The threads of commentary on the internet is polluted with those who refuse to grant to Muslims the rights of religious freedom, opting instead for a "tit for tat" policy. While I grant that we are in the midst of clash of cultures and convictions, I question both the efficacy and the appropriateness of their strategy in the conduct of this war. In short: I agree with their cause for concern, but I believe that the actual reading of history, as seen through the lens of the historical memory of the church, leads to an understanding of the most effective and proper manner in which cultures have both succeeded and failed in negotiating a peaceful coexistence. Society ignores her advice at its own peril.
Let's just for a moment, consider the following. In this Time Magazine article, we gain some perspective with which measure the level of fear and hysteria which is inflamed by those who pretend to be 21st manifestations of Winston Churchill. First we demonize, then we open the door to seeing "others" as the enemy who threatens our way of life. Remember that it was the most cultured and civilized of countries, Germany which for a time malformed itself into an evil parody of civilization by first dehumanizing the Jews, Slav's and Anglo-Saxon while at the same time lifting themselves as the very height of evolution and breeding. To paint all of the Islamic faith as being incapable of making peace with our western culture is to use the same logic that seduced the German people. Thus people trying to emulate Churchill, (most often unwittingly) find themselves playing the role of Goebbels in this new century.
If the examples of Desert Storm I & II and the subsequent debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us anything, it is the knowledge that the first act of any group bent on the path to war, must first paint his compatriots view of "the enemy", (or the "evil do-er's" to co-op a previously misused phrase) as too extreme and savage to be able to comprehend or engage in a successful negotiations of our common cultural peaceful existence.
In truth, the voices of those who cry that the "savages are coming over the walls", (each armed with copies of Sharia Law in hand no doubt! It's Mao "Little Red Book" all over again) neglect to consider the facts such as they are presented in this article: facts which do not support their contention that this war cannot be won if we offer Islam the rights of religious freedom.
Now, with popular opinion running against the voices of extremism within non-Arab Muslim countries, it follows that they will be far less open to Saudi money to fund their schools. After all, if the graduates of these Maddrasses are now bringing a virtual orgy of internecine Islamic killing into the neighborhoods of their very countries (Pakistan, Indonesia, Philipines, Africa) The schools will be seen as the cancer they are. A cancer that needs to be exorcised.
In global terms, it is fair to say that there will always exist tension along the geographic and cultural fault lines of this world; but the overall experience of the world (as reported in the main stream media and within academic institutions) is one of peace. In fact, I believe it is fair to say that there is an entirely different dialectic at work which will necessitate that those of Islamic faith to respect and honor the universal right. This will be the interaction not of Christian vs Islamic faiths, but rather one between Muslims and the modern western materialist secular humanism. Muslims will be no more immune to the seductions of that siren song than the Christian institutions have been.
Again, this time it is post WWII history that provides the evidence of his, a lesson that was repeated 40 years later within the borders of the former USSR. As first waves of pious immigrants settled into western society, it took barely one generation for their faith to crash upon the shores of our consumer culture which heralds the owning of possessions and prestige above everything else. When the Iron Curtain fell, societies like Poland in which the Church held the preeminent place, a tidal wave of consumer oriented advertising washed the former soviet state which over a surprising short time has drowned out both many a persons faith, and the effective voice of the Church as well.
Muslims may well be "at the door" but our society is (in at least one way) sadly well prepared to meet the challenge. There is no need to restrict the Muslim faith by infringing upon their religious freedom. They're going to need all the help they can get.
About Fr. Tim
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