On October 20, a 25-year-old convert to Islam named Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down two Canadian soldiers, killing one and injuring the other. In the chase that followed, his car ran into a ditch and he was fatally shot by police as he came at them with a knife.
Rouleau’s story is similar to that of other homegrown jihadists, including Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the 32-year-old Canadian citizen who, just two days after Rouleau’s attack, shot and killed a soldier before running into Canada’s parliament building, where he was killed by police.
Rouleau followed Islamic websites, he grew a beard, prayed constantly, and tried to convert his friends. His Facebook page contains (mostly pictorial) arguments against atheism, Darwinism, capitalism, and corrupt Arab princes. The most revealing thing about it, however, is that it gives a glimpse into an ideological war against Christianity of which most Christians are unaware. Christians may not know about it, but Muslim recruitment sites are full of slick anti-Christian apologetics.
For example, Rouleau’s Facebook page contains an illustration of a seated Jesus extending his hand toward the viewer, with a multitude of followers pictured in the background. The text at the top of the picture reads:
It’s like this: I created man and woman with original sin. Then I destroyed most of them for sinning. Then I impregnated a woman with myself as her child, so that I could be born. Later, I will kill myself as a sacrifice to myself to save all of you from the sin I gave you in the first place.
Without the text, it looks like a typical piece of devotional art. Jesus is smiling, and he appears to be kind, genuine, and welcoming. With the text, however, one notices a hint of the con man in his countenance. The smile could be the self-satisfied smile of the man who has just convinced you to sink all your money into his worthless Ponzi scheme.
For those who are well-schooled in their faith, such aggressive apologetics do not constitute a stumbling block. But the great majority of Catholics—particularly young Catholics—are not well-catechized. With no solid grounding in the framework of their faith, they are easy prey to apologetics attacks of this kind.
The Jesus-as-pitchman apologetics graphic is cleverly designed to play on doubts that people commonly have about Christianity. Who hasn’t thought that this whole Original Sin business is grossly unfair? Why should I be punished for something I never did? If God knew what he was doing, why did he let things get so out of control? The implication of the graphic is that one might consider opting for a more straightforward religion unencumbered by the doctrine of Original Sin—a religion such as Islam.
The graphic is also pitched to play on youthful pride. “Don’t be a dupe,” it seems to say. “I will kill myself as a sacrifice to myself to save all of you from the sin I gave you in the first place”? The implicit message? “That’s crazy talk, man! How can you fall for a line like that?”
Rouleau’s Facebook page also calls into question the commonly-held notion that Muslims revere the same Jesus that Christians do. Many Catholics find comfort in that idea, but if they took a closer look at the Jesus of the Koran they would find some notable differences between him and the Jesus of the New Testament. In many respects, he is an anti-Jesus, come to set the record straight concerning the “false Jesus” manufactured by Christians. According to Islamic tradition, the original gospel given to Christians was later distorted and falsified, with Jesus misleadingly portrayed as a savior and the Son of God. In reality, says Islam, Jesus is a Muslim prophet who foretold the coming of Muhammad.
This “true” Jesus shows up on Rouleau’s Facebook page in another graphic. This time he is prostrated in prayer, his forehead touching the ground in the manner of a good Muslim at prayer. The caption is from Matthew 26:59: “and he [Jesus] went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed…” Below that in smaller letters are the words “Even Jesus (pbuh) bowing to the ground praying to his God.” This is the true Jesus, the good Muslim prophet (peace be upon him) whose message, like Muhammad’s, is to worship God alone.
So, for all those who might still have a sentimental attachment to Jesus, the message is that you can keep your Jesus—just make sure it’s the real Jesus, not the false pretender created by power-hungry priests and popes.
This “real” Jesus shows up again on Rouleau’s Facebook page juxtaposed to a black-robed priest. The Jesus figure delivers the uncorrupted message—“The Father is greater than I,” “The Lord our God is one Lord”—while the priest delivers the falsified, contradictory message—“Jesus is equal to the Father,” “God exists as three persons.”
The final apologetics message comes in the form of two contrasting statements about God—one representing the Christian view, the other, the Muslim view. In the first frame, a standing, black-robed priest is reading from a book:
My god came from womb of a woman, he was breastfed, had to defecate, played in the street with kids, and at the age of 33 he was beaten, spit upon, humiliated, mocked, stripped naked then hung on a cross, killed and then was buried.
In the next frame a devout Muslim kneeling in prayer says:
My God is “Allah, there is no other god beside Him, the King, the Holy, the One Free from all defects, the Giver of security, the Watcher over His creatures, the All-Mighty, the Compeller, the Supreme. Glory be to Allah. (High is He) above all that they associate as partners with Him.”
This exercise in persuasion is a direct appeal to a young man’s sense of honor. For young men today, “honor” does not mean throwing your coat over a puddle so a young lady may walk across on it; it’s more like the sense of honor found in gangs or tribal cultures. Honor means maintaining the good opinion of those whose opinion matters to you, and it’s very much bound up with the concept of manhood. You maintain your honor by proving your manhood—by showing that you have power and control or, at least, by keeping up the appearance of power and control. Honor means demanding respect and avenging insults to one’s sense of worth.
Islamic cultures are honor cultures, and the religion of Islam might justly be described as an honor religion. Allah is in charge and he exercises complete control. He is superior to any other conception of God. “Allahu Akbar” means “God is greater” (or “greatest”). Translated into the language of youth it means, “My God can beat up your God.” This is the appeal of Islam to young men and it helps to explain why groups such as ISIS have no trouble finding recruits. Young men like to be on the winning side. They decidedly do not like being losers. Interestingly, the Koran describes those who end up in hell precisely as “losers” (10: 45, 16: 109, 29: 52).
What’s the opposite of honor? Shame. In an honor culture, shame is the worst fate—worse than death. In these cultures it is not uncommon for leaders or generals who have suffered a shameful defeat to resort to suicide.
With all that in mind, consider the two contrasting statements about God on the Canadian terrorist’s Facebook page. What’s wrong with the Christian’s God? He was shamed. He was beaten, mocked, and humiliated. Christians find comfort in God’s humanity. Through Christ, God became one of us, shared in our weakness, sorrows, and sufferings. But that’s not a selling point from the Islamic point of view. Someone who is mocked, spit upon, and crucified may be a god fit for a weak woman, but not for any self-respecting man. In contrast to the humiliated God-man of the Christians, Allah is “All-Mighty, the Compeller, the Supreme.” Unlike the helpless victim in the Christian story, Allah is in complete control. Moreover, Allah does not let his prophets be shamed. According to the Koran (4:157) and other Islamic sources, the prophet Jesus did not suffer humiliation or crucifixion but was simply taken up to Heaven at the end of his mission.
So the overall appeal jihadists make to young men is: “Don’t be a loser. Get on the winning side. Our cause is invincible because our God is invincible.”
Who’s the toughest gang on the planet? “We are,” say the jihadists. One set of juxtaposed images on Rouleau’s site even makes fun of wannabe gangsters with their wannabe honor cultures. The top photo shows a group of young black men, some with dreadlocks, some with hoods, some with a hint of beard, but all making gang-style hand signals. The bottom photo shows a group of more mature-looking, fully-bearded Muslim men seated on the bed of a large truck that is presumably taking them to the battlefront. They appear calm and confident, and they are carrying AK-47s. The message seems to be that the young blacks are merely “posers” by comparison. They deserve no respect because they are not real men—only boys who are playing at being men.
So far, the apologetics/propaganda war has been mostly a one-sided affair, with Muslims winning most of the converts (at least in the West). Some Christian evangelicals, such as David Wood of the blog Answering Muslims, have risen to the occasion by producing highly effective short videos that set the record straight on areas of Christian-Muslim disagreement. Wood, whose videos are all over YouTube, is especially good at this. No poser he, he comes across as the quintessence of calm, controlled manhood. Armed with a winning sense of humor, a razor-sharp mind, and a ton of knowledge, Wood doesn’t even have to raise his voice to make his points.
Catholics, on the other hand, seem scarcely aware of the apologetics wars being waged on Facebook, YouTube, and various other websites. One gets the impression that many Catholic apologists, though they are well-equipped to present convincing arguments to atheists, secularists, and fundamentalist Christians, are ill-prepared to do battle in this new area of apologetics.
Until they get up to speed, we can expect that dedicated and savvy Islamists will continue to win souls for Allah and the jihad.
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