Continued from Living with an echo
The Dome of the Rock, erected on the site of the Jerusalem temple, has inscriptions on it from the Qur’an that declare: ‘Praise be to the God who begets no son, and has no partner’; and ‘He is God, one, eternal. He does not beget, he is not begotten, and he has no peer’.
Islam thus sees itself as the aggressive successor of both Judaism and Christianity. Muslim expansion and Catholic Crusades dominate European responses in the 7th-13th centuries. Then the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, and in 1529, and again in 1683 were besieging Vienna.
Yet, by the end of World War I, Islam seemed to be in inglorious retreat, with most Muslim countries living under non-Muslim rule. How times have changed!
Militant Islamic terrorism feeds on paranoia and conspiracy theories, and finds a soft target in Western decadence. At the moment, the USA looms large as both problem and solution, humanly speaking.
It is the problem in that it is the human source of so much of the decadence and superficiality of modern Western culture; and it is the solution in that it is the one great Western power militarily capable of standing up to the enemies of the West.
Mohammad came to usher in the reign of sharia (law), but Christ came to bring grace and truth (John 1:17). Sharia is the goal of Islam; it is wide-ranging, covering every area of life.
Can the secular West meet the challenge of Islam? For many, the myth has to be maintained at all costs, that religious indifference promotes peace and harmony. As in other parts of the Western world, questions have been raised in Australia concerning the compatibility of Islam and democracy.
The main question in Australia has been: ‘Should Muslims subscribe to Australian values?’ The Muslim group, Hizb ut-Tahrir (‘party of liberation’), have made statements along the lines of ‘Western values are not worthy of human subscription’. More specifically, it has targeted three topics — democracy, secularism, and Australia first.
‘Democracy sounds nice enough, [but] not to a Muslim … Sovereignty is for none but Allah’. Also, ‘Allah did not say … whatever the people want, we’ll have this’.
Secularism is rejected because ‘it relegates Allah to the margins of public life and places human beings above him. This, to put it blatantly, is as blasphemous as it gets’. Finally, ‘The overriding commitment of a Muslim is to Allah, and Allah alone’.1
Secular liberals and naive Christians have responded in horror to such an agenda, but the Christian with his Bible open can in a real sense relate to some of these criticisms.
There is, however, more than an element of farce in all this. In November 2008, Saudi Arabia hosted a United Nations conference on religious freedom. Saudi Arabia, of course, only permits within its borders the practice of a Sunni brand of Islam. Back in the days of Soviet tyranny, Lenin used to refer to ‘useful idiots’ who believed Soviet propaganda, and helped the Soviet cause.
This takes us onto the West’s reliance on democracy as a never-failing bulwark in the modern world. On 2 April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson of the USA asked Congress to declare war against Germany, with the argument that, ‘The world must be made safe for democracy’.
Naivety has a way of sounding innocent and noble, but it is actually destructive. All the ills of modern democracies are supposed to be cured by yet more democracy. Fareed Zakaria comments that, ‘Democracy has gone from being a form of government to a way of life’.2
So it has, but it has not led to civil peace, decency, and goodwill. One Iraqi man in 2003 welcomed the Western soldiers, and said that he wanted ‘democracy, whisky … sexy’.3
That sums it up: nobody to tell me what to do, pleasures abounding and increasing illiteracy. But beware of criticising this. As Theodore Dalrymple has commented, hell hath no fury like a multi-culturalist contradicted.4
The call for multicultural diversity is a thin disguise for ideological uniformity and moral bankruptcy.
Suggestions for solving the problems have abounded — more police, less alcohol, more laws against vilifying other nationalities or religions, more multiculturalism, less multiculturalism, more interfaith dialogues, more secularism, an Anti-discrimination Board on every street corner, and so it goes on. Platitudes and clichés are trotted out.
In 1996 Samuel Huntington wrote of ‘the clash of civilisations’, but recent events have looked more like the breakdown of civilisation — rather like Munich in the 1930s when Communist and Fascist mobs tore into one another.
Huntington writes: ‘To a very large degree, the major civilisations in human history have been closely identified with the world’s great religions’.5 The twentieth century saw the end of the expansion of the West and the beginning of a large-scale revolt against the West.
Huntington has a number of suggestions in order that Western civilisation might be preserved in the face of declining Western power, but the emphasis falls on political machinations and solutions.6
Christendom is that part of the world where the Christian faith is now mocked and scorned in schools, academia, and much of the public arena. In Meic Pearse’s words, openness has become ‘an anti-value’.7
The West has embraced affluence without meaning, and wants to inflict its anti-values on the rest of the world — coke cans, a culture of rap music and fashion, immodest dressing, homosexual marriages, and the glorification of the trivial.
Birth rate levels in the West are catastrophically low, and illegitimacy rates are catastrophically high. If it were not for immigration, most Western societies would not be replacing themselves.
One must be ‘progressive’ — a vague term which is actually another example of an anti-value. Christianity teaches both humility and self-worth; humanism proclaims self-esteem but achieves self-loathing. To cite Meic Pearse again: ‘The anti-culture begins by pleading tolerance for its anti-values and ends by devouring all who will not say its shibboleths’.8
In mid-2005 a Muslim named Salmaan sent an incisive and revealing email to an Australian journalist, Miranda Devine. Here he stated: ‘Most Muslims who have migrated to this country have been shocked by how universal values [and] gender etiquettes lasting a thousand years have been tossed aside in an orgiastic free-for-all in the last 20.
‘This is not what my parents expected when they came to this country. I am also sure that this is not what John Locke envisaged when he championed individual liberty’. 9
When war broke out in 1939, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked: ‘Have we a right to expect God to preserve a state of peace merely to allow men and women to continue a life that is an insult to His holy Name?’10
Near the end of 2006, the Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, delivered an address on multiculturalism. It was an exercise in empty breast-beating. He portrayed Britain as ‘a country at ease with different races, religions and cultures’. He boasted: ‘We have tough laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion, race, gender and disability’.
He spoke of our ‘essential values’ and named these as ‘belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage’.11
Amidst all the windy rhetoric, there remains no clear principle. It is laudable that people of other nationalities be treated equally, but it is abominable that same-sex couples be granted the right to adopt children.
In short, what Blair considered to be a declaration of policy was really a restatement of the major problem facing the West. Indeed, as Aristotle put it so long ago, a fish in water does not realise that it is wet. Western culture has become so immunised against biblical Christianity that it scarcely knows what it is.
The West has taken refuge in moral relativism, with its attendant emphasis on tolerance as the only remaining virtue. This has led to increasing degradation. The Netherlands produced a two-hour film to help potential immigrants meet the demands of a new entrance test. It apparently shows a woman sunbathing topless, and two men kissing in a meadow. Abdou Menebhi, chairman of a Moroccan interest group in Amsterdam, had good reason to say: ‘This isn’t education, it’s provocation’.12
The Netherlands is not alone in racing down the Gadarene slope. Germany is doing something similar, and this would obviously be the line of many who would argue for some form of ‘Western values’.
In 2005 Nicole Kidman appeared in a movie called Birth. In it, she sits naked in the bath with a boy who is supposed to be ten years old while they discuss their future sex life together.
The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification saw no problems with this, but to anybody whose moral sensibilities have not been completely deadened, it is obviously child sexual abuse.
Ms Kidman did, however, call a well-publicised press conference to announce that she was donating a watch with her signature on the case to the cause of the tsunami victims.
On 26 January 2006 it was announced that Ms Kidman had been made a Companion (AC) in the General Division ‘for service to the performing arts as an acclaimed motion picture performer, to health care through contributions to improve medical treatment for women and children and advocacy for cancer research, to youth as a principal supporter of young performing artists, and to humanitarian causes in Australia and internationally’.
The heading of the Sydney Morning Herald was ‘Our nation’s finest’!