George Weigel, a Catholic scholar and biographer of Pope John Paul II, in a recent interview with National Review Online addressed Pope Benedict XVI’s Easter vigil baptism of Magdi Allam, a prominent Italian journalist from a Muslim background.
Weigel also discussed the relevance of Allam’s baptism to relations between Muslim and non-Muslim countries and to debates about religious freedom in the Muslim world.
“Magdi Allam,” Weigel said, “has courageously defended the religious freedom of all while sharply criticizing those currents of thought in Islam which would deny the right of religious conversion to Muslims. Now he fights the war of ideas from a different foxhole, so to speak.”
Weigel said the most effective Muslim allies in war against jihadism will be “those Muslims who want to make an Islamic case for tolerance, civility, and pluralism.”
He said Osama bin Laden’s version of Islam, in addition to being the enemy of much of the non-Islamic world, is also the enemy of those Muslims who do not share his conception of what Islam requires.
Weigel, drawing on the themes of his recent book “Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism,” said that Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Lecture “identified the linked problems at the center of a lot of turbulence in world politics today.” These problems, according to Weigel, included both the detachment of faith from reason, as shown in jihadism, and the loss of faith in reason, as manifested in western Europe and American “high culture.” The Muslim theological separation of faith from reason encourages the idea that God can and does command the irrational, such as the killing of innocents. Westerners’ loss of confidence in reason, Weigel said, “leaves the West intellectually disarmed in the face of the jihadist challenge.”
At Regensburg, Weigel said, the Pope gave the world a “vocabulary with which to deal with these problems,” which Weigel characterized as “the vocabulary of rationality and irrationality.”
Weigel suggested that the United States would be much less likely to achieve victory in a contest with Islamic radicalism if its next president does not understand “the nature of the enemy or the multifront struggle in which we are necessarily engaged.”