Monday, October 2, 2006
A very thoughtful must read from the Archbishop of Sydney, and a good antidote to a lot of the cant out there on the nature of Islam and the rest of it. A complex picture. (hat tip: rg)
During the Cold War, secularists, especially those who were repentant Communists, were well equipped to generate and sustain resistance to an anti-religious and totalitarian enemy. In the present challenge it is religious people who are better equipped to understand the situation with Islam. Radicalism has always had a way of filling emptiness, but if we are going to help the moderate forces within Islam defeat the extreme variants, we need to take seriously the personal consequences of religious faith. We also need to understand the secular sources of emptiness and despair and how to meet them, so that people will choose life over death. This is another place where religious people have an edge. Western secularists regularly have trouble understanding religious faith in their own societies, and are often at sea when it comes to addressing the meaninglessness that secularism spawns. An anorexic vision of democracy and the human person is no match for Islam.
The war against terrorism is only one aspect of the challenge. Perhaps more important is the struggle in the Islamic world between moderate forces and extremists, especially when we set this against the enormous demographic shifts likely to occur across the world, the relative changes in population-size of the West, the Islamic and Asian worlds and the growth of Islam in a childless Europe.
Every great nation and religion has shadows and indeed crimes in their histories. This is certainly true of Catholicism and of all Christian denominations. And it is legitimate to ask our Islamic partners in dialogue whether they believe that the peaceful suras of the Koran are abrogated by the verses of the sword. Is the program of military expansion to be resumed when possible? Do they believe that democratic majorities of Muslims in Europe would impose shari’a law? Can we discuss Islamic history and even the hermeneutical problems around the origins of the Koran without threats of violence?