A Strategy for Fighting the Cold War with Islam

A Strategy for Fighting the Cold War with Islam


I’m reading Paul Kengor’s splendid book, A Pope and a President, and it got me to thinking—as everything does these days—about Islam. Kengor’s book tell the story of the partnership between Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, and the role the two played in defeating Soviet communism. Without their commitment to fighting communism, the Cold War might well have gone the other way.

Unlike communism, Islam is not a godless ideology, but in other respects there are many similarities. Like communism, Islam is an oppressive system that seeks total control over both mind and body. Like Soviet communism during the Cold War era, Islam is a proselytizing creed that seeks to export its ideology across the globe. And wherever it goes, something like an iron curtain of silence envelops all who are caught behind it.

Not surprisingly, many national security experts have found the Cold War analogy a useful one for explaining the West’s civilizational struggle with Islam. Several have also suggested that a Cold-War type campaign of ideological warfare against Islam is now called for—something like the campaign that Reagan and John Paul II once fought.

But all analogies limp. One of the differences between the Cold War struggle with communism and the current struggle with Islam is that today’s Catholic leaders are a long way from understanding Islam in the clear-eyed way that Pope John Paul II understood communism. There is very little resistance to Islam on the part of Catholic leaders, because there is very little awareness that it ought to be resisted.

That could change, however. There are scattered signs of an awakening. Cardinal Burke in the U.S. has spoken out boldly about the threat of Islam. So have bishops in Africa, the Mid-East, and Eastern Europe. African and Mid-East bishops have felt the full brunt of jihad, while Eastern Europeans, having recently escaped the clutches of communism, are not about to stand quietly by as another totalitarian system colonizes their territory. As attacks on Christians ramp up, it is likely that more bishops will join their ranks.

But even if Church leaders were to finally come to their senses, a problem would remain. Catholics will still have to grapple with the question of how to resist Islam. Any attempt to resist Islamization immediately runs up against two difficulties. The first is the problem of reprisals against Christians and other minorities living in Muslim lands, and even in non-Muslim lands. Christians faced a similar problem in confronting Nazism and communism. During World War II, Catholic leaders were forced to temper their criticisms of Nazism once it became apparent that European Christians and Jews would suffer the consequences. And although Pope John Paul II worked tirelessly to support resistance to communism, his emphasis was on the rights of Eastern Europeans to live in freedom, rather than on the wrongs of the Communist system.

Say the wrong thing and people will be killed. That’s the first difficulty. The second difficulty also involves a form of retaliation. Criticize Islam and the media will strike back with fury. Because the media is heavily invested in the narrative that Islam is a religion of peace, anyone who challenges the narrative will face charges of intolerance and bigotry. And since the media already considers the Catholic Church to be the fount of intolerance, Catholics need to be especially careful about what they say.

Say something and people will be killed, and the media will attempt to destroy you. On the other hand, if you say nothing, Islam will continue to spread … and people will be killed. That’s the quandary. Is there any way to avoid it? Is there any way of challenging and discrediting Islamic ideology without endangering the lives of the innocent? Without being steam-rollered by the press? The short answer is no. Islam is easily offended, and nothing short of complete submission will appease its more excitable representatives. Meanwhile, the press will continue to portray saints as sinners and vice as virtue. Not always, of course, but that’s the way to bet.

However, there are some effective ways to counter Islamization that are less risky than others. One of these is to concentrate fire on Islamic practices rather than beliefs—particularly on those practices that are troubling not only to non-Muslims, but to many Muslims as well.

While every Muslim is obliged to believe that Muhammad is the Messenger of God (and also the perfect man), not every Muslim is obliged to take a child bride, to beat his wife, or to kill a disobedient daughter. It makes sense then, to call attention to those Islamic practices that are hardest for Muslims to defend, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), cruel and unusual sharia punishments, honor violence, forced marriage, child marriage, and the like.

Some Islamic practices such as fasting during Ramadan or observing the ban on pork and alcohol are nobody else’s business. But some are blatant violations of what we understand as universal human rights. They can’t be excused on the grounds that Muslims have a different culture. Many Muslims realize that these practices seem barbaric to those who live in the developed world, and many feel uneasy about them. One way of chipping away at Islam’s cultural jihad is to increase whatever sense of unease Muslims already have. We should want them to feel uncomfortable about these practices and, by implication, with the faith that sanctions them. Contrary to the claim that these practices are only cultural in nature, they have the sanction of religion. For instance, Reliance of the Traveller, a widely-consulted manual of sharia law, states that female circumcision is “obligatory” (e. 4.3), and that parents who kill their children [presumably for reasons of honor] are not subject to punishment (o1.4).

The discrepancy between what Islamic law finds acceptable and what the rest of the world finds acceptable ought to be emphasized, not minimized. This is really much more charitable to Muslims than the current practice of looking the other way. The Church is rightly concerned with the most helpless and vulnerable in society, but many in the Church seem not to have noticed the widespread exploitation of vulnerable women and children in the Islamic world. There is an immense amount of suffering in Muslim lands. Much of it, moreover, is not simply the suffering that normally accompanies poverty and ignorance, but the specific sufferings that flow from Islamic doctrines. Many people are not interested in the theological side of Islam—they don’t care whether Allah is a trinity or a singularity—but most people recognize injustice when they see it. If no one speaks out about these injustices, nothing will change, but if they are brought out into the open there is at least, a chance for reform. When Saudi Arabia finally put an official end to slavery in 1962, it was not the result of a sudden enlightenment, but because of the pressure of world opinion.

That kind of pressure on Islam needs to be reapplied. That doesn’t mean that Pope Francis should stand in Saint Peter’s Square and denounce Muhammad as a false prophet. An in-your-face challenge might bring massive reprisals against Christians—not only from ISIS and al-Qaeda, but from imam-inspired Muslim mobs.

On the other hand, it is less easy to get a mob together for the purpose of defending one’s beloved tradition of wife-beating or honor-killing. And that’s all the more so if the criticism is widely diffused. There is no need for the pope to lead the charge when Catholic media, bishops, human rights groups, and social service organizations can do the job of raising awareness about these human rights abuses. In addition, Catholic groups could join forces with non-Catholic organizations that are already campaigning against FGM, honor violence, and other human rights abuses. Two that come to mind are the Clarion Project and the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation.

Another benefit of calling attention to the most egregious and indefensible Muslim practices is that it is also difficult for the media to defend them. The media likes to put Islam in the best possible light while putting its critics to shame. This is not so easy to do, however, if the critic is criticizing horrific behavior. If a town planning board opposes the construction of a new mosque, the mainstream media is quick to shout “Islamophobia,” but if a non-profit organization initiates a campaign to raise awareness about FGM, the media is put in a difficult position. Do they want to criticize the critics of such a destructive practice? Are they for FGM?

The point is that most attempts to question Islam, particularly those that emanate from Catholic or Christian sources, will be pounced on by the media. The skewed reporting and bad publicity could easily cancel out whatever good might be accomplished. That’s why it makes sense to concentrate on those practices that even the media would be loath to defend—practices such as FGM, honor violence, stoning, and amputation for theft. Even the most hardened leftist journalist will hesitate before putting a positive spin on hand chopping.

The same goes for another feature of Islamic life—the apostasy law. The media can’t very well defend the death penalty for apostates. So, when they deal with it at all, they tend to claim, despite the evidence, that the law does not really require that apostates be killed, or that it is never enforced, and so on. Muslim leaders will sometimes go along with this deception because they know that the idea of murdering converts doesn’t play well with a non-Muslim audience. They are not, however, going to give up the apostasy law without a fight. That’s because it lies very close to the center of the faith. It is, in effect, the guarantee that the rest of the faith won’t be questioned. As Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most influential Sunni leader in the Middle East, once let slip, “If they [Muslims] had gotten rid of the punishment for apostasy, Islam would not exist today.”

Non-Muslims need to make an issue of the apostasy law and also of the blasphemy laws which serve a similar function. Doing so puts Muslim religious leaders in a bind. They can’t defend the laws without revealing the totalitarian nature of their religion. Which is all the more reason for Christians—and others—to press the issue. Even if an anti-apostasy campaign doesn’t succeed in overturning the law, it will at least draw attention to the fact that, despite claims to the contrary, there really is compulsion in Islam. If you can’t leave your faith without fear of being executed, then you are being compelled to stay.

And that is one of the reasons for campaigning against Islamic human rights abuses. It forces Muslims—and the media—to defend the indefensible. At the same time it serves the dual purpose of educating non-Muslims about the true nature of Islam, and of increasing Muslim dissatisfaction with the system that holds them captive.

Let’s go back to the Cold War analogy. Winston Churchill spoke of communism as an “iron curtain” that had descended on the Continent of Europe. The iron curtain served to keep Eastern Europeans within the Soviet bloc. It also functioned to keep out any alternative view of human dignity and destiny. A similar curtain of silence now shrouds the Islamic world. It serves to keep Muslims in their place, and it works to keep non-Muslims in ignorance about the nature of Islam.

President Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and countless other brave souls understood the tyranny of the Communist system, and their efforts eventually brought freedom to millions. The present situation vis-à-vis Islam is not exactly the same, but there are lessons to learn from the Cold War warriors. One of the primary lessons is that oppressive ideologies need to be confronted. Silence is not the solution, because silence only ensures that the oppression will spread.

One of the decisive moments of the Cold War came when President Reagan stood before the Berlin Wall and said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The Communists went to great length to prevent defections—miles of walls, barbed wire, and guard posts. And that’s why Western leaders, like Reagan, brought so much attention to bear on the Berlin Wall. It symbolized the prison-house nature of communism.

The apostasy laws and blasphemy laws are the Islamic equivalent of the Berlin Wall. They are the barriers which prevent many Muslims from crossing over to freedom. Because of them, Muslims are no more free to leave Islam than East Berliners were free to leave the Soviet zone.

Will Christians challenge the apostasy and blasphemy laws? Will they make an issue of Islam’s other hard-to-defend weak points—FGM, honor violence, and brutal punishments? Or will they succumb to the multicultural argument—namely, that what Muslims do in their own cultures is none of our business? If that seems like a compelling argument, you might consider the message on a sign that occasionally shows up in Muslim protest rallies. It says: “Islam, our religion today, your religion tomorrow.” As is increasingly evident in France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, and elsewhere in Europe, many Muslims want to make their culture your culture.

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4 comments on “A Strategy for Fighting the Cold War with Islam

  1. How a Saint and a President Defeated Communism

    Author Paul Kengor discusses A Pope and a President.

    Joseph Pronechen

    A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century is the latest book from New York Times best-selling author and Register contributor Paul Kengor. A political historian and Reagan biographer, Kengor tells the story of the providential partnership and shared vision of St. John Paul II and Reagan to meet and challenge communism head-on.

    The new book hit stores May 1. The Register recently interviewed Kengor via email.

    What prompted you to write A Pope and a President?

    I’ve been writing this book for years. I’ve written literally over a dozen books since I started the research for this one. I started filing FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to declassify documents related to the Reagan-John Paul II relationship back in 2000.

    I went through countless documents at the Reagan Library and in various archives, such as the Soviet Comintern and Central Committee archives. I read through numerous letters, transcripts, cables, editions of Pravda, Izvestia, and on and on. This is the longest book I’ve written because the story is so deep.

    The vicious war on the Church by atheistic communism is so horrific and massive that I didn’t know where to stop exposing it.

    I think readers will encounter the same struggle I had in writing this book: You can’t pull yourself away because of the characters involved and the battle of good versus evil involved.

    To that end, a warning to readers: Just as you’ll be heartened by what you read, you’ll also be sickened. The heartening part is the great good done by John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. The sickening part is the colossal evil perpetrated by malicious atheistic communism. These two men waged battle against the beast. They carried the cross.

    Why do you see it as the “Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century?”

    The story of the 20th century was the battle against atheistic communism that began in Bolshevik Russia in October 1917 and was warned about by Our Lady in Fatima. That was an epic struggle running from 1917 until about 1989-91, far outlasting the shorter-term fight against Nazism, which both Karol Wojtyla and Ronald Reagan also engaged. When that century-long conflict was finally won — peacefully — it was done so by Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. They fought that monster their entire adult lives. The way they did so, including as partners, and everything that happened amid the long road in between, is truly the extraordinary untold story of the 20th century.

    St. John Paul II would attribute his survival to the miraculous intervention of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Fatima. Was there any spiritual bond between him and Reagan?

    Both men survived assassination attempts mere weeks apart in March and May 1981. When they finally came together in June 1982, they spoke of the “miraculous” fact that they both survived. Both understood that they should have bled to death on their respective routes to the hospital. They both believed — and said to one another — that God had spared them for a special purpose. The purpose was to work together to bring down atheistic Soviet communism and free people behind the Iron Curtain.

    Did you find Reagan having any interest in Fatima?

    That’s one of the most intriguing things I found. That’s one of two aspects of this book that will most surprise Catholics.

    The first, for the record, is that I confirmed that the Soviets did order the shooting of the Holy Father and (this is totally new) that Ronald Reagan and his top advisers — most notably, two devout Irish Catholics, Bill Casey and Bill Clark — all along suspected the Soviet role and would privately conclude that Moscow was involved. That conclusion was based on a super-secret CIA report that has never been made public.

    My book doesn’t present the actual report, but it does disclose for the first time the existence of such a report/investigation and of its confirmation of a Soviet hand. The conclusion was that Moscow, working not through the Soviet KGB, but through the Soviet GRU (military intelligence), ordered the attempted assassination: The Soviet communists, ladies and gentlemen, tried to murder a pope.

    As for John Paul II, he always suspected a Soviet hand, especially in July 1981, upon reading the Third Secret of Fatima after recovering from his wounds — atop the fascinating reality that he was shot on the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. When he read the Third Secret, which had predicted an attack on a future pope among the “errors” of Russian communism, it essentially affirmed for him that the Soviets were involved. Any doubts were wiped away when he opened the envelope. The second aspect of the book that will most surprise Catholics was Ronald Reagan’s intense interest in Fatima. No one knows about this. I was fascinated by it. I detail it at great length.

    How did you learn about it?

    I learned about it via a ton of research and interviews with people who worked directly with Reagan, including a person who briefed him on Fatima prior to his second one-on-one meeting with John Paul II in Rome in June 1987.

    When Reagan went to Portugal in 1985, did he bring out any connections to Fatima and to John Paul II?

    He did. And I’m amazed that we Catholics don’t know about this. Of course, it got absolutely no publicity, so our ignorance is understandable.

    Ronald Reagan gave a speech in Portugal in May 1985 where he openly mentioned Mary and the children of Fatima. He spoke of the “great religious shrine” at Fatima and said that when he met Pope John Paul II he “dared to suggest to him that, in the example of men like himself and in the prayers of simple people everywhere, simple people like the children of Fatima, there resides more power than in all the great armies and statesmen of the world.”

    That’s just the start of what I mention in this book about Reagan and Fatima and the Blessed Mother.

    Here’s another shocker for Catholics: Reagan was intrigued by the reported appearances of Mary in Medjugorje. I was taken aback when Ave Maria was sung at Reagan’s memorial service in the Washington Cathedral in June 2004. That was the last hymn I expected to hear at his funeral. Mrs. Reagan told me that Ronald Reagan himself had chosen Ave Maria to be sung at that funeral, years before Alzheimer’s had taken him.

    Now, looking back in retrospect, I’m not surprised.

    Did you find any other fascinating Fatima connections to these events that you detail in the book?

    Fatima is the thread throughout the book, from start to finish. I open with the shooting of John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981, the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. That’s the prologue. Then, in Chapter 1, I bounce back to May 13, 1917, when Mary first appeared to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. That starts the narrative. Thereafter, the book is a story, a chronological narrative, that winds through the rise of Bolshevism and the Soviet war on religion — as the Lady had predicted — and then the births and rise of Ronald Reagan and Karol Wojtyla.

    Amid their rise, the narrative is interspersed with painful examples of communist persecution of the faithful, done to the likes of Cardinals Mindszenty and Stepinac to Popes Pius XII and John Paul II.

    I even take into account the communist ideology behind the assassins of leading American Catholic politicians such as John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Throughout that sad saga I incorporate the brilliant insights of the most influential American Catholic of the 20th century: Fulton Sheen. Sheen may be the most prominent figure in this book after Reagan, John Paul II and the Blessed Mother.

    What a prophet Sheen was. And he just happened to have been raised just down the road from Ronald Reagan. The book considers many intriguing Reagan-Sheen parallels. That’s yet another of so many rich Reagan-Catholic connections that will stun and please

    • New Book Reveals Soviets Behind Attempted Assassination of Pope St. John Paul II


      by Rodney Pelletier • ChurchMilitant • May 2, 2017

      DETROIT – A new investigation is alleging the attempt to assassinate Pope St. John Paul II on May 13, 1981 was organized by the Soviets.

      Paul Kengor — a Catholic professor of political science at Grove City College and a Ronald Reagan biographer — is revealing in his newly-released book, A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, that Soviet secret agencies planned the assassination attempt.

      In an email to The Daily Signal, Kengor notes the Main Intelligence Directorate — Soviet Russia’s foreign intelligence organization — conducted the operation with the assistance of the KGB and operatives in Bulgarian secret police. The KGB was headed at the time by Yuri Andropov — known as the Butcher of Budapest and leader of the Soviet Union from 1982 to 1983

      Kengor notes that Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish national who pulled the trigger, was abandoned by his companion who ran into the crowd, never to be seen again. Afterward, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and William Casey, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), suspected the Soviets were behind it.

      Kengor told The Daily Signal that Casey “actually ordered a truly super-secret investigation into the shooting, researched by two impressive women in their 30s and 40s, known only to a handful of agency people.”

      Although Kengor said he has not seen the final report he notes, “I did get the results of the investigation, the background, the thinking of Reagan and Casey.” He further said that both Reagan and John Paul II didn’t want the findings publicly released because they wanted to avoid World War III. The Pope noted in his book, Memory and Identity, that Ağca did not act on his own initiative.

      John Paul II was shot at approximately 5:13 p.m. while greeting and blessing pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. Ağca stood in the crowd with a 9mm. pistol. When the Holy Father was close, Ağca fired four shots, hitting the pope in the hand and the abdomen and two women. He fell into the arms of Fr. — now Archbishop — Stanisław Dziwisz, his personal assistant, calling out “Mary, my mother; Mary, my mother” and reciting the “Hail Mary.”

      The bullet missed all vital areas and the Pope soon recovered, giving credit to Our Lady of Fatima. One year later, he visited Fatima in thanksgiving and placed the bullet that wounded him in the crown of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

      Ağca spent 19 years in prison in Italy and was visited regularly by John Paul II who publicly forgave him. He was afterward deported to Turkey where he served a ten-year sentence and was released. He was released from prison in 2010. On December 27, 2014, he visited Rome and laid flowers on the pope’s tomb.

    • The fact that the Soviets were behind the assassination attempt was well covered by National Review 25 – 30 years ago.

      It’s too bad that Reagan didn’t convert. Did Reagan have any influence on the 1984 Consecration that failed to name Russia?

      The author mentions Cardinals Mindszenty whom Paul VI silenced, a terrible crime. Did Wojtyla go along with that?

      Since the duo defeated Communism, collectivism (socialism) has been on the increase everywhere. The EU is about to stamp out the last vestiges of a once Christian society. The US has just suffered through 8 years of anti-Christian collectivism (the road to Communism), and may yet prove unable to shake it. Don’t forget that Sr. Lucy predicted that the US would fall to Communism, too.

      The scourge of Communism is not dead yet. While Reagan and John Paul did a lot of good in lifting the material shackles, they haven’t been nearly as successful in defeating the influence. JP’s cadre of bishops sported many pinko fags, e.g., Bernardin, whose damage was potentially worse than the good that Reagan and John Paul accomplished.

    • And regarding Fulton Sheen:
      HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE from The Point in 1952 (St. Benedict Center). Summary: Sheen didn’t preach the Faith.
      “Protestants and Jews enjoy listening to Bishop Sheen because they can always relax when doing so. They know they will never hear anything from him to upset them — no insinuations that his religion is any better than theirs, no remarks calculated to make them feel that they ought to become Catholics. ”
      [more at the link]

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