A Catholic priest and scholar has some useful insights into the Islamic world, its relationship with Christianity, and its relationship with the Western World.
“To understand what is happening today in regard to the Western World and the Middle East we must understand the main branches of contemporary Islam. They are a) Pan-Arab nationalism, and, b) Takfiri [also commonly referred to as Wahhabi-Salafist] Jihadism which has roots in both the Middle Ages and the nineteenth-twentieth centuries.”
Israeli politician Baruch Marzel, who belongs to the governing coalition of the Israeli State, says that Notre Dame Cathedral burning down is “divine punishment” for the Talmud being publicly burnt in front of the cathedral in 1200AD.
Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Aviner adds that it is a ‘mitzvah’, a prescription of Judaism, to burn down Christian churches.
To understand what is happening today in regard to the Western World and the Middle East we must understand the main branches of contemporary Islam. They are a) Pan-Arab nationalism, and, b)Takfiri Jihadism which has roots in both the Middle Ages and the nineteenth-twentieth centuries.
It must be recognised that Classical Arab culture (not the religion of Islam, especially when interpreted in its fundamentalist and fideist form derived from Al-Ghazali) is not a course or rough Bedouinism, devoid of substance and depth (which Al-Ghazali reduced it to), which is how it is commonly presented by a politically-correct Western media today.
In fact Classical Arab culture is humanistic and scientific (originating in India and China and then transmitted to Europe by way of Arabia). Arabic Aristotelian philosophy (Avicenna, Averroes) touched great heights of development in the Middle Ages before its decline. The decline, primarily theological, philosophical and exegetical, influenced by the philosophy of Al-Ghazali, became far-reaching, but didn’t replace the Classical Arab culture that underwent a revival under social Pan-Arab nationalism. Pan-Arab nationalism is fundamentally opposed to Takfiri Jihadism which is bankrolled by the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
In the Middle Ages Thomistic metaphysics, based on Aristotle, corrected and purged Arabic philosophy of its rationalistic defects and also perfected the doctrine of being as the final act of essence.
The philosophy of the West, which is the theoretical foundation of Neo-Conservative politics, is Enlightenment Empiricism influenced by Nominalism leading to Agnosticism, and which, according to St. Pius X, is “the evil of the modern world” and the basis of theological Modernism.
So Empiricism is radically opposed to sound scholastic philosophy, theology and metaphysics. The mediaeval Arab world was only imperfect in respect to it, but not opposed to it.
Eventually, if we study a) mediaeval Jewish metaphysics (especially Maimonides), which despite some healthy theological and metaphysical principles borrowed from Aristotle, Averroes and Avicenna, flows into Nihilism, and b) contemporary Jewish philosophy (Buberand Levinas) which is Subjectivist, Structuralist and Nihilistic, it is clear that there exits a radical incompatibility between them and right reason, sound theology and divine revelation.
When we objectively and dispassionately study mediaeval Arab, Jewish and Christian metaphysics and Western Empiricism, we find that a much greater opposition to classical Greek-Roman metaphysics and to Christianity (patristic, scholastic and social doctrine) comes from Jewish Nihilism (Maimonides), Anglo-American Neo-Conservative ideology(Burke, Strauss, Kristol, Popper, Hayek, Mises and Friedman) and Zionism (Buber and Levinas), than from the metaphysics of mediaeval Arabia and modern Pan-Arab nationalism.
By going back to the origins of current events we can distinguish:
1) The incompatability in religion between Christianity and Islam, which is, however, less than that which exists between the Gospel and Hebrew Talmudism;
2) The affinity between mediaeval Arab and Thomist metaphysics, which are to one another as potency is to act, and less perfect to more perfect;
3) The irreconcilability of Western Agnosticism with right reason and the Christian Faith, which stand against each other as black and white, yes and no;
4) The unitary design of Jewish-Anglo-American Globalism which uses the Takfirism-Salafism–Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia to undermine and destabilise the foundations of lay Arab States, causing division and chaos in countries once socially and economically ordered and not morally corrupted by the immanent subjectivism of Western modernity.
The existing branches of Islam
Classical Islamic theology and culture was formed in Arabia in the seventh century. Towards the end of the thirteenth century it began to decline and towards the end of the eighteenth century, with the expedition of Napoleon Bonaparte in Egypt, came the eruption of European Enlightenment modernity.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1917 and the fragmentation of the Arab world into French/Anglo colonies there was a renaissance in the Arab world in the form of a social-orientated nationalism as a reaction to the forced establishment in Palestine, in 1948, of the State of Israel.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1990, a radical anti-nationalist, and anti-Arab, Islamicist ideology funded by the United States, the Gulf States and Israel, with some co-operation from Turkey, became prominent. These Islamicists were first deployed in the 1979-89 proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and have been operating as a proxy force in Chechnya ever since, in Iraq since the Second Gulf War of 2003, in numerous countries afflicted by the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ that began in earnest in 2011, and in the central regions of Africa.
In the nineteenth century there prevailed at first in the Islamic world a certain fascination towards modernity. Egypt was the first Moslem country to send a team of forty scholars to France to study the sciences, technology and literature, and to apply them to the socio-economic benefit of the country, without, however, wanting technological progress at the expense of their traditions, culture and religion.
Therefore the social emancipation of the Moslem world was always viewed in light of a renewal and rebirth of Arab culture, and not in opposition to it. The study of European science and technology was intended to be in line with a return to the sources of Arab culture and used by the Arab nations to solve the political and social problems that they faced in the nineteenth century.
The late introduction of philosophical modernity – subjectivist, rationalist and relativist – in Arab countries, irreconcilable with their religious tradition, gave birth to a traumatic disturbance in the populations of the Near and Middle East. This was exasperated by Anglo-French colonialism which was not accepted by the Arab world, in part because it was more inclined to exploit economically than to evangelise and civilise.
Father Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916), a missionary in Algeria and Morocco, had explained tirelessly to the French authorities the grave danger of what was primarily a material and exploitative colonialism that neglected or rejected being the bearer of the Gospel and Christian civilisation; a colonialism that was, therefore, unable to conquer the minds and wills of the Arabs. It was not only necessary but opportune to bring the Gospels to the Arabs because they were still immune to the rationalism of the Enlightenment and still profoundly orientated towards the transcendent, despising atheism and agnosticism, and thereby being open to grace having a deep impact on their souls.
Unfortunately modern Europe, with the exception of the missionaries sent by the Church (who were not supported by the secular power of the State), instead of bringing the Gospels, the Fathers, Thomist metaphysics and the social doctrine of the Church, brought with it Agnosticism and Enlightenment culture along with the technological development and, therefore, the colonialism of Europe was, with good reason, despised and hated by the Arabs.
Faced with the sudden intrusion of European Enlightenment modernity into the nineteenth-century Arab world, many of the leaders of Arab society were blinded by self-preservation and lust for greater wealth and power, and began to act as parrots who aped Napoleonic Liberalism, without trying to understand its meaning, and without trying to distinguish what might be consistent with truth and what was not.
In turn, this led to an exaggerated fideistic reaction which was anti-metaphysical and gave birth to Wahhabism, Salafism, the Muslim Botherhood and the radical politicised movement of a fundamentalist Islam that came into conflict with traditional Sunni and Shia beliefs, and the social-orientated nationalism of Egyptian Nasserism and Syrian and Iraqi Baathism.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Arab intellectuals studied European thought in the light of the Arab renaissance and formed a national and Pan-Arab political vision and understanding of the world.
Pan-Arab social thought, which was mainly political without being irreligious, and somewhat comparable to Ghibellinism or to Italian Fascism and therefore fundamentally different from both Atheistic and Materialist Marxism on the one hand and religious integralism on the other, attempted to raise Arab culture to the high levels once obtained during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This Pan-Arab current looked towards Islam as the cement for reunification and political and cultural renaissance of the Arab world, with the Arab national and political element holding primacy over the Islamic religious element.
This socially-inclined Arab nationalism was tolerant, not confrontational, with Christians who accepted the building of a national and Pan-Arabic State and its culture; for example in Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. The national and Pan-Arabic State was also seen as a means of emancipation from Ottoman-Turkish despotism.
However, this current of thought was opposed by Salafist thinkers or ideologues who rejected all the developments of Islamic thought and culture over the centuries as innovations, and who want to return to an almost stone-age cultural barbarity. The conflict of the Muslim Brotherhood with Arab nationalism gave birth to Al-Qaeda and Jihadist revolution and the current on-going struggle against the Pan-Arab nationalist and secular Islamic regimes and populations of Iraq, Eqypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria.
So, since the nineteenth century, two types of Islam have collided: the first secular-nationalist/patriotically-inspired, religiously Islamic but not fundamentalist (Nasserism in Egypt, Baathism in Syria and Iraq), and the second which is fundamentalist and Jihadist which wants to fight against social Pan-Arab nationalism but which, at the same time, is trained and bankrolled by a US-Israeli-Gulf-Turkish alliance which they theoretically claim to oppose.