In my last job, I had several immediate supervisors over the course of three years. All of them had their strengths and weaknesses, but they were all good people to work under.
My favorite was Shamain. It’s not completely irrelevant that she’s stunningly attractive, very photogenic. However, she’s also a beautiful person. She’s a very empathetic, likeable person with a great sense of humor; she and I, as the saying goes, got on like a house afire.
Her model-quality good looks, I say, aren’t completely irrelevant. Shamain is a Moslem married to a Hindu; under Shariah, Moslem women can't marry non-Moslem men. I would never have found out how beautiful she is, either inside or out, had she worn the burqa. The burqa not only hides women from men’s eyes, it interposes a social wall between them.
It’s because of people like Shamain that people like Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, are at pains to make distinctions between individual Moslems and Islam: “There are many moderate Muslims. That is why I always make a clear distinction between the people and the ideology, between Muslims and Islam. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as a moderate Islam.”
It’s also because of people like Shamain, I believe, that we find ourselves unable to do anything more than watch helplessly as Christians, especially Catholics, are being brutalized in cultures with significant Islamic populations. The recent massacre at the Salesian mission in Duekoue is only the most recent example of a surge of Islamic fervor playing itself out across the Middle East and Moslem Africa.
Because of moderate Moslems like Shamain, we’re reluctant to call Islam our enemy. And yet the hostility of Islamic factions towards Christians can’t in good conscience be ignored.
Some might see the tandem rise of anti-Christian repression and democratic movements within these same states as ironic. If it’s ironic, it’s because we in the West associate democracy with religious tolerance, when in fact the one doesn’t necessarily entail the other.
As I’ve written before, “The American principle of religious liberty is founded on an idea of a natural law, which presupposes that two people of different religions can share enough of a moral unity to make a common law possible even while their religious views and practices differ. … Islamic thought, however, doesn’t admit of a natural law. There is only God’s law, as expressed in the Qur’an. Tolerance can only be found where Mohammed hasn’t spoken, and only so far as the Prophet’s words can’t be properly extrapolated.”
The idea of democracy, taken by itself, doesn’t presuppose the “inclusiveness” the fans of multiculturalism are so fond of. Indeed, the very idea of law admits of behaviors that can’t be tolerated, even if part of a well-defined minority group’s regular practices. By saying, “Thou shalt not do X,” the law excludes from society’s embrace all those who wish to do X without hindrance; democracy simply enables the majority of the people to say what X shalt not be done. When only the values of a select minority are consulted, you may call the resulting government anything you like—anything, that is, except a democracy.
Under Shariah, women have few rights against their husbands. Under Shariah, homosexuality is illegal. Under Shariah, atheists aren’t sheltered by the rules of dhimma as are Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians: they must either submit to Islam or die. (Any atheist who claims he suffers under a “Christian dhimmitude” simply admits he has no idea what dhimmitude really means; there’s no meaningful comparison between suffering omnipresent Christmas tunes every December and the “Jim Crow” life of the dhimmi.)
As Philip Lawler has argued forcefully, “For too many years now, we in the West have pursued a foreign policy based on the presumption that other societies are as thoroughly secularized as our own.” Because we tend to think of religious liberty as “baked into” democracy, we believe representative governments will automatically act to protect religious minorities; we don’t recognize that that liberty is still a fairly recent development in our own culture … and a relatively fragile one at that.
The first problem is that we have absolutely no practical way to preserve the right of Christians to practice their faith in these areas short of war—no, short of crusade in the classic sense. But even if we could find the resources to carry out such a crusade, we would need a unity of values and ideals on the home front to support it.
This is where we face the second problem: having made “tolerance” our supreme watchword and our measure, we’re no longer allowed to postulate, far less assert, that one culture can be better than another, that one system of values can be superior to another. If all values and cultures are equal, then there’s no inherent reason why we should resist the imposition of Shariah in our own communities, let alone go to war to protect the Christians overseas who must live under its repressive regime.
For the present, then, there’s little we Christians in the West can do to help our fellow Christians in the Middle East in their time of tribulation. What we can do is bring our current culture war to a victorious close as soon as possible.
To give any real meaning to religious liberty—to protect people like my friend Shamain—we must first reclaim our public right to be Christians. Freedom of religion is nothing without freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and means nothing if we can’t take our religion into the ballot box with us. And we must put those rights back on a democratic footing; we can’t trust a self-selected elite, working from relativist principles, to choose our values for us.
As a Christian nation, we may not be able to offer everything everybody wants. But we can offer much more dignity than they can find under relativism or Shariah.