Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Understanding Islam

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 12, 2009 | In Reviews

Fr. James Schall has a fine article in the latest issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review entitled “The Ambiguity of Islam”. It opens with the following quotation:

When some fanatics kill children, women, and men in the name of pure and authentic Islam, or in the name of the Qur’an or of the Muslim tradition, nobody can tell them: “You are not true and authentic Muslims.” All they can say is: “Your reading of Islam is not ours.” And this is the ambiguity of Islam, from its beginning to our present day: violence is a part of it, although it is also possible to choose tolerance; tolerance is a part of it, but it is also possible to choose violence.

The purpose of Fr. Schall’s article is to acquaint readers with the fine work of his fellow Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian priest with roots in Cairo and Beirut, who serves as a special advisor to the Holy See. The introductory quotation is taken from Samir’s 111 Questions on Islam, published last year by Ignatius Press.

In addition to acquainting us with Samir’s work, however, Fr. Schall also provides a good list of books to read in order to understand Islam and the nature of the Islamic threat today. I have great trust in Fr. Schall’s judgment, so let me pass along his recommendations:

  • Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies. Belloc includes a section on “The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed” and, for an overall understanding, it is hard to beat this 1938 classic, which also covers Arianism, Albigensianism, Protestantism, and Modernism.

The following are books published since the the renewed emphasis on the problem of Islam in 2001:

  • Reza Aslan, No god but God
  • Tawfik Hamid, Inside Jihad
  • Matthias Küntzel, Jihad and Jew-Hatred
  • Laurent Murawiec, The Mind of Jihad
  • Roger Scruton, The West and the Rest
  • Bat Ye’or, Eurabia

And this next list includes books of special interest to Catholics:

  • Jacques Jomier, The Bible and the Qur’an
  • Thomas Madden, New Concise History of the Crusades
  • James V. Schall, SJ, The Regensburg Lecture
  • Samir Khalil Samir, SJ, 111 Questions on Islam (from interviews by Georgio Paolucci and Camille Eid; this is the book cited above, which Fr. Schall recommends most highly)
  • Daniel, Ali and Robert Spencer, Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics: 100 Questions and Answers

Links to Amazon appear below for three of these books. Purchasing any of them in the United States through our link to Amazon ensures that receives a 7% referral fee.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Nov. 14, 2009 1:21 PM ET USA

    You know, the most disturbing objection to this whole "Islam" crisis is that so called "moderate" Muslims don't seem to want to say much when their fascist couterparts go on rampages. That, I feel, is used as an "argument" against Islam as a "peaceful" religion. But we "Catholics" do the same thing, "terrorism" on a "different" level, against the unborn. We "reasonable" Catholics hardly say a thing when "terrorist" "pro-abortion" "Catholics" push and allow policies that slaughter the pre-born