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The View from Obama’s “High Horse”

CHRISTIANITY & ISLAM: MORALLY EQUIVALENT?

By John A. Perricone | April 2015
Fr. John A. Perricone, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, New York. His articles have appeared in St. John's Law Review, The Latin Mass, and The Journal of Catholic Legal Studies.

Barack Obama recently commented on the current atrocities committed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in light of its barbaric live incineration of a captured Jordanian pilot. In the course of his speech, the U.S. president counseled his audience to get off their “high horse” and recognize that the violence of the type perpetrated by ISIS is “not unique to one group or one religion.” He instructed his audience to “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” Essentially, Obama was appealing to the received myths that surround distant historical events in order to draw a moral equivalence between Islam and Christianity. Islam has the sadism of ISIS and al-Qaeda, Christianity had its Crusades and Inquisition; what’s the difference?

Catholics are rightly outraged by the president’s comments. But proper outrage must be based on proper facts.

Christianity’s doctrine is found in three sources: the Bible, Tradition, and the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. An unbiased and clear inspection will show that Christianity is a religion of peace. Islam, not so much. Christianity offers peace through redemption, freedom through penance, joy through forgiveness, perfection through sanctification, and charity as the crown and driving force of every Christian life. Nowhere does Christianity’s Divine Founder counsel violence, mandate war, or promise something sinful as a reward for fidelity. Yet a careful reading of the Qur’an, the “founding document” of Islam, reveals that these three elements are present in its pages. A sampling:

– “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them; thereafter is the time for either generosity or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens…. But those who are slain in the way of Allah, he will never let their deeds be lost” (47:4).

– “May the two hands of Abu Lahab [Muhammad’s uncle who betrayed him] perish! May he himself perish! Nothing shall his wealth and gains avail him. He shall be burnt in a flaming fire, and his wife, laden with faggots [firewood], shall have a rope of fiber around her neck” (111:1-5 sura).

– “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (9:29).

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