Saturday, January 17, 2015

Opposing Islam with charity

Christ triumphs over death: something denied by Muslims.
Over the last couple of months I've been looking at the archives of the 'Answering Muslims' blog, belonging to an Evangelical Christian, David Wood. (David Wood's mind-boggling conversion story video is worth viewing if you have a spare 30 minutes.) Wood has an impressive mastery of Islamic texts, including not just the Koran but the Hadiths and authoritative commentaries. It all gets quite complicated. He has taken the trouble to do what few Christians have done: with a decent grasp of the Islamic tradition, to subject it to relentless analysis and ridicule.

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: 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.

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  1. Most countries already deal with insult within law. Satire can be essential, but should stay within law and limits. I did not see the cartoons of Mohamed which provoked the murders, but the Tri-Une God one went too far. The ring of Cardinals, we have only ourselves to blame. (Quite funny I thought)!

    The important thing is that if Muslims want to live in our society they must accept our law and concept of what is proper. That means depictions of Mohamed and any reasonable satire, or objective, comment on their religion, Mohamed, or their god, or social aspects of it
    f they don’t like that, there is a simple solution. They can pack their bags and go to a Muslim country more to their taste. They cannot be allowed to impose their ideas of right and wrong on us by threat, intimidation and violence, which is what they do at present hence the frightened way of reporting by the Press and TV, at present.

    By the way “Jihad Watch” is a good site and good books are the “PC Guide to Islam (R Spencer)” and ”The West, Islam and Islamism (C Cox and J Marks)”.

    1. "the important thing is that if Muslims want to live in our society, they must accept our law and concept of what is proper"
      You mean like abortion, "gay marriage", soon to be euthanasia, and many other serious ills in society?

      So then does that apply to Catholics too? Do we just shut up and accept what we are told by the liberals in charge of society and it's propagandists?
      Of course, as Dr Shaw says, it would appear that Islam is far more acceptable to those who run our society than is Catholicism.
      And if that is because society is afraid of them then perhaps it is a pity that society is not afraid of Christianity too. Not because we will blow their heads off, but because we will stand up peacefully.
      If all medics who claim to be Christian refused to be involved in abortions then the two who stood up to the state wouldn't have been defeated and abortion would not so easily be attained.
      If all those who attended even just Catholic Churches had written to their MPs to threaten to withdraw their vote if they supported "gay marriage" then there would have been many MPs looking at their majorities.
      If Bishops and Priests refused Communion to so called Catholics who voted for such horrors then there would be far fewer so-called Catholic MPs in the liberal lobbies in Parliament. Instead they treat them as VIPs and give them jobs, or indeed as with Blair, accept them into the Church.

      Whilst I obviously don't agree with Islam, to the extent that I understand it, and I believe that you shouldn't go around murdering people, if those who don't like the way our society is are to pack their bags and leave, then I am off to buy some suitcases.

    2. Our laws say abortion and gay “marriage” are allowed. You may disagree, as I do, but we are under no obligation to comply, unlike the 70mph limit. Nor will I, and I trust you, attempt to murder gay propagandists, nor, I think, will they try to murder us. If so society would be afraid of all of us and lock us up - and rightly so.

      You raise a valid point. We Christians do not stand up peacefully. In comment I have frequently made the point that battles are more often lost than won. We Catholics have lost the battle because the Church in the past 60 years, laity priests and bishops, has become diverted, confused and in low morale. It has given up the struggle to influence society and retreated into a fearful defensive attitude, compromising with the secularist/contracepting / gay lobbies to a frightening extent as this coming second session on the Family might well illustrate. When, may I ask, did you last hear a priest mention abortion or gay marriage and also when did you last write to your MP or bishop?

      Now can we get back to re-establishing the Catholic Mass as the norm in the Western Church?

    3. Jacobi

      To answer your direct questions first. The last time I heard a Priest mention "gay marriage" was when he was supposed to be reading out the limp letter from the Bishops opposing it. He instead photocopied it, and told people to take a copy and read it if they wanted to!!
      My MP is one of those who is very sure of what he believes and not really subject to pressure. He opposes "gay marriage" but on other subjects he is on the wrong side. Nevertheless I do write to him three or four times a year to remind him that I am still around.

      You certainly have a good point about battles lost rather than won and the Church really has given in. Of course when Bishop Egan called for pro-abortion and pro-"gay marriage" politicians to be excommunicated he was slapped down by the Bishops spokesman.

      Yes you are right. I do not have to have an abortion or a "gay marriage".

      But it's not that simple.

      The Supreme Court has recently ruled that senior midwives are required to oversee abortions and of course doctors are required to refer a woman to another doctor if they don't want to approve her abortion.

      Council staff are required if their job is in the relevant department to be involved in "gay marriages" and people have been sacked from their jobs for publicly opposing it, even if it has no effect on their job.

      A cake shop in Northern Ireland is being sued by the so-called "Equality and Human Rights Commission" for refusing to bake a "Support Gay Marriage Cake", even though of course in N. Ireland it is still illegal.

      And Catholic schools are falling in with the government line and ensuring that future generations of Catholics are taught that all these things are right and fair. As one of my sons was told at school. "The Catholic Church is against gay marriage but that's not fair", whilst schools, including Primary Schools who don't give in so easily are being bullied by OFSTED.

      And of course, if I want to watch television at all, I am required to fund the BBC which is the propaganda machine of the secular liberal movement.

      So yes. You and I don't have to have an abortion or a "gay marriage". But very many people who share our views are required to actively participate in supporting and aiding such things, particularly if they still wish to earn a living.

    4. Yes, Docs OK, but midwives, council staff and bakers still have court actions outstanding, I trust. But no one is being murdered.

      Mr Chairman, I will now shut up on this subject. But may I say that this morning I managed to get to a Catholic (oh sorry Vetus Ordo) Mass and it was mosty interesting. Numbers about the same circa 65 including the servers and choir, but the age profile has changed quite noticeably.

      The congregation is younger, and equally mixed. In other words (we) oldies are failing, or keeling over, and being replace by new young very Post-Vat II blood!

  2. Robert Spencer of is a Melkite Greek Catholic. He was banned entering UK. He was supposed to give a talk on Islam. Fr Guy Pages, a French priest, is also a good resource on Islam as he had direct experience and he made it his mission to evangelize to Muslim.

    1. There is an article by Vittorio Messori in today’s Rorate Caeli which should be studied and reflected on.

  3. I think this is a parody.