Can Islam confront its problem with violence?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 30, 2015

Is Islam truly a religion of peace? The president of Egypt apparently doesn’t think so.

Writing in Crisis, William Kilpatrick calls attention to a speech in which the Egyptian leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, called upon his country’s Muslim leaders to lead a “religious revolution” in the Islamic world. He observed that Muslims are “antagonizing the whole world.” And he placed the blame not merely on a few militants, but on “the entire umma”—the whole body of the Muslim faithful.

These are strong words, especially coming from the leader of a Muslim nation. More typically Islamic leaders insist that the jihadists are distorting and abusing the teachings of their “religion of peace.”

Certainly it is true that violent radicals make up only a small proportion of the world’s Muslims. But that fact in itself is not terribly reassuring. Robert Royal observes, writing for The Catholic Thing, that even a small minority of the world’s Muslims could mean “tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of potential terrorists, around the world.”

President al-Sisi has tackled a question that few notable Muslim leaders—and for that matter, few notable Catholic leaders—have forthrightly addressed, since Pope Benedict raised the question at Regensburg. Islam has a problem with violence. Can that problem be resolved through reform—or revolution, as al-Sisi would have it—within Islam? Or is the tendency toward violence an intrinsic aspect of the Muslim faith?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: claire5327 - Jan. 31, 2015 10:21 AM ET USA

    Yes, there is always a way to help someone to change from hate to love. That lesson will takes some time and the learners need to have open minds to see that "What goes about comes about." That is the Law of Nature. Hate will only be paid back with stronger hate. What has being planted will grow larger and more than the seed.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jan. 30, 2015 9:19 PM ET USA

    Is anyone aware of a detailed study of God commanding his people to kill non believers in the Old Testament vs. the Koran? The only places I can remember God sort of encouraging us to kill people in the New Testament is the millstone incident in the three synoptic gospels.