Book Review: Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism: a call to action

Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism:  a call to action.  George Weigel.  Doubleday.  195 pages. Hardback.  December 2007.

4 ½ stars

This book is not an easy one to read.  Some readers will need to keep a dictionary near by while reading this book since George Weigel uses “big words,” but this should not keep anyone from reading this book.  Weigel’s message is very timely in our world of today with the war on terrorism.  He does not hold back from expressing his views on how to live with and confront jihadism.  He calls Islamists and Muslim fundamentalists, jihadists.  His views are not only his but also of many world Christian leaders and intellectuals of the West.  One of these leaders is Pope Benedict XVI who discussed the issue of peaceful dialogue between Christians and Muslims in his September 2006 lecture in Regensburg, Germany.  This lecture was answered later by riots and violence in the Muslim world and proved his point that for some Muslims there can only be a one way discussion in favor of Islam.  In 2007 Muslim religious and secular scholars and leaders invited the Pope and other Christian leaders to begin dialoguing. 

Weigel makes it clear that not all Muslims are violent or follow the jihadist point of view.  He highly supports moderate Muslims who want peace and prosperity.  His message is directed at Westerners especially Christians.  He points out that Christians are too tolerant or even too silent about outrages to Christianity.  He examines the controversy over the cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish publication and the uproar from Muslims and others.  When cartoons about Jesus or Christian leaders, like the pope, are made there is not much of an uproar about that.  The secular press and others allow it and call any protest against it as being intolerant.  The press also does not have to fear violence because most often Christians are not going to kill them while if Muslims are offended they might kill or harm them.  There is no equality here.  This is also known as relativism.  Political correctness comes into play too.  One has to be tolerant when Christ or some other Christian person or symbol is insulted, but when Mohammed or the Qur’an is insulted the insulters are accused of being prejudiced or intolerant.  It seems to be that it is okay to bash Christianity, but it is not okay to bash Islam.  Weigel and others are saying that this is not just or reasonable.  There should not be any bashing of any religion or ethnic group.

Weigel examines Sunni and Shiite jihadists.  The Sunni radicals are made up of various groups most notably al-Qaeda.  The Shiite radicals are made up of various groups and a nation, Iran.  Iran also supports Hezbollah which fought with Israel in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.  These two “groups” fight with each other.  Radicals in each group are a threat to world peace.  Weigel shows that the West needs to support and encourage moderate Muslims in order to combat radical Muslims.  He shows how this can be done, he also presents what other leaders and intellectuals recommend should be done to turn the tide.  Some of these are Pope Benedict, former CIA director R. James Woolsey, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Bernard Lewis, Alain Besancon, and others.  He also presents some historical Muslims and events that were more tolerant towards others and prove that this tolerance can help Muslim society to be prosperous and at peace.  Jihadists though wish that all the people of the world should be Muslims.

Weigel says that the so-called “Abrahamaic” religions really are not that connected as some would have us to believe.  Judaism and Christianity are much closer than they are to Islam.  Christianity is founded from Judaism.  It is false to say that Islam came out of Judaism and Christianity.  Weigel shows that the Qur’an’s version of Jesus does not depict him as Christians do.  Christians hold him as the Son of God while Islam holds him up as the last Jewish prophet and that Christianity has transformed his message from what it actually was.  Jews and Christians are called the “people of the Book” and are treated as second class citizens if they do not convert to Islam.

Weigel presents the fact that Christianity and Judaism is much more tolerant of other religions than is Islam.  In Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia churches cannot be built while in Rome the pope encouraged the building of a mosque.  Christians have to be secret about their religion in Muslim countries.  If a Muslim converts to Christianity or Judaism he or she might be killed for it.  If a Jew or Christian converts to Islam that person is not going to be killed for it.  Many Muslims are not tolerant of other religions.  Weigel points out what the Taliban did to the statues of the Buddhas in Afghanistan.  Weigel and others are encouraging Westerners especially Christians to stand up for their faith against Muslim extremists and secularists who are inadvertently supporting the jihadists or at least the radicals.

Weigel’s book has no bibliography or index.  It does have endnotes.  It is highly recommended to those interested in relativism, the war on terror, Muslim-Christian dialogue, and jihadism.

George Weigel is the distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center.  He is a Newsweek contributor and an analyst on the Vatican for NBC News.  He is the author of the forthcoming Against the Grain:  Christianity and Democracy, War and Peace (April 2008), God’s Choice (2006), The Cube and the Cathedral, America and Politics without God (2006), Without Roots (2006), Witness to Hope:  the Biography of Pope John Paul II (2005), and many other books and articles.

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