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Article: The Pope and the Prophet

December 8, 2006

Robert R. Reilly writing in Crisis Magazine:

The metaphysical support for natural law not only laid the foundations for modern science, but also provided the basis for the gradual development of constitutional government. The primacy of power in Islamic thought undermined a similar prospect. If one does not allow for the existence of secondary causes, one cannot develop natural law. If one cannot develop natural law, one cannot conceive of a constitutional political order in which man—through his reason—creates laws to govern himself and behave freely. Because democracies base their political order on reason and free will, and leave in play questions that Islamists believe have been definitively settled by revelation, Islamists regard democracies as their natural and fatal enemies.


Radical Muslims translate their version of God’s omnipotence into a politics of unlimited power. As God’s instruments, they are channels for this power. Once the primacy of force is posited, terrorism becomes the next logical step to power, as it did in the 20th-century secular ideologies of power: Nazism and Marxism–Leninism. This is what led Osama bin Laden to embrace the astonishing statement of his spiritual godfather, Abdullah Azzam, which bin Laden quoted in the November 2001 video, released after 9/11: “Terrorism is an obligation in Allah’s religion.” This can only be true—that violence in spreading faith is an obligation—if, as Benedict said in Regensburg, God is without reason.


Is there a constituency within the Muslim world that can elaborate a theology that allows for the restoration of reason, a rehellenization of Islam with Allah as ratio? It is idle to pretend that it would take less than a sea change for this to happen. If it does not, it is hard to envisage upon what basis the dialogue with Islam could take place.

Read it all here.


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