Like many other Catholics I have talked to, I recently received a complimentary copy of the DVD Obsession: Islam's Radica; War Against the West in the mail from the Clarion Fund. For the most part this DVD was very good - it had some great eye-opening scenes of radical Muslim clerics inticing their followers to become suicide bombers and of children in Muslim schools being taught hatred for Jews and Christians. It also showed the duplicity of certain Muslim spokemen is claiming to be moderate and pluralistic in public while privately holding violent anti-Western views. This is an example of the practice of al-Taqiyya, or lying to the infidel, and the video catches some Muslim cleric right in the act. Most of those who read this blog already know this stuff, but it was refreshing (and chilling) to see it again in this video.
However, I have to take this DVD to task for an assumption that lays beneath much of what it exposes about Islam. It presents the radical jihadists in their native element and shows how dangerous they are, and then gives the viewer several warnings about radical Islam's desire for world domination. We are rightfully supposed to be concerned about the desire of jihadist Islam to dominate the world, but what is it about their intended domination that we object to and what does it say about our own beliefs when we object to it?
For the conservative, pop-Catholic, neo-conservative mentality, the desire of radical Islam for world conquest is one of the most offensive things about Islam. When they look at radical Islam, they say, "Isn't that terrible! Those people want the whole earth to convert to their religion and they won't stop at anything until they rule the world!" Too often I think we just nod our heads and say, "Yeah, that's awful."
But what are we objecting to? Is it the principle of one religion dominating the world? Or is it a question about the nature of the religion that wants to dominate the world? I would argue that as Catholics, we cannot object to the concept of a religion wanting to dominate the world. This is the objective of the Catholic Church in the end, after all. This very weekend at my parish one of the general intercessions was , "That the entire human race may be converted to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel spread to the ends of the earth." How can we say "Lord, hear our prayer," to a petition like that and then huff and puff when Islam says it wants to take over the world?
Well of course, the nature of Islam's dominance and the type of dominance that the Church desires are entirely different - one is based on submission and one on charity. But the idea is similar: each religion is evangelistic, believes it is the only true faith, and sees its mission as to convert the entire world. Let's be clear about this: Catholicism is a religion that seeks world domination. But it is a domination based on the proclamation of the Good News, the movement of grace, and the free joining of peoples into the Kingdom of Christ, a kingdom which is built on charity and is not of this world.
When neo-cons object to Islam on the basis that it wants to dominate the world, what they are really saying in effect is that religious pluralism is the ideal state of affairs, something no person who loves the Lord Jesus could say. Christ said to preach the Gospel to all men, to the very ends of the earth, and promised through the Spirit that in the end "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Php. 2:8-10). But the neo-con ideal is a world in which different religions coexist and no one is put forward as being more right than any other, because after all, religion is a private affair.
Catholics need to be aware that this is what we are implying whenever we take issue with Islam's desire to dominate. Instead, we ought to say, "Yes, it is horrible to think about that religion dominating the world, but let us pray instead that Christ's Kingdom is established to the ends of the earth." Our issue should be not with Islam's will to dominate, but with the type of domination Islam proposes and the nature of the religion of Islam.
It is tempting to simply accept religious pluralism as the ideal just because that is what we have in America - this is an ideal that was condemned as "Americanism" by Leo XIII in the bull Longinqua, where he stated:
"[I]t would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced." (Longinqua, 6)
So, when we approach the question of Islam, do we take it for granted that our own state of affairs here in the normative one? If so, we are in for failure. A pluralistic society has never managed to stand up to the assault of a culture that demands total religious conformity. In opposing Islam, we have to take as our fixed point not the religious status quo of America, as Sean Hannity would have us believe, but the perennial vision of the Church: a vision that culminates in the establishment of the kingdom to the uttermost ends of the earth.
So, Obsession is a pretty good video. But don't be lulled into taking the default position that it seems to adopt. It also tries to show how only some Muslims are violent and that the peaceful Muslims are the "real" Muslims. Well, whatever. It certainly makes it more easy to convert them if they are peaceful, but conversion is the end goal. Let's not forget that!
Here's an earlier article I wrote on this same topic and an explanation of the Muslim "duty" to lie in the cause of religion.