January 14, 2006


Saying sorry is not the answer (Charles Moore, The Spectator, January 14th, 2006)

Last month, in a town called Sangla Hill, a Christian man was playing cards with some Muslim friends. He won, and they resented this. The story was put about that the Christian had set fire to a copy of the Koran. Thousands of Muslims rioted, burning churches, schools, a convent and several Christian homes. The authorities did nothing to stop it, though they subsequently expressed regret that it had happened.

The Archbishop (of Canterbury–ed) arrived in Pakistan not long after these outrages. In the wake of the regret expressed, he said: "I am immensely encouraged that the problems caused by the blasphemy laws are being recognised by very senior politicians." I wonder how immensely encouraging that news really is. There was no suggestion that the blasphemy laws should be done away with or even modified. They won't be, because President Musharraf would regard such change as literally more than his life was worth. If I were a Christian living in Sangla Hill this Christmas, rather than Dr Williams with a return ticket to Lambeth Palace in his cassock, I would not be feeling immensely encouraged.

The Archbishop asked two questions in Pakistan, which he linked. "Are we, … as Christians," he wondered, "in thrall to an uncritical support of a Western political, geopolitical agenda?" Then he asked Muslims: "Can those who live in Muslim states create the conditions in which a Christian can be fully a citizen?" Perhaps he was just trying to be polite, but the Archbishop was setting up a moral equivalence that is quite false. The answer to his first question is blatantly "No". Have you ever been to an Anglican (or indeed Catholic) church where the sermon offers "uncritical support of a Western political, geopolitical agenda"? I calculate that I have heard more than 1,000 Anglican and 500 Catholic sermons in my life and I have never heard such a message preached. [...]

It occurs to me that the Archbishop, and other Western church leaders, are indeed promoting a Western political agenda, but it is almost the opposite of the one he described. The agenda - and, in the case of the Anglican Church, this is very closely co-ordinated with the British Government - is to try to placate. Sorry about the Crusades, sorry about George Bush, sorry, sorry, sorry, they say, in the hope that Muslims will start to say sorry, too. But where is the evidence that this pre-emptive self-abasement is working? The grim fact is that the development of Christian/Muslim official dialogue has coincided with much greater Muslim persecution of other faiths than 30 years ago.

It comes naturally to Anglicans - the product of an imperial structure, still known in the Gulf as "the Queen's Church" - to want to have talks with the potentates of other religions and polities. But these jaunts remind me of peace delegations to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. They create a structure of unreality and leave millions of the victims of persecution where they were before the delegations arrived - frightened and alone.

From the early Middle Ages, the story of the West has been the ebb and flow of the struggle between Church and state, secular and religious, individual and collective for dominance in authority over public life. There is a pretty good argument that the average citizen thrives safely when that struggle resolves in a respectful tie. Today, the left has been very successful in demonizing “the religious right” and spreading the fear that it seeks political power to implement a hidden theocratic agenda, but as Mr. Moore perceives, it is the religious left that has sold its soul to the temporal and seeks political influence to promote an anti-Western and even anti-religious agenda. And in that cause they are quite prepared to martyr, not themselves, but innocents in remote and savage lands.

Posted by Peter Burnet at January 14, 2006 6:27 AM

Yes. Peter is quite correct abou t this.

Let us consider also how Islam operates as a spiritual jailhouse. Persecution, exclusion, closed doors and closed minds--all these things weaken them. Muslim intolerance is a limitation; it is a check on their progress.

Some people used to call things like this "contradictions." It will be the main reason for their Untergang, a word which does not mean "decline"

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 14, 2006 2:01 PM