Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism is not an easy read. Though some may need to keep a dictionary nearby, this should not keep anyone from reading this book. Weigel’s message is timely in this era of the war on terrorism. He does not shrink from expressing his views on how to live with and confront jihadism. He calls Islamists and Muslim fundamentalists, jihadists. His views are synonymous with those of many world Christian leaders and Western intellectuals. 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 a dialogue.
Weigel does make clear that not all Muslims are violent or follow the jihadist point of view; he supports moderate Muslims who want peace and prosperity. His message is directed at Westerners, especially Christians, as he points out that Christians are too tolerant of or even 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 published, there is rarely much of an uproar. The secular press and others allow it and decry any protest against it as being intolerant. The press does not have to fear repercussions of violence, because (most often) Christians are not going to kill them. On the other hand, if Muslims are offended they might kill or harm the perceived offenders. 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 Koran is insulted, the insulters are accused of being prejudiced or intolerant. It seems to be that it is acceptable to bash Christianity but not Islam. Weigel and others are saying that this is neither just nor reasonable; there should not be debasement of any religion or ethnic group.
Weigel examines both Sunni and Shiite jihadists. Sunni radicals comprise various groups, most notably al-Qaeda. The Shiite radicals include various groups and one nation: Iran. Iran also supports Hezbollah, which fought with Israel in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Shia and Sunni jihadist fight one another; radicals in each group are a threat to world peace. Weigel shows that the West needs to support and encourage moderate Muslims in combatting radical Muslims. As he describes how this can be achieved, he also presents what other leaders and intellectuals recommend should be done to turn the tide, including Pope Benedict, former CIA director R. James Woolsey, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Bernard Lewis, Alain Besancon, and others. He also presents historical Muslims and events that are evidence of greater tolerance and proof that such tolerance can help Muslim society to be prosperous and at peace. Jihadists, by contrast, believe that all people should be Muslim.
Weigel says that the so-called “Abrahamaic” religions are actually not as connected as some would have us to believe. Judaism and Christianity are much closer to each other than either is to Islam. Christianity is founded upon Judaism, but it is false to say that Islam came out of Judaism and Christianity. Weigel shows that the Koran’s version of Jesus does not reflect the Christian depiction. Christians hold Jesus to be 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 treated as second-class citizens if they do not convert to Islam.
Weigel argues that Christianity and Judaism are much more tolerant of other religions than Islam. In Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, churches cannot be built; in Rome, alternately, 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 as a result. Conversely, if a Jew or Christian converts to Islam, that person will not be killed for it. Weigel points to what the Taliban did to statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan. Weigel and others encourage Westerners, especially Christians, to stand up for their faith against Muslim extremists and secularists who inadvertently support the jihadists, or at least the radicals.
Weigel’s book, though it has no bibliography or index, does include 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.