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The Pope Is Wrong, 'Islamic Terrorism' Does Indeed Exist

Just as terrorism in the name of other religions has existed throughout history. We must call evil things by their name if we want to overcome them.

Still image from an ISIS propaganda video
Still image from an ISIS propaganda video


Pope Francis declared in February that there was no such thing as Islamic terrorism. By doing so, he negated the existence of terrorism that is inherently religious in nature whether it's Christian, Jewish or Muslim. I do not dispute his good intentions — he avoids slandering a whole religion because some of its followers commit acts of terror — but I do have a serious problem with the actual truth of his assertion.

History provides us with many examples of religious terrorists. The Jewish assassins who cut the throats of Romans and their own compatriots in a war against Rome (66-73 AD) invoked the God of Israel. Jesuits did the same to non-Catholics even if it does seem ironic to do so considering the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Islamic case is essentially different, as I point out in my book Mahoma, el guía ("Muhammad the Guide").

Prophet Muhammad was a different character before and after the year 622. Prior to that year, he was a peaceful man who announced the approach of the Day of Judgment, and urged people to submit to The One God.

religion violence islam muhammad

In 622, when Muhammad left Mecca for Medina, he became a military ruler who used the sword to spread his word. Since Islam considers Muhammad's life a model for emulation, even in its smallest details, this change of path would lay the foundation for legitimizing various forms of violence including terrorism.

While there are Muslim terrorists whose actions cannot be attributed to Islam. Many Muslims are, certainly, opposed to terrorism. But this does not mean that Islamic terrorism is not, as the pope claims, simply terrorism perpetrated by Muslims. ISIS, al-Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah and similar groups backed by regimes in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Iran, are terror groups that invoke Islam in their actions.

This makes Islamic terrorism a real threat, even though many leaders, including the pope, are regrettably unable to face that fact.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Bibi Blinked: How The Ceasefire Deal Could Flip Israel's Whole Gaza War Logic

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed ahead a deal negotiated via Qatar, for a four-day truce and an exchange of 50 hostages for 150 Palestinian prisoners. Though the humanitarian and political pressure was mounting, Israel's all-out assault is suddenly halted, with unforeseen consequences for the future.

photo of someone holding a poster of a hostage

Families of Israeli hostages rally in Jerusalem

Nir Alon/ZUMA
Pierre Haski

Updated Nov. 22, 2023 at 8:55 p.m.


PARIS — It's the first piece of good news in 46 days of war. In the early hours of Wednesday, Israel agreed to a deal that included a four-day ceasefire and the release of some of the hostages held by Hamas — 30 children and 20 women — in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, again women and children. The real question is what happens next.

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But first, this agreement, negotiated through the intermediary of Qatar, whose role is essential in this phase, must be implemented right away. This is a complex negotiation, because unlike the previous hostage-for-prisoner exchanges, it is taking place in the midst of a major war.

On the Palestinian side, although Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is present in Doha, he does not make the decision alone — he must have the agreement of the leaders of the military wing, who are hiding somewhere in Gaza. It takes 24 hours to send a message back and forth. As you can imagine, it's not as simple as a phone call.

And on the Israeli side, a consensus had to be built around the agreement. Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right allies were opposed to the deal — in line with their eradication logic — even at the cost of Israeli lives. But the opposition of these discredited parties was ignored, and that will leave its mark.

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