Often when certain Muslims–think the Islamic State right now–go rabid and kill a bunch of people and do all sorts of crazy things, it makes Catholics wonder about Catholic-Muslim relations.
Often when these things happen, we hear bishops and others talk about those “radical” Muslims and how not all Muslims are like this and how we should still maintain relations with Muslims. That’s good.
My question is, how does the Church judge what is “authentic” Islam to dialogue with and what is not authentic Islam on the basis of a supposed ability to interpret Muslim teaching? (Maybe I’m wrong.)
I ask because I’m confused as to how the Church is competent do determine what is and is not “authentic” Islam. It’s kind of like, “Muslims who adhere to the totality of Muslim teaching are ‘peaceful’ and the ones who are violent are Muslim radicals.” What I want to know is, how is the Church competent to determine what is “orthodox” Islam and what isn’t? I am not aware of any specific statements about the Church interpreting the “authenticity” of Muslim teaching–I don’t think this exists–but this is the kind of logic often proffered in popular explanations.
Now don’t misinterpret me. I don’t think the Church doesn’t have the authority to pick and choose with whom we have relations based on things like murderous radical-ness. That’s a prudential thing. However, I’m specifically focused on the, “Oh those radical Muslims are just weird and they aren’t following their own teachings properly.” Well, how do you know this? How is a non-Muslim competent to judge Muslim teaching? That’s funny, and I mean no un-charitable-ness in stating that. How do we assume that the Muslim radicals aren’t in fact doing just what Islam really teaches? Some people may say, “They are misinterpreting the Koran.” Well, how do we know that? “The Koran says…” What qualifies non-Muslims to be magisterial interpreters of the Koran?
Let’s extend this to the larger cultural issue of “Islamophobia.” Non-Catholics in the larger culture make the same arguments: that Muslim radicals are “heretics” in a sense and are not following authentic Muslim teachings. What I want to know is, how do they know that? Even scholars of Islam have no authority to interpret Muslim teachings… only Muslims do, naturally. People will say, there are plenty of Muslims who say that the radicals are wrong based on Muslim teaching. Well, what gives them the authority to state that? How do we know that, according to Islam, the non-radicals aren’t really the “heretics” and the radicals are the ones who are following Islam properly? Again I’m having a hard time accepting, “The Koran says…,” because I don’t understand how we have the authority to interpret the Koran and Muslim teaching, any more than secularist atheists have authority to say, “Slavery is in the Bible look Catholicism is ok with slavery!!!” 1. they are wrong but 2. they have no authority to interpret the Bible and Catholic teaching in the first place.
Note: again I accept that the Church has the authority to determine who we have relations with. It’s difficult and probably futile to have “dialogue” with murderers, which is what the radicals are, plainly. Also note that this is a thread on a discussion oriented medium of communication and that this is Catholic Answers, a Q&A type place, so please no one assume that I hate the Magisterium or think I have the authority to go against what it says or whatever etc. etc. etc. Please assume the best in my quest to learn and I will assume the best in your quest to discuss this topic. =]
Just to help the thread, imagine there were some Catholic radicals who were randomly killing non-Christians in some country. It would be easy to accept Catholics’ statements that these radical Catholics are wrong because we have a clear and universal leader who is widely known even in non-Catholic circles to be the supreme interpreter of Catholic teaching: the Pope. He would say these Catholics are wrong because they are. Islam does not have this.