Why Pope Francis shouldn’t have washed and kissed the feet of Muslim migrants

“When the Pope kneels before a Muslim, these are the thoughts that will come into the minds of many followers of Islam. For them, the Pope’s gesture will serve as confirmation of the age-old Islamic conception of Christianity as a second-rate religion. Although some Muslims may be moved by the Pope’s gesture and some may even be converted, it’s likely that a majority of Muslims will interpret it as a sign of weakness.” Indeed. And submission. But as the entire Catholic hierarchy and even the rank-and-file clergy appear to be in full submission mode, and determined to stigmatize those who call evil what it is, the Pope’s act was in line with the way the wind is blowing.

Pope Francis kisses the foot of a man during the foot-washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center, some 30km (18, 6 miles) from Rome, Thursday, March 24, 2016. The pontiff washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees Thursday, declaring them children of the same God, in a gesture of welcome and brotherhood at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has spiked following the Brussels attacks. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)
Pope Francis kisses the foot of a man during the foot-washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center, some 30km (18, 6 miles) from Rome, Thursday, March 24, 2016. The pontiff washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees Thursday, declaring them children of the same God, in a gesture of welcome and brotherhood at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has spiked following the Brussels attacks. (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

(Thanks to Urban Infidel for the photo.)

“The Problem with Multicultural Foot Washing,” by William Kilpatrick, Crisis, March 31, 2016:

During Holy Thursday Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of migrants, three of whom were Muslims. Most Catholics understood this as a gesture of humility and brotherhood. That is how the Catholic press reported it—and that, undoubtedly, was the Pope’s intention.

Many Muslims, however, may see it differently—not as a gesture of brotherhood, but as one of submission and surrender. The word “Islam” means “submission,” and submission is what Islam expects of other faiths. Muslims consider Islam to be the supreme religion. To the extent that it tolerates the “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews), Islam tolerates them on the condition that they acknowledge its supremacy.

Historically, the People of the Book were expected to assume the status of dhimmis—second-class citizens with limited rights. The origin of this attitude can be found in several verses in the Koran, particularly 9:29, which says that the “People of the Book” are to be fought “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

The conditions that govern the lives of dhimmis were further elaborated in the Pact of Omar (named after the second caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab). The two dozen or so stipulations include a prohibition on building new churches or repairing old ones, a prohibition on displaying crosses, and a demand that dhimmis give up their seats “to honor the Muslims.”

With the passage of time, the dhimmi requirements were expanded, but the general idea was to keep Christians in their place, and even humiliate them. Sometimes, when dhimmis paid the jizya, they were required to approach the tax official on all fours.

Unfortunately, the dhimmi laws are not a thing of the past. Churches are prohibited in Saudi Arabia, and Christian visitors to the Kingdom are not allowed to bring Bibles with them. In Pakistan and other Muslim countries, Christians are looked upon by many as inferior beings, fit only for menial jobs. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has re-imposed the jizya tax, and Islamic State scholars cite the Koran and the Pact of Omar as justification for doing so.

When the Pope kneels before a Muslim, these are the thoughts that will come into the minds of many followers of Islam. For them, the Pope’s gesture will serve as confirmation of the age-old Islamic conception of Christianity as a second-rate religion. Although some Muslims may be moved by the Pope’s gesture and some may even be converted, it’s likely that a majority of Muslims will interpret it as a sign of weakness.

In assessing the impact of the novel foot-washing ceremony, the timing also needs to be taken into account. The Holy Thursday Mass came two days after the Brussels bombings, and at a time when Muslim persecution of Christians is escalating. If Christianity was anything other than a humiliated faith, Muslims would expect to see some kind of strong response or some gesture of resolve.

Islam claims to be the natural religion of mankind, and the natural response to aggression is resistance. As Osama bin Laden reminded us, “if a man sees a strong horse and a weak horse, he will by nature favor the strong horse.” Yet, in the face of worldwide attacks on Christians, Church leaders meekly call for more dialogue and indulge in “reaching-out” gestures.

These unfortunate interpretations of the foot-washing ceremony could have been avoided if Pope Francis had not sought to give it a multi-religious flavor. Apparently, he was hoping to make a statement about the Church’s inclusivity. But the statement may have backfired. That’s one of the dangers in politicizing the liturgy. Muslims who see the Pope’s gesture as one of submission before Islam are not going to be convinced of the wisdom of Christian charity, they are going to be convinced of the prudence of sticking with the strong-horse religion. They will be more, not less likely to throw in their lot with the militants. If the Catholic Church appears to be submitting to Islam, they will reason that the only safe course of action is to do the same….

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About Robert Spencer 5 Articles
Robert Bruce Spencer is an American author and blogger best known for his criticism of Islam and jihad. As of 2014, he has published twelve books including two New York Times best-selling books

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