Islamist terror alone cannot defeat Western civilisation. Only we have the power to do that – and some of us are doing our darnedest to try
It is difficult to see how Western civilisation and enlightenment values can fight back against the forces of fundamentalist, Islamist terrorism when the spiritual leader of 1.27 billion Catholics worldwide – my spiritual leader – desperately refuses to accept that Islam is connected in any with with Islamist terror attacks, and doggedly insists that there is no real difference between “Catholic violence” and Islamist violence.
From the Huffington Post:
Pope Francis said on Sunday that it was wrong to identify Islam with violence and that social injustice and idolatry of money were among the prime causes of terrorism.
“I think it is not right to identify Islam with violence,” he told reporters aboard the plane taking him back to Rome after a five-day trip to Poland. “This is not right and this is not true.”
Francis was responding to a question about the killing on July 26 of an 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest by knife-wielding attackers who burst into a church service in western France, forced the priest to his knees and slit his throat. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.
“I think that in nearly all religions there is a always a small fundamentalist group,” he said, adding “We have them,” referring to Catholicism.
“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics,” he said.
“If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent,” he said.
The Pope, like every apologist for Islamist terror, is arguing against a straw man here – nobody but people on the lunatic fringe believes that all Muslims are violent. This is simply not an argument being advanced by any serious person or organisation, yet time and again the forces of denial (particularly strong among the political Left and the church) seem to feel the need to waste precious time reminding us of the fact that most Muslims are immensely peaceful and decent.
Newsflash: we get it. Unfortunately, that does not erase the fact that the small proportion who harbour violent and murderous intentions are called to do so by a highly literal and entirely valid (if not mainstream in the West) interpretation of Islam. To take the actions of Al Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists and strip them of their religious justification is to remove the only context in which they make sense and can be properly understood.
The people who flew airplanes into the twin towers, blew up the London Underground, killed the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, massacred Parisian concertgoers at the Bataclan, used a truck to mow down families celebrating Bastille Day in Nice and who last week slit the throat of an elderly Catholic priest while he celebrated Mass did not commit these barbaric acts because of social isolation or economic deprivation. Other people bear far worse isolation and deprivation stoically, and do so without resorting to mass murder. Religion is the catalyst – in this case, a fundamentalist and literalist interpretation of one religion in particular. To deny this much is insane.
And yet Pope Francis proceeds to do just that. “I think it is not right to identify Islam with violence,” he tells us. Well nobody is seriously suggesting that all Muslims are violent, or indeed that Islam has a monopoly on violence. But to deny the causal factor which links hundreds of deadly terror attacks across the world over several decades is sheer lunacy.
Of course all religions have a fundamentalist sect within them, Christianity included. But in the year 2016 there are no armed groups of fundamentalist Christians seizing sovereign territory and declaring their own theocratic state in which horrendous Biblical punishments are meted out to gay people, adulterers, shellfish eaters, blasphemers, those who work on the Sabbath or those who are rash enough to wear clothing made from more than one type of cloth. And while you might get the odd lone wolf deciding to blow up an abortion clinic, there is no worldwide Christian jihad underway – despite Christianity being less favoured and more under threat in Western societies than has been the case for centuries.
Most concerning, though, is when Pope Francis says “if I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent”. Firstly, it is not necessary to balance any criticism of Islam with an equal measure of Christian self-flagellation. This isn’t a children’s party game, ensuring that everyone gets equal time is not an important prerequisite. So no, on does not have to speak of Catholic violence when one speaks of Islamic violence.
Francis then goes on to literally equate “someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law” with Islamist terror attacks. Now, of course murder is murder in God’s eyes, just as all life is sacred. But murder and domestic violence have sadly been with us for as long as humans have existed – since Cain killed Abel, in the Bible. Islamist terror, on the other hand, is not an inherent part of the human condition. It is a political and religious phenomenon which must be closely examined and confronted in isolation, not merely swept up together with all the other violence in the world.
By and large, Catholics who kill do not attempt to use their faith as a pretext or justification for their actions – their faith is incidental to their crime. But with terror attacks and honour killings it is quite the opposite. Islam is placed front and centre as the justification for the crime, not by the evil Islamophobic media but by the expressed words and sentiments of those people who carry out the attacks. It is they who insist that they murder in the name of their Islamic faith. It is they who bring death to those they regard as infidels based on the literal teachings of their holy books. It is they, not the racist and Islamophobic media, who call their organisation the Islamic State.
Why are we so unwilling to take the actions of these mass murderers at face value? If a man turns himself in to a police station and admits killing his neighbour for having an affair with his wife, after corroborating the basic facts we would take the man at his word as to the motive. We would not waste endless days and column inches wringing our hands trying to come up with other, far-fetched reasons why the defendant might have killed the man he caught sleeping with his wife. And so it is with radical Islam.
When Islamist terrorists force an elderly priest to kneel at the altar of his own church before slitting his throat in front of his congregation and do so in the name of the Islamic State, we should accept their sincerity (and their declared religious motive) just as we accepted that those terrorists who brought death to civilians, politicians and soldiers during the Troubles did so because of their desire to bring about a united Ireland. To stubbornly refuse to accept the reality of Islamist terror direct from the mouths of the terrorists is to patronise and condescend to the Islamists, stripping them of agency (and responsibility) for their own actions and turning them into helpless pawns, “forced” to commit their terrible atrocities by dark and mysterious outside forces.
This is dangerous nonsense, which would be bad enough coming from the mouths of cookie-cutter leftist politicians. But coming from the heir to St. Peter and the ultimate boss of the slain Abbé Jacques Hamel – the man who more than anyone should be pained by his murder and determined to confront and root out the violence which caused it – it is doubly depressing. When Islamist terrorists strike, we must take their declared motives at face value just as we would do for any other terrorist or criminal. And then we must harden our resolve to destroy the scourge of fundamentalist Islamism once and for all.
To do anything else is not only to bury our heads in the sand as to the nature and severity of the threat that we face, but it is also to dishonour the memory of the many victims of Islamist terror attacks. For they are casualties in a clash of ideologies and cultures – progessivism versus fundamentalism, moderate Islam versus militant Islam, the enlightenment versus the dark ages – which too many people, nominally on “our” side, seem more than willing to deliberately lose, so long as they can avoid giving offence to certain mystifyingly protected classes and ideas.
Postscript: It appears that the Spectator’s Damian Thompson has been thinking along the same lines:
In the 21st-century Middle East, Christianity has been suppressed on an astonishing scale. Countless atrocities have reduced ancient Christian communities to shrivelled and terrified ghettoes or underground churches. Although this persecution has been reported in the West, it is of no great interest to secular politicians or the media. It is, as Neville Chamberlain said in a different context, part of ‘a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing’.
On Tuesday, the blood of a martyr was spilled at the other end of the Channel Tunnel. Now Christians in the West have had a glimpse of what it’s like to be a follower of Jesus in the lands of the Bible and many other countries — not all of them Muslim, but a troubling number of them ‘close allies’ who benefit from British trade deals, foreign aid and general diplomatic brown-nosing.
Will the murder of Father Hamel awake Christendom from its torpor? Let me refer you to the Twitter account of one Dr Austen Ivereigh, hagiographer of Pope Francis and former spokesman for the English Catholic Church. He referred to the ‘pointless banality of the Rouen murder’ and urged us not to glorify it by ‘ascribing religious motives’. There’s your answer.
God help us.
Top Image: NCR
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