Looking at the global scene, it would seem that disaffected Muslims these days drift towards political jihadism, while disaffected Christians drift towards “sects” that promise prosperity and individual fulfillment. Why do you think that is?
Pell: That’s an interesting question, and I haven’t thought about this at all. I suppose the first thing I would say is that I suspect those things are more a function of the societies in which Christians and Muslims live rather than the religion itself.
But one can see this in Nigeria, where Christians and Muslims share the same society but drift off in different ways. Surely the social context isn’t everything?
Pell: I’d also say that Islam is a much more war-like culture than Christianity.
Some say that the focus in Islam is much more on the social and political order, the ummah, than in Christianity.
Pell: I”m not sure how relevant that is to your question, but it’s true. They don’t have a separation of church and state like we do. But I think the more significant factor is the presence or absence of jihad, and what that means. I”ve had it asserted to me is that in the relationship between the Islamic and non-Islamic world, the normal thing is a situation of tension if not war, or outright hostility. You have to declare peace. … That’s what’s been alleged. A state of tension or hostility between Islam and the dar al-Harb, the non-Islamic world, is constant.…
But that very quickly translates into attachment into a certain kind of state. To reverse the question, is Islam without at least a notional striving towards an Islamic state conceivable?
Pell: We don’t yet know. It was only after the First World War that they were encouraged, or even allowed, to live in a non-Islamic state. I think that was a development that enabled them to cope with their changed circumstances. They weren’t allowed to live in non-Islamic states, and many are still encouraged not to mix with non-Muslims.
So you believe jihad is not a modern distortion of Islam, but something that arises from its internal logic?
Pell: That’s the million dollar question. I don’t know. It remains to be seen. To put it another way, can a good moderate Muslim be faithful to the Koran? I think it depends on who’s going to win where, if there is going to be a struggle between the moderates and the extremists.
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