A growing conflict between some conservative Christian leaders and the Bush administration over whether Islam is a "peaceful religion" or a militaristic faith with designs on world domination is threatening the cozy relationship between the White House and some of its most loyal supporters.
Conservative Christians are not about to stop supporting the president, but they are disturbed that he keeps saying things about Islam they do not believe are true and, in their hearts, do not believe he believes.
Paul Weyrich, a longtime conservative political force in Washington, has co-authored an essay called "Why Islam Is a Threat to America and the West." In it, he quotes extensively from the Koran and rebuts the president's contention that this "great religion" is mostly peaceful: " … the real nature of Islam is a religion of war and conquest. Those who argue that the threat comes only from 'Islamic fundamentalism' or 'Islamic extremism' misportray the nature of Islam itself. War against the unbeliever is as central a doctrine and practice of Islam as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity and Christ's Resurrection are central to Christianity. Islam cannot abandon jihad and remain Islam. The word 'Islam' does not mean 'peace,' it means 'submission.'"
Weyrich also notes that more Christians are finding martyrdom today than at the height of the Roman persecutions, and "most of them are dying at the hands of Islam."
One can sympathize with the dilemma President Bush faces. He needs some cover in the Muslim world in order to prosecute the war on terrorism. But he also needs to forewarn Americans by informing them about the intentions of our enemies.
There is a way of doing this without getting into a theological argument similar to the unanswerable question about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. We must take the theological battle to the Muslim world.
The president should consider calling for "moderate" Muslims to clean up their own house. The Roman Catholic faith is making such demands on the church in the wake of priests alleged to have sexually abused children. The president should ask Muslim political and theological leaders to go after their own, if they are, indeed, misrepresenting "true" Islam. We should not have to clean up after the mess they have made.
The problem in the Muslim world is not only theological. It is also the failure of governments to meet minimal human needs. Despite massive infusions of petro dollars, most people in nations run by Muslim authoritarians are poor and illiterate. Their poverty is not the fault of the West. As with the Cold War, dictators change the subject and blame their people's misery on "outsiders" and the rich nations of the West. If people realize that their own political and theological leaders have robbed them of enjoying a real life, not America, the people might overthrow those leaders. That is why they seek to keep their people in intellectual, theological and political bondage — so they can remain in power and live well.
Pressuring "responsible" Muslim leaders to police their own house will help in two ways. If they do it, it will demonstrate there are true moderates who believe in pluralism and tolerance. If they don't, it will expose their real motives. Either way, Americans will benefit.
(E-mail Cal Thomas at www.calthomas.com.)
© 2002 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.