5:33 PM, Aug 19, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Yesterday Pope Francis endorsed military action to stop the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) from persecuting religious minorities, especially Christians and Yazidis, in Iraq. The pope’s statement is to be welcomed—albeit with serious reservations.
As various experts noted, the Vatican is typically opposed to any sort of military action. James Bretzke, a priest and professor of moral theology at Boston College, told USA Today that “popes in recent history have all lined up against any military intervention, including World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and, most recently, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.”
Indeed, just last month Pope Francis issued a passionate plea for both Israel and Hamas to cease fighting in Gaza and put down their weapons. "Please stop," the pope said in his weekly address from the balcony in Saint Peter's Square. "Brothers and sisters, never war, never war! I am thinking above all of children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthwhile life, of a future."
So why is this situation different? How is Hamas, a terrorist organization that targets Jews, a Middle East minority, different from ISIS, a terrorist organization that goes after Christians, Shia, Yazidis, and, presumably, if given the chance, Jews? Regarding ISIS, Francis reasoned that “where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor…I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.'”
The pope is not naïve. What stops violence is not careful verb choice, but violence. So why is it licit to use violence to stop this unjust aggressor and not Hamas or, for instance, Bashar al-Assad?
Last September the pope held a peace vigil to protest proposed U.S. military action against the Assad regime. “May the noise of weapons cease!” Francis proclaimed. “War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity," said the pope, just a few weeks after the Syrian regime launched a chemical weapons attack against civilians in a Damascus suburb. The videos of the aftermath of the attack and the testimony of the survivors documented what many would also consider a defeat for humanity—men, women, and children treated like insects by a vicious ruling order while the world looks the other way, while the servant of the servants of God convenes peace rallies.
Some experts argue that Francis is building his case for support of military action against the Islamic State in terms of “Just War” theory, but for others it is hard not to conclude that given his stand against violence to stop Assad or Hamas, the Vicar of Christ is either a relativist, or perhaps worse, has taken sides in a sectarian conflict.
Even before the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011, the Alawite-led Assad regime has long portrayed itself as a protector of Christians and other minorities. Syrian regime allies have also put forth variations of the same argument, like the Lebanese patriarch of the Catholic Maronite church, Bechara al-Rahi, who when the Syrian uprising first broke out worried about the fate of Lebanon’s Christians if Sunnis took over in Syria. Indeed, many Christian clerics in Syria have come out openly on behalf of Assad and his murderous policies, a stark reminder that many of the Middle East’s men of faith are little more than spokesmen for the narrow interests of their sect or clan. It is natural and just to seek to protect your own, but there is no scriptural basis for petitioning Caesar to lay waste to the other tribe so that yours may thrive.
5:33 PM, Aug 5, 2014 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Here, in the parlance of the times, is a “pro-tip.” When attempting to rebut the notion that anti-Semitism in Europe is largely a problem caused by young Muslim men, don’t cite two horrific anti-Semitic atrocities perpetrated by . . . young Muslim men.
1:05 PM, Jun 25, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Why were the words of Fouad Ajami “never welcomed in the cultural salons of Beirut and Cairo?” asks Samuel Tadros in Tablet magazine.
Tracing the Muslim roots of modern-day Sicily.Aug 5, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 44 • By RICHARD TADA
A band of Muslim raiders sacked Rome in 846 a.d., plundering the city’s churches and getting clean away with their loot. They had come from Palermo, in Sicily, which had been in Muslim hands for 15 years. Sicily was then on its way to becoming a predominantly Islamic and Arabic-speaking island, and it remained under Muslim rule for over two centuries, until the Normans conquered it in the late 11th century.
To be young, Muslim, and American. Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By PETER SKERRY
The Boston Marathon bombings highlighted, once again, the challenges of assimilating Muslim youth. And while the onus of accountability ought not rest exclusively on Muslim Americans, it understandably weighs most heavily on them. Indeed, any fair-minded assessment of recent events must underscore the inadequacies of Muslim-American leaders. Yet the usual criticisms are wide of the mark and fail to identify the institutional as well as intellectual weaknesses of these leaders.
12:45 PM, Feb 13, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Kosovo, the Albanian-majority Balkan republic, is probably best known for its fervent pro-Americanism, understandable given the role of U.S.-led NATO forces in assisting its 1.8 million inhabitants against Serbian oppression in 1999. American troops in Kosovo are drawn from National Guard units and have fallen below a thousand, but continue to symbolize a commitment that Kosovars consider indispensable to their future.
10:43 AM, Jan 3, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The small republic of Kosovo, with a population of less than two million—90 percent ethnic Albanians, of whom 80 percent are Muslim—is the Balkan zone offering the greatest resistance to radical Islam. Some vignettes from recent interviews may impart the flavor of the debate over Islamism in the country:
10:50 AM, May 6, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
Tariq Ramadan is the latest in a long chorus to criticize the Obama administration for killing Osama bin Laden. The organization that his grandfather Hassan al-Banna started, the Muslim Brotherhood, along with its Palestinian branch Hamas, mourned the death of the holy warrior, while more moderate voices, like the Sheikh of Al Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb, simply complained that his death rites were inappropriate. Ramadan seems to align himself with the latter. “It's very strange,” Ramadan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “that we drop his body in the sea, against all the Islamic rituals, and we are told the Islamic rituals and principles are respected.”
And he's a golfer, too.Aug 30, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 47 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
"Ike’s not a Communist, he’s a golfer." That was Russell Kirk’s succinct response to the claim by John Birchers in the 1950s that President Eisenhower was a Communist.
So what?7:18 PM, Aug 19, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
In March 2009, a Pew poll found that 11 percent of Americans incorrectly believed President Obama was a Muslim. A new Pew poll shows that that number has increased to 18 percent. Does this seven-point jump have any significance? Maybe. Maybe not.
From Pakistan to Bosnia.4:00 PM, Aug 9, 2010 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The people of Pakistan, and Muslims as well as non-Muslims around the world, were horrified when, at midnight on July 1, three bombers struck the Data Darbar Sufi shrine in Lahore.
12:00 PM, Apr 14, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The young Kosovo Republic, with an overwhelming Muslim majority but a tradition of moderate Islam and a secular constitution, has joined Tunisia and France in prohibiting girls attending public schools from wearing the headscarf (hijab). As in Turkey, where the ban on headscarves, instituted in the 1920s, has become a matter for judicial controversy, decisions against the headscarf by local and school authorities have produced a legal case and complaints of discrimination.