Bishop warns of the Islamification of England and the death of the C of E

Is he an hysteric, a prophet, or a tragically doomed Cassandra? Time will tell if Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester in the Church of England, is correct to warn of the end of the Christian faith in that country, something he already sees happening in various British communities:

In fewer than 50 years, Britain has changed from being a society with an acknowledged Christian basis to one which is increasingly described by politicians and the media as “multifaith”.

One reason for this is the arrival of large numbers of people of other faiths to these shores. Their arrival has coincided with the end of the Empire which brought about a widespread questioning of Britain’s role.

On the one hand, the British were losing confidence in the Christian vision which underlay most of the achievements and values of the culture and, on the other, they sought to accommodate the newer arrivals on the basis of a novel philosophy of “multiculturalism”.

This required that people should be facilitated in living as separate communities, continuing to communicate in their own languages and having minimum need for building healthy relationships with the majority.

Alongside these developments, there has been a worldwide resurgence of the ideology of Islamic extremism. One of the results of this has been to further alienate the young from the nation in which they were growing up and also to turn already separate communities into “no-go” areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability.

Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them. In many ways, this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation. Attempts have been made to impose an “Islamic” character on certain areas, for example, by insisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer.

Such amplification was, of course, unknown throughout most of history and its use raises all sorts of questions about noise levels and whether non-Muslims wish to be told the creed of a particular faith five times a day on the loudspeaker.

This is happening here even though some Muslim-majority communities are trying to reduce noise levels from multiple mosques announcing this call, one after the other, over quite a small geographical area.

There is pressure already to relate aspects of the sharia to civil law in Britain. To some extent this is already true of arrangements for sharia-compliant banking but have the far-reaching implications of this been fully considered?

It is now less possible for Christianity to be the public faith in Britain.

The existence of chapels and chaplaincies in places such as hospitals, prisons and institutions of further and higher education is in jeopardy either because of financial cuts or because the authorities want “multifaith” provision, without regard to the distinctively Christian character of the nation’s laws, values, customs and culture.

Not only locally, but at the national level also the establishment of the Church of England is being eroded. My fear is, in the end, nothing will be left but the smile of the Cheshire Cat.

Read the rest here.

Bloody Mary’s revenge

Bloody Mary — or Mary I, her more official title — was Henry VIII’s oldest daughter by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Raised by staunchly Catholic parents, she too was staunchly Catholic. By the time she was about 16, however, Henry VIII was troubled by Catherine’s inability to bear a son (because the dynastic consequences were huge) and was madly in lust with Anne Boleyn.

As you all know, when the Pope, who was utterly dependent on Charles V of Spain, Queen Catherine’s nephew, refused to grant Henry either a divorce or an annulment, Henry found his own way out of the situation, which was to declare himself head of the British church. In effect, if he couldn’t divorce the Queen, he’d divorce Rome. Being of a bullying nature, he worked hard and brutally to force Mary to give up her allegiance to Rome, but she refused to do so — and suffered mightily for that refusal, including being barred from seeing her beloved mother as the latter lay dying.

Things got even worse for Mary after her father’s death, when Edward VI ascended the throne. Unlike Henry, who remained Catholic to his death, despite rejecting Roman supremacy, Edward VI was a hardcore Protestant, as were those who ruled in his stead (since he was a minor when he ascended the throne). Edward and his ministers worked hard during his short reign to remove all “Papish” influences from England, and to “Reform” the English church entirely. When it became apparent that Edward would not live past his 16th year, Edward and his ministers conspired to elevate Lady Jane Grey to the throne, despite the fact that Henry VIII’s will had given Mary the succession after Edward.

Poor Lady Jane reigned for only nine days before the people of England — or, rather, the people of Southern England, especially in and around London — who had no liking for being manipulated, surged behind Mary and placed her on the throne. (Incidentally, after Mary became queen, she tried being lenient to Jane Grey. When it became apparent, however, that Jane Grey was a rallying point for those who wished to see a Protestant England, Mary very reluctantly sent Jane to the block.)

Mary’s reign started with real hope. People liked her, they admired her tremendous loyalty to the old faith and to her mother, and they appreciated her resemblance to her father. The problem was that this same loyalty had created in Mary a kind of rigidity that she could not leave behind when forced to rule a more diverse England than that into which she was born. She immediately set about restoring Catholicism and reaffirming England’s allegiance to Rome, but she coupled that with a couple of things the English found intolerable: she married Phillip of Spain, and appeared to be giving him (and, therefore, Spain) more power than the xenophobic British people could stand and, when certain British people expressed a preference for Protestantism over Catholicism, she felt it was her bounden duty to burn them.

It’s rather interesting that the British took so much umbrage to the burnings. This was, after all, an exceptionally violent age. Bear baiting, and dog and cock fights, which invariably ended with all the animal combatants dead or horribly wounded, were considered good entertainment for the whole family. More crimes than we can imagine were punishable by death — hanging for the commoners, beheading for the rich and powerful. Torture was common.

Death was also omnipresent from natural causes. Plague still reoccurred on a regular basis; the sweating sickness, a killer disease unique to England showed up regularly; and people died from everything from an infected toenail, to childbirth fever, to measles, to you name it. Child morality hovered around 50%, as it would until well into the Victorian Age. Death — violent, horrible, suffering death — was omnipresent.

Yet for all death’s familiarity, ordinary Englishmen drew the line at burnings. Burnings were Spanish and Papist. They were foreign and utterly un-English. Mary’s burnings also had no class distinction and the common people, rather than being pleased by this macabre democratic approach to heresy, were appalled. Feelings hardened and even those people who had a laissez faire approach to religion, in that they would go whichever way the monarch went, suddenly decided that Catholicism was foreign and mean and ugly.

By the time the well-intentioned, fundamentally kind, but dogmatic and religiously fanatic Mary died, the British people were grateful to see the last of her. They were also grateful when the flexible, pragmatic Elizabeth came to the throne. She was happy with a middle way religion and freely professed that she had no desire to peer into her subject’s souls. It was very early in her reign, therefore, that the British settled into the great compromise, which was a religion that was an amalgam of Protestant and Catholic doctrine and ritual.

And so the Anglican church that we know was born under Elizabeth. Mary knew this would happen — she was resigned to it at her death — but it was a terrible heartache for her. Her tragic and pathetic life was defined by her hope that England would be restored to the true faith, and she viewed that as a gift she was bestowing on her people. She never could understand why they wanted to reject that gift, and why they viewed the burnings as an insult rather than a remedy aimed at the unpleasant, but necessary task, of purifying England to save the English.

It’s an interesting history, certainly, but why should we care today? We should care today because, for the first time since Bloody Mary died, her religion has truly been restored to British soil, and I’m not just talking about Tony Blair’s conversion. Instead, despite the fact that Britain’s Muslims are probably having more babies than any other religious groups, it is the immigrants from Eastern Europe and Southern Africa who are currently have the greatest effect on the country’s faith — they’re turning it Catholic:

Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as the country’s dominant religious group. More people attend Mass every Sunday than worship with the Church of England, figures seen by The Sunday Telegraph show.

This means that the established Church has lost its place as the nation’s most popular Christian denomination after more than four centuries of unrivalled influence following the Reformation.

Girls from the Salisbury Cathedral Choire School rehearsing
Girls from the Salisbury Cathedral Choir School rehearsing. While church-going declines, cathedrals fare better

Last night, leading figures gave warning that the Church of England could become a minority faith and that the findings should act as a wake-up call.

The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. A survey of 37,000 churches, to be published in the new year, shows the number of people going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans ­worshipping.

The rise of Catholicism has been bolstered by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe and Africa, who have packed the pews of Catholic parishes that had previously been dwindling.

Read the rest of the story about the changing face of Britain’s Christianity here and here.

If Mary is in the Heaven in which she so devoutly believed, she’s quite happy right now.

Judeo-Christian doctrine and moral freedom

I did a post yesterday in which I quoted from an interview with Michael Cappi regarding the fact that Islam, unlike Judaism or Christianity, is not a religion that concerns itself with broader moral issues that rise above mere tribal law. I’d actually made precisely the same point in an earlier post, here. In connection with this most recent post, however, I got the following comment, which I reprint here verbatim, and which I thought was absolutely fascinating:

this person became interested in islam for what ? to embrace it or to pick, and nick and misquate,and then on top pour all the filth on islam with the likes of Rushdie, Ali Sana,Ali Hersi etc the so called humanists who have nothing to offer but nothingness,while islam comes with the full package, and answers for all your problums and they can not stomach it.they know that islam has tasted rule and one who tastes it wants it at any cast,and these poor humanist and winging liberals will be the loosers. their ways and rules have every one in mess , the biggest problum man faces is , alcaholism,the answer is in islam,gambling, again the answer is in islam,pornography,and degrading of your sisters and mothers,the answer is islam,rape ,every year over 20000 your sisters are raped in Amercia just alone,you aply the islamic law and the rate will be 0.01%,while on the other hand the law of these human wishy woshers allow the rapest to get a few years in jail where he fed and made even stronger so when he gets out he goesand rapes the other sister. shame on you ,keep listening to these devils and you will loose your daughters wholesale. so come on people look at islam your self and avoid these wingers and scare mongers. (Emphasis mine.)

As you can see, the part that really intrigued me was the bit in the second half about rape, since it seemed to highlight the way in which both Islamists and the Left view people, and may go a long way to explaining why people professing these radically different ideologies (Leftism and Islamism) can work so well together. The fact is that, although they devise different (or no punishments) for whatever crime is before them, neither believes in free will or in man’s ability to make moral decisions independent of his immediate circumstances.

Let me start with Islam’s view of free will. Actually, considering that “Islam” means “submission,” I probably don’t have to do this discussion at all, since the name tends to be a giveaway about the religion’s approach to free will. Nevertheless, I’ll still give you my little analysis explaining why I think that Islam denies that man has a moral capacity that can override his animal instincts.

It’s obvious that Islam is misogynistic. What’s less obvious is its misanthropy. The blatant misogyny is, of course, known to all of you and tends to fall into the three categories: (1) the restrictions placed on and abuses against women’s bodies and their brains, (2) the horrible punishments enacted against them for deviating from Muslim norms, and (3) the honor killings that reflect their chattel status within a male dominated culture.

The misanthropy is less overt, but it actually lies behind all these horrors visited against Muslim women: In Islam, men are viewed as so weak and animal-like that they cannot be expected to resist women’s lures. That is, a man who sees a woman uncovered or unaccompanied cannot be expected to resist taking her sexually. He is helpless.

This view of men, as utterly unable to overcome their basic instincts is, to my mind, a pathetic view that denies the possibility of free will, moral calculation or strength of character. All men are animals, controlled by their lust, and all women are mere sexual objects who must be erased for men’s protection. The Sharia laws reflect this debased view of human kind in the its punishments are extreme and violent.  They assume that men (and women) will be dissuaded from wrongful acts only if they are subject to death, dismemberment or whipping.  The concept of redemptive punishment for crimes less than intentional murder — the type of punishment that sees you lose freedom, time and dignity, but that is not a brutal physical assault against you, and that holds out the possibility of starting fresh — is alien in this world view.  In Islam, men cannot be trusted to make good decisions at the front end, nor can they be trusted to learn from bad experiences at the back end — only the most violent dissuasion will work against them.

Things on the Left aren’t much better, although the Left’s degraded view of mankind is a little bit less obvious. It starts with the Leftist principle that all people are controlled by their environment. If you’re poor; if you’re black; if you’re Hispanic; if you’re female; if you’re the victim of spousal, parental or sexual abuse; if you live in the Third World; if you’re in a former colony — all of these factors mean that, if your conduct is violent and antisocial, you get a pass. You cannot be held responsible for your actions.

The above paragraph is fairly abstract, so let me reduce it to more concrete terms. The view that environmental factors are so strong that people are incapable of exerting self-control or making moral choices appears most clearly in the way liberals view African Americans. My default example is Damian Williams, one of the young black men who savaged Reginald Denny during the Rodney King riots. Although there was no doubt that he had tried to kill Denny, Williams was still acquitted.

In a newspaper interview, Williams explained away his conduct by saying that he was “caught up in the rapture.” Indeed, as the New York Times reported at the time, “Mr. Williams, a 20-year-old black man, was acquitted in October of most charges against him by a sympathetic jury.” I believe that, had Williams been a white man who killed gays or blacks, that statement and the verdict that preceded it would have been held up by the liberal establishment as disgusting, horrific and vile. As it was, my memory (and I’m open to correction here) was that the media piled on with a bunch of stories about young men, and black rage, and mob identity, etc. In other words, being caught up in the rapture was a pretty acceptable excuse for trying to beat a man’s head in because he was the wrong color, in the wrong place. No one seemed concerned that a young man, a human being, had behaved like an animal, and no one seemed to expect better from him.

The next obvious example of this kind of liberal nihilism regarding man’s moral capacity is, of course, the reporting about Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Within days of the hurricane, Randall Robinson, a prominent black activist, was stating that African-American hurricane victims were cannibalizing each other. He eventually had to retract that claim.

Although the cannibalism assertion was patently ridiculous to anyone who thought about it (it had only been three days since the Hurricane, for goodness sake), it got a lot of press, probably because the media was perfectly ready, with the best intentions in the world, to think the worst of the African-American hurricane victims. Why else would they instantly have begun reporting lurid stories of murder, rape, and suicide? (Here’s one example: “Stories of rape, murder and suicide have emerged.”)

Ultimately, it turned out that one man alone was responsible for widely spread and credulously accepted reports to the effect that, during his stay in the Superdome, a man was murdered, a woman was raped and stabbed, and a man jumped from a balcony. The media ate it up. Other reports had murder in the streets, widespread looting, and rape all over New Orleans. (This story from England is a good example.)

Almost without exception, the above stories about base black behavior were untrue. Shortly after the media had everyone a’twitter with this hysterical reporting, it emerged that almost none of the anarchy alleged had actually happened. Even the World Socialist Website attacked the completely inaccurate reporting emerging from Katrina, although it predictably saw the rumors as part of a government plot.

Both of these examples, whether dealing with actual fact (Williams really did try to kill someone) or rumor (the Katrina reports), operate on the same basic premise: blacks are economic/racial victims and are therefore incapable of controlling themselves under circumstances in which we could expect more from people of other (read:  white) races.

As I said, this kind of thinking isn’t limited to blacks, of course. It’s part of the whole Marxist/Freudian soup that hit mainstream America big time in the 1950s. West Side Story is a frivolous paradigm of both this belief system and of a moment in time when liberal American was still capable of taking a step back from, and laughing at, these Marxist belief systems about race, economics and class. Mr. Bookworm recently screened the movie for the kids and, watching it, I was struck, as always, by the utterly shallow thinking about race and economics that lies behind it. I’m not discounting the fact that there were racial tensions in all emerging immigrant neighborhoods, as there still are, but this musical makes very clear that the real issue lies with the doctrine that was to take over in America — it’s not the malfeasor’s fault, it’s our fault because he is poor.

As I said, West Side Story is an early example of this now pervasive thinking, so liberals were still able to recognize the problems it could create when it came to assigning blame for wrongdoing — as demonstrated by Stephen Sondheim’s patter song “Gee, Officer Krupke“:

ACTION
Dear kindly Judge, your Honor,
My parents treat me rough.
With all their marijuana,
They won’t give me a puff.
They didn’t wanna have me,
But somehow I was had.
Leapin’ lizards! That’s why I’m so bad!

[snip]

Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care!
It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
He’s psychologic’ly disturbed!

[snip]

DIESEL: (Spoken, as Judge) In the opinion on this court, this child is depraved on account he ain’t had a normal home.

ACTION: (Spoken) Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived.

DIESEL: So take him to a headshrinker.

ACTION (Sings)
My father is a bastard,
My ma’s an S.O.B.
My grandpa’s always plastered,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!

A-RAB: (As Psychiatrist) Yes!
Officer Krupke, you’re really a slob.
This boy don’t need a doctor, just a good honest job.
Society’s played him a terrible trick,
And sociologic’ly he’s sick!

[snip]

A-RAB: In my opinion, this child don’t need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!

ACTION: Hey, I got a social disease!

A-RAB: So take him to a social worker!

ACTION
Dear kindly social worker,
They say go earn a buck.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means like be a schumck.
It’s not I’m anti-social,
I’m only anti-work.
Gloryosky! That’s why I’m a jerk!

BABY JOHN: (As Female Social Worker)
Eek!
Officer Krupke, you’ve done it again.
This boy don’t need a job, he needs a year in the pen.
It ain’t just a question of misunderstood;
Deep down inside him, he’s no good!

[snip]

DIESEL (As Judge)
The trouble is he’s crazy.

A-RAB (As Psychiatrist)
The trouble is he drinks.

BABY JOHN (As Female Social Worker)
The trouble is he’s lazy.

DIESEL
The trouble is he stinks.

A-RAB
The trouble is he’s growing.

BABY JOHN
The trouble is he’s grown.

ALL
Krupke, we got troubles of our own!

Gee, Officer Krupke,
We’re down on our knees,
‘Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease.
Gee, Officer Krupke,
What are we to do?
Gee, Officer Krupke,
Krup you!

I’m no Sondheim fan, but that is a brilliant song that exposes all the excuses inherent in liberal thinking about crime and punishment.  No one actually commits a crime, because no one exercises the “free will” that underlies the American system of crime, with its focus on malicious intent (as opposed to negligence).  If if people cannot be held responsible for their crime, they certainly cannot be punished.  Or at least, the actor cannot be punished.

As Dennis Prager has pointed out more than once, failing to punish the actor often means that it’s the innocent who suffer.  What this means is that, in some ways, the Left is even worse than Islam.  Both deny man free will and conscience, but Sharia law at least has the decency to punish the wrongdoing (although the moral balancing that sees a woman designated as the wrong-doer for being raped leaves something to be desired).  The Left, however, which also gives man the moral weight of an animal is too softhearted to punish that wild animal, with the sad result that, as the murderous lion is allowed to walk free, the innocent lamb is often eaten.

So, we have two apparently antithetical doctrines that share a common thread in their belief that man is enslaved to his environment and his animal lusts, and is incapable of moral decision-making and self-control. That the responses are different — violent punishment versus no punishment at all — doesn’t subtract from the nihilistic core underlying both.  Give me good old Judeo-Christian thought any day, which holds that man is a rational, moral creature who can control himself, who is capable of making moral decisions despite difficult situations, and who if he commits crimes short of the most heinous ones (intentional murder topping the list), should be punished in a way that is meaningful, but leaves the possibility of redemption.

Thinking like the master — before the master did

On May 23, 2007, I did a post in which I looked at Mitt’s Mormonism, and concluded that it shouldn’t matter because his values are what counts, not the path he took to arrive at those values. Based on comments left in response to that post, I updated it to explain that, as far as I could tell, Evangelical Christians viewed Mormons in much the same way as Jews view Jews for Jesus — a purported religion that’s neither fish nor fowl, and that’s carpet bagging on an already established name. Here it is, seven months later, and Dennis Prager is saying exactly what I said (only better, of course, because he’s Dennis Prager):

Most traditional Christians regard Mormonism not merely as not Christian, but as a falsification of it. It does not matter to the vast majority of evangelicals if a candidate is a Christian. Most are quite prepared to vote for a non-Christian — a Jew, for example. And they are certainly prepared to vote for Christians with whom they differ theologically — whether non-evangelical Protestants or Roman Catholics.

But they do not regard Mormons as fellow Christians with whom they differ theologically; they regard them as having a theology so different from mainstream Christianity that they are no longer Christian. It is quite possible, even likely, that if Mormons simply announced they were not Christian, but a new religion, even one based on belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, evangelicals would have fewer objections to voting for a Mormon with whom they shared social values. Rightly or wrongly, many evangelicals resent Mormons calling themselves Christian.

It is analogous to the resentment among Jews of “Jews for Jesus.” What Jews resent is not that a Jew who adopts Christian beliefs has become a Christian — most Jews recognize that in a free society people convert to and from all religions. What many Jews resent is that “Jews for Jesus” call themselves Jews and not Christians after leaving Judaism (even while continuing to identify ethnically as Jews) and embracing Christianity. So, too, it is that Mormons call themselves Christians while embracing a different belief system that rankles so many traditional Christians.

[snip]

The reason is — and I have come to this conclusion after a lifetime of interaction with people of almost all faiths and writing about and studying religion — theology does not appear to have much impact on people’s values. Liberal Christians and Jews share virtually no theological beliefs yet think alike about virtually every important social value. So, too, conservative Christians and conservative Jews share virtually no theological beliefs, yet they think alike about virtually every important social value.

Meanwhile liberal and conservative Protestants are in agreement on theological matters — both believe in the Trinity, in the Messiahship of Jesus, on Jesus being the Son of God, on salvation through faith rather than through works, and more — yet they differ about virtually every social value. Obviously, shared theology doesn’t create shared moral or social values.

[snip]

Therefore the theological beliefs of a public figure should matter only when one is choosing a theological leader, never a political leader — unless those beliefs form the basis of social and moral values that one abhors. It is very important to know the theological beliefs of one’s clergyman or the head of one’s seminary, but as far as the head of one’s country is concerned, only his moral and social values matter. I would much sooner vote for an agnostic whose values I shared than for a believing Christian or Jew whose values I did not share.

I have to say, I’m quite flattered by comparing myself to Mr. Prager. Hah!

And now a few words on Islam

The teddy bear scandal put Islam on the front pages again as a religion whose practitioners are so insecure that they cannot accept anything that they might perceive as critical or demeaning. As have most conservative bloggers, I’ve written periodically about Islam’s misogyny, its cultural insecurity, its intolerance, etc. I’ve quoted my cousin the prison chaplain, who says that Islam is a huge sell in prisons because it doesn’t demand of the converts any change in behaviors. Instead, it allows them to justify and continue with their original criminal behaviors on the ground that they are appropriate acts towards non-Muslims.

I’ve also slowly been coming to the conclusion that Islam is not a moral religion as we in the Judeo-Christian West understand religion-based morality. The Old Testament is both a history stretching back to prehistoric times (since most Biblical scholars believe, for example, that the Bible’s telling of Noah’s Ark is the last act in an oral history stretching back hundreds, if not thousands, of years), and it is also a book of moral precepts that dictate man’s behavior towards other men. There is no doubt that men in the Bible slipped from the path God set before them, there is no doubt that some of God’s commands were frightening and violent (so much so that we still struggle with them today), and there is no doubt that many since the Bible have used the Bible to justify base behavior, not best behavior. The same holds true for the New Testament. While Jesus’ message is overwhelmingly one of love and compassion, there was certainly enough in it for those who sought a militant, aggressive Christianity to use the New Testament as their guide.

Nevertheless, almost from the moment the Bible, both Old Testament and New, became fixed, Christians and Jews of good will have struggled to analyze the morally questionable parts of the Bible in light of the overwhelmingly moral parts. (See, for example, the link I gave in the preceding paragraph, as well as this link.) As we move further forward in time, both Jews and Christians try ever more to tone down the passages that, instead of stating abstract moral principles, insist upon certain now-antiquated aspects of tribal law (such as killing witches or gays).

It’s been different since the very beginning with the Koran. As I pointed out in this post, the nature of the man behind the Koran is very different from the nature of the men behind the Bible. Moses sought freedom for his people; Jesus sought salvation for man kind. And Mohammad — well, Mohammad sought converts and tribal control. The Koran also shows someone very, very sensitive to rejection. More significantly, contrary to the Bible, Mohammad’s personal feelings on a given subject did not end up merely as narrative, they ended up as controlling doctrine.

What I just said is very abstract, so let me make in more concrete by talking about one of the Koranic stories and wrapping up with Robert Spencer’s conclusion about the larger implications of that story.

The story, as retold in Spencer’s masterful The Truth About Muhammad, is that of the Nakhla raid, which took place when Muhammad felt he had enough military power to take on his old enemies the Quraysh (who were enemies because they would not convert to Islam). Preliminarily, in connection with the Quraysh, it’s worthwhile remembering that it was as to them that Muhammad announced that the women and children of enemy tribes were to be defined by their tribal status, not their youth or sex, making them fair game for slaughter. As Spencer says (p. 98) “[f]rom then on, innocent non-Muslim women and children could legitimately suffer the fate of male unbelievers.”

As for the Nakhla raid itself, Muhammad did not participate. Instead, he instructed a lieutenant to spy on the Quraysh. Once the lieutenant got within range of the Quraysh, however, and decided it would be a shame not to kill as many of them as possible, despite the fact that any slaughter would occur on the last day of a holy period during which there was not supposed to be any killing. So, the Muslims killed and robbed.

Once the slaughter was complete, the lieutenant and his band headed home with their booty, having specifically reserved a fifth part for Muhammad himself. Muhammad was at first upset, both because he had not ordered a killing during the sacred month and because other Quraysh were pointing out that Muhammad’s prophecies seemed mostly geared to justifying banditry. However, as Spencer explains, when confronted by this discomforts, “another helpful revelation came from Allah,” this time saying that the Quraysh were so offensive in God’s eyes, that this trumped the holy month. Having received this useful ex post facto revelation, Muhammad was free to take the booty reserved for him.

Spencer’s take on the subject (p. 99) wraps back around to the point I made at the beginning of this post:

This was a momentous incident, for it would set a pattern: good became identified with anything that redounded to the benefit of Muslims, and evil with anything that harmed them, without reference to any larger moral standard. Moral absolutes were swept aside in favor of the overarching principle of expediency.

I am not saying, incidentally, that there are not millions of Muslims who behave morally in the way that we, living in the Judeo-Christian faith, understand morality. Whether they pull that morality from the Koran, from Judeo-Christian influences, or from their innate goodness and humanity, I do not know. I just know that there are enormous numbers of good people out there. However, unlike other religions, Islam encourages behavior that both the Bible, and Bibilical scholars, have tried to quash. And unlike other religions, Islam seems to have fewer scholars trying to explain or defend those passages in the Koran that seem to demand or justify immoral, rather than moral behavior (if moral behavior is understood as demanding the highest and best from man, towards himself and towards others).

As to the bad behavior that seems to be an inherent part of Islam, I’d like to give the last words in this post to Ian O’Doherty, writing for an Irish paper. (H/t: RD.) After giving a laundry list of Muslim outrage which has morphed into outrageous behavior, O’Doherty states a declaration of independence for those of us classified as Islamophobes:

And, of course, anyone who writes about this [“this” being the laundry list to which I referred] is immediately accused of being Islamophobic and racist.

Well, I am Islamophobic in the sense that I’m phobic towards the notion of treating women as third-class citizens, flogging people and killing them for having an independent thought.

I’m phobic towards the idea of killing Theo Van Gogh because he made a movie they didn’t like. I’m phobic towards killing a Japanese translator because he worked on the Satanic Verses.

I’m also rather phobic to the notion that the Muslim world has the right to riot and kill each other because of a few unfunny cartoons in an obscure Danish publication.

As regards the spurious accusation of racism which is bandied about against anyone who criticises Islam, let me make this clear — you cannot change the colour of your skin. Pigmentation is irrelevant. But you can dislike someone’s superstition and in Islam’s case, even among other superstitions, they are particularly horrible.

No, my Muslim friend, it’s your religion and your Sharia law I am criticising. It has nothing to do with the colour of your skin. And you know what? In a free democracy we still have the right to say things like that.

Tony Blair is converting to Catholicism

I have no comment to make about this, but I nevertheless find it interesting:

Tony Blair is to become a Roman Catholic within weeks.

The former prime minister will be received into his new church in a mass at the private chapel of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

He has been guided by Fr John Walsh, a former RAF chaplain who celebrated mass at Chequers, and Fr Mark O’Toole, the cardinal’s secretary.

His path to Rome will come as no surprise because his wife Cherie and four children are Catholics and the family have worshipped together for years.

Mr Blair, in one of his final acts as prime minister, met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican when he told him of wish to leave the Church of England.

The imminent conversion was disclosed by the respected Catholic newspaper The Tablet, which predicted the service would be held this month.

Mr Blair’s spokesman did not deny the story. He said: “This is the same old speculation.”
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But a friend of Mr Blair said: “It is something he has wanted to do for years but knew it would be easier after he had left office. Tony and Cherie are both thrilled.”

Mr Blair has rarely been seen in a church of the Anglican faith except on official occasions.

Ecumenicalism where it counts

Americans like to talk about ecumenicalism, which is an idea that concerns itself with “establishing or promoting unity among churches or religions.” We in America have proven to be very good at it, so much so that we think nothing of little news stories about the rabbi giving a talk to his neighbor’s church, or the minister from one Protestant church joining a prayer meeting from another Protestant Church. The difficulties many conservatives are having with the Romney candidacy (Mormon!) and the Giuliani candidacy (Catholic and pro-Choice!), or even the nasty smears the Democrats leveled against Bobby Jindal during his successful candidacy for governor, are about as bad as religious differences get here. No blood is shed, no villages are destroyed, no people are persecuted or driven from their homes. We are, therefore, exceptionally blessed.

Other nations, and particularly Middle Eastern nations, are less blessed. In Muslim dominant countries, Jews are banished and Christians are persecuted. Once that’s done, the Muslims turn on each other, with the varying sects diving into blood baths to attain religious and secular predominance.

That’s why Michael Yon’s most recent photograph out Iraq, which you can see here, at his blog, is so important. On its face, it shows something wonderful: a cross going up on a Church in Iraq. What’s even more amazing, though, is the text that accompanies the photograph, since it explains that this is not just a Christian church that is taking a risk at reestablishing a place of worship. Instead, it is ecumenicalism in action, in the heart of the Middle East:

I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John’s Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome. (Emphasis mine.)

Some regimes are cancerous. They grow and swell, and make the body politic look strong and full, but they are, in fact, slowly killing it from within, with their poisonous tentacles reaching out to destroy every organ in their path. Cancer does not yield easily, preferring to kill its host rather than to give up.

With real cancers, we go in with knives and chemo and radiation. And with political cancers, sometimes the only answer is troops and weapons. The body bleeds and suffers but, if it is fundamentally strong and if the disease is stopped in time, it can recover fully.

I’d like to think that this is what we are seeing in Iraq — after the removal of the cancerous Hussein leadership from the Iraqi political scene, and after the trauma of that removal, the Iraqis are recovering and going on to be stronger and healthier than ever before.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Chris Muir has the last and best word: