Interfaith Outreach & "Excessive Placidity" Towards Islam

By WILLIAM MAYER and BEILA RABINOWITZ

February 18, 2004 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Berkeley California has always been a city of contrasts. The staid appearing, ivy covered halls of the University of California campus, are known for the brilliant – albeit, communist – physicists who built the first nuclear weapons. UC Berkeley is also renowned for demonstrations - national guardsmen in the streets - tear gas & free speech – as long as it’s of the leftist variety.

This month, on opposite ends of the campus a thoughtful speech by Dr. Daniel Pipes is juxtaposed against a, later in the month, Muslim Student Association sponsored celebration of "Islamic Liberation Through Jihad" featuring a - direct from jail - speech by convicted cop killer, H. Rap Brown, now known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.

We attended Dr. Pipes' February 10 speech at Pimentel Hall. That address consisted of a learned, 40 minute thumbnail critique of radical - or Wahabi/Salafi - Islam. Unfortunately - but not surprisingly - the speech was disrupted at least a dozen times by - kaffiyeh coiffed - pro-Palestinian students and hangers-on, who chanted "racist," "free Palestine," "Zionist Jew," and other - even less complimentary - epithets.

The first such outburst led to Dr. Pipes making the observation that he makes perhaps 120 speeches on this topic every year, but it is only on American universities where such anti-free speech antics underline the need for the heavy security detail which necessarily shadows him on his forays into academia.

Similar dichotomies are being played out all over America.

In Florida, Imams, Islamic scholars and members of the academic world, talk peace but preach Jihad.

In Chicago some of the most extreme members of the Islamic community are not only being welcomed into the bosom of mainstream Christianity they are actually being recruited - on an official basis- via interfaith outreach efforts by groups within the Catholic Church.

As far as the Church is concerned, the problem extends far past the current obsession, by some, with making nice to Islam.

Beneath the surface, the Church is deeply conflicted, theologically, over social teachings and the secularizing changes brought forth by Vatican II.

"Social Justice" is the key phrase.

It is the all-encompassing theory under which left-wing driven, multicultural diversity has insinuated itself into the fabric of both the ordained and laity of the Church.

It's clear that many Catholic academics are academics - and all that entails, in the post modernist, negative sense - first, and Catholics second, third, in name only…or not at all.

In like manner, many supposedly mainstream Catholic publications are infected with the same anti-American, anti-traditional, progressive revisionist disease, as are their secular cousins.

Let us consider Claretian Publications', US Catholic, which engages in near schismatic misrepresentation of underlying, basic Church teachings - the revisionism being presented as if were spoken ex-cathedra.

In 1891 Pope Leo XIII wrote an Encyclical entitled Rerum Novarum, a treatise on capital and labor. It was the Catholic Church's official response to socialism in general and Marxism in particular [the Communist Manifesto was published in 1848, the first volume of Marx’s three volume masterwork - Das Kapital - was released in 1867].

US Catholic characterizes that Encyclical as being supportive of the concept “of human dignity through just distribution of wealth."

Quite to the contrary. Rerum Novarum, is actually a spirited defense of capitalism and an attack on socialism.

"Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal."

Other Encyclicals are similarly man-handled.

Further perusing the US Catholic Internet site, we come across an opinion piece authored by Fr. Michael J. Baxter, an Ivy League academic.

Fr. Baxter’s article, regarding the Catholic Church and pacifism, turns St. Thomas Aquinas’ Just War theory on its head. Baxter proceeds by making the a priori conjecture that - with regard to the question of war - there are two competing theories [Aquinas’ and pacifism] both of equal validity, which is simply incorrect. Noted, traditional Catholic scholar Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and others have opined on this subject and forcefully argue that such enterprises as the war on terror and specifically, the Iraqi war are justifiable under Aquinas’ Just War theory.

"As St. Thomas Aquinas and other teachers of the just war tradition make clear, war may sometimes be a moral duty in order to overturn injustice and protect the innocent. The just cause in this case is the disarmament of Iraq, a cause consistently affirmed by the Holy Father and reinforced by 17 resolutions of the Security Council.

Whether that cause can be vindicated without resort to military force, and whether it would be wiser to wait and see what Iraq might do over a period of months or years, are matters of prudential judgment beyond the competence of religious authority.

In just war doctrine, the Church sets forth the principles which it is the responsibility of government leaders to apply to specific cases -- see Catechism No. 2309.

Saddam Hussein has for 11 years successfully defied international authority. He has used and, it appears, presently possesses and is set upon further developing weapons of mass destruction, and he has publicly stated his support for the Sept. 11 attack and other terrorist actions. In the judgment of the U.S. and many other countries, he poses a grave and imminent threat to America, world peace and the lives of innumerable innocents. If that judgment is correct, the use of military force to remove that threat, in the absence of plausible alternatives, is both justified and necessary.

Heads of government who are convinced of the correctness of that judgment would be criminally negligent and in violation of their solemn oath to protect their people if they did not act to remove such a threat." - Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

Father Baxter’s presentation is misleading and is filled with what we have come to expect as de rigueur from lefty academics of all stripes – obvious pique at the Bush administration.

Baxter's tone is disrespectful. He suggests that [and this piece was written before the commencement of hostilities] the 375,000 Catholics in the US Armed Forces should have made the decision to lay down their arms and not participated, demonstrating that Fr. Baxter has less than a rudimentary understanding of the legal tenets underlying conscientious objection. The law is quite clear, either you are a pacifist or you are not – you are opposed to war in all forms, in all times, or you aren’t considered a pacifist. There is no such thing as selective conscientious objection.

Additionally, Selective Service law has never recognized the Catholic Church as a traditionally pacifist sect, as are the Quakers, who have a long history of such belief.

In our opinion, Baxter, actually exhorting Catholic servicemen to disobey the valid orders of their Commander in Chief, borders on the seditious.

“…If half of the Catholics on active duty decided to conscientiously object to participating in this particular war, that would be more than 185,000, even if it were as few as 10%, that would still be 37,500…"

In asking what has gone wrong with he Catholic Church one might as well ask the question - "What has gone wrong with academia and social institutions in general? - because all are victims of the same progressive contagion.

Not only are supposedly mainstream journals like US Catholic championing this movement, but the very educative bedrock institutions of the Church - such as the Catholic Theological Union - are not only along for the ride, they are driving the train.

CTU produces more Catholic scholars than any college in the United States.

Dr. Scott Alexander is the director of the Catholic-Muslim Studies Program at the Bernardin Center, which is part of the Catholic Theological Union. On Feb 9, 2004 the Center held one of its "Conversations in Faith" events, this one entitled - "Choosing Peace: Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Preparing Our Children for Life Together."

This program has been underwritten by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

The featured speakers at the event were Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Elaine Shuster, President and CEO of the Golden Apple Foundation, Chicago, and Oussama Jammal, President of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, IL. The event was moderated by Carol Marin, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

The Bridgeview Mosque has a history of terrorist ties going back to the 1990's, and has been under federal watch for many years. The Mosque's spokesman is Rafiq Jaber, he is the head of the Islamic Association in Palestine, the U.S. wing of Hamas.

Some of its members have been arrested on terror related charges.

"In 1993, one Palestinian-American who was a member of the mosque was convicted in Israel of distributing money and weapons to operatives of Hamas, the terrorist Palestinian group. He was given a five-year sentence. - New York Times, September 21, 2001

That Palestinian American is Mohammed Abdul Hamid Khalil Salah, head of the Quranic Literacy Institute.

Jamal's Mosque has also been linked to the following groups.

Islamic Association for Palestine - "The FBI memo said that the Islamic Assn. for Palestine, like Holy Land, had received "large sums of money" from Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook" LA Times Editorial December 6, 2001.

American Middle Eastern League for Palestine - "These facts strongly suggest that the IAP and the American Middle Eastern League for Palestine [a sister group] are part of Hamas' propaganda apparatus." - Statement by the Department of Immigration & Naturalization

Quranic Literacy Institute - See above - Mohammed Abdul Hamid Khalil Salah

North American Islamic Trust - Owns approximately 25% of US Mosques, is funded by Wahabi/Salafi radical Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Siraj Wahhaj was a character witness for the “Blind Shayk" Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Wahhaj was also listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 1995 plot to blow up New York landmarks. Wahaj is a former board member of NAIT.

NAIT also owns the Islamic Academy of Florida - "a criminal enterprise" as described in the federal indictment handed down in February against the school's founder - Sami al-Arian and others alleged to be Hamas fundraisers.

American Muslim Society - Named as a Hamas front group in the ongoing federal case, Stanley Boim, et al, v Quranic Literacy Institute & the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

Holy Land Foundation - Shut down by FBI as known Hamas front group, has received at least $271,000 in Hamas money.

Islamic Society of North America - "the Islamic Society of North America is one of dozens of nonprofit groups whose tax records have been requested by the Senate Finance Committee as part of an investigation of potential terrorist ties." - The Washington Times

Steve Emerson - a pioneer in the field of investigating radical Islamic activity - described a visit to the Mosque in his book American Jihad - "...the Imam of the Mosque was Jamal Said...the walls of the vestibule were covered with Hamas posters...you could see daggers plunged into Jewish hearts wrapped in the American flag."

Jamal Said was the Bridgeview Mosque Imam in 2001. After 9/11 the Bridgeview Mosque held a press conference, Jaber, Said, and Jamal, were in attendance. Oussama Jammal was quoted as saying "How certain are we that Arabs were behind it"?"

One of the featured speakers at the February 9 “Conversations in Faith" program, Emily Soloff of the American Jewish Committee, withdrew from the event after receiving information from us regarding Oussama Jammal's militant Islamist associations.

The Chicago Community Trust, which is funding the interfaith program, was informed of the militant Islamist ties of Oussama Jamal, but did not fit to undertake any action regarding his speaking and told us to "contact Scott Alexander' the "Director of Catholic Muslim Studies" at The Catholic Theological Union.

According to a letter form the CTT Director of Communications Jennifer Jobrack:

"The Chicago Community Trust made the grant to the Catholic Theological Union with the understanding, as we do of all of our grant recipients, that they would do the due diligence on their proposed speakers. I strongly suggest that if you have any concerns about their choices, I strongly suggest that if you have any concerns about their choices, you take it up with the Bernardin Center at the Catholic Theological Union. I would suggest Scott Alexander would be the best contact there as he runs the program."

Due diligence begins with the program organizer, but it also extends to those who fund such programs.

Scott Alexander’s credits include his having attended conferences sponsored by some of the most radical Islamic groups in the United States – Islamic Circle of North America [ICNA] and the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA].

In addition, Scott Alexander has initiated a student exchange program - funded by a $2 million dollar grant from the Lilly foundation - with Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, an institution known for its Hamas sympathies. One of the Muslims involved in this program is Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, a visiting Fulbright Scholar at FAU, who is presently under investigation by the State Department for his membership in Hamas

Another involved with Al-Quds is Azzam Tamimi, head of the UK based Institute for Islamic Political Thought.(IIPT) Tamimi is associated with Hamas and the militant Hizb Ut Tahrir group, which calls for the destruction of Western society and the implementation of a world wide Islamic government based on Sharia law.

In many ways Scott Alexander's own philosophy seems to be more accommodative and understanding of Islam than Catholicism, as I discovered, when attempting to contact him - phone calls to his CTU office are answered with a recording beginning with "Al-salamu alaykum!" - the ancient Muslim greeting.

Dr. Alexander at first indicated he was interested in a dialogue.

Dear Mr. Mayer:

Thank you for your e-mail and the concern you have expressed over the integrity of our interreligious dialogue programs here at Catholic Theological Union.

This past week has been an extraordinarily busy one for many of us involved with the Conversations in Faith program and we intend to respond to your concerns as soon as possible, ideally by Monday morning.

In the meantime, please accept my personal best wishes.

Scott

It quickly became clear, however, that despite protestations to the contrary, Dr. Alexander was uninterested in dealing with our inquiries. There has been no response whatsoever to a series of questions that we forwarded previously, annotating some of our concerns regarding his program. Moreover, it was only by happenstance that one of our telephone calls found him in his office, finally gaining brief access to him.

From that conversation and a reading of his public statements we have come to the conclusion that he seems to have assumed the mantle of Muslim apologist rather than dispassionate scholar.

In general Dr. Alexander believes that since September 11, Muslims have had their civil rights violated by the Bush administration. He feels that Muslims are the victims of unfair profiling and that his program is not legitimizing odious individuals or organizations.

We inquired whether or not he knew much about Oussama Jamal. He responded that he had known Jamal for approximately 3 years and that he had never heard him say anything vaguely troubling, nothing anti-Semitic or pro-terror.

I asked Dr. Alexander if he was familiar with the fact the Jamal's Mosque had been under federal scrutiny for a decade and that at one time the vestibule of the Mosque was filled with Hamas recruiting posters?

Dr. Alexander's response was alarming, he claimed that Hamas and their terrorist activity was really no different than what the "Christian evangelical right" - people like Jerry Falwell - have brought forth.

Unbelievable as it might seem, Alexander feels that conservative, evangelical Christianity is responsible for the bombing of abortion clinics - and is not morally different from groups who conduct suicide bombings against Israeli women and children.

These are outrageous, indefensible positions for a scholar to take, let alone a Catholic scholar entrusted with cultivating discourse, reason and understanding.

We have have heard similar sophistry numerous times before, most recently in a [2/13/04] telephone conversation with Ibrahim Hooper, the national spokesperson for CAIR - the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Hooper claimed that Representiative Peter King’s (R. NY) warnings regarding disciples of radical Islam representing a potential “Enemy Within" as being racist and without foundation. He terminated the conversation when asked if members of his organization have been arrested on terror charges – which of course they have.

Dr. Alexander's viewpoint is troubling, and our impression of him was not forged by a single conversation but also by a series of interviews he has given to US Catholic and other publications.

In these interviews Alexander acts not only as an apologist for Wahabi/Salafi Islam but even more ominously, he seems to think that it is the Bush administration and the war on terror which represent extremism.

"I believe, and this is very unpopular, that metaphorically in those planes that hit the towers September 11 was more than just a lot of fuel that would incinerate the lives and hopes of thousands of people and their loved ones. There was also a script for how to set the whole world ablaze, addressed to George W. Bush and written by Osama bin Laden...Bush says, "Thank you," rehearses his lines, and delivers them marvelously...if Osama is still alive today, he must be saying, "Never in a million years did I imagine it would be this good, that I would have this impact on human history." And he has had this impact because of the development of an extremist reaction on our side." - US Catholic August, 2003

The following recent statement, is easily interpreted as establishing a moral justification for Jihad.

"He said dignity of every human being should be respected and the solidarity of the human family enhanced, let alone the natural law, which Alexander considered as parallel to fitra in the Islamic context. 'When nationalism is used to raise a fraction of the universal family in terms of economy, social service and military sphere then this is the nationalism that contradicts the fitra and the natural law,' Alexander added." Statement by Dr. Scott Alexander - MAS-ICNA Convention Dec. 25 - 28, 2003

Statements of this nature are neither atypical nor are they unpopular in both Muslim and secular academic circles. Dubious accuracy aside, the real question remains as to the appropriateness of having an ideologue as director of CTU's Catholic-Muslim Studies Program.

We use the term ideologue with great precision, because from all outward appearances Dr. Alexander has abandoned the world of ideas and embraced the world of political advocacy. By his statements, attitudes and apparent preconceptions he has called into question whether he is really suited to direct a program which, as he has fashioned it, is whitewashing a serious problem and given legitimacy to questionable individuals and organizations.

This calls the entire program into question.

When we first contacted Dr. Alexander, we had only the intention of pursuing some concerns regarding his methodology – of course we expected to be taken seriously, as his response to one of our Emails indicated would happen – “…and we intend to respond to your concerns as soon as possible…"

This was not, however, the case. Given Alexander’s pressing duties in putting the finishing touches on the Feb 9 conference, we would have been more than willing to postpone the matter for a few days at which time we could examine the matter in a calm and rational matter.

Unfortunately, the access which we were given, justifies our questioning of the Bernardin Center’s Catholic-Muslim Studies Program"s direction and focus.

It appears that this program's director is, for whatever reason, more of an uncritical advocate for Islam than such a position calls for.

Dr. Alexander seems unwilling to review the body of evidence that has been presented over the last decade which points to Wahabi/Salafi Islam aggressively building an infrastructure of organizations that represent a threat to national security and to Christianity.

This body of evidence has not escaped the attention of Church elders in Rome. They having already taken steps to make clear that what they term - "Excessive Placidity" - towards Islamic abuse of Christianity will not be tolerated.

ROMA – There is a conspicuous absence among the new cardinals created on October 21 by John Paul II: Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The current explanation is that Fitzgerald was not made cardinal because of his excessively placid approach to Islam...“La Civiltà Cattolica," edited by a group of Jesuits in Rome, is a very special magazine. Every one of its articles is reviewed by the Vatican secretary of state before publication. So the magazine reflects his thought faithfully.

We made Dr. Alexander aware of, the above referred to, historical study:

The Church and Islam. “La Civiltà Cattolica" Breaks the Ceasefire – “Through the prestigious magazine, the Vatican denounces with unusual harshness the oppression of Christians in Muslim countries. A testimony from Egypt."

It appears online, in English at Chiesa and one might think that it would at least serve as food for thought.

This problem is not new, nor are similar resources unavailable to scholars – Dr. Daniel Pipes [member, Board of Directors for the US Institute of Peace] has written 12 books on the Mid-East many of which touch on the nature of radical Islam. As previously mentioned, Steve Emerson’s groundbreaking book, American Jihad, should be considered required reading on the subject.

Dr. Alexander’s apparent bias places him outside the realm of serious scholarship as well as far outside the current state of Vatican thinking regarding the nature of extreme Islam.

Therefore, we call for an immediate, thorough and unbiased review of the Bernardin Center’s Catholic-Muslim Studies Program, and that further "interfaith outreach" to the Muslim community be immediately terminated pending that review.

In this time of serious national peril it is irresponsible to proceed further down the current path, to do so bestows an undeserved mantle of legitimacy upon individuals and groups whose ties to radical Islam are disturbing and makes a mockery of the sprit with which such programs should be imbued.

 

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