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The Islamic Curtain, and Ours

Note: Fr. Gerald Murray and I will be appearing again tomorrow on EWTN’s “The World Over,” with Raymond Arroyo, which as it happens is the one-year anniversary of the McCarrick revelations. We’ll be talking about the recent documents on transgenderism and the Amazonia Synod, further news about the ongoing saga in Washington D.C., and much more. These are days, as Matthew Hanley argues below, when we’re called on to speak boldly – and somehow to do that with grace and nuance – which at times seem an impossible task. But we try to do that on TV and in these columns, every time out, because anything less would betray our Faith and the whole civilization to which it gave rise. We know you have many claims on your generosity. But please take a moment to help support us in this work. We’re drawing near the end of our funding drive now and every donation of whatever size becomes all that more crucial. – Robert Royal

I have a running argument with someone who is allergic to emphatically expressed truths.  I too admire the artistry of understated rhetoric and know that brusqueness can sometimes be counterproductive. But I tend to like robust speech as well – as long as it is true.

For example, Fr. Zakaria Botros, a Coptic priest who has labored courageously to lead souls to Christ from Islam, which he describes as “the biggest hoax perpetrated on the human race in 1400 years”.

That’s quite a statement. And a challenge to those of us who reflexively assume Islam to be one of the world’s “great religions.” Does he say this out of malice, or ignorance?  Far from it.  He says that many Muslims genuinely seeking truth wind up at that same life-changing conclusion. Fr. Botros specifies that he is driven to“attack Islam, not to attack Muslims but to save them because they are deceived. As I love Muslims, I hate Islam.”

The problem here is not his frankness, but that very few of us are knowledgeable about Islam, and therefore can’t even begin to evaluate his claim. Theodore Dalrymple, who is not Christian, is one of those few; he concludes that Islamism “is so stupid, so preposterous and intellectually nugatory, and so appallingly catastrophic in its actual effects, that it makes one almost nostalgic for the days of Marxism,” while hastening to add that this “is, alas, no obstacle to its spread.”

Hard words, to be sure. But what if these bold assessments are true?  Churchill famously lamented that an “Iron Curtain” imprisoned countless souls east of Berlin. Many appreciated his point back then – that communism is stifling and inhumane. Far fewer today seem perturbed that millions languish behind a similarly suffocating Islamic curtain.

Churchill also believed that slavery would not go extinct as long as Islam held sway, owing to the way it canonically devalues and subjugates women.  As much as we profess to detest slavery and the mistreatment of women, the lack of hue and cry about standard practices in Islamic communities is curious indeed. Are we supposed to make exceptions on such basic moral matters for Islam?

The West shrugs at Islamic infiltration in part because it is essentially indifferent to what Islam produces on its own soil. That is not a Christian stance – but what does the West care about Christianity anymore? Many people seem to think our secular wasteland represents an advance upon outdated Christian virtues.  Indeed, the same anti-Christian animus responsible for the Iron Curtain, partly accounts for why the Islamic curtain is descending upon Western locales.

As we take no notice of the depth of our own catastrophic spiritual collapse, we take no notice of the fact that acute misery is so disproportionally concentrated in countries dominated by the only major religion that not only fails to endorse some version of the Golden Rule, but that fervently opposes it.  Pope Francis and the “utopian socialists” at Facebook do no favors to Muslims (much less the rest of us) by carrying water for Islam, or stifling criticism of Islam.

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These are matters that are difficult to finesse. But that’s precisely the point: finesse can’t reconcile what is irreconcilable. As William Kilpatrick points out, “Neither Islam nor Christianity are moderate religions.”  Both make demands; both offer a sense of purpose that has evaporated from so many Western lives; both address all mankind.

But when their incompatible imperatives and precepts are taken seriously, they produce radically different results.  Illiteracy in such religious realities is no trifling matter; it’s dangerous.

Following the recent jihad attacks in Sri Lanka, certain politicians and media outlets awkwardly referred to the victims as “Easter worshippers.” Who talks like that?  It was an obviously co-ordinated attempt to downplay the fact that Muslims intentionally targeted Christians – and to suppress any hint that Islam explicitly encourages such evil acts.

Speaking of misleading language: have you noticed how the same media never seem to forget to stress “holy” part, when they mention the “Muslim holy month” of Ramadan, the “Muslim holy book,” or a particular “Muslim holy site.”

I’m talking big picture here, not trying to insult decent Muslims (of which there are many) or duped multiculturalists, many of whom good-naturedly want to regard the “other” positively even if they do not recognize the specifically Christian inspiration behind that impulse – which is alien to Islam.

That some Muslims, however many, buck Islam by repudiating beliefs about the innate inferiority of “infidels” and justifiable violence against them, cannot tell us whether, on the whole, Islam is holy; dissenters from vices Islam enshrines as virtues evidently suggest otherwise.

The larger point is urgent – and disregarded: we have trouble identifying (much less defending) what is holy, and what is not.  The whole question is treated as off limits, even unintelligible. The ongoing desecration of European churches, consistent with Islamic precedent, is thus greeted mainly with silence.

All this gives credence to the observation that much of the West is unconsciously displaying a death wish, with which Islam is quite happy to cooperate. Finding God and His wisdom brings happiness and life; whereas those who shun Him“do violence to themselves; all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:36)

It’s striking how aptly this describes both the Left’s Culture of Death and Islam’s – practically verbatim in the case of homicidal jihadists.

I’m open to suggestions as to how to convey these things in a moderate manner. But at the moment, it’s far more important we see them clearly. And – I believe – imitate St. Paul, who spoke boldly.

 

*Image: Pope Urban II Preaching the First Crusade by Francesco Paolo Hayez, 1835 [Gallerie di Piazza Scala, Milan, Italy]

Matthew Hanley

Matthew Hanley

Matthew Hanley is senior fellow with the National Catholic Bioethics Center. With Jokin de Irala, M.D., he is the author of Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West, which recently won a best-book award from the Catholic Press Association. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Hanley's and not those of the NCBC.