Michael Coren

Michael Coren

October 20, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

In case you haven't noticed, Islam is waging war on Christianity. That's the view of Michael Coren, the controversial Catholic author.

In his new book Hatred: Islam's War on Christianity, Coren blasts the West's hypocritical tolerance of the persecution of Christianity, which, he says, is administered by the hand of Islam, not by accident, but by design.

However, John Esposito, an expert on Islam, says he understands Coren's concern with the increased tension, discrimination, conflict and violence towards Christians in some parts of the Muslim world.

But Esposito, a leading Catholic expert on Islam and a professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., says the attribution of these facts to Islam rather than to some Muslims and Muslim groups is "simplistic and reductionist."

"He fails, for example, to distinguish statements by government religious ministries or religious officials and other sectors of Muslim societies," Esposito said in an email from China, where he was on a lecture tour.

Coren's 184-page book examines several acts of terror against Christians and tries to dissect passages of the Koran to show readers that Islam is not exactly a peaceful religion.

Mind you, Coren acknowledges that not all Muslims behave in such an intolerant and violent way and that hundreds of millions of them are appalled by what's happening. More than this, moderate, progressive and secular Muslims are often victims of Islamic radicalism just as Christians are.

"It is also true that Islam itself has not always been as anti-Christian and triumphalist as it is at this point in history, but then again it would be facile and misleading to assume that the religion itself embraces theological equality and egalitarian co-existence."

Coren, a syndicated columnist for 10 daily newspapers, is the best-selling author of several books, including Why Catholics are Right.

In Hatred, Coren maintains that bigotry is inherent to Islam.

"It might be comforting to assume that intolerance is an aberration within Islam but discrimination against Christians or any other non-Muslim is in fact integral to orthodox Muslim teaching, and the more profound issue to the serious-minded is not the existence of sectarianism but its extent."

Coren examines Christian persecution in several countries, including Pakistan, Syria and Iraq, and concludes that one of the most shocking qualities of Islamic persecution is its universality.

What makes matters even worse is the fact that Islam, in its most conservative form, is expanding.

SELDOM MENTIONED

Although he says Islam's war on Christianity is seldom mentioned, some have begun to take notice, such as Anthony Browne, the European correspondent of The Times and a self-described atheist.

Coren quotes Browne in his book's introduction saying that more than 300 million Christians in the Middle East are threatened with violence or face legal discrimination, forced conversion and daily threats.

Browne also wrote of Saudi Arabia, where churches, public Christian worship and the Bible are banned and non-Muslims are prevented from entering Mecca and even becoming citizens.

Despite the violations, the West does little to help persecuted Christians. If Sikhs or Muslims suffer similar persecution simply because of their faith, it would hit the front page of major newspapers, laments Coren.

Hatred analyzes several passages of the Koran to prove its lack of love for Christians. Verse 5:73, for example, describes Christians as wrongdoers.

"Surely, disbelievers are those who said: 'Allah is the third of the three (in a Trinity).' But there is no God but Allah. And if they cease not from what they say, verily, a painful torment will befall the disbelievers among them."

"It's an intolerant, aggressive language that calls directly for violence and oppression by Muslims against Christians," Coren writes.

He says Muslim apologists who argue that the Bible also calls for violence should know that in the New Testament, the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, is a man of ultimate and supreme peace who reprimanded his followers when they considered violence.

ARMED CONFLICT

"Unlike the founder of Christianity, the founder of Islam – Muhammad – was not a man of peace but at least in part a warlord," the author says, pointing out that Muhammad spent the final days of his life, from 622 to 632, as the leader of Medina and in command of its war with the then pagan city of Mecca.

"He and his men attacked other tribes and communities, raided caravans and eventually triumphed in armed conflict."

Esposito, founding director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, thinks Coren is correct to speak of Jesus as a man of peace, "but he conveniently overlooks the practice of some popes, and other Christian leaders in terms of religious persecution, violence and wars," he says.

OLD TESTAMENT

"Moreover, I presume Coren accepts the Old Testament as part of the Bible and the Christian tradition. If so, then he must be aware of Old Testament passages and the instances of not only violence but even passages calling for genocide.

"Similarly when he writes of Muhammad he has surely not forgotten the military role of prophets like Joshua, Samuel and David."

Esposito says Coren should also take note of the "anti-Muslim racism" of hardline Christian leaders like Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham and John Hagee.

"I (and others) as both a scholar and a Christian would disagree with the brush-stroking and collective guilt associated with that kind of reductionism."