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From a weekly column by Rev. George Rutler:
Exactly 229 years ago this month, when the Barbary pirates were menacing ships of the newborn United States off the coasts of Tunis and Algiers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met in London with a Muslim diplomat representing the Bey of Algiers to inquire why his religion made his people so hostile to a new country that posed them no threat. They reported to Congress through a letter to John Jay, then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the ambassador’s explanation that:
“Islam was founded on the Laws of their prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to paradise.”
….[I]f God is pure will without reason, whose mercy is gratuitous and has nothing to do with any sort of moral covenant with the human race, then irrational force in his name is licit, and conscience has no role in faith. This is not the eccentric interpretation of extremists; it is the logical conclusion of the assertions in the Koran itself.
May we grant that Fr. Rutler is onto something here, namely that: a) “Irrational force,” as he calls it, is indeed consonant with the underlying Islamic worldview; and that, b) Muslims have been visiting violence upon the West for a very long time, as demonstrated by the depredations of the Barbary pirates (not to mention the conquest of Byzantium and Spain and the various attempts to invade Europe proper).
Grant all that, and you still end up with a difficult question about just what American diplomats and high officials — above all, of course, the president — should say. How is President Obama — how is his successor — to tell the truth about radical Islam without inciting civilizational anger on the part of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims? How?
Image Credit: “EnterpriseTripoli” by William Bainbridge Hoff (died 1903) – http://www.archives.gov/research/military/navy-ships/sailing-ships.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.Published in