January 27, 2005


Fundamental union: When it comes to defining family values, conservative Christians and Muslims are united against liberal secularists (Brian Whitaker, January 25, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

The idea of forging an international Christian-Muslim alliance to fight liberal social policies began to develop in 1996 when an event known to "pro-family" activists as The Istanbul Miracle occurred. It happened at a UN conference in Turkey called Habitat Two. Richard Wilkins - now head of the Mormons' World Family Policy Centre - was there and, according to his own account, helped to perform the miracle.

"The Istanbul conference," he wrote, "was convened - in large measure - by a worldwide, well-organised and well-funded coalition of governments, politicians, academicians and non-governmental organisations that were eager to redefine marriage and family life.

"Natural marriage, based on the union of a man and a woman, was described by professors, politicians and pundits as an institution that oppressed and demeaned women. The constant claim was that 'various forms of the family exist', and all 'various forms' were entitled to 'legal support'. The 'form' most often discussed by those in charge of the conference was a relationship between two individuals of the same gender."

Wilkins challenged all this with a four-minute speech on traditional family values which also castigated sex education in schools. He was hissed by some of the delegates as he returned to his seat but afterwards, he recalled, "I was approached by the ambassador from Saudi Arabia who embraced me warmly".

Wilkins gave the Saudi ambassador a list of suggested changes to the draft Habitat agenda, and The Istanbul Miracle was born.

"Thirty-six hours later, the heads of the Arab delegations in Istanbul issued a joint statement, announcing ... that its members would not sign the Habitat agenda unless (and until) certain important changes were made," Wilkins wrote.

As a result, the draft was altered to define "marriage" as a relationship between "husband and wife", and references to abortion were changed to "reproductive health".

International arguments about the family have raged ever since. The UN has said several times that "in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of family exist". This is a statement of fact as much as anything, but it is anathema to religious conservatives who dislike the idea of unmarried couples living together, and especially those of the same sex.

The UN points out that ideas of what a family is have changed over the last 50 years. Worldwide, there has been a shift from extended families to nuclear families as well as an increase in the number of cohabiting couples and one-person households. Family structures have also been changed by lower fertility rates, higher life expectancy, migration and, especially in Africa, HIV/AIDS. The UN therefore urges its members to take these changes into account when developing social policies.

Qatar's resolution in the General Assembly last month was part of the conservatives' ongoing struggle to turn back the clock, and once again Wilkins seems to have worked a miracle in getting it approved.

America will have more in common with the next Europe than with this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 27, 2005 9:34 AM

Right, OJ.

Murdering people for their religious beliefs, as occurs daily in the Islamic World, is a common American practice.

Is New Hampshire known for female circumcision and issuing fatwas ordering the murder of authors deemed blasphemous? Is it commonplace there for Baptist, Jehovah's Witness and Mormon missionaries to be murdered when they preach door-to-door? Are the leaders of minority religious faiths kept in solitary confinement for years on end?

(sarcasm intended)

Posted by: Bart at January 27, 2005 10:39 AM

It was.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2005 10:54 AM

When since 1776?

Posted by: Bart at January 27, 2005 11:20 AM

1838 1993 Too often to calculate.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2005 12:01 PM

As a matter of state policy?

Posted by: Bart at January 27, 2005 2:17 PM

Who do0 you think fought the Mormons and burned down the Branch Davidian?

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2005 2:23 PM

These were both anomalous occurences. The treatment of the Mormons was a disgrace and the product of local, not even state, government in Illinois and Missouri. American local government has never had a shortage of crooks, evildoers, sadists, sickos, wackos and other human excrement. The Branch Davidian massacre was happens when a trigger-happy, Marxist lesbian freak of nature is made Attorney General. It would be like saying America is a racist nation because of the Japanese internment in WWII. Of course, that internment was wrongful and racist but it was an anomaly.

OTOH, it is standard practice in every Muslim country to murder Muslims who convert to Christianity. Christian evangelism is illegal in every Muslim country. Hundreds of Christian missionaries are executed every year in Muslim countries. The Coptic Pope of Egypt has spent more time in prison than out in the last three decades and Egyptian Muslims feel free to murder Christians even in Jersey City as happened last week.

Americans have rejected violence in pursuit of religious goals, the Muslim world has not. Quite the contrary, the Muslim world worships violence against non-Muslims.

Posted by: Bart at January 27, 2005 2:38 PM

America is currently waging a religious war, of Christianity against a virulent form of Islam. We love religious violence.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2005 2:44 PM

We are not fighting a war against 'Muslims,' merely against terror. It is not their faith which activates our anger, it is their behavior.

Posted by: Bart at January 27, 2005 3:14 PM

America is currently waging a religious war, of Christianity against a virulent form of Islam.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2005 3:20 PM

Orrin is right twice.

America will have more in common with the next, Islamic Europe than the current one, if he gets his way.

And America is waging, sort of, a war against a virulent form of Islam.

It is not, however, waging a war against the slightly less virulent but just as evil and dangerous form of Islam.

Earlier this week, I was covering a planning commission meeting and had to leave during an executive session. To kill time, I walked across to the library and picked up the first magazine on the rack, which was the Oct/Nov American Muslim ('make sure American Muslim is in every public library in the land').

There was lots of interesting and very scary stuff in there -- remember, this is the organ of the moderate American Muslims -- but the phrase that ought to give Orrin the jimjams was that American Muslims are going to give this country 'a genuine rendition of monotheism.'

No more brothersjuddblog in that future.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at January 27, 2005 3:33 PM

Except that we're having far more effect on Islam than it will ever have on us--we're Reforming it in our image.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2005 3:40 PM

I dunno about that. Your remarks about daughters are closer to Arab ideas than to any I grew up with.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at January 31, 2005 1:46 AM

Yes, we don't want the,m to be like a modern democracy, most of which are in decline, but like we were in the 19th century. Then they'll be sustainable.

Posted by: oj at January 31, 2005 7:20 AM