Examining Islam — Your Thoughts

E-mail Father Jonathan

August 18, 2006

We are accustomed to divided public opinion, and instinctively expect the chips to fall on either side of the political aisle. We identify ourselves with parties, politicians, and the issues they trumpet.

Our two-party system works better than most — imperfect people keeping other imperfect people honest. It does, however, have its dangers. We get used to putting people in boxes and then taping on the label “conservative,” “liberal,” or “whacko.”

I smiled often as I read your responses to this week’s postings about my interview with Imam Schoeb of an East London mosque. Between the lines, I perceived two groups, and not the usual ones I mentioned above. Regular readers of this blog took my reporting at face value. They looked inside the unique window my producer and I were able to open, examined the data, and drew their own conclusions. A second group — newcomers — immediately assumed I meant something I was afraid to say. They ignored the report as ideological propaganda, retreated to defensive talking points of one type or another, and brought out the labels.

Regular readers know this: when I report, I tell you what I see and hear, and I try to put it into context. This allows the viewer or reader to think for him or herself and to form judgments accordingly. When I am giving opinion, on the other hand, I don’t pull any punches. You know I’m speaking for myself and know exactly what I think. Sometimes I’m right; sometimes I’m not.

Today, I want you to read a few e-mail messages. I chose them for what they can teach us, about people and about the issues. For easier reading, I’ve shortened a few of them.

God bless, Father Jonathan

Dear Father Jonathan,

I applaud that you "went straight to the source" by talking, non-confrontationally, with the Imam. What you quoted as his first statement, "Why does everyone want to talk to this mosque?" should have been a clear flag that what he has to say could be disingenuous. He used that question to feign innocence (of Muslim hatred of non-Muslims).

— Jeff Jones

RESPONSE: Imam Shoeb went on to say that the press often only quotes the radical Islamic leaders and they do this to try to get the most controversial angle and create fear and hatred. On this blog, and on the television reports I did from London, we have allowed him to speak. I think that was fair. We can’t forget, however, that the press is not biased just because it reports mostly about radical clerics. Peaceful clerics, in fact, should not be big news. It should be the norm.

Father Jonathan, you are at best naïve. Have you never read the Koran? Have you not even reviewed translations of it? Are you really, honestly unaware that it ORDERS Muslims to murder non-Muslims? Can you be that ignorant of its teachings and the fact that if ALL Muslims fail to observe ALL its precepts, they themselves are condemned to death?

— Cal

RESPONSE: Cal, thanks for the message. It sounds like you thought my interview with Imam Shoeb was about the nature of Islam. It was about a certain group of people, from a certain mosque, and what they had to say about the arrest of some of their members. Later, we could do more on Islam as a religion. I would never use an interview with one imam to make sweeping statements about a group of people or their religion.

Father Jonathan,

You are being hoodwinked. What do you know about Islam? What does Islam mean? It means submission, and radical Islam will not stop until you convert.

If the imam says it's your fault, and you agree, do you know what you are doing? You are enabling the killers by trying to make us all embrace our loving neighbors, while the radicals plan to slit our throats!

Again, you are being hoodwinked. Perhaps you want to live under Sharia Law, but I don't.

— Richard

RESPONSE: Richard, I can understand your anger. The ideological war we are in is real and should not be taken lightly. For that reason, I went to the mosque and allowed you to see the responses to the kind of questions all of us are asking.

Father Jonathan,

I like your interventions and writings. I read about your visit to this mosque in the UK. I am a Roman Catholic, and at the same time a specialist in Islam (I lived for 20 years in Islamic countries).

I am appalled at the naïve view of Islam expressed by most other Catholics and Christians (some denominations have a very slightly clearer view). There is much more than meets the eye to Islam, and you seem to guess it.

Everything everywhere written in the U.S. or Europe is filtered by the politically/religiously correct and the gap between expectations and reality is dangerously widening.

— Pierre

RESPONSE: Pierre, thank you for your note. You are right. We can’t be naïve or politically correct about such a serious topic. At the same time, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking anyone who calls himself a Muslim is a terrorist.

Dear Father Jonathan,

I believe you are exploring the Muslim mindset from a perspective that will be most helpful. When you questioned some of the "moderate" Muslims, they refer to U.S. and British foreign policy as a root cause.

But I see Americans helping the suffering, protecting the innocent, and pouring billions into repairing broken lives. I also am under the impression that we PURCHASE the oil beneath their country making several of their own people extremely rich. Obviously mine must be a naïve supposition.

Exactly what do THEY see when they look at America? "Foreign policy" is not an answer I can understand. It seems to me that understanding their perception may be more helpful than military force in bringing about peace.

— Ron (Minnesota)

RESPONSE: Ron, great point. Perception is not everything, but it is important. Many of the Muslims in England and other parts of Europe have not integrated into their host country as many have done in the U.S. This increases the perception divide. According to the people I spoke with, the invasion of Iraq and the recent actions of Israel in Lebanon were unjustified. They say these and other policy decisions fuel hatred for the West. As we have seen both before and after 9/11, some people express their hatred by killing innocent people. I asked members of this mosque if such a response was justified. The group as a whole was slow to answer, but as I reported, Imam Schoeb was clear in his response. The reader can decide why he answered as he did.

Dear Father Jonathan,

I receive daily scripture readings from an e-mail service, and noticed Ezekial 9 and 10 have examples of the practice of slaughtering whole societies who did not honor God. Ezekial says to one angel, “Go through the city and mark all those who mourn the lack of reverence, and then to another one, or several, go through the city and strike dead all those, men, women, children, and all, who are NOT marked, and do not show reverence for the LORD.” These are very dramatic scenes.

— Bernice (Bremerton, WA)

RESPONSE: Bernice, you bring up an urgent point of discussion. The Christian Old Testament and the Jewish Torah have some very strong passages that attribute the massacre of human beings — even innocent human beings — to the justice of God. You seem to be asking if this similar to the passages of the Koran, in which Muslims are instructed to kill the infidels (non-Muslims). Here’s the difference: Christian theology admits development and progress in the understanding of doctrine. In other words, we now believe some of what people in the Old Testament believed to be God’s will, was not God’s will. As human beings, we can learn from theological mistakes and Christianity permits this. Islam, on the other hand, does not permit the interpretation of passages of the Koran that are difficult to understand. Their theology is what it is and does not develop. It is essentially static. Hope that helps.

Father Jonathan,

I could not believe when you were interviewing the barber while you were getting a haircut – was he really saying that all these men that were caught were innocent, that he did not believe that they could ever do what they are being accused of? I know, “innocent until proven guilty,” but this was too much.

I love to watch you on FOX News; is Rome your permanent home for right now? Well, keep up the good work, and reporting, and I hope FOX keeps you busy. God Bless you.

— Sandra (Arlington, TX)

P.S. My daughter is getting ready to go to flight attendant school in Chicago for United Airlines. Now, that is scary with the way things are today. Just have to pray a lot.

RESPONSE: Sandra, yes, I was surprised myself. I didn’t meet anyone in the town who even left open the possibility of any of the suspects being guilty. We will see what the authorities say. Don’t worry about your daughter. She’ll be fine. Statistics say we are still safer in the air than on the highways.

Father Jonathan,

The fact that terrorists plan in places other than the mosque does not relieve the imam or his silent followers of their responsibility for what religious lessons and devotion drive their congregants to do.

— James

RESPONSE: James, you brought up a point nobody else did. Thank you. If I am pastor of a church or parish, my role is not to avoid promoting evil, as if that were enough. I hope Muslim leaders are catching on. Groups of young people are falling prey to radical ideology. It is their responsibility to counter it, and to eradicate it from their midst.

Father Jonathan,

I think the idea that, because Islam does not have a hierarchy, Muslim clerics don't come together and denounce terrorism on a grand scale is a total copout!

Islamic clerics and terrorists come together in larger organizations to raise money for all kinds of causes.

If they really wanted to, they would find a way to be heard.

— A.P.

RESPONSE: I couldn’t agree more. My point was simply that we need to understand the dynamics and structure of Islam in its many forms. We can’t expect a unified voice from one day to the next.

Dear Father Jonathan,

It would be a mistake to limit your blogs in order to write a book. You are a life raft in a sea of very high and dangerous swells. Your daily blogs are doing much more for the masses than your book will.

— Ralph (Oklahoma City, OK)

RESPONSE: Very kind of you, really, Ralph. I’m trying to do a little bit of a lot of things. We’ll see what happens, but no worries, I plan to keep on writing on this blog.

Father Jonathan,

Why do you waste you time trying to “understand” those people? If Muslims were in the majority, you would be in jail.

— Andrew

RESPONSE: Hmm. Until then, I’ll keep trying.

Father Jonathan,

You believe this imam and everything he tells you? You are dumber and more naïve than I thought, Father Jonathan. These people want us dead, bottom line. When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they could have in no way foreseen or imagined these folks.

RESPONSE: Did I say I believe everything he told me? Don’t get out the labels. Stick with me.

Father Jonathan,

I am a Southern Baptist and I find your style on the news very comforting in these crazy times. I have young kids and it’s terrible that we the baby boomers have left this in such a mess. Help me make my kids understand, “Why do they want to kill me, Daddy? I haven’t done anything wrong, have I?” That was from a 10-year-old’s mouth. What do you say?

— David (Alabama)

RESPONSE: David, my guess is that you responded very well. Your love for your child — day in and day out — is the best message you can give. I think in these turbulent times parents must realize that society will not raise their kids for them. Sending them to good schools and taking care of their material needs is simply not enough. Children need the presence of their parents more than ever before.

Dear Father,

I am a Roman Catholic who happens to be employed as a 2LT in the U.S. Army. Both the Army and the church were large parts of my life growing up (my father is a soldier), and they still are as an adult. I enjoy the structure that my faith and my profession give my life, and unlike many, I do not have a problem reconciling one with the other (anymore). In fact, many of my favorite Bible verses reference soldiers. My favorite is the story of the Centurion's ill servant, but I digress.

With so many disasters, such trouble in the Middle East and around the globe, I can't help but take the occasional glance at Revelation, Isaiah, and Daniel. From your personal perspective, is it possible we are seeing end-times prophesies in reality?

I would appreciate your thoughts if you have the moment, but if not, I certainly understand you are in high demand.

Although we have never met, you make a very real, personal difference to me every day. I am sure I am only one of thousands. Thank you.

RESPONSE: It takes a special person to allow the simple things I say to make a real and personal difference in their every day life. Thanks for your note. It means a lot to me. Regarding your question, I did a television segment on this precise point. You can find it in the “video” section of this blog. Hope it helps.

Thanks, Father, for the fascinating blog about your visit with the imam in London. My wife and I have some very close Muslim friends here in Dallas, and it is always interesting hearing their take on world events (they are from Egypt, originally, and immigrated some years ago). Thanks for the blog. I only started reading it recently and find your perspective fascinating.

Keep up the good work and God Bless!

— Brandon

RESPONSE: Brandon, so glad you took time to tell me. Thank you.

Father Jonathan,

I have read with great interest your visit to London to visit the mosque and speak with Imam Shoeb. First, I think you are very brave man for going into that neighborhood during this time. I do not know any Muslims personally, but I find it hard to believe that ALL are violent murderers. Timothy McVeigh was a Christian – does that mean all Christians are violent? No, of course not.

Chris (Greenville, SC)

RESPONSE: I’m glad I was able to communicate that clearly, Chris, that we have to always be aware that there are many peace-loving Muslims in the United States and abroad. At the same time, we have to recognize that the problem of terrorism is a Muslim one. That’s not prejudice. It’s looking at the facts. We need the Muslim community to root out terror from its ranks. It can only happen from within. Look at this message below. It explains this very point.

Father Jonathan,

The moderates of any culture are responsible for their extremists. When extremists attack outsiders, it is the duty of the moderates to stamp them out. Otherwise, the outsiders will do so in their own way. The German people didn't stop Hitler, so they were responsible for him. Thus, when Hitler attacked the Allies, the Allies had no choice but to destroy Germany in their quest to oust Hitler. Moderate Muslims must organize themselves and jointly condemn terrorism: "Because you don’t come to us” is not a valid reason for abstaining in their duty to the world.

— S.W. (Pasadena, CA)

Dear Father Jonathan,

I only see your articles every couple of weeks, but other readers make it sound like you have a daily column. If this is true, where do I find it?

— Sarah

RESPONSE: Sarah, you may be noticing only the articles that are posted on the “Only on Fox” section of the website. You can find all of my articles — updated two or three times a week — in the “blog” section of the same FOXnews.com website. It is all the way at the bottom of the main page. Hope you enjoy.

E-mail Father Jonathan

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