Of Bishops and Bombers | William Kilpatrick | Catholic World Report
It is time for Catholic leaders to update their thinking on Islam.
In his Sunday homily the week after the Boston Marathon bombing, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the action of the bombers was a “perversion of their religion.” We have grown accustomed to hearing such statements from prelates, as well as from presidents and prime ministers. Terrorist have “perverted” their religion or “distorted” it or “misinterpreted” it. But how accurate are such assessments?
On one occasion, Muhammad ordered the beheading of more than 700 Jews who had surrendered to him. On another occasion, when a severed head was tossed at his feet by one of his men, he exclaimed that it was “more acceptable to me than the choicest camel in Arabia.” On still another occasion he exulted, “I have been made victorious through terror.” Indeed, the Qur’an is full of admonitions to terrorize. Was Muhammad perverting the religion he founded? Was he a “misunderstander” of Islam?
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev felt obliged by their religion to wage jihad. A song on their YouTube playlist is titled “I will dedicate my life to jihad.” Had they misunderstood or perverted the meaning of jihad? Many of Islam’s official representatives in America would like us to think so. They tell us that jihad is simply an interior spiritual struggle or a quest for self-betterment. For example, the Council on American Islamic Relations in Chicago sponsors a bus ad campaign that presents a benign interpretation of jihad. Sample: a picture of a young Muslim woman wearing a gym outfit and a hijab accompanied by the caption, “My jihad is to keep fit despite my busy schedule. What’s yours?”
That’s one possible way to interpret jihad, but it’s not the main way that jihad has been understood in Islamic tradition throughout the centuries.