|Christ triumphs over death: something denied by Muslims.|
I'm not entirely comfortable with the ridicule bit; I think that he overdoes it on occasion, and I think it would be more effective sometimes if he just let the texts speak for themselves. But hey, he's American and he's addressing an unsophisticated audience, so perhaps we can't really expect him to use understatement and irony. (Note to American readers: the previous sentence is a JOKE. And so was that one.)
Whenever I hear secularists talking about the limits of religious freedom, I know that they are going to apply whatever they come up with more rigorously against Catholics than against Muslims, so, paradoxically, I am inclined to side with the Muslims more often than otherwise I would. Muslims shock secularists by having Muslim state schools with some kind of separation between boys and girls; I don't agree with Islamic attitudes to women but I certainly don't like to see the secularists imposing gender theory on Catholic schools. Muslims talk about converting the world, and the secularists have the heeby-jeebies; I don't think the world should or indeed can be converted by the methods historically used by Mohammed and many of his followers, but Catholics also want to convert the world: there's nothing wrong with that aspiration in itself. I am in Hamlet's position in relation to Laertes:
...by the image of my cause I see
The portraiture of his.
One aspect of this is of course the issue of deliberately insulting images and the like. Since we can't expect the secular authorities to make distinctions between religions, we find ourselves defending the Muslims' sensibilities as well as our own. And indeed, it is true that it is not morally defensible to engage in gratuitous insult against what is held sacred by others, as the Pope so memorably expressed it. But we don't want to get drawn in to the question of it being wrong to depict Mohammed at all. And not all insult is gratuitous...
I think this dilemma is widely felt among Christians in the West. But we also have an obligation - not just a right, but an obligation - to give witness to the truth. Muslims are not only arriving in our countries by immigration, but are converting Westerners, and not only in prisons; as David Wood explains, they are using arguments to do so. It seems to me that if Islam were subjected to the kind of systematic analysis and criticism to which Christianity has been subjected, we would be in a very different situation.
It is true that groups subjected to ridicule by the mainstream can flourish and attract people who feel alienated by the mainstream; this is already part of the explanation for the success of radical Islamic groups. That is one reason against using invective and mockery. Patient argument and a pointing out of problems in the Islamic tradition should not have this result. Sadly, for the last half century the Catholic Church as an institution has not encouraged serious intellectual engagement with other faith traditions, or with atheists and agnostics, of the kind we find happening in the works of an earlier generation of apologists. It's not a matter of being aggressive, it is a matter of working out where the basis of our disagreement lies and not being ashamed of our own tradition (see my post Why Catholic Apologetics Doesn't Work). And it involves being prepared to say that certain positions are mistaken.
I don't expect Muslims to say that Catholicism is a true religion. And I hardly think they would be shocked or insulted to hear that I think that Islam is a false religion. The falsity has consequences, and we must take those consequences as seriously as the Muslims, from their own perspective, take them.
As an intellectual, moral and spiritual proposition, Islam is open to criticism on a number of fronts. Here is a video made by Muslims, via the Answering Muslims blog, which needs no comment from me. We need to have a conversation with these individuals.
Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.