in his weekly FOX & Friends segment.
Web sites and newspapers all across America have had a great time chuckling about the newest Usama bin Laden video. On both sides of the political aisle, people have shrugged off his message as a rambling, illogical laundry list of personal pet peeves made by a crazed old man of pitiful presence and paltry relevance.
We only laugh because we don’t understand.
To a relative few (meaning, hundreds of thousands), bin Laden’s message matters in both form and content. While Western ears may hear only political gibberish, his active followers and passive admirers sprinkled across the globe will find the internal dynamics of this communication absolutely logical.
It is a religious manifesto of a man who is reinventing himself as a spiritual guide for the Muslim world and as Allah’s Director of Outreach to Christians and Jews.
Gone are his military fatigues. Gone is his favorite Russian machine gun, once never far from his side.
And in comes theology, a la bin Laden.
Usama bin Laden’s new, more gentle and more spiritual persona may prove to be more dangerous than the guerrillero we used to know. Brandishing only a Koran, he now makes more sense to more people. He is talking the language of the Muslim world.
In this new message, bin Laden is able to bring forth, in semi-orthodox form, his wildly unorthodox conclusions about the cause of global strife (Christian and Jewish belief) and its only solution (world-wide Islamization) because few Muslim scholars would dare to put into doubt the following Islamic principles:
• Allah is all “Will” (not “Love” or “Logos”) and therefore is not restrained by reason. He can command whatever he wants, even the unreasonable.
• The Koran should not be interpreted because it came to earth directly from Allah (not through human instruments).
• Human beings are slaves of Allah who requires of them blind obedience.
• The State’s role is to implement Sharia (religious) law. Democracy goes against Allah’s methodology.
Thankfully, most Muslims in the West and many in the Middle East recoil in embarrassment at bin Laden’s new, prophet-like role and his outrageous invitation to the American public to reject the “impotency” of democracy, convert to Islam, or prepare to die. But this moderation of the Muslim majority should be of only minor consolation for anyone who loves peace. Few Muslim clerics will be able to offer theological (Islamic) reasoning as to why bin Laden has got it all wrong to young people who feel the attraction to radicalism. They are restrained by these widely-accepted theological principles of Islamic thought. For faithful Muslims, academic criticism of these core beliefs is currently almost impossible.
But I think such theological intransigence can change.
Today we don’t see legions of Christian warriors blowing themselves up in God’s name (intended criticism here of Christiane Amanpour’s television special “God’s Warriors”) because Christian leaders would come together with one voice to reject this anomaly as an abomination of Christianity. Most importantly, if this were ever to happen, we would back up our outrage with a rational explanation, namely that God can never command us to kill the innocent in his name because it goes against his very nature and against the law he has written on the heart of every human being — a natural sense of right and wrong.
Until Muslim scholars are able to explain away with a united and loud voice the apparent contradictions within the Koran, including the obligation — yes, the obligation — to sometimes tolerate diversity and other times to kill in God’s name, bin Laden will always have followers and Islamic terrorism will always thrive.
Good theology matters and peace depends on it.
God bless, Father Jonathan
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