Editor’s Note: Three American scholars, two Christians and one Muslim, spoke to WND to sound alarms on Islamism – otherwise known as political Islam. They say there will be trouble unless Americans fight political Islam’s war of ideas. This interview with Robert R. Reilly, of the American Foreign Policy Council, is the first of the series.
WASHINGTON – America needs to interact with Muslims and encourage them, but not all Muslims, and especially not those the U.S. government has taken under its wing, says noted Islam expert Robert R. Reilly of the American Foreign Policy Council.
Even while branches of al-Qaida strategize how to kill Americans, the U.S. is giving gifts of fighter jets and billions in taxpayer dollars directly to Islamist organizations and nations like Egypt that are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida’s parent organization. There also is evidence that the U.S. was supplying the radical Muslim rebels in Syria, all of which raise strategic, political and economic questions – and religious concerns.
“We’re doing more harm now to ourselves than good,” Reilly told WND in an interview about the issues of Islamism in the world today.
“The problem exists at the theological level and so it requires a theological solution. Once we do that, we ought to support the Muslims in the world who are advancing that solution. Instead, we’re supporting the Muslim Brotherhood – we’re supporting the side that is against our own interests.”
Reilly, a Catholic who served in the Defense Department and Voice of America under President George W. Bush, has authored “The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist.”
“If the title of my book wasn’t incendiary enough,” Reilly told WND, “the subtitle actually comes from my introduction, in which I quote one of the great Muslim scholars of the 20th century, a Pakistani by the name of Fazlur Rahman [1911-88]. He served at the ministerial level in Pakistan before he was driven out of the country for his ideas on educational reform.”
Rahman taught at American universities until he ended up a highly honored professor at the University of Chicago and Reilly quotes his statement in full: “A people that deprives itself of philosophy, necessarily exposes itself to starvation in terms of fresh ideas; in fact it commits intellectual suicide.”
Fight back against the legal attack from the Council on American-Islamic Relations on the First Amendment by making a contribution to WND’s “Legal Defense Fund.” Donations of $25 or more entitle you to free copy of “Muslim Mafia” – the book so devastating to CAIR that the group is trying to ban it.
While Reilly engages in many dialogues with critically thinking Muslims, he’s upfront about his thesis. He told WND, “Islamism is a spiritual pathology based on a deformed theology that has produced a dysfunctional culture. If you get the idea of who God is wrong, you’re going to get a lot of other things wrong too. That’s the problem.”
The closing of the Muslim mind, he says, is rooted in Ash’arite theology, which denies the God-given human powers of reason and free will. This is precisely the opposite of Christian doctrine, which says that personhood is defined by the powers of reason and free will.
Christians believe the Bible is divine revelation of one God in three divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. According to the Bible, humans are the only creatures made in God’s image as individual persons each possessing a soul and a body.
“When I read the account of creation in the Quran, the first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that man was not made in the image and likeness of God. In Islam, it’s blasphemous to suggest in any way that man is like God or can be compared to God,” said Reilly. “The closing of the Muslim mind occurred over a struggle concerning the role of reason in Islam, its relationship to revelation and ultimately to Allah.”
“I’m only talking about the majority within Sunni Islam,” Reilly specified, “but it’s the vast majority of the Muslim world.”
“In the ninth century, there was a great infusion of philosophy and Hellenic thought that influenced the first Muslim theological school and inspired the first Muslim philosopher, al-Kindi [of Bagdad, Iraq]. At that time, Islam became a Hellenized faith, just as Christianity had before it.”
Al-Kindi and his fellow scholars, the Mu’tazalites, employed a rational approach to religion and life. They believed “it’s obligatory for you to carry out what accords with reason; you have to do that which is reasonable,” said Reilly.
“However, reaction arose in opposition to that and denied reason could come to know anything, including the difference between good and evil; and that revelation was not in any way subject to reason; nor was God reason, He was pure will and power.”
There was no civil discourse on the matter. A caliph named al-Mutawakkil suppressed the Mu’tazalites. And so, 85 percent of Muslims today are within Sunni Islam and the majority of Sunnis are within the Ash’arite Kalam, said Reilly.
Consequently, Sunni Muslims thought nothing could be known outside of what Muhammad and caliphs declare to be divine revelation.
“The side that won said there’s nothing obligatory by reason, but only by Shariah,” said Reilly. “So reason was extirpated, philosophy was banned. After that theology was banned and Islam was reduced to a form of memorization and imitation called ‘Taqlid.’”
“What made this worse,” explained Reilly, “is that the metaphysics behind the delegitimization of reason is the thought that Allah is not only the first cause – the primary cause – but He’s the only cause for everything.”
According to this school, there are no secondary causes for creatures or actions. This means fire doesn’t burn cotton, God directly burns the cotton; acorns don’t grow into oak trees; animals and human beings don’t beget offspring; man-made machines don’t heat or cool our buildings; and no human persons can choose their own actions.
“Denying cause and effect in the natural world makes the world incomprehensible – unintelligible,” said Reilly. “But anyone who would suggest that natural law has a role in the world would be accused of shirk blasphemy, of somehow demeaning God’s omnipotence.
“In addition to that, the world is constituted by these time-space atoms that in themselves have no nature, but they are agglomerated in any instant directly by the will of God to make something. The fact that acorns grow into oak trees has nothing to do with the nature of an acorn or oak tree,” said Reilly. “This process and all other acts are discreet and independent acts by God and anyone who says that an acorn grows into an oak tree because of its nature would, again, be committing blasphemy.”
So, if God – if Allah – is directly responsible for all acts, then several premises follow for the classical Western thinker: (1) No human acts could be morally wrong; (2) God is directly making some persons Jews, some Christians, some Hindus, others Mormons, still others atheists and so on; (3) Therefore, humans who don’t convert to Islam must be doing God’s will; (4) God would have to be the cause of all conflicts; and (5) God would have to be the author of contradiction, confusion and chaos.
To these objections, Reilly replied, “Ah, but see, you are applying logic to Allah, Who’s above it all.
“And since God is above reason and acts for no reasons, neither can one understand what God does and God Himself becomes unintelligible. Therefore, reality recedes from the Muslim mind.
“This is what accounts for the dysfunctional cultures you see primarily in the Middle East,” said Reilly. “This is a product of the Ash’arite Kalam, the school of theology for the majority of Sunni Muslims. It predominates in the Middle East, Pakistan and South Asia. So if you wonder why there’s so much unreasonable behavior, it’s simply because reason has lost its status as a normative guide to ethical action.”
Islamism in America
WND has covered the Islamist agenda around the globe and Obama’s support of it.
John Brennan, who according to former FBI agent and Islam specialist John Guandolo converted to Islam while living in Saudi Arabia, is today deputy national security adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, assistant to the president and nominee for director of Central Intelligence. Some Islam experts, such as Reilly, doubt Guandolo’s allegation because so far it’s a single source and, for example, there’s no evidence Brennan has taken an Arabic name as required for converts.
Nevertheless, since Obama took office in 2009, variations of the word “jihad” and other Muslim terms have been deleted from the FBI and Homeland Security lexicons. Under Obama, Maj. Nidal Hasan’s massacre at Ft. Hood was an incident of “workplace violence,” not terrorism.
In April 2009, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security sent a terror-watch memo to law enforcement officials in the states, labeling conservative Americans as “right-wing extremists” and urging law enforcement officials to monitor Christians, pro-lifers, returning military veterans, gun owners and people with Ron Paul bumper stickers as potential domestic terrorists.
In public schools, Judeo-Christian history and prayers are banned – even though Christianity dominates the development Western civilization. But as WND reported, CSCOPE lessons in Texas public schools promote Islam, its conversion methods and verses from the Quran that denigrate other religions. Meanwhile, teachers neglect history lessons about Islamists’ violent attacks on Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims in many countries over the centuries, including al-Qaida’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
According to James Lafferty of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, in school districts where Muslim communities are loudly vocal, such as Northern Virginia and Dearborn, Mich., prayer time is observed for Muslims. Lafferty doesn’t object to the prayer time, but wonders why Christians and Jews aren’t afforded the same privilege.
In addition to supporting the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda in Egypt and arming the current regime, ordering the U.S. military to assist in the takeout of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, and effectively ignoring the jihadist attack on Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans murdered in Benghazi, Obama also pushed for passage of the pro-Shariah constitution in Kenya and sent Vice President Joe Biden there, who told Keyan voters: “We are hopeful, Barack Obama is hopeful, I am hopeful that you will carry out these reforms to allow money to flow.”
Reilly wrote of President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood taking totalitarian control of Egypt, and told WND, “It’s clear that Obama has been supportive of the Islamist agenda, the Muslim Brotherhood, from the time of his famous Cairo speech, where Muslim Brotherhood members were placed in the front row making it impossible for members of Mubarak’s administration to attend. The fact the Obama administration expressed surprise when Morsi delivered his dictate over the Egyptian judiciary, I don’t know whether that was feigned surprise or stupidity, because anyone who knows the Muslim Brotherhood couldn’t have been surprised. What Obama has done is dumbed-down the problem to the existence of one group, al-Qaida. That’s why he’ll never talk about Islam, only al-Qaida as the problem.”
What should the U.S. government do?
“First of all, stop doing everything we are doing!” said Reilly. “Just stop it until we understand the nature of the problem and whom we should support.”
He said, “The Islamist agenda is to curtail free speech. Free speech exists only very tenuously in some places in the Muslim world. There is no freedom of conscience in Islam – there is not even an Arabic word for conscience. So it’s no surprise that they have no notion of freedom in something for which they have no word. It’s part of their religion that no one ‘insults’ Islam or Mohammad. They can’t distinguish between their religion and the state.”
He said the expansion of Islamism is due to many Americans abandoning the Judeo-Christian traditions of faith and reason: the tradition of encouraging people to seek the truth and protect the human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Reilly concluded, “The only way they [Islamists] can succeed is if we let them. Islam is only a threat because the West has lost – or is losing – its Judeo-Christian faith.”