As we approach the fourth anniversary of the attacks on the
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
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.
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
Christopher Dickey, “ Christendom’s Return ,” Newsweek,
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,
Associated Press, “ Pope Benedict appeals for end to terror attacks ,” CTV.ca,
“Pope ends World Youth Day with mass for 1m ,” Expatica,
Ian Fisher, “ Pope calls on Christians, Muslims to fight terrorism ,” San Francisco Chronicle,
Richard Bernstein, “ What Is Free Speech, and What Is Terrorism? ” New York Times,
Greg Krikorian, “ Four Men Indicted for Alleged Terror Plot in Southland ,”