The indefatigable apologist for Islam Pope Francis on Monday issued yet another mea culpa to Muslims, saying: “A scene from The Song of Roland comes to me as a symbol, when the Christians defeat the Muslims and line them up in front of the baptismal font, with one holding a sword. And the Muslims had to choose between baptism or the sword. That is what we Christians did.”
Was it really? The Song of Roland is actually a work of fiction, a French epic poem loosely based on the Battle of Roncevaux Pass between Muslim invaders and Christian defenders in the year 778. As The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS shows, in the eleventh century, three hundred years after the battle, The Song of Roland appeared, describing the heroism of Charlemagne’s nephew Roland, who is leading the rear guard of Charlemagne’s forces and is caught up in the Muslim ambush.
Roland has an oliphant, a horn made of an elephant’s tusk, which he can use to call for help, but he initially declines to do so, thinking it would be cowardly. Finally, Roland does blow his horn. Charlemagne, way ahead of the rear guard, nonetheless hears Roland’s horn and hurries back, but it is too late: Roland and his men are dead, and the Muslims victorious. Charlemagne, however, pursues and vanquishes the Muslims, and captures Saragossa.
Thus the legend. The Song of Roland was enormously popular and inculcated in the Christians who sang and celebrated it what came to be known (in the European Middle Ages) as knightly virtues: loyalty, courage, and perseverance, even in the face of overwhelming odds. These were virtues that would be needed if Europe was to hold out against the ever-advancing jihad.
But those days are long gone, and Europe is no longer holding out against the jihad. Now the pope is much more interested in defending Islam than Christianity. In September 2017, Pope Francis met in the Vatican with Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), a group that has been linked to the financing of jihad terror. During the meeting, al-Issa thanked the pope for his “fair positions” on what he called the “false claims that link extremism and violence to Islam.”
Nor was that the first time a Muslim leader has thanked the pope for being so very useful. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar, thanked him for his “defense of Islam against the accusation of violence and terrorism.” The Associated Press reported that the pope “embraced the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning, reopening an important channel for Catholic-Muslim dialogue after a five-year lull and at a time of increased Islamic extremist attacks on Christians.”
Why had there been this “five-year lull”? Because “the Cairo-based Al-Azhar froze talks with the Vatican to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.” What did Benedict say? Andrea Gagliarducci of the Catholic News Agency explains that after a jihad terrorist murdered 23 Christians in a church in Alexandria 2011, Benedict decried “terrorism” and the “strategy of violence” against Christians, and called for the Christians of the Middle East to be protected.
Al-Tayeb was furious. He railed Benedict for his “interference” in Egypt’s affairs and warned of a “negative political reaction” to the Pope’s remarks. In a statement, Al-Azhar denounced the pope’s “repeated negative references to Islam and his claims that Muslims persecute those living among them in the Middle East.”
Benedict stood his ground, and that was that. But in September 2013, al-Azhar announced that Pope Francis had sent a personal message to al-Tayeb. In it, according to al-Azhar, Francis declared his respect for Islam and his desire to achieve “mutual understanding between the world’s Christians and Muslims in order to build peace and justice.” At the same time, Al Tayyeb met with the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Mgr. Jean-Paul Gobel, and told him in no uncertain terms that speaking about Islam in a negative manner was a “red line” that must not be crossed.
So Pope Benedict condemned a jihad attack, one that al-Azhar also condemned, and yet al-Azhar suspended dialogue because of the pope’s condemnation. Then Pope Francis wrote to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar affirming his respect for Islam, and the Grand Imam warned him that criticizing Islam was a “red line” that he must not cross. That strongly suggests that the “dialogue” that Pope Francis has now reestablished will not be allowed to discuss the Muslim persecution of Christians that will escalate worldwide, especially since an incidence of that persecution led to the suspension of dialogue in the first place.
What’s more, his dialogue partner, al-Tayeb, has shown himself over the years to be anything but a preacher of peace, cooperation and mercy: he has justified anti-Semitism on Qur’anic grounds; and called for the Islamic State murderers of the Jordanian pilot to be crucified or have their hands and feet amputated on opposite sides (as per the penalty in Qur’an 5:33 for those who make war against Allah and his messenger or spread “mischief” in the land. Al-Azhar was also revealed to be offering free copies of a book that called for the slaughter of Christians and other Infidels.
Francis, for his part, proclaimed that “authentic Islam and the proper understanding of the Koran reject every form of violence,” doing his bit to ensure that as many Christians as possible would remain ignorant and complacent about the jihad threat that his precious “dialogue” does nothing to mitigate.
And now he is attacking Europe’s Christian heritage and tradition. He is nothing less than a disgrace to the Church, to Judeo-Christian civilization, and to the free world.
“Leave them; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.