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who wrote down a series of dialogues he had (perhaps in 1391) with an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.  The Pope said:

‘…the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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".’

You would think that at least the contemporary Popes, living in such magnificent buildings with so many relics form days gone by, would remember the past.

A pope can have his celebrity status and lie. Or he can tell the truth and be assassinated.  

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1374035/Pope-John-Paul-II-a...

Perhaps it was fear of assassination that induced the last pope to resign.  After all, he'd had the gall to dare repeat what a previous incumbent had said about islam 600 years earlier.  I don't remember John Paul II ever said anything about islam, yet he was still targeted for assassination by muslims.

You'd think those who believe in eternity at the side of god for moral behaviour would be braver about telling the truth and facing death.  But maybe not.

Alan Lake said:

You would think that at least the contemporary Popes, living in such magnificent buildings with so many relics form days gone by, would remember the past.

It is a mixed bag for sure.  When Pope Benedict spoke in 2006 in the University of Regensburg there were riots throughout the Muslim world.  I know that at least one religious sister was murdered as a result.  

I doubt that fear of personal death is an issue.  

It is like, if you do speak the truth, people are murdered; or if you don't speak, people are murdered anyway for other reasons because an excuse for murder is never lacking.  I would hate that my words would have such consequences.

The full sentence reads:

Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.

Should we ‘avoid hateful generalisations’?  I think so. 

Should we ‘respect true followers of Islam?’  Yes but only if these true followers are following the authentic Islam which abhors every form of violence.

The second part of the sentence is, at worst, an untruth based on ignorance.  At best it is a tease.  This Pope is telling Muslims what their religion is truly about.  True followers of Islam will not turn to violence to achieve any Islamic principle.  This is an idea that Pope Benedict developed in his Regensburg lecture.

Will Muslim scholars disagree with him?  Or is he speaking to the mass of simple Mosque-going Muslims who want a quiet and peaceful life?  The Muslim world has yet to respond.

There's the rub.  Who speaks for "the muslim world"?  We can't canvass the (honest?) opinions of 1.2 billion muslims.

The pope has no business telling muslims (ordinary or otherwise) what the true meaning of islam is.  What is the pope's analysis but a "hateful generalisation"?  He hates violence, so he makes generalisations about islam, claming it is not violent.  The pope is a traitor.

Kinana said:

Will Muslim scholars disagree with him?  Or is he speaking to the mass of simple Mosque-going Muslims who want a quiet and peaceful life?  The Muslim world has yet to respond.

Here, the Pope goes beyond the Vatican II documents and beyond the conciliatory statements of his recent predecessors. Some will call it a step forward, but there are reasons to think it is a step in the wrong direction.

Looking at Islam Through Catholic Eyes
January 20, 2014
Comments by Pope Francis about “authentic Islam” suggest a failure to see Islam as most Muslims understand and live it.

William Kilpatrick

Several Catholic columnists have commented on the tendency of people to project their own hopes and fears onto the pronouncements of Pope Francis without paying attention to what he actually says. But could it be that the pope himself is practicing a similar form of projection?

In his statements about Islam in Evangelii Gaudium (paragraphs 250-54), Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of respecting and appreciating other cultures and religions. Yet, in an important way, he fails to do so, for his apparent tendency is to view Islam not on its own terms, but from a Christian perspective, with very Christian premises and assumptions. For example, in observing that “authentic Islam” is “opposed to every form of violence” he seems to be projecting Christian beliefs, values, and hopes onto Islam.

Francis is not by any means the first pope to do so. To a lesser extent, Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Paul VI also saw in Islam evidence of promising affinities with Christianity. Their remarks on the commonalities shared by the two faiths echo the two conciliatory statements about Islam issued by the Second Vatican Council. In Lumen Gentium and especially in Nostra Aetate, the Council Fathers emphasized those elements of Islam that seem to correspond most closely with Christian beliefs and practices—particularly, reverence for Jesus and Mary, and a striving after the moral life. In short, they painted a partial picture of Islam that was very much in the image of Christianity.

The influence of Louis Massignon

Those documents were greatly influenced by the work of the French Catholic scholar of Islam Louis Massignon (1883-1962). Massignon is arguably the father of present-day interreligious dialogue, and his writings are often credited with having paved the way for the generous presentation of Islam found in Nostra Aetate and Lumen Gentium. But—and this is a crucial point when one considers his influence—Massignon’s main interest was not in Islam proper, but in Sufi Islam, a mystical version of Islam which bears a resemblance to Catholic mystical traditions, but which is regarded as a heretical sect by many mainstream Muslims.

Indeed, Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike have criticized Massignon for focusing too much attention on Sufism and on relatively marginal figures in Islam. Massignon’s magnum opus, his four-volume doctoral dissertation published in 1922, focused on the life of the 10th-century Persian mystic and martyr, al-Hallaj. Al-Hallaj was a Christ-like figure whose claim that he and God had become one and the same led to his trial, imprisonment, and eventual execution at the hands of Islamic authorities. Edward Said, the noted author of Orientalism, wrote that Massignon used al-Hallaj to “embody…values essentially outlawed by the mainstream doctrinal system of Islam, a system that Massignon himself described mainly in order to circumvent it with al-Hallaj.”

In short, his critics accused Massignon of confusing Islam with a relatively small sect of Islam that is unrepresentative of mainstream beliefs and practices. Even scholars friendly to Massignon admit that his scholarship seems to have been colored by his personal inclination to mysticism. From what is known of his life, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Massignon was searching for a version of Islam on which he could project his own Catholic and spiritual concerns, and that he found it in the life of al-Hallaj and the traditions of the Sufi masters.

Yet, despite his rather eccentric and idiosyncratic view of Islam, Massignon probably had more influence on Catholic thinking about Islam than any other 20th-century figure. His friends included Charles de Foucauld and Jacques Maritain; he carried on a correspondence with Thomas Merton, and he consulted with Pius XI, Pius XII, and John XXIII. In addition, he was close to Cardinal Montini (later Pope Paul VI) and strongly influenced Montini’s thinking about Islam.
The authenticity of “authentic Islam”

Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation seems to be in line with Massignon’s attempt to put a Christian face on Islam. The part that stands out is the following: “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” [my emphasis]. Here, the Pope goes beyond the Vatican II documents and beyond the conciliatory statements of his recent predecessors. Some will call it a step forward, but there are reasons to think it is a step in the wrong direction.

The Koran is replete with admonitions to commit violence and terror. What can Pope Francis possibly mean by saying that a “proper reading” of the Koran shows that it is “opposed to every form of violence”? There are many violent passages in the Old Testament as well, but Christians believe that these have to be understood in light of the New Testament. However, there is no New Testament in Islam. Islam’s other “sacred” documents such as the Sira (the life of Muhammad), the Hadith (collections of the words and deeds of Muhammad), and the various law manuals confirm the violent teachings of the Koran. These books give us a fuller picture of Islam than does the Koran, but in no way do they soften or reinterpret the violent passages. If anything, they cast doubt on the peaceful passages. The Islamic doctrine of abrogation, which is based on sura 2:106 of the Koran, holds that if two passages in the Koran contradict each other, the later verse cancels or abrogates the earlier verse. Since most of the peaceful Koranic verses come from the early Meccan period, many Muslim authorities hold that they are superseded by the latter violent verses.

Some Sufi and Ahmadiyya sects have come up with more spiritualized interpretations of the Koran but, as noted before of the Sufis, they are far out of the Islamic mainstream and are often persecuted as heretics. Recently, an Ahmadi doctor was arrested in Pakistan for reading from the Koran because, as reported in the Ahmadiyya Times, “According to the laws of Pakistan it is a criminal act for an Ahmadi to read the Holy Qur’an or act in a manner that may be perceived as the Ahmadi is ‘posing as a Muslim.’”

If Islam is assumed to be a faith similar to Christianity, then it is possible to interpret it in the light of Christian ideas about peace, justice, and a loving God whose harsh commands can be understood in a symbolic way. Massignon’s reading of Islam was in a similar vein. He recast Islam to correspond with his own mystical Christian inclinations and yearnings. The pope’s words in Evangelii Gaudium are undoubtedly intended to express fellowship with Muslims, but whether they respect the “otherness of the other” (as a multiculturalist would put it) is another, and very important, question. Certainly, there are a great many Muslim authorities and scholars who would dispute the Pope’s interpretation. For example, the late Ayatollah Khomeini was in the habit of saying things like, “Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those are witless…Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword!”

To Western ears, this sounds like extremist, outside-the-mainstream talk, but it should be remembered that the Ayatollah was one of the most revered persons in the Shia Muslim world and his memory is honored to this day. Khomeini was an Ayatollah Usma, a “Grand Sign of God”—an honor bestowed only on the most learned religious leaders. It seems a safe bet that the majority of Shia Muslims would accord far more respect to his reading of the Koran than to any pope’s.
For that matter, Pope Francis’ reading of the Koran would seem to put him on a different path from the one traveled by Pope Benedict. While Francis’ statement about Islam usesNostra Aetate as its main reference point, Benedict seems to be calling for a re-examination of Nostra Aetate. In an essay published last October in L’Osservatore Romano, Benedict writes of a “weakness” in Nostra Aetate. “It speaks of religion solely in a positive way,” he said of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Non-Christian Religions, “and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion.” Benedict doesn’t speak explicitly of Islam, but it seems likely that Islam is what he had in mind. In light of the havoc that Muslims have wreaked upon Christians and other non-Muslims in the name of Islam in recent decades, it appears that Nostra Aetate has left us with a very incomplete picture of Islam.

The figure of Louis Massignon has cast a long shadow over Catholic thinking about Islam. To the extent that they are interested in Islam, Catholic thinkers tend to be focused on its mystical, Sufi manifestations rather than on its mainstream, legalistic, and supremacist side. This esoteric emphasis even filters down to the popular level via widely read Catholic authors such as Thomas Merton and Peter Kreeft. I recently gave a talk about Islam to a Catholic college audience and the first question I was asked during the Q & A session concerned Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic and poet who was profoundly influenced by al-Hallaj—this, despite the fact that my talk had nothing to do with Sufism or mysticism. Rumi, who, like many Catholic mystics, described a journey of spiritual ascent through stages to a final union with God, has become very popular with young Westerners who are seeking non-Western forms of spirituality. In 2007 he was described by the BBC as “the most popular poet in America.”

Yet, at the risk of redundancy, it bears repeating that the spiritual tradition of Rumi, al-Hallaj, and the Sufi masters lies at the margins of the Islamic faith. For example, the use of music, poetry, and dance in rituals practiced by Rumi’s followers are considered un-Islamic by many, if not most, Islamic authorities. But, thanks in large part to the work of Massignon, this mystical tradition is looked upon by many influential Catholics as the authentic Islam. Thus, one man’s skewed and partial reading of Islam has come to color the “official” Church view of Islam.

As Pope Francis asserts, it is possible to read the Koran as being “opposed to every form of violence.” We know it is possible because that it is the way that some have read it. However, to say that this reading is the “proper” or “authentic” one is debatable, even misleading. At a time when clarity about Islam may be a matter of life or death for many Christians, the Pope’s statement may, unfortunately, only further cloud the issue.

About the Author
William Kilpatrick

William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Psychological Seduction, Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong and, most recently, Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West. Professor Kilpatrick’s articles on cultural and educational topics have appeared in First Things, Policy Review, American Enterprise, American Educator, The Los Angeles Times, and various scholarly journals. His articles on Islam have appeared in Aleteia, National Catholic Register, Investor’s Business Daily, FrontPage Magazine, and other publications. Professor Kilpatrick’s work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation.

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/2870/looking_at_islam_throu...

Kinana,

One reason why Christian leaders don't speak out against the violence against Christians in the Muslim world is that they think it will make things worse for Christians if they do so. That is, if mass Muslim violence is criticised in strong terms in the West, Muslims may well ratchet up the violence. A Catholic I know said this and he believes it's especially true about Christians in the West Bank and Syria. However, these Christians who hold their tongue, as it were, aren't the interfaith lot or those who want to feel good about themselves for Embracing the Diversity that is Islamic violence.

PAM,

i agree, as i said earlier: 'It is like, if you do speak the truth, people are murdered; or if you don't speak, people are murdered anyway for other reasons because an excuse for murder is never lacking.  I would hate that my words would have such consequences.'

The Kilpatrick article is an indication though that more and more Christians 'get it'.

After almost 7 years in which no-one of any prominence was speaking out for christians persecuted under islam, it seems in the last 6 months we have finally heard a handful of prominent speakers saying something.  Not saying much, and only saying it once -- but it's something.

With the media's refusal to address the elephant that's been pounding round the room for 25 years, we have to savour these tiny squeaks made by prominent people.  I've started to notice that after a few attempts to argue for islam, on public forums (at least those I frequent) the Leftists are not making more than rote responses, and are then giving up.  We now have too much information at our fingertips for them to win in such a confrontation.

The sad thing is, that our minuscule successes have come after EDL has been around for almost 5 years.  And in those 5 years the muslim population of Britain has gone up by 50%.

Kinana said:

The Kilpatrick article is an indication though that more and more Christians 'get it'.

Kinana,

Yesterday I said this, and I think I've already changed my mind:

"One reason why Christian leaders don't speak out against the violence against Christians in the Muslim world is that they think it will make things worse for Christians if they do so. That is, if mass Muslim violence is criticised in strong terms in the West, Muslims may well ratchet up the violence. A Catholic I know said this and he believes it's especially true about Christians in the West Bank and Syria."

Apart from the fact that I really meant Gaza, not the West Bank, I've just received, and read, Bat Ye'or's Eurabia, in which she talks about "Palestinianism" - or Christian Liberation Theology in the West Bank and Gaza. She talks about Christian "replacement theology", or, as Melanie Philips calls it, 'supercessionism".

So it's not just the case of Christian leaders, not the flock, watching their backs or supporting the POOR Palestinians. It's gone much further than that. These Palestinians Liberation Theologians (as much under the influence of Marx as their south American counterparts - which Ye'or doesn't touch on) are effectively Islamising Christianity. Literally!

I had read Melanie Philip's chapter on this in her The World Turned Upside Down. However, it's not as powerful or convincing as Ye'or's position. It puts the dhimmi nature of Palestinian Christians in a new light. They are effectively so dhimmi in nature they are more or less prepared to see Christianity erased from Palestine in the long run. They literally believe, or at least the leaders do, that Christianity, when completely separated from the Old Testament and the Christian- Jewish heritage, is part of Islam.

Now I don't really care about the theology, but this is dhimmitude in its most perfect state: suicide.

*) Hamas, etc. will limit their persecution of Christians (which the Liberation Theologians are silent on), because the replacement theologians, and their flocks, are useful to Muslims in their fight against Israel. However, were Israel destroyed, then they'd be destroyed as well. How do I know that? Look at Syria today. Look at the fate of Christians in the Muslim world today and throughout Islamic history.

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Most Western societies are based on Secular Democracy, which itself is based on the concept that the open marketplace of ideas leads to the optimum government. Whilst that model has been very successful, it has defects. The 4 Freedoms address 4 of the principal vulnerabilities, and gives corrections to them. 

At the moment, one of the main actors exploiting these defects, is Islam, so this site pays particular attention to that threat.

Islam, operating at the micro and macro levels, is unstoppable by individuals, hence: "It takes a nation to protect the nation". There is not enough time to fight all its attacks, nor to read them nor even to record them. So the members of 4F try to curate a representative subset of these events.

We need to capture this information before it is removed.  The site already contains sufficient information to cover most issues, but our members add further updates when possible.

We hope that free nations will wake up to stop the threat, and force the separation of (Islamic) Church and State. This will also allow moderate Muslims to escape from their totalitarian political system.

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These 4 freedoms are designed to close 4 vulnerabilities in Secular Democracy, by making them SP or Self-Protecting (see Hobbes's first law of nature). But Democracy also requires - in addition to the standard divisions of Executive, Legislature & Judiciary - a fourth body, Protector of the Open Society (POS), to monitor all its vulnerabilities (see also Popper). 
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