Friday, January 02, 2009

Critique of Obsession

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.


Jeffrey Pinyan said...

I don't mean to be trivial, but this post of yours made me think of two movie quotes that have to do with a power of evil spreading over the whole world:

"That's for blasphemy. The quest for the Grail is not archaeology. It's a race against evil. If it is captured by the Nazis, the armies of darkness will march all over the face of the earth."

"The spirit of Sauron endured. ... Sauron needs only this Ring to cover all the lands of a second darkness."

khany said...

peace Boniface,

i am both disturbed by the readiness with which you devour islamophobic messages. ask yourself if you would trust messages put out by this organization about your belief system?

this is specially puzzling in light of the official position of the catholic church with respect to islam and muslims. in a document entitled "Nostra Aetate" dealing with the church's relationship with non-christian religions. the section on islam begins thus:

The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men.

moreover, the catholic catechism states:

The Church’s relationship with Muslims. The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 841, quoting Lumen Gentium 16, November 21, 1964).

you make a big deal of at-taqiyya. this term is not mentioned in the qur'an. the qur'an states:
Whoso disbelieveth in Allah after his belief - save him who is forced thereto and whose heart is still content with the Faith - but whoso findeth ease in disbelief: On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs will be an dreadful Penalty.

this is the only condition under which a muslim is allowed to hide his faith. not as a matter of convenience but only to save one's life. those who stand up as witnesses to their faith and are martyred are greatly rewarded. however, there is no blame on those who are compelled against their will.

there are several verses in the qur'an that command muslims to be truthful and just (and there are none that condone lying). i reference few:
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (your testimony) or refuse (to give it), verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.

And do not conceal testimony, for whoever conceals it - his heart is indeed sinful, and Allah is Knowing of what you do.

describing the qualities of those who will be saved from god's punishment in the hereafter, god says in the qur'an:
And those who are in their testimonies upright

Such is Allah, your real Cherisher and Sustainer: apart from truth, what (remains) but error? How then are ye turned away?

the primary sources of islamic knowledge knowledge and jurisprudence are only two. the qur'an (which muslims believe is the exact word of god revealed to the prophet through angel gabriel) and the recorded traditions of the prophet (peace be upon him).

the scholars of islam are neither divinely guided nor infallible (unlike the pope). we hold them in high esteem. however, their words are to be tested against the quran and sunnah (traditions). anything else is merely their opinion.

the website you link to and your earlier article on the same concept are gravely oversimplifying. at-taqqiya is a concept which was developed and popularized by shiite islamic scholars (the shia constitute 10% of the billion muslims worldwide). the principle was developed to protect shiite minorities from persecution from certain authoritarian sunni rulers (since shiite beliefs were often labeled heretical).

the only other situations where "lying" is not sinful is for example when one exaggerates to one's wife, e.g. "you are the most beautiful woman on earth!". it is also allowed to "deceive" the enemy in war by, for example, showing that one is moving forces in one direction when in fact one intends to move in a different direction (standard warfare tactic).

to get a more detailed look of the different views of muslim on the concept of taqiyya you can read the article on wikipedia. the attempt to discredit islam simply by citing "at-taqiyya" is to destroy a straw-man argument.

just as it is insincere if i begin learning about christianity from answering-christianity or the skeptics-annotated-bible, it similarly makes no sense to learn about islam from obsession or fitna. there are so many lies and falsehoods being advanced in the name of islam that it is next to impossible to counter every single one of them. this video response to fitna illustrates some of the tactics used. video.

if you are interested in dialoging with muslims i exhort you to learn about islam from its sources, as the muslims understand it. even if your ultimate purpose is evangelism it makes sense to know real muslim beliefs rather than caricatures of them. you may begin by reading a translation of the qur'an, e.g. here. you could read a biography of the prophet (peace be upon him). i recommend "muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources" by martin lings. there are numerous websites that present the muslim understanding of islam, e.g. a brief illustrated guide to understanding islam, or islamicity, the religion of islam, etc.

may god guide us to the straight path.


Boniface said...


You obviously misunderstand what the point of the post is - I disagree with much of what Obsession says, not about Muslims, but about Catholics relationship to Muslims.

Obviously, since you have quoted Nostra Aetate, you are ignorant of the complex controversy regarding this document within our Church, but two points need to be made perfectly clear:

1) Despite however you interpret the Catechism or Nostra Aetate, the Church teaches unreservedly that tere is salvation in no other name but in Jesus Christ.

2) NA does not say that Muslims adore the true God, but that they "profess" to adore the true God - i.e., that you may profess to worship God, but that does not mean that you actually do.

khany said...


i just finished reading your other articles on islam. i should have read them before making my initial comment.

Say: "O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah." If then they turn back, say ye: "Bear witness that we (at least) are they who have surrendered (unto Him).


Anonymous said...

I have asked this question(s) on many forums, of many others, many times in the last 5 or so years.

This statement is offered first.....
1] I say that Jesus the Christ is God, and the 2nd Person of the Blessed Triune.
2] I say that Jesus was not simply a prophet or a good man, but He was and is the Word made Flesh.
3] I say that Allah is the god of Islam, and because he is declared by Muslims to be a singular "not-Father" god, that he is in fact NOT the same Triune God professed by Catholicism. We can only agree that there is but one God of Abraham, Islam and Catholicism. The Catholic understanding of God is the only one that contains the Truth.
4] I say that the Koran is NOT inspired by God. It is from man and has changed in many of its teachings in the last 1400 years.
5] The Bible, as given to the world through the Catholic Church, is the only Scripture inspired by God.
6] I say that Mohammad is a false prophet. He began a movement which thrives on violence and submission.
7] I deny that we are all born Muslim and thus must submit to a false prophet and his teachings.

Now, the question.

If you are a true fully practicing Muslim, and I am a professed unbeliever...... what must you do with regards to me?


Anonymous said...

Your post is not so much a critique of "Obsession" but a slam against what you call the "conservative, pop-Catholic, neo-conservative mentality". I do not accept that label but I think you have raised a common false dichotomy: The reestablishment of Christendom (the Catholic Church "dominating the world" or at least as much of it as it can) -- and with the indifference to the call to evangelize the world.

Catholic Monarchism, the proper name for the former, concentrates power in an enlightened elite which history tells us inevitably leads to revolution and a perpetual resentment of the Catholic Church. Both Popes and Councils have learned not to put their trust in mere kings but in the souls of the multitudes who are cooperators with the Church in obtaining grace. The new face of Catholic Monarchism is seen in the Catholic American Left wing's fascination in concentrating all the wealth which was scattered among thousands of private charities into the hands of the federal government. The blends into the other half of the dichotomy -- the indifference to sharing Christ with the world, at least until the there is no more war, poverty, or disease in the world -- i.e. never.

Boniface said...


Grrr...Listem, I am not advocating at all any type of militarist conquest of the world ala monarchism. The type of submission the Church looks for is entirely different, and this is clear in the post, in which I stated:

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.

So don't go on saying that I am advocating forcing Catholicism on people without conversion. That is not it at all, and I said as much in the post.