Friday, March 24, 2017

Islam and the decadent West

Reposted from the time of the Paris attacks, November 2015. Requiescant in pace.


I've not had time to write anything about the terrible massacres in Paris. It was good to be able to attend a solemn Mass for the dead the day after the killings had taken place. Every Mass for the dead, and practically all traditional prayers for the dead, even if they are for the benefit of a specific person or group of persons, is also for 'all the Faithful departed'.

May they rest in peace. And may God protect us all from an unprovided death.

I've done a number of blog posts criticising the approach to understanding and tackling Islam taken by various people, notably the zealous Evangelical David Wood, and the American Syrian Catholic Robert Spencer. In the comments to one of these posts a reader recommended a book by a Jesuit who hails from the Levant, Samir Khalil Samir, which proved to be excellent. Samir has given a very interesting interview to Edward Pentin, in which he explores the way the West is seen from the Arab Muslim perspective, an important factor, obviously, in these attacks.

Here are some extracts:

Muslims know that modernity is coming from the West; this is a fact. Now they see the West as having lost its ethics, especially on sexual questions. They’re very shocked by what they see or hear. … So they say this comes from modernity. They want to reject the excesses and abuses of some principles, but end up rejecting the whole thing. The problem is that the West is responsible, without knowing it, of the reaction of the Muslim world.

When Muslims see that, they immediately recall that homosexuality is absolutely condemned in the Quran, with reference to the biblical Lot. See chapters 7: 80-81; 11: 77-82; 15: 58-74; 21: 74; 26: 165-166; 27: 54-55; 29: 28-30; 54: 33-34. In some cases, they were burned alive. Then the Muslims say, “Okay, the West is Christian, Christianity allows this, and so Christianity is not the true religion; it’s a false religion. And we want to be true, to stick to the Quran and to the tradition.”

This means we are partly, indirectly responsible for the fanaticism that is spreading more and more in Islam, as a reaction to the West — not only, but this also — and playing a role in the radicalization of Islam.

We have to be careful, in responding to terrorism, that we don't allow acts of terror to give a kind of legitimacy and political importance to extreme views, views unpopular even with an ethnic or religious population the terrorists claim to represent. 'Most Muslims reject the ideology of ISIS', goes the mantra, and I have no doubt that it is true. What we do need to do, however, is to consider the issues which give terrorists whatever degree of popular support they do have, for by dealing justly with the legitimate concerns of the population from which the terrorists come, one can begin to drain the swamp. 

So rather than looking at terrorists' demands, if indeed they have any coherent demands, it would be better to look at the much bigger picture of the religious revival the world is currently undergoing. Demanding and vigorous versions of several strains of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Pentecostalism, have all taken off in the decades since the end of the Cold War. What they have in common is a rejection of Western materialism, which they associate with Western political hegemony. The package they offer has had considerable appeal not only in former colonial countries, where resentment of the West might be expected, but in the West itself, and not only among the dispossessed, but among the comfortable and educated. You don't have to lack material possessions to experience the emptiness of materialism: on the contrary. Islamic terrorism, like the Hindu and Buddhist mobs who burn down churches, are an extreme manifestation of this much bigger phenomenon. The anti-Christian violence comes, as Samir notes, from an association of Christianity with Western values. But as a matter of fact, the recent Paris attacks targetted, among other things, a Rock concert.

The Eagles Of Death Metal band was in the middle of the show when the assailants attacked the Bataclan.
Pseudonym of its singer: The Devil Jesse Hughes. In a European tour to defend their new album Down Zipper (!), the first in seven years, the rockers were playing on stage the Title: Kiss the Devil when the first shots were heard inside the room…

IMG_9750Western culture has major aspects which are an affront to God, to the Natural Law, and to Reason. What I have argued here, is that what we urgently need is a critique of the decadent West which is specifically Catholic, at once sane and radical. As I wrote:

"The problems posed by the de-secularisation of the world are not going to be solved overnight, but we can do something to stop making things worse. We can assert the Catholic critique of the decadence of Western culture, especially sexual culture. If there is one concrete gesture which might make those being drawn towards militant Islam stop and think that, perhaps, the Catholic Church may not be part of the problem they are trying to address, then it might be the restoration of head-coverings in church by Catholic women in the West. This would signal a rejection of both decadent sexual mores and of the attack on the difference between the sexes.

"Contemplate the likelihood of this happening any time soon, and you will glimpse the depth of the problem."

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  1. This reminds me of a news article I read some time ago about American service members in Afghanistan being suspended from duty as a result of inflicting a savage beating on one of the Pashtun warlords who was noisily raping a young boy in the adjoining barracks. As it turns out, part of the reason for the Taliban's enduring popularity there was because they were one of the only ones standing up to the very Pashtun pederasts whom America has since returned to power, and whose predations she sponsors on her own bases.

  2. Anonymous10:36 pm

    So, what you're saying is that while Christianity is hated and ridiculed by the West, it is at the same time, in the eyes of the rest of the world, the West. They do not differentiate between the modern and secular West and the ages past. Would this be a correct interpretation? How miserable for us then, to be loathed by both sides, to have our Religion associated with the decadence of its rejection, to not even have a drop of pity from even the heathen.

    But the question then is, are they stupid?, or is it simply an impossibility for them to grasp the atheistic government?

    1. In fairness, it's not like most members of ISIS have ready access to a Catechism. Also in fairness, it's not as if the public conduct of the vast majority of Western Catholics (including our churchmen) isn't enthusiastically supportive of almost every moral evil imaginable.

  3. They hate the West, and they hate Christianity. It wouldn't matter if Catholics were more moral, or advocated for a more moral society. They would still hate us.

  4. The fact is that the Christian churches in the West have not done enough to dissociate the selves from the decadence. Go into the acerage Catholic church, and you can see the decadence right there - expressed in dress, for example.

    1. Anonymous11:11 am

      You're right. I was assuming at least some sort of knowledge about the turbulence of modern Christian history. I suppose, if I was an Arab Muslim, I would believe the few European Catholic leaders standing up for Our Lord as much as I do the Arab Muslims who pretend Western values. That is to say, they come mainly in two categories: the genuine, useless idiot, and the liar.

      However, I still think an outsider should easily be able to discern that while the Church has not rejected the culture of the West, or not firmly enough, the West has rejected the Church. And it is the West they are occupied with, a West where the Church is barely seen or mentioned, and when it is, it's ridiculed. I cannot grasp someone failing to see this, especially those Muslims who were born or raised in Europe. They know it as well as anyone of us.

      Then again, I have weak memories of being a pathetic, atheistic teenager hating Christianity more than anything despite its non-existence and having never even met a Christian, but still I hated it because I did see it as an enemy of everything good (that is, secular, Enlightenment, modern). Even though it was a phantom it was very real. And I remember reading on sexually perverted weblogs, this year, how they dreamed of a world where Christianity wasn't the dominant power. My point being, we see what we want to see, whether it is in line with reality or not.

    2. Absolutely right. We are horrified by the killings by ISIS but turn a blind eye to the killing of 500 unborn children every day in this country. And no one has been blinder to this than certain of our Bishops.

  5. Except that Islam has always waged war on Christendom. Current events surely have nothing do with modernity, whatever Fr Samir might say. Modernity is surely an excuse, at most.

    And that Pashtun warlord was presumably a Moslem. And I understand that Afghanis, Arabs and Turks, at least, have rather a reputation for buggery.

    So I'm not convinced.

    1. The decadence of the West is an added factor in the response of Islam. I do not think Fr Samir is saying anything more than that.

    2. They have a reputation for buggery rather like Western Catholicism has a reputation for buggery: it is a reputation created by the repulsive behavior of their decadent elite, the priorities they have established, and the populations they choose to flatter, bitterly resented by the powerless non-crazies subject to their rule.

  6. The West has de-Christianised. Arab Islam, that is the Sunni branch of Islam, financed by Saudi Arabia, sees, and is seizing its its opportunity. The idea that we have in any way provoked them is wrong.

    For some reason, Samir mentions active homosexuality for provoking that particular branch of Islam. This is nonsense, since that sin is widespread amongst Muslims often as a way of humiliating the “non-believer” and as such can no doubt be justified under their irrational reasoning. This has happened recently in Pakistan.

    The present conflict that we, that is the Christian World, what is left of it, and the Secular world, are having with Islam, is simply the latest example of Islam seizing its opportunity as it has done many times in the past fourteen centuries, to establish the Universal Caliphate.

  7. Islam is predominantly a third-world religion. The last great Islamic Power was the Ottoman Empire, which had been in decline since the seventeenth century and met its final demise at the hands of the Western powers (Britain and France) almost exactly a century ago.

    Resentment of the commercial and military dominance of the West is more significant than its perceived moral decadence. The Ottoman court was hardly noted for its moral probity and the West long regarded the East as synonymous with decadence.

    Modern Turkey chose to define itself not in terms of a purer form of Islam but as a secular state which forcibly imposed Western values and pushed Islam into the background.

  8. Muslims know the West is in decay and believe, with good reason, the time for the next great assault on Europe has arrived. They no doubt believe that their god has created this opportunity/

    The West, in the person of Merkel has actually invited them in!

    This Western confusion between the silent de-moralised Christians in the West, which now includes the Catholic Church, and the anti-Christian Secular Western thinking means that we now will have over the next 5 years a major problem on our hands which will make Communion for adulterers in Catholic life, and civil partnership in civil life, which some of us have been getting a bit concerned about, sink into insignificance for a few decades, as Islam advances boldly on all fronts.

    It will not be pleasant and the outcome at this stage is unclear. By the way I did not know that Spencer was a Catholic. That greatly enhances the respect I already have for his views!