Thursday, August 18, 2011

European Atheists: The New Christian Crusaders Against Islam

A medieval image of Peter the Hermit, leading knights, soldiers, and women toward Jerusalem during the First Crusade (1095-1099)

I discovered the article below while searching for anything Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali activist against Islam, might have said about the current famine in Somalia. Despite gaining European residency by falsely claiming to be a Somali refugee from a previous Somali famine (1992)--and doing so illegally via the Netherlands (she should have made any refugee claims in Germany, her first entry point into the EU, on her arrival from Kenya where she had lived for years)--Hirsi Ali (the false name she used to hide her identity as Magan Ali) seems to have nothing whatsoever to say about the plight of the current, and most devastating, famine in Somalia in decades. She did, however, figure prominently in the article, which was published in the Huffington Post and is copied below for discussion, on atheists crusading against Muslim immigration in order to maintain a Christian Europe.

Hirsi Ali currently advocates that Muslims turn to Christianity, while remaining an atheist herself. She elaborated on this in a recent interview on Canada's new Faux News channel, Sun Television:

At 0:41ff on Muslim woman converting to Christianity and her own atheism
At 2:00ff on all Muslims living in all countries; 2:55ff on Muslims living in Canada
At 7:31ff on the Norway massacre; on Christians excluded from discourse in Europe to use peaceful means to combat Islam
At 10:30ff on her trajectory from being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporting the death fatwa against Salman Rushie to her present positions
At 13:33ff Hirsi Ali claims that Iranians, Egyptians, and Saudis are taking an intellectual journey via the internet from Islam to Christianity in significant numbers.

As usual there is faux information in Hirsi Ali's reasoning. Being a Muslim in Canada is not "extremely difficult". Most Muslims find it extremely easy. Canada is respectful of religious rights and accommodates the beliefs and practices of all religious groups, and ethno-cultural practices that don't contravene law. For example German-Canadians cannot put real candles on their Christmas trees because it contravenes fire regulations. On a deeper issue, no one in Canada can perform female genital excision for ethno-cultural reasons or in the false belief that it is a religious practice--Islam does not require or promote female genital excision; minimal cutting as a cultural practice is tolerated for Muslims living in areas where it is a cultural practice independent of religion--as it contravenes Canadian medical law.

There are false controversies in Canada about wearing the niqab--for example the political ploy of claiming Muslim women were trying to vote with the niqab on. No Muslim woman had tried or wanted to do so. Moreover, no one needs to reveal their face to vote in Canada. There are other security measures to ensure identity. The last time I voted (in the Federal Election this year), I specifically asked about it at the registration desk and at the voting booth. 3 attendants had the same reaction: calmly stating that 2 pieces of ID from a list they reached for would suffice. I was voting in one of 2 ridings I legally could vote in, the one with few Muslims. Still, the electoral officers were well trained and well prepared for this hypothetical question--thanks to the false controversy.

Hirsi Ali also agrees implicitly with the interviewer that honour killings are a serious problem in Canada, as if they were frequent. They are a serious problem in the sense that homicide is a serious act, but are rare statistically. They occur primarily among recent South Asian immigrants, and among Hindus more than Muslims. The Muslim ones make the most headlines though, and fuel the hijab-niqab fire.

Hirsi Ali previously gave this memorable interview on a similar theme to Stephen Colbert:

1:40ff encouraging Christians to proselytize to Muslims
4:10ff on her not being a Christian and preferring Enlightment philosophers to Jesus Christ
5:40ff on going to Church and receiving "the little thing...thing", "the waffle", and putting it into her pocket

In this interview, Hirsi Ali advocates proselytizing Christianity as an antidote to Wahhabi proselytizers of "the true Islam". It is hard to know what to make of this statement, except to remember that when she was in a Saudi run school as an early adolescent she tried to out-Wahhabi the teachers. At best it is advocating something she does not believe in to counteract something she used to believe in. Proselytizing is inherently against the liberal thinkers of the Enlightenment and their advocacy of free speech and thought, and religious tolerance she does claim to believe in. Perhaps in this she is more of a utilitarian and cconsequentialist than a believer in freedom.

In citing her preference for Enlightenment philosophers John Locke and John Stuart Mill (and even Jewish comedian Jon Stewart) to Jesus Christ, Hirsi Ali implies that both were atheists. John Locke moved within Christianity from Calvinism through Socianism to Arian belief--but remained a Christian, and was buried in Christ Church Cathedral. John Stuart Mill was an Anglican, and although he refused to join the Anglican priesthood, he was godfather to younger philosopher Bertrand Russel, and was buried in a Catholic cemetery in Avignon alongside his wife.

While Roman Catholic Stephen Colbert does an admirable and humourously accurate job of explaining the "host" of Holy Communion to Hirsi Ali, one would think that she would get a minimum of terminology and meaning correct before advocating proselytizing and converting to a religion to which she doesn't adhere, and about which she claims ignorance of a central premise--"I didn't know that so I put it in my pocket".

When I first saw this interview, I was struck that she seemed to imply someone had shoved a "waffle" into her hand, whereas one presents oneself for Communion in any Christian Church I have attended. Was her whole Church visit a fictitious anecdote? Or did she just present herself, an atheist, for Holy Communion--to what purpose?

The Livonian Knights of the Northern European Crusades

The Christian-Atheist Crusader, or the atheist proselytizing for Christianity, as a strategy of Islamophobes, explains the otherwise confusing stance and manifesto of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Breivik is calm, cool, organized, methodical, and unrepentant because he has chosen an extreme means to wage a Crusade against the Labour Party and its youth, its future leaders, as enablers of the contemporary Muslim invasion of Norway. The members of the Labour Party are traitors to the Christian way of life in Norway, or at least colluding with the enemy, and so must be assassinated.

As the article explains, Breivik, while extreme in his means, is not alone in his beliefs. He is joined by prominent intellectuals like Niall Ferguson, and preceded by others like the well-known late Italian journalist Orianna Fallaci.

Pope Benedict XVI blesses pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence of Castelgandolfo, 40 km southeast of Rome, upon his arrival for a weekly general audience on August 10, 2011. The pope will go to Madrid on August 18 to attend the final four days of the Roman Catholic Church's six-day youth festivities, expected to draw more than one million faithful. (VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

A 'Christian' Europe Without Christianity
By David Gibson
Religion News Service
Huffington Post
First Posted: 8/13/11 08:32 AM ET Updated: 8/13/11 08:32 AM ET

(RNS) Does European Christendom need Christianity to survive?

It may seen an odd question for a religious culture that once stretched from Britain to the Bosphorus, born of a deep and diffuse faith that inspired great cathedrals and monasteries and filled them with believers for centuries.

But when right-wing extremist Anders Breivik killed 77 people in a horrific rampage in Norway last month, he highlighted a novel development in the history of the West: a burgeoning alliance between believers and nonbelievers to promote Europe's Christian identity.

"European Christendom and the cross will be the symbol in which every cultural conservative can unite under in our common defense," Breivik wrote in his rambling 1,500-page manifesto. "It should serve as the uniting symbol for all Europeans whether they are agnostic or atheists."

Whether Breivik himself can be considered a bona fide Christian given his lack of a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God," as he put it, was a topic of much debate. There was no doubt, however, that he was a devout believer "in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform."

In fact, that's been the case for any number of unbelievers for more than a decade.

One prominent example was the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who spent her last years before her death in 2006 inveighing against a Muslim influx that was turning the continent into what she called "Eurabia."

Fallaci liked to describe herself as a "Christian atheist" -- an interesting turn of phrase -- because she thought Christianity provided Europe with a cultural and intellectual bulwark against Islam.

There's also Scottish-born historian and political conservative Niall Ferguson, who calls himself "an incurable atheist" but is also a vocal champion for restoring Christendom because, as he puts it, there isn't sufficient "religious resistance" in the West to radical Islam.

(Ferguson dedicated his latest book, "Civilization: The West and the Rest," to his new partner, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch atheist who has promoted the values of Christianity over those of her native Islam.)

The modern-day crusade for Christendom by nonbelievers tends to be rooted in fears about Muslim immigration, but it's also fueled by worries about the deterioration of European culture -- and nostalgia for the continent's once central place in world affairs.

For some atheists, retaining European identity is reason enough to set aside long-standing enmity between churches and nonbelievers that dates back to the secularism of the Enlightenment and the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution.

And unlike the persistent sniping between atheists and believers in the U.S., Europe's nonreligious conservatives have found ready allies in the continent's religious leaders -- most notably Pope Benedict XVI.

Even before he was elected pope in April 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was spearheading the Vatican effort, however unsuccessful, to have the European Union's new constitution recognize the continent's Christian heritage. He also rejected the idea of allowing Muslim Turkey into the EU. "Europe is a cultural continent," he told a French magazine, "not a geographical one."

As pope, Benedict eventually softened his opposition to Turkey's entry into the EU but continued to insist that Europe's Christian culture must be protected, even as religious belief among Europeans declined.

In August 2005, just a few months after his election as pope, Benedict met secretly with Fallaci, news that upset Muslims when it leaked out. Muslims were even angrier at the pontiff's controversial speech a year later in Regensburg, Germany, when he depicted Islam as prone to violence and alien to Christian Europe.

"Attempts at the 'Islamification' of the West cannot be denied," Benedict's closest aide, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, said in a 2007 interview. "And the associated danger for the identity of Europe cannot be ignored out of a wrongly understood sense of respect."

"The Catholic side sees this clearly," he added, "and says as much."

But some atheists see this as well, and are equally happy to say so.

One of Christendom's most prominent atheist advocates is the Italian philosopher and politician Marcello Pera. In 2004, he delivered a series of lectures with then-Cardinal Ratzinger that set out their shared view of the need to restore Christian identity in Europe in order to battle both Islam and moral degeneration.

Later, Benedict wrote a forward to Pera's book, "Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians," which promotes Benedict's argument that Western civilization can be saved if people live "as if God exists," whether they believe that or not.

It's not a new argument -- 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal held that even if God's existence cannot be proved, people ought to act as though God exists because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

But the updated version seems to be winning some converts. In a landmark ruling last March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy could continue to display crucifixes in public school classrooms because the cross with Jesus on it is a "historical and cultural" symbol rather than a religious one.

While the Vatican welcomed that decision, others wonder whether the cost was too high -- essentially emptying a container of its meaning in order to preserve the cultural form.

And an empty container, no matter how attractive on the outside, can be filled with all manner of beliefs on the inside.
**********

Eleanor of Aquitaine, then Queen Consort of Louis VII of France, riding to the Eastern campaign of the Second Crusade (1147-1149). Eleanor was instrumental in proposing King Louis support the crusade announced by Pope Eugene III and led by European Kings who then rule by divine right--as ordained by God to rule over both state and church. Eleanor, along with her uncle Raymond of Poitiers, advised on strategy as well as riding with the Crusaders. It is thought that, had Louis followed Eleanor and Raymond's advice to attack and take Aleppo, the Crusade would have been more successful. Instead, Louis pressed on toward Jerusalem, and on the way, along with Conrad of Germany, under the urging of King Baldwin III of Jerusalem, attacked Damascus, losing badly, and effectively ending the Crusade. The major achievement of the Second Crusade was holding off the Muslim invasion of Lisbon, Portugal.

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Ramadan and the 2011 Somalia Famine: A Great Need for Zakat, Sadaqa, Charity; A Reluctant Response
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Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Henry Plantagenet, King Henry II of England, second husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Consort of France, and then of England, as well as being Duchess of Aquitaine and immensely powerful in her own right. In her later life she became a proponent of the idea of Courtly Love, the romanticisation of the Crusades, knights, chivalry, ladies at court, love, duty, and manners, that affected literature and society, and inspired recruits to the Crusades.

8 comments:

Chiara said...

Programmer Craig--I have deleted both your comments as being inappropriate in tone, and if not inflammatory themselves, setting up an inflammatory discussion.

I would summarize the content of both as: you feel this post is inappropriately hateful, and that it feels to meet the standards of the blog's purpose.

You are welcome to comment and to disagree in a more appropriate tone.

Chiara said...

*...and that it fails...

Programmer Craig-I deleted your reply. I appreciate you feel that my post was itself inflammatory. No need to add the rest. You are still welcome to comment, if you wish, on any post, if you are able to do so in an appropriate manner. I am happy to have disagreements and discussions about differences of opinion. Personal attacks and an inflammatory tone are inappropriate for this blog.

Wendy said...

Seems you are not a fan of the lady, Chiara. :)

I would also like to see Wahabi style Islam disappear from the face of the earth because I think it sucks, or attempts to suck, the joy out of living.
Hirsi Ali got herself a good audience on Sun TV who are always looking for reasons to hate Islam as well as most immigrants. Having said that my hope is that our Canadian government will NOT EVER AGAIN bend to any religious group wanting to add or change laws to suit their religion. If people want to emigrate to Canada then learn and understand the laws of our country and live by them. If they don't want to do that then emigrate to another place. If Canada cannot stand by that then I am also concerned about our country and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
I have said this before - I am not a fan of the niqab and do not want to see a covered face in the voting booth, bank or any other place where full facial identity is important.
I am distressed over what happened recently in Ontario regarding Friday prayers in the schools as well as allowing the girls to be segregated from the boys for said prayers. Canada stopped The Lords Prayer and other religious things in schools years ago. Lets not pander to any religion again and leave religion out of secular schools and government. If Muslims want to have Friday prayers for their children then enroll them in Islamic schools. Don't ask for change in the public sector.

I'm sure I've ruffled some feathers but I love my country too much to see these kinds of changes.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

The article which seems to state that Europe needs a shell of Christianity to defend it's social and politcal views against what some see as an "evil" Islam.

I do not accept that Islam is inherently evil. Like Christianity there are those who commit evil acts it it's name.

This need for a shallow Christianity implies that liberal humanism cannot hold its all in the world of ideas. Atheists who for themselves have rejected theism of all kinds, should have more faith in the idea of a secular state shaped by humanism, which can accommodate all faiths, within the laws of the land.

I used to correspond with a female Muslim university student in Toronto. I told her that Islam will make a contribution to the Canadian culture and it in turn would would be shaped by Canadian society. (She was not sure about the latter idea). I told her that some day a Muslim newsreader wearing an hijab would deliver the national news, without any great comment by the public. We have yet to see this but there are Muslim's in the newsbusiness. I first was struck by this when a reporter (Named Housani) made a commentary then said, "Back to you Mohammad." As an Emglish Canadian I thought, "That's novel." Increasingly, there are people on TV and radio, who are from Muslim countries. We have come to recognize them as other Canadians sharing in the shared culture.

PS: I loved your reference to Socianism and Arianism. They are part of my religous denomination's history.

jaraad said...

Hirsi Ali knows what the West want to hear and she is capitalizing on that. It is funny how formerly Muslims become suddenly political and religion experts and are paid for their "fake" expertise. Fox news beloved puppet Walid Shoebat (who claims he was an ex-terrorist, the irony) turned out to be a fraud.

oby said...

"I am distressed over what happened recently in Ontario regarding Friday prayers in the schools as well as allowing the girls to be segregated from the boys for said prayers. Canada stopped The Lords Prayer and other religious things in schools years ago. Lets not pander to any religion again and leave religion out of secular schools and government. If Muslims want to have Friday prayers for their children then enroll them in Islamic schools. Don't ask for change in the public sector."

Wendy...did the Ontario Gov't ever give their rational and reasoning for this considering they have taken the Lord's prayer out of school. I am not sure if this is the same thing I read about a while back, but they did it for the expediancy of the kids so they wouldn't lose class time. In the comments a teacher from the school was very distressed by this as she was to take them to prayer and had to advocate the separation of the sexes which she felt went directly against the human rights of Canada. She too pointed out that any other faith is not allowed to pray.

Many would disagree with me I am sure, but I think a lot of the blowback about Muslims has to do with peoples fear that it will change their societies and that Muslims will ask for and receive special privileges that others don't/won't get. I am not convinced it is because people don't like Islam per se because most have no idea exactly what it is about....I think if people perceived the same thing about Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Mormons (changing society) there would be blowback against them too. How much exaggeration there is about accommodations I am not sure...but I do know that in Britain for example there is a movement by Imam Choudary to establish "Sharia enforced" areas throughout Britain...meaning that only islamic values will be set up and supported by the people.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2019547/Anjem-Choudary-Islamic-extremists-set-Sharia-law-zones-UK-cities.html

OK sorry but that is scary...no one is forcing Muslims to participate in the things that they are railing against...yet they are forcing that on the people who live in the areas that are not Muslim...this is the kind of stuff that people have issues with and worry about.

I agree with Wendy if you are coming to a country then you should adapt and live by the rules of the country rather than trying to change it to suit you. If you can't then you should not come...yes, I know that is not a popular thing to say today but that is how I feel about it.

Wendy said...

Oby, religion was taken out of our public schools years ago and we don't even have nativity plays anymore for fear of 'offending' some other religious group. Ontario has gone ahead on the Friday prayer thing apparently without consultation but I'm not sure. Ontario almost passed into provincial law some forms of Sharia law but a Muslim group themselves got it stopped. We have private religious schools people can send their kids to so I resent people trying to change our public school policies among other policies and laws. It's not just Islam. Canada has bent other laws for other religions while still denying 'Christian' expression in the schools.
You are bang on about non-Muslim fears regarding societal change. I love the multicultural aspect of Canada and the fact that people can enjoy their own customs, style of dress, religion, etc. so don't get me wrong. All of the above is just another reason why I do not like organized religions. I read an interesting quote the other day by Dave Beard ...
"I usually lump organized religion, organized labor, and organized crime together. The Mafia gets points for having the best restaurants." ~Dave Beard :)

oby said...

Thanks Wendy...

My feeling is this: when it come to religions people feel pretty passionately about their faith. If you are going to take a stand against the majority faith of a country (in this case Christianity) and not allow public signs of it, you MUST do the same for all other faiths. Otherwise it starts to feel like "affirmative action" for other faiths OTHER THAN the home countries faith. And IMO smacks of political correctness gone too far in the other direction and feels like not all faiths are treated or protected equally.

I too like the multicultural flavor of the USA...BUT I strongly feel that people need to follow the laws of the country that are the same for everyone, in general, or you run the risk of having lots of little enclaves that feel that they are outside the law or it doesn't apply to them...when you make exceptions for one group another group will pipe up and want their "rights" and laws allowed and soon IMO you are on your way to a very sick and dysfunctional country as the people no longer feel invested in the country but rather their small pocket of the community. I think it is very divisive. I also think we have some of that now going on in the USA and Europe (and I don't necessarily mean Muslims).

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