For many years I have been writing, here and elsewhere, until I have thought that I must be blue in the face, that the West should cease to concede the religious high ground to our militant Muslim assailants. It is routine, and rarely contradicted by our secular leaders, for Islamists to proclaim a monopoly of religiosity and to dismiss the West entirely as “infidels” — which is an even more odious category than “heretics.” Where heresy is doctrinal error, to be an infidel is to have no faith; in the canon of the religiously fervent, this is a morally vacuous state that reduces the person to the condition of an ambulatory, malignant robot, an affront to man and God, undeserving of continued toleration of its impudent pretense to qualify for the respect that godly humans are held to deserve.
Our secular leaders in the West, torn between adherence to the agnosticism (or atheism) of most of our media and a mere desire not to offend the fashion, have conspicuously failed to assert Christianity’s rightful claim to seniority in chronology, and in intellectual rigor, to all other religions except the closely related monotheistic and messianic one of Judaism. Our political leaders have not made the point that the West is a profoundly Christian culture, even for most of those who do not, in fact, believe that Jesus Christ was a divinely inspired person, and that, while the lengthy experience of the Judeo-Christian world has arrived at a division of secular and religious jurisdictions that entirely tolerates an infinite range of opinions, including complete religious doubt, the West is the world’s premier center of religious thought and practice. Instead, they have chosen to sidestep the issue, and, by not asserting the West’s religious distinction, have abdicated and surrendered this entire vast field of thought and endeavor to the most intellectually disreputable claimants of belligerent Islam. In the process, they have largely overlooked the immense annual persecution of Christians, including thousands murdered every year, mainly in Islamist and Communist countries, and have sat as silent and inert as suet puddings in the face of the anti-Christian atrocities that their craven silence effectively tolerates and even legitimizes.
The problem of this deafening cultural quietism is aggravated by the almost universal Western practice of overlooking, whether from generosity of spirit, ignorance, indifference, or the fear that grips the intimidated, the fact that Islam’s claim to religious toleration is mitigated by the fact that it is not a religion by Western or Eastern standards. That is, it is not only a religion. It is a complete system of life that includes a social, judicial, and political system, replete with geopolitical ambitions to regain territory and prestige lost in the 13-century retreat from Charles Martel’s defeat of the Muslims at the battle of Tours in 732. Islam later approached Europe from the southeast and was twice hurled back from the gates of Vienna and repulsed in its ambition to dominate the Mediterranean in the battle of Lepanto in 1571. Forgotten amid the confessions of Christian guilt about the wantonness and impiety of many of the Crusaders is the naked aggression of Islam against the West for almost all of its first millennium, now revived, implausibly and, in fact, comparatively feebly, in sponsored terrorism and acts of mob violence, a considerably less distinguished effort at proselytization by force majeure than the march of Muslim armies, the assault of Muslim siege engines, and the challenge of Muslim fleets, no equivalent of which could be sent forth with any possible success today.
There is a difference between a formulaic doctrine and a living faith.
In today’s prevalent Muslim conception, all power is with the clerical enforcers of orthodoxy; none resides in those who would seek any enlightenment or enhancement of existing perceptions of religious duty or insight. And it is a congregational system: There is no central authority as in an episcopate or papacy. Any mullah can dictate to the consciences of his followers.
Faith, in the West, is a growing trust in some plausible definition of the organizing force or principle of the universe. God can be approached, and the book is never closed on interpretation and insight — nor on any human soul, no matter how steeped in official error. Muslim faith is in the finite canons of the doctrine. They will not change or be elaborated, just as the Islamic God “was not begotten and does not beget.” It is assent to a doctrine and not a living faith, although Gabriel, that intrepid traveler, was deemed to be the messenger to Mohammed, in a reprise of his alleged role in the birth of Christianity six centuries before.
It is not for us in the West, whether religious believers or not, to say that Mohammed was not divinely inspired, or to dispute his message, but it is quite in order to question Islam’s frequent inflexibility and violence. Islam deserves the respect due to the subject of mass adherence and to the consideration officially accorded religious practice. It is a mighty force, whether the West, believing or not believing, likes it or not. But Islam does not deserve to be excused from the requirement of conforming to reasonable norms of coexistence with secular authorities and with other faiths. And it certainly does not deserve a full pass from that large segment of our self-loathing Western media that devotes itself constantly to the destruction of Judeo-Christian values, while largely ignoring the antics of teeming masses of Muslims who scream death to the West while pressing their foreheads against the floor of their mosques, and who treat women as property and intellectual curiosity as blasphemy. Our secular leaders, whatever their own religious views, should cease to appease these forces of the anti-Christ; should unsheathe the great moral sword in their scabbards, and have some thought for the more than 1.5 billion practicing Christians whose votes they seek, while pretending that any acknowledgment of Christianity is an affront to all other faiths and a forced march on seven-league boots back into the Dark Ages.
— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, A Matter of Principle, and the recently published Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership. He can be reached at [email protected].