Non-Catholics on Islam

Still under construction. Many more to come.

Part of the point of this is to show that the sorts of outright condemnations of Islam itself, as opposed to radical Islam, or Islamic extremists, or whatever--the kind of thing that would today earn one an instant label of "Islamophobe" and perhaps get one banned from entering Great Britain--were fairly common among prominent "Western" intellectuals up until very recently. However, on the main, the quotes are from a mix of people and points of views that I find interesting for one reason or another.

Arthur Schopenhauer

The World as Will and Representation, 1818:

Consider the Koran…this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical need of countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. In this book we find the saddest and poorest form of theism. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value (E.F. Payne trans., Dover: 1966, orig. 1818, vol. 2, p. 162).

Alexis de Tocqueville


Letter to Arthur de Gobineau, 1843:

I studied the Quran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. So far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself (reprinted in The Tocqueville Reader, Olivier Zunz and Alan Kahan, eds., Blackwell, 2002).

Mark Twain

The Innocents Abroad, 1867:

Then we called at the tomb of Mahomet's children and at a tomb which purported to be that of St. George who killed the dragon, and so on out to the hollow place under a rock where Paul hid during his flight till his pursuers gave him up; and to the mausoleum of the five thousand Christians who were massacred in Damascus in 1861 by the Turks. They say those narrow streets ran blood for several days, and that men, women and children were butchered indiscriminately and left to rot by hundreds all through the Christian quarter; they say, further, that the stench was dreadful. All the Christians who could get away fled from the city, and the Mohammedans would not defile their hands by burying the "infidel dogs." The thirst for blood extended to the high lands of Hermon and Anti-Lebanon, and in a short time twenty-five thousand more Christians were massacred and their possessions laid waste. How they hate a Christian in Damascus! -- and pretty much all over Turkeydom as well. And how they will pay for it when Russia turns her guns upon them again! It is soothing to the heart to abuse England and France for interposing to save the Ottoman Empire from the destruction it has so richly deserved for a thousand years. It hurts my vanity to see these pagans refuse to eat of food that has been cooked for us; or to eat from a dish we have eaten from; or to drink from a goatskin which we have polluted with our Christian lips, except by filtering the water through a rag which they put over the mouth of it or through a sponge! I never disliked a Chinaman as I do these degraded Turks and Arabs, and when Russia is ready to war with them again, I hope England and France will not find it good breeding or good judgment to interfere (New York: Harper, 1911, orig. 1867, pp. 209-210, see also the contemporary editions on Amazon).

In fairness, Twain skewered all sorts of people and groups, though it is useful to note his matter-of-fact descriptions of the massacres of Christians in the Middle-East, which were common knowledge at the time, but have now been generally forgotten. Fascinatingly, Twain wrote a favorable quasi-biography of Saint Joan D'Arc, which is notable for the lack of his usual cynicism (at least towards her). Even more notably, the atheist/agnostic Twain called it his best and most important work. This book by the atheist/agnostic Twain is now a favorite of Catholics and is currently printed by a Catholic publishing house.

Karl Marx

Letter of Jenny Marx to Friedrich Sorge, 21 January, 1877:

My husband is at the moment deeply in the Eastern Question (currently the Russo-Turkish War) and highly elated about the honorable, unwavering entrance of the sons of Mahomet against all the Christian humbug and atrocity-mongers.

C.S. Lewis

Christian Apologetics, 1945:

I have sometimes told my audience that the only two things really worth considering are Christianity and Hinduism. (Islam is only the greatest of the Christian heresies, Buddhism only the greatest of the Hindu heresies. Real Paganism is dead. All that was best in Judaism and Platonism survives in Christianity (reprinted in God in the Dock, Eerdmans, 1970).

Wait, Islam is a heresy? Fighting words! That man deserves a Pope Francis punch!

George Patton

War as I Knew It, 1947:

To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Muhammad and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he was around the year 700, while we have kept on developing (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974, p. 49, see Amazon versions here).

Patton was, oddly enough, described as being quite spiritual. It has been alleged that he became interested in the Catholic Mass during the North Africa Campaign. But internet claims that he died a Catholic appear to be false.

Barack Obama

Speech to the United Nations General Assembly, 21 September, 2012:

In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening. In every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they're willing to tolerate freedom for others. And that is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, where a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well. For as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and every faith. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion, we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them. I know there are some who ask why don't we just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws. Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech…The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support….That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting (anti-Muhammad) video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them (full transcript here).

The takeaway excerpt to the above has been, "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam". But to be fair, the speech almost does a continuing jig back and forth between this and that, that and this. If, in an alternative history, a young Obama had ever come into physical contact with an elderly Winston Churchill, the universe would have exploded.

Gene Simmons


Melbourne Radio Interview, 2013:

This is a vile culture and if you think for a second that it's willing to just live in the sands of God's armpit, you've got another thing coming... They want to come and live right where you live and they think that you're evil. Extremism believes that it’s okay to strap bombs onto your children and send them to paradise and whatever else and to behead people... Your dog, however, can walk side by side, your dog is allowed to have its own dog house... You can send your dog to school to learn tricks, sit, beg, do all that stuff - none of the women have that advantage.

These comments by the Kiss bassist on tour with the band in Australia predictably sparked "outrage". One Muslim spokesperson implied that they might be subject to the country's vilification laws. The Israeli born Simmons would later say that he was referring only to "extremists". While he did use that word, the context makes his later claim problematic, to say the least (see Ynet News, 5 May, 2013).