Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Only a Christian nation can protect Islamic moderates

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.


  1. Excellent post and sadly, very accurate. We can pray for Christians in Muslim countries but we also should take peaceful and sensible steps to curtail Islamic fundamentalism in the west. That means working out ways of reaching Muslim youth and getting them out of the hands of the mosques where often they are radicalised. It also means stopping now any symbols of Islam that show signs of becoming accepted; I mean as a first step, banning the burkha.

  2. I understand where you're coming from, Richard, but I can't go so far as to support banning the burqa; I could no more support it that I could support a ban on the yarmulke. I do believe, though, that we have to put our foot down on "no-go" zones and completely disallow enforcement of Sharia even in select enclaves: there can be no areas were women don't have the right to not wear a burqa.

    Our big problem is that the Western concept of religious liberty was developed in absence of Moslems in the West. We pretty much assumed for most of post-Reformation history that all right-thinking people would share most of our basic values, which would make common law possible. Islam poses a grave challenge to religious liberty not just through the threat of Shariah but in how we respond to the threat: can we avoid dhimmitude without incidentally creating a Christian version of dhimma? That's why I'm reluctant to ban the burqa.

  3. A very good post. In order to perserve our liberties we've a fine line to walk indeed. How do we stop the Islamization of our nation without becoming repressive ourselves?

    My own thinking has evolved along similar lines as yours. I'm deadset against the incursion of Islam into our society but recognize it's appeal is basically the filling of a vacuum left by the adoption of an "anything goes" culture that shuns traditional values & morality.

    So we've first got to reclaim our own religious heritage, but that involves a willingness to literally pick up a cross and follow Jesus. Hard to come to that point purely on intellectual conviction, there has to be heartfelt dedication also. Theres the rub.

    How to renew that dedication even within our Church when so many routinely abandon it's teachings? When too many theologians and clerics "pooh-pooh" so much of the Faith as "literary constructs" or just medevial superstitious drivel, to be cast aside by our highly developed 21st Century intellects? An example that comes readily to mind is the tendency of too many folks to treat the doctorine of the Real Presence as worthy of lip service only?

    I think putting toothpaste back into the tube would be easier, than reclaiming the reverence and strong convictions that come with wholehearted belief.

    But IMO thats where we have to start, from as firm a conviction of Catholicism's truth as the islamists have of their beliefs. Nothing else will successfully combat the spread of it. We can win all the battlefield victories possible in hellholes like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. but if our convictions don't win out on the home front those would be hollow victories.

    I keep coming back to a belief we're in for some hard times and only those with a faith-inspired spine will see it through. It ain't gonna be pretty.

  4. @ Subvet: Putting the toothpaste back in the tube ... or passing a camel through the eye of a needle? :^)=)

    You're right, we do have to get firm on the orthodoxy, slam the doors shut on the cafeteria. But I think we also need to put our doctrinal fights with the Evangelicals off to the side and link arms with them on the moral issues. We need to get conservative Christians talking together to present a unified front, especially where "culture of life/death" issues present themselves. We need priests, bishops, ministers and preachers of all sorts to start growing backbones and drawing bright lines, and not caving into the "people are gonna do it anyway" mentality — that's mercy misguided.

    Because I believe you're right: we're losing young people not only to secularism but also to Islam simply because Christians of all stripes are wimping out on the hard teachings.


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