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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Witnesses in the Dock: Robert Reilly on the Bishops' "Muddled Dialogue" with Islam

The prosecution calls Robert Reilly to the stand. (All statements from Mr. Reilly, except those in brackets, come from his article The Muddled Catholic-Muslim "Dialogue.")

Prosecutor: Mr. Reilly, the Catholic bishops have called for an end to anti-Islamic bigotry and distortions of Islamic theology and teaching. Can you evaluate the claim of "distortion?"

Reilly: LIke most Americans, the bishops know almost nothing about Islam. Therefore, they don’t understand the context in which their Muslim interlocutors are speaking. As a result, they engage in mirror imaging, i.e., understanding the Muslims as the good bishops understand themselves....What might these distortions be? Apparently, that we should view with repugnance the “repeated falsehoods” that Islam is inherently violent, that Muslims seek to supplant the U.S. Constitution with sharia law, and that Muslim immigration threatens “the cultural identity of the American people.”

Prosecutor: Are those in fact distortions of Muslim theology?

Reilly: [No.] San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy recently provided an example [of mirror imaging] at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice....Bishop McElroy’s dialogue partner for the evening was Sayyid Syeed, a leader of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), whose name was familiar to me because he has been a fixture in the Midwest Catholic-Muslim dialogues. Perhaps the bishop was unacquainted with the pedigree of ISNA, which was spawned by the Muslim Brotherhood, the premier world organization for the reestablishment of the caliphate – whose purpose is the establishment of sharia. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, also a frequent dialogue partner with the bishops and past president of ISNA, had this to say in the newspaper Pakistan Link: “We must not forget that Allah’s rules have to be established in all lands, and all our efforts should lead to that direction.” In 2001, he wrote, “Once more people accept Islam, insha’allah, this will lead to the implementation of Sharia in all areas.”

Prosecutor: In your view is Islam a religion of peace, as U.S. bishops so often assert?

Reilly: [No. Look at history.] By A.D. 650, Muslims ruled Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt – all of which had been Christian lands whose inhabitants were demoted to the subject status of dhimmis [non-Muslim subjected people, second class citizens in the Islamic state.]. Less than a century later, Islam had spread to North Africa and Spain – all within the first millennium of “positive relations.” [As described by Sayyid Syeed, a leader of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in his "dialogue with Bishops McElroy.] In none of these places did Muslims arrive peacefully....I suggest that the bishops put Bat Ye’or’s book, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, on their reading list so they can speak accurately about Islam’s respect for “the peoples of the Book” in the first millennium and afterwards. From this history, is it unreasonable to consider that there is something “inherently violent” in Islam?

Prosecutor: Do you think defeating Christianity is the goal of Islam?

Reilly: Somewhat around the time of Bishop McElroy’s speech, in a Friday sermon in Edmonton, Alberta, Imam Shaban Sherif Mady declared, “Look forward to it, because the Prophet Muhammad said that Rome would be conquered! It will be conquered. Constantinople was conquered. Rome is the Vatican, the very heart of the Christian state.” 

Now who is misunderstanding Islam here, the imam or the bishop?

Prosecutor: What do you think is the impact of the bishops "dialogue?"

Reilly: [It] helps legitimate the Muslim Brotherhood clones and sidelines the real voices of Muslim reform. Also, because they [the bishops] usually get the substance wrong, these “dialogues” end up spreading misunderstandings rather than overcoming them.Since Muslims couldn’t care less what Catholics say about Islam, the only ones who get confused by these “dialogues” are Catholics themselves. I suggest, as a motto for the USCCB’s new national dialogue, the saying of Benedict XVI that “truth makes consensus possible,” and, concomitantly, nonsense makes it impossible.

Prosecutor: Thank you, Mr. Reilly, no further questions at this time.

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