Battle of the prophets? Back a thousand years ago, the Jewish sage Maimonides had no illusions about an Islamic Golden Age. For a Jew it was a precarious existence and he thought and witnessed the particular animus of Muslim culture toward the Jewish faith; he did not buy into the grand idea of Islam being a religion of peace: no red lines, no green lines only shore lines with Jews floating in the water as shark bait.
By extension, Christians were equally hated, except Islam had to tread more warily and with greater caution given their numerical weight. Maimonides, and for lack of a better word, thought the Prophet off the wall and something of a head case; but Rambam as he was called, understood the monotheistic character and its avoidance of idolatry, even though he regarded Islam as a heresy as he did Christianity. Still, he found himself being drawn into intellectual traps by Islamic sages such as some shrewd men training a cat to serve dessert on its hind legs and claiming that “first natures” can be changed and if a cat can be transformed into a first nature of waiter then so could man transform. Fortunately a mouse got into an incredulous Maimonides’s tobacco box and when he opened it for a smoke during the demonstration, the cat dropped the sweets, tore off after the liberated rodent, and thus ended that particular experiment in Islamic behavior modification a la Skinner.
Today’s arguments, in the Western press between the contrary perspectives of say Doug Saunders and Mark Steyn among others, are in effect a re-hash of a millennium old chasm of what has neither been solved nor transcended. …
(see link at end)…A girlfriend who was about to get married was telling me about her wedding plans recently when she said, almost as an aside: ‘Oh, and I’ve converted to Islam.’
Her fiancé was a Muslim but she thought it no more than a minor detail — like ordering the corsages, or finalising the table plan — to arrange a private ceremony before the big day in which she took on his faith. I think she expected me to say ‘How lovely. And have you decided on the centre-pieces?’ But instead I blurted out: ‘You’ve done what?’
‘It’s fine. I really don’t mind,’ she continued, whilst puffing on a Marlboro Light. ‘It was easy. I just had to say a few words and it was done. I don’t have to wear a veil or go to mosque or anything. It doesn’t seem to make any difference at all.’ Apart from the fact that her children, when they come along, will be brought up Muslims. ‘Well, it will be nice for them to have a faith, and a set of rules to live by,’ she said.
‘But you have a faith and a set of rules to live by,’ I argued, feeling more and more offended. ‘You’re a Christian.’ I wanted to add, ‘You go to nightclubs, drink alcohol, wear skinny jeans, tight tops and make-up. Why on earth are you converting to a faith which thinks you are the infidel?’ But I didn’t say that, of course.
‘I’m really not that bothered,’ she assured me. ‘I’m not a practising Christian. It doesn’t make any difference to me either way.’
‘But, hang on. If all Christians took that view, wouldn’t we disappear? There would be no such thing as Christianity.’ My friend shrugged. She could not see what I was making a fuss about. And maybe I did have to ask myself why I was so deeply insulted. I think it was the casualness of the thing that struck me as disturbing. My friend maintained that reciting the shahada, the profession of Islamic belief, in front of an imam did not matter.
It may not matter to her, but I wager it mattered a lot to the imam, to her new husband and to his Turkish family. And it will matter to millions of Christians who, like me, are worried about their community selling out.
…The growth of Islam in Britain is often still put down to immigration, but a study last year estimated that the number of Islamic converts in Britain has risen by two-thirds from 60,000 in 2001 to about 100,000. Around 5,200 people in the UK become Muslims each year. And while there are no figures on marriages specifically, we do know that 62 per cent of conversions are women and that the average age at conversion is 27, which is pretty much the age most women get married now.
This doesn’t seem to bother the Church of England much. After all, we have an Archbishop of Canterbury who thinks the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in British communities ‘seems unavoidable’ and might even help social cohesion. And perhaps it shouldn’t bother me. But something about the speed and ease of these apparent epiphanies makes me uneasy.
Islam is a special case, when it comes to conversion. To convert to Judaism is incredibly complicated, in some traditions involving a rabbi rejecting you three times before allowing you to embark on a lengthy and painstaking process. Catholics are notoriously picky and arguably spend more time and energy than recruiting in deselecting large numbers of their existing members for infringements such as divorce and remarriage. They demand that converts undergo weeks, sometimes months of preparation which is to end in their saying they believe the entire Catholic doctrine: a hurdle many cradle Catholics could not clear. Many Hindus still believe that theirs is an identity that can only be had from birth and as such there is no formal process for conversion to -Hinduism.
By contrast, Islam allows anyone to recite a single short sentence and sign a piece of paper. An internet search turns up dozens of sites instructing on the quickest way to convert — including doing it in your own living room, on your own — and there are any number of forums with Muslims giving pre-conversion Christians helpful advice on how to pronounce the shahada in Arabic.
You call it “Leaning on a lamp post”. I call it loitering with intent.’
But notwithstanding the eagerness of her new faith to welcome her, why should my friend, an Anglican Christian by birth, so meekly submit to this faith-swap? Could it be that when it comes to relationships, as Carrie Bradshaw might say, the party without much grounding in their own religion invariably gives way to the one with a strong sense of religious identity?
…When my friend bends over backwards to accommodate her Muslim husband, she is displaying the ultimate trait of a nicely-brought-up English girl: ‘No, no, you first! After your religion. I insist!’…
…I like Catholicism, with all its unyielding eccentricities. I like the pomp and ceremony, the incense, confessional, the Latin mass, the feeling that wherever I am in the world there will be a church where, no matter what language is being spoken, I will feel at home.
But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.
In uncertain times, and in the face of an aggressive atheist movement, people who suddenly decide that they want religion are choosing strong religions with hard and fast rules, strict boundaries and moral certainties. They don’t want a church that tells them everything goes. And they don’t want the wishy-washy non-religious faith of Ed Miliband either. What is ‘a person of faith, not a religious faith but a faith nonetheless’, as the Labour leader described himself in his conference speech?
Ironically, Mr Miliband went on to say that his mother had been sheltered by nuns during the war. Even so, he didn’t like -organised religion. You can’t please some people, least of all those who still observe the joyless stricture, enshrined by Alastair Campbell, that ‘we don’t do God’, in public at least.
Incidentally, it seems that Roman Catholicism vs Islam might make for a more interesting contest than one with Anglicanism. A Catholic friend who married an Albanian Muslim tells me that she made it an absolute condition of the marriage that they raise their kids Catholic and he agreed, and even attends Mass with her on Sundays.
You may knock us Papists for being bigots, but at least we stand up for what we believe. Call me narrow-minded, but I would not convert to someone else’s religion for all the tea in China. I wouldn’t dare risk the fire and brimstone that my old convent school teacher Sister Mary Kevin told me was waiting for me if I strayed….
…Not wanting to leave anything to chance, however, the Vatican is so worried about the possibility of Catholic women converting to Islam through marriage that it has issued an edict. A papal instruction, amusingly entitled ‘The Love Of Christ Towards Migrants’, warns women not to even think of loving migrants themselves — well, not in that way. As I say, you’ve got to hand it to them for chutzpah.
The Church of England, meanwhile, looks down its nose at such dogma, preferring instead to issue edicts that are ecumenical to the point of absurdity, in the interests of social cohesion. As my friend embarks on her new life as a Muslim convert, she will no doubt discover more about what sort of social cohesion Islam is prepared to offer her.Read More:http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8667291/till-faith-do-us-part/
(see link at end)…But Islam is interested in them. And Islam is growing. More and more British cities have seen the domes and minarets of smart, prominently positioned new mosques rising in their neighbourhoods.
A large and imposing Islamic centre is now nearing completion in Oxford, one of Christian England’s holiest places. Imagine what would happen if Anglicans sought to build a Christian centre in Qom, Isfahan, Najaf or anywhere on the soil of Saudi Arabia, and wonder what Muslim leaders think of Christian feebleness on such matters.
Thanks to the immigration of recent decades, Britain has a young, energetic and swelling Muslim population which is increasingly assertive about its faith.
Official Islam may disapprove of such things but there have even been signs of the Muslim intolerance towards Christianity that is a nasty feature of so many Islamic societies.
In the Bradford suburb of Girlington, not far from where the Gallaghers live in Manningham, Asian youths tried to set fire to an Anglican church. Soon afterwards, a Brownie pack leader was attacked in a nearby street by young men who snarled ‘Christian bitch’ at her.
An isolated and meaningless incident? You might hope so, but it would be unwise to be sure.
If you travel to these areas, you get the sense that Islam, one of the great forces of history, long ago defeated by the armies and navies of a mighty Christian Europe, is once again feeling its strength and finding that it has been able to penetrate what were once the most impregnable fortresses of its great rival.
Islam’s appeal, wherever it has triumphed, has been in its simplicity. It requires submission to some basic, straightforward rules which are easily kept, and in return it offers that most wonderful and rare commodity, peace of mind. To modern Westerners, its attitude towards women seems incredibly backward and even hateful….
…So if eventually Britain begins to sicken of strong lager, pools of vomit, Bacardi Breezers, bouncers looming on every High Street, the battlefields in the streets of many towns on Friday and Saturday nights, ecstasy tablets, cocaine, football-worship, pregnant 12-year-olds, morning-after pills and all that goes with them, is it possible that puritan Islam will be the cause that benefits?
If bureaucratic police and feeble justice continue to fail to suppress crime and disorder, will the savage but simple remedies of Sharia law begin to appeal to the British poor, who are already weary of seeing dishonesty triumph everywhere and lawless violence go unchecked?
Might Islam become respectable among the politically correct middle classes, in a way that Christianity never really can, because Christianity is always associated in this country with the conservative, imperial past?
You will already find plenty of bright young Muslims in our universities, many of whom are impressive and diligent students, and their influence is bound to increase as they move into the professions.
The idea of an Islamic Britain may seem highly unlikely now, amid what still seems to be more or less a Western, Christian society. We are used to thinking of Islam as a religion of backward regions, and of backward people.
But we should remember that Muslim armies came within inches of taking Vienna in 1683 and were only driven from Spain in 1492. In those days it was the Islamic world that was making the great scientific advances which we now assume are ours by right….
…If we don’t respect our own customs and religion, we may end up, as Ashlene and Amie Gallagher have done, respecting someone else’s. Don’t be surprised.