Polity: The Church – Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?
The Brussels Journal
The Voice of Conservatism in Europe
The Church – Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?From the desk of Fjordman on Tue, 2006-09-19 20:45
Although not a religious person myself, I am usually in favor of a revitalization of Christianity in Europe. However, I sometimes have my doubts when I see how many, too many, church leaders consistently end up on the wrong side of issues related to Islam and Muslim immigration.
Bat Ye'or claims that dhimmitude in the Middle East has often progressed because Christian leaders have sold out their own people, either for short-term personal gains or in the mistaken belief that they have a "shared religious heritage" with Muslims. It is also frequently Christian leaders and bishops in the West who are calling for open borders for poor, destitute Muslims because "it is the Christian thing to do."
The Protestant Lutheran Church in the German city of Hannover organized an exhibition to acquaint the Germans with Islam. The exhibition, entitled "The Faces of Islam," was the work of the female students of the Protestant Studies Institute in Aachen. On Palm Sunday in 2006, a Protestant church in Bochum, Germany celebrated Muhammad's birthday and invited the local Turkish community to attend the service. A Turkish music band played Sufi music during the service, in which Protestants and Muslims joined together in honor of Muhammad.
In the UK, church leaders wanted to invite the families of the London suicide bombers to a national memorial service in honor of the victims. Two senior Church of England bishops believed that extending the invitation to the bombers' families would acknowledge their own loss and send a powerful message of reconciliation to the Muslim community. Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, urged the nation to unite and turn would-be suicide bombers into friends by building "an inclusive circle of love."
The same Archbishop has also said that British Christians should see Muslims as allies in the struggle against secularism . A number of Christian, and some Jewish, leaders shared this point of view both during the death threats against Salman Rushdie and during the Danish cartoon Jihad.
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, about 10,000 Christians have been killed between 1998 and 2003 and about 1,000 churches have been burnt down by Muslim mobs. The radicals want Indonesia to be the foundation of a Southeast Asian caliphate that will launch Jihad against other nations such as Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia until they submit to Islam. In the Indonesian province Aceh, where sharia law officially prevails, Muslim mobs razed a church in response to a forged (by a Muslim) advertisement inviting Muslims to a Christian revival service. Witnesses said there were over 100 Muslim men present, many of them carrying swords. They poured gasoline over the building and set fire to it.
Why this aggressive reaction? According to Islamic law, Christians and Jews (not other religious groups) can live in an area dominated by Muslims, but only if they accept their status as second-rate citizens, dhimmis. This implies many restrictions, such as never trying to convert or preach to Muslims, never to have a relationship with a Muslim woman and never to say anything insulting about Islam or Muhammad. If even one single person breaches any of these conditions, the entire dhimmi community will be punished, and Jihad resumes. Notice that while Muslims, following each case of Islamic terrorism, are quick to say that not all Muslims should be punished for the actions of a few, this is precisely what sharia prescribes for non-Muslims.
What's worse is that in practice, as in this case from Indonesia, attacks on non-Muslims can be triggered by unconfirmed rumors, personal grudges by Muslims or outright lies. In reality, this means that all non-Muslims will live with a constant, internalized fear of saying or doing anything that could insult Muslims, which would immediately set off physical attacks against them and their children. This state of constant fear is called dhimmitude. Many Middle Eastern, Pakistani and Indonesian Christians know that as a matter of survival, they must say one thing in public and another in private. They are held hostage in their own countries.
In Egypt, a film depiction of someone converting to Islam and then becoming disillusioned with his new religion was enough to bring more than 5,000 protestors to the church, get a nun stabbed and three people killed. Muslims interpreted it as a breach of the traditional Islamic law mandating death for anyone who leaves Islam, and of the old dhimmi laws forbidding non-Muslims to proselytize.
Bishop Armia of the Coptic Church in Egypt, which predates the 7th century Arab invasion and preserves the last remainder of the language of the ancient pharaohs, assured that "Copts would never tolerate anyone insulting Islam." Coptic Pope Shenouda III, knowing fully well that any provocation could mean mayhem and murder for his fellow Copts, has reiterated that "any remarks which offend Islam and Muslims are against the teachings of Christ."
Several recent incidents have demonstrated that Muslims are now trying to apply these dhimmi rules to the entire Western world. The most important one was the burning of churches and embassies triggered by the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad. This was, down to the last comma, exactly the way Muslims would treat the persecuted non-Muslims in their own countries. The cartoon Jihad indicated that Muslims now felt strong enough to apply sharia rules to Denmark, and by extension NATO. Hardly anybody in the mainstream Western media made any attempts to explain this to the public.
In another case, angry protests raged across the Muslim world over a Newsweek magazine report that interrogators at the U.S. military prison Guantanamo Bay had put the Koran on toilets, and in at least one case flushing it down. The escalating violence prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to urge Muslims to resist calls for violence. "Disrespect for the Holy Koran is abhorrent to us all," she said. Newsweek later retracted their original article, which was found to be baseless.
In November 2002, days before the Miss World pageant in Nigeria, a Nigerian newspaper published an article in which the writer suggested that Islam's prophet, Muhammad, would have approved the pageant and would have chosen a wife amongst the contestants. The article sparked a Jihad riot in which over 200 people were killed and thousands injured. The next day, the newspaper published an apology. The president of Nigeria went on national television and condemned the newspaper. He said, "It could happen anytime irresponsible journalism is committed against Islam."
As one African observer later noted about the Newsweek story, the reaction of the White House in the United States was largely similar to that a Third World president gave when faced with the same challenge. For Muslims, the world's only remaining superpower appeared to play the role of dhimmis.
Bishop Artemije, the spiritual leader of Kosovo's beleaguered Serbs, has warned against Western support for an independent state in the province, where Muslim Albanians greatly outnumber Christian Serbs and have destroyed many churches and monasteries under the auspices of NATO soldiers. The Bishop warns that independence would reward ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims. Since 9-11, he said, "the United States has been engaged in a global struggle against jihad terrorism, which threatens not just America but peaceful people of all faiths and nationalities. That is why we who live in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija find it difficult to understand why so many voices of influence in Washington support a course of action that would hand to the terrorists a significant victory in Europe."
While Muslims responded with deadly outrage to the now-retracted report by Newsweek of alleged Koran desecration, there was little outcry when Islamic gunmen in 2002 holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, assumed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, used the Bible as toilet paper. About 30 priests, monks and nuns, and more than 150 Palestinian civilians, who hid inside to escape a gun battle between Israelis and Palestinians, remained inside the church with the armed militants for more than five weeks. Some of the Palestinian fighters, who belonged to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, part of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization, were received as heroes when they later returned to Gaza.
During the so-called Oslo peace process from the mid 1990s, while Palestinian authorities received financial support from Western nations, Arafat increased the boundaries of Bethlehem to include nearby Muslim villages, and encouraged Muslims to settle in the city. As a result, the percentage of Christians rapidly declined.
The Islamic gunmen were also responsible for the rape and murder of two Christian teenage sisters. The assailants claimed that the sisters had been murdered because they were "prostitutes" and had been "collaborating" with Israeli security forces. "The gangsters murdered the two sisters so that they would not tell anyone about the rape," said a family member. "Many Christian families have sent their daughters abroad for fear they would come under attack by Muslim men." "Some of the murderers were later killed by the Israeli army, but others are now living in Europe after they had sought refuge in the Church of Nativity. It's absurd that Muslim men who rape and murder Christian girls are given political asylum in Christian countries like Ireland, Spain and Italy."
Professor Weiner, Scholar in Residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, provides an in-depth look into the nearly uninterrupted persecution of Christians throughout the decade since the Oslo peace process began. The Christians have shrunk to less than 1.7 percent of the population in the Palestinian areas. "Tens of thousands have abandoned their holy sites and ancestral properties to live abroad, while those who remain do so as a beleaguered and dwindling minority," Weiner said. "Their plight is, in part, attributable to the adoption of Muslim religious law (sharia) in the constitution of the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the Christians have been abandoned by their religious leaders who, instead of protecting them, have chosen to curry favor with the Palestinian leadership."
More than 500 Muslim men, chanting Allahu akbar, attacked the Christian village of Taiba east of Ramallah. "They poured kerosene on many buildings and set them on fire. Many of the attackers broke into houses and stole furniture, jewelry and electrical appliances," said one resident. The attack was triggered by the murder of a Muslim woman from the nearby village of Deir Jarir. Her family forced her to drink poison for having had a romance with a Christian man from Taiba. Muslim men can marry Christian women, but Islamic law forbids Muslim women from marrying Christian men. The Christian community was thus collectively punished because it was rumored that one of their members had breached the rules of dhimmitude.
In a meeting attended by Robert Spencer, former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky noted that Israel had again and again aided Christians – at their own request – against Islamic violence and injustice, most notably when the Church of the Nativity was occupied by Jihadists in 2002. Yet international Christian leaders, he said, have not responded with similar gestures toward Israel. He is right. While Christians are persecuted on a daily basis in Muslim nations and may soon be wiped out in the Holy Land, Christian organizations in the West are too frequently engaged in "dialogue" with Muslims and demonization of Israel. Christians need to realize that they have much more in common with other non-Muslims, not just Jews, but Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Atheists, than they will ever have with Muslims. Jussi Halla-Aho, running for parliament in Finland as an independent candidate, has come to some of the same conclusions as I have regarding the Leftist-Islamic cooperation in many Western nations: The Left milks the working natives to maintain a predominantly idle immigrant population, who thankfully vote for the Left. The welfare state society thus has to support two parasites, each living in a symbiotic relationship with the other. This will eventually cause the system to collapse. Why would anyone support a policy that leads to certain destruction? Well, because a career politician never sets his sights 20, 50 or 100 years to the future but instead focuses on the next election. The short-term focus of our democratic system can thus, combined with Muslim immigration, turn into a fatal flaw.
But Halla-Aho asks an even more important question: "Why do the voters let all this happen? It is because Westerners like to be 'good' people and believe that their fellow men are equally good people. It is because they have humane values." "It is because the moral and ethical values of Western man have made him helpless in the face of wickedness and immorality."
Our Western "moral and ethical values" are profoundly influenced by Judeo-Christian thinking. Will our openness to outsiders, our democratic system and our Christian compassion, precisely the values that we cherish the most, render the West incapable of withstanding Jihad? A good Christian has to turn the other cheek and love his enemies. How are we to reconcile this with the reality that Muslims regard this as a sign of weakness? And how can we fight sharia when bishops and church leaders are the first to call for a "compassionate" immigration policy that allows masses of Muslims to settle here? Christians argue that Europe's problem is a cultural vacuum created by the retreat of church attendance and Christianity as a religion, which has paved the way for Islam to enter. They have a point, as I have shown before. But some Christian groups are opening the West to Islam, too, and the secular state doesn't have to be insipid and toothless. Far from it, it was secular states that fought and defeated the Fascist regimes during WW2 and risked the destruction of the planet in the Cold War. The non-religious authorities in China are far more ruthless in crushing any Islamic aggression than most Christian countries are. Of course, the downside is that they are far more ruthless in crushing anything deemed to be a potential challenge to their power.
Luckily, not all Christian leaders are appeasers of Islam. One of the intelligent ones comes from Australia, a country that has been fairly resistant to Political Correctness. They have taken serious steps towards actually enforcing their own borders, despite the predictable outcries from various NGOs and anti-racists, and Prime Minister John Howard has repeatedly proven to be one of the most sensible leaders in the Western world. George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, tells of how September 11 was a wake-up call for him personally:
"I recognised that I had to know more about Islam." "In my own reading of the Koran, I began to note down invocations to violence. There are so many of them, however, that I abandoned this exercise after 50 or 60 or 70 pages." "The predominant grammatical form in which jihad is used in the Koran carries the sense of fighting or waging war." "Considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for fear-reaching renovation is severely limited." "I'd also say that Islam is a much more war-like culture than Christianity." "I've had it asserted to me is that in the relationship between the Islamic and non-Islamic world, the normal thing is a situation of tension if not war, or outright hostility."
Pope Benedict XVI, nicknamed "God's rottweiler" as a cardinal, seems to embody elements of both the sensible and the silly Christian ways of dealing with the Islamic threat. Although Benedict has stressed the need for "reciprocity" in Christian-Muslim relations and urged Islamic countries to ensure religious rights for Christian migrants, he has also said that Christians should continue welcoming Muslim immigrants with open arms.
It caused an uproar in the Islamic world when Benedict XVI, as a part of a longer dissertation, quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor's hostile view of Islam's founder: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Benedict later said he was "deeply sorry" for the reaction to his comments on Islam and that the quote he used from the medieval text about holy wars did not reflect his personal thoughts. Although this technically constitutes a non-apology apology and was deemed "unsatisfactory" by Muslims, many anti-Jihadists would have preferred the Pope to use the opportunity to make a clearer stand against Islamic aggression.
Still, his comments raised public debate about the issue, and certainly marked progress compared to his predecessor Pope John Paul II, who kissed the Koran in public in an effort to reach our to Muslims.
I have described examples of incredible stupidity and appeasement from Christians in the West, but also of courage and clarity of mind in standing up to Islamic aggression and defending Western civilization and the world from sharia. The ideological civil war within the West is not just between secularists and religious people; it runs straight through the Church itself.
Christians need to understand that there can be no peace or understanding with the Islamic world. They want to subdue us, pure and simple. Church leaders of all denominations, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, must stop stabbing Israel in the back and campaigning for a de facto open borders policy while Muslims are threatening to swamp our lands. Yes, Christianity teaches compassion, but it also teaches identifying evil and standing up to it. At the end of the day, the Church must decide whether, in the defense of civilization, it wants to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.
Damian J. Anderson