January 5, 2008

More from George Weigel

More from Hugh Hewitt's interview with George Weigel...

HH: Mr. Weigel, as we went to break, we were talking about how theology matters so much. Lesson two in your book is, “To speak of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as the ‘three Abrahamic faiths,’ the three religions of the book, or the three monotheisms, obscures rather than illuminates. These familiar tropes ought to be retired.” As soon as I read that, I said oh, you’re going for broke here. You’re going to break the china.

GW: (laughing)

HH: I mean, no one’s allowed to say that kind of thing, are they?

GW: (laughing) It’s a challenging statement, but I think it’s true, and I think serious Muslims with whom I’ve been in conversation would not find that an unacceptable formulation. The relationship that Islam has in its own self-understanding to Christianity and Judaism is simply incommensurable with how Judaism understands Christianity, and Christianity understands Judaism. In fact, this trope of the three Abrahamic faiths has no foundation in Islamic thought. It was invented by a French Catholic Arabist in the late 1920’s, who taught it to a generation of graduate students who then spread it throughout the world. And it’s one of these things that we become so familiar with because it’s used so promiscuously, that we then say wait a minute, what are we saying here? What does this mean? I’m a great believer in serious inter-religious dialogue. But inter-religious dialogue, as one of my Muslim colleagues, interlocutors has said to me, is not Kumbaya. It begins with the acknowledgement of serious differences, and tries to find, in this case, moral points of contact.

HH: You’re also a great believer in clarity, and I think you make an argument in Lesson three that, “Jihadism is the enemy in the multi-front war that has been declared on us, that can’t be refuted.” I am pleased that both Romney and Giuliani refer to the enemy as jihadism, as being a particular variant of radical Islam that the Takfiris embraced that says we can kill anyone at any time for any reason, because we’re right. And is it going to travel, do you think? Is it going to catch on?

GW: I hope so. I think it captures the reality of the situation, historically, which is that an intra-Islamic civil war that has to do with Islam’s very difficult encounter with modernity, and particularly political modernity, and such ideas as the right of religious freedom, or the separation of religious and political authority in the state, that intra-Islamic civil war in which Muslims declared jihad on their own, and for the sake of purifying the house of Islam, that is now broken out into the wider world. The second reason why I believe jihadism is the appropriate description of what it is we’re fighting is it’s what the enemy calls himself. And I believe in taking people seriously…

HH: Yup.

GW: …when they call themselves this. It is objected, it will be objected, it has been objected in the past, that the great majority of Muslims do not accept the jihadist definition of what the demands of Islam are. That is both true and completely beside the point. The fact is the jihadists believe that this is what their faith requires of them, and that’s why they behave the way they do. And if we don’t recognize that, if we indulge this weird, Victorian reticence about using the J word in public, then we are disarming ourselves in the face of an enemy who believes he has very serious warrant for what he is doing....

Posted by John Weidner at January 5, 2008 6:49 AM
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