Chuck Colson

As we approach the fourth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the obvious question is: What, if anything, have we learned since then? We have learned a great deal about the threat posed by radical Islam, but not enough about what gives it its vitality.

Before September 11, 2001, most Americans had never heard of Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda. While they may have known about the existence of Islamic terrorism, they thought that it was something that happened “over there,” not here at home.

Well, that has changed. Americans not only understand that bin Laden and others mean to do us great harm, but most of us—save a few political figures—also recognize that our war on terrorism is part of a larger, global struggle. And understanding the threat posed by extremist Islam requires us to understand how Islam as a whole differs from our worldviews. While the vast majority of Muslims mean us no harm, there is something about Islam that lends itself to the extremist worldview that produced September 11.

As Pope Benedict put it, back when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, “The interplay of society, politics, and religion has a completely different structure in Islam” than in the Christian West. The Koran “insists that the whole order of life be Islamic.” These differences make attempts at compromise or appeasement, at best, unproductive and, at worst, folly.

The vision that fuels Islamist activity derives energy from a seemingly unlikely source: the West’s own spiritual poverty. Ratzinger, who has been involved in interfaith dialogue with Islamic leaders, sees a connection between “the great moral crisis of the Western world” and the “reawakening” of the “Islamic soul.”

The West’s “moral contradiction” left it incapable of “preaching a message of morality.” All it had to offer the rest of the world was “know how” and a “few remains of some modern ideas of enlightenment.”

By contrast, Muslims could say, “We know who we are,” and as they look at the increasingly secular West, they could say that their “religion stands the test.” The West’s moral and spiritual exhaustion, coupled with Muslim economic power that came with petro-dollars, made dreams of an Islamic revival possible.

We saw this process in action this summer in London. The home-grown terrorists didn’t turn to radical Islam because they were poor or oppressed—they weren’t. They were motivated by a religious and moral vision they couldn’t get anywhere else—at least not from the scraps of Enlightenment-based thinking that pass for culture in much of the West.

Remember, too, that Sayyid Qutab, the Egyptian radical whose writings so influence Osama bin Laden, blamed the West’s decline on the lack of Christian influence in society. Islam, he said, would have to take over where Christianity failed. Well, protecting ourselves from any threat must begin with an appreciation of our vulnerabilities, especially when our adversaries point out for us our own weaknesses. No amount of economic prosperity and military “know how” can compensate for the lack of moral vision and purpose so needed today. And that, my friends, puts the challenge right on our doorstep.


For further reading and information:

Today’s BreakPoint offer: BreakPoint’s 9/11 Worldview Resource Kit includes the book Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? by Dr. Timothy George, the booklet When Night Fell on a Different World by Charles Colson, and a CD with interviews with Charles Colson recorded after September 11, 2001 , and one year later. To order, call 1-877-322-5527.

Christopher Dickey, “ Christendom’s Return ,” Newsweek, 7 August 2005 .

Charles Colson with Anne Morse, “ The Moral Home Front ,” Christianity Today, October 2004. (Reprinted by BreakPoint Online.)

John L. Allen Jr., “ The Vatican and Islam ,” National Catholic Reporter, 29 July 2005 .

Associated Press, “ Pope Benedict appeals for end to terror attacks ,” CTV.ca, 21 August 2005 .

Pope ends World Youth Day with mass for 1m ,” Expatica, 22 August 2005 .

Ian Fisher, “ Pope calls on Christians, Muslims to fight terrorism ,” San Francisco Chronicle, 21 August 2005 .

Richard Bernstein, “ What Is Free Speech, and What Is Terrorism?New York Times, 14 August 2005 . (Archived article; costs $2.95 to retrieve.)

Greg Krikorian, “ Four Men Indicted for Alleged Terror Plot in Southland ,” Los Angeles Times, 31 August 2005 .

Lawrence F. Kaplan, “ American Idle ,” New Republic, 1 September 2005 .


Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was the Chief Counsel for Richard Nixon and served time in prison for Watergate-related charges. In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Chuck Colson's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.