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June 03rd 2016 print

Peter Smith

A Discordant and Delusional ‘Harmony’

This talk we hear of inter-faith amity and understanding, how does Islam meld with that kumbaya narrative? Not well, or so it strikes me. As Mohammed denied Christ's divinity, the Trinity and Resurrection, what common ground is it possible to find?

sheep wolf IIFrancis Kalifat, the newly elected president of France’s Jewish communities, said this: “The fight against anti-Semitism is our main cause because French Jews are in the most difficult situation they have experienced since World War II.” I wonder why? My goodness, don’t we need to build religious harmony!

Who could possibly object to building harmony? Well, unless I am mistaken, harmony is what appeasers have sought down the ages. So count me as one of those who retains a healthy degree of scepticism about pursuing harmony. Don’t misunderstand me. I am all for harmony between those of goodwill. It’s harmony with the bad guys and the perpetually precious that worries me.

Interfaith dialogue is about harmony. One description of the process is Christians kowtowing to discordant Muslims. What else is it about? Without Muslims, interfaith dialogue these days would be a movement with a substantive cause. Here are just a few of the many examples of Christian overtures:

Established in 2003 by the National Council of [Christian] Churches in Australia, the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews provides “opportunity for the national bodies of each faith to come together to build understanding and harmony in the Australian context.”

In 2014 Pope Francis called for interfaith dialogue to help end fundamentalism and terrorism during his first visit to Turkey. And only with considerable distaste is it possible to bring to mind Pope John Paul II kissing the Koran in 1999 at the Vatican. No doubt this was observed with satisfaction by his Muslim visitors.

In October, 2015, Justin Welby joined the Anglican Archbishops of Wales, Scotland and Ireland to mark the 10th anniversary of the Cardiff University’s Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK. “We have unequivocally to condemn those who misuse our own Scriptures for their own ends … The mainstream of each faith needs to generate a counter-narrative that acknowledges our differences and commits to resource and support one another in defiance of those who wish to divide us.”

“[And] support one another” – really, in their respective faiths? The Archbishop might just occasionally want to refer to Christian scripture rather than engage in kumbaya. The lesson from my church on Sunday was from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “There are some who are confusing you to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven [even the Archangel Gabriel visiting Mohammed in a cave] should proclaim to you a different gospel contrary to what we have proclaimed, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!”

Is there anything remotely unclear about Paul’s statement? Is there anything unclear about Christ’s warning that false prophets will arise? Maybe someone should warn the Pope and the Archbishop: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-16) Fine, dismiss these scriptural passages if you are not a Christian. But if you are a Christian leader where in the world does this leave you?

For my part as an Anglican, I keep on reminding myself that the Anglican Church is run by flawed people (as are we all) and in this case, so far as Islam is concerned, by the lily-livered who have mistaken Christ for a doormat.

A story – unfortunately only the ending is a tall tale – is instructive. Upon a time, a predominantly Christian society by heritage has living within it a productive Jewish community; and for that matter numbers of Hindus and Buddhists and followers of other religions. Everyone (criminals apart) lived peacefully together. All recognised parliamentary law and respected each other’s religious affiliations and views.  A large number of Muslims sought asylum. However, it was known from experience that they would bring with them an unknown number who would want to establish their own laws, impose their own religious practices, be intolerant of those of other religions and be hateful towards Jews. They were refused entry. Christian leaders were asked where they stood. They said they agreed with the policy. Where, they said, does Christ say that we must invite destruction upon our values and upon our friends? We Christians are not doormats, they added defiantly.

Some hope, hey! I will end by querying the position of Christian clergy. Mohammed seems to satisfy the conditions for being a false prophet. He denies the divinity of Christ and His crucifixion and the Trinity. Bitter fruits are everywhere evident.  So, if Mohammed is a false prophet, he deserves to be accursed; does he not? His disciples could not be part of any inter-faith dialogue. His book (the Koran) must surely be treated as a farrago of lies; not kissed.

Maybe I have it wrong. The least the clergy could do is to explain why Mohammed is not a false prophet (and what therefore he is). Or, if they think he is a false prophet, why they think it appropriate to ‘harmonize’ Christianity with Islam; rather than, out of loving regard for Muslims trapped in a false faith, to openly condemn Islam and invite Muslims to convert to Christianity. And, by the way, you can’t tar other mainstream world religions with the same brush as Islam. They all predated Christianity. None has sought to defile Christian scripture.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [23]

  1. johnhenry says:

    “They all predated Christianity. None has sought to defile Christian scripture.”

    Uhmm. I sort of had the impression the Jews tried to crush Christianity in its early years. Something about that in The Acts of the Apostles, no? Peter and John arrested by the Sadducees, Stephen killed, James (brother of John) killed by Herod Agrippa, Paul almost stoned to death, Paul put on trial by the Sanhedrin which intended to execute him, etc. etc?

    Please forgive my quibbling. After all, the Jews haven’t persecuted us for centuries now.

    Good essay.

    • Peter says:

      Don’t mind the quibble. I have reminded a few Jewish friends that they started the persecution though admittedly it rather pales against what subsequently happened. As you say it lies in the distant past. But when it comes to defiling I suppose the Sadducees thought it was implicitly being done to their scripture by the rise of Christianity. In any event, none of it matches the explicit mangling and corruption of Jewish scripture and Christian scripture perpetrated by Islam. Its inventors might at least have shown some originality by inventing their own historical prophets.

      • Warty says:

        ‘Its inventors might at least have shown some originality by inventing their own historical prophet’. Oh yeah? I thought it was Archangel Gabriel, who in turn had been text messaged by Allah. Except, well, he’s a little different to the Archangel Gabriel I heard of (as a child). This one seems a little schizophrenic (forgive me the real Archangel Gabriel) in that he was wonderfully philosophical when he visited Mohammed in Mecca, but a warmongering, Jew hating, camel train raiding, blood thirsty psychopath in Medina.
        For us the real problem is that most practising Muslims (you’re dead if you’re not) believe the Qu’ran is the word of God.
        It’s a mystery.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Matthew 27:24-25, New International Version (NIV)

      24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
      25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

      This rather unlikely Jewish response has been severely questioned by Jewish authorities ever since. But it did its apparently intended effect: to shift responsibility for the death of Jeshua bar Joseph from the Roman authorities (whom the early Christians were trying to appease, particularly following the Jewish Revolt of AD 66-70) to the Jews, and justified endless massacres and pogroms right down to the Nazi Holocaust.
      .
      https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2027:24-27:25&version=NIV

  2. Bill Martin says:

    Your articles are always worthwhile reads Peter as is this one. However, the reasoning you so generously apply to the subject of interfaith dialogue is altogether wasted. There ought to be no longer any need of justification, if ever there were, to justify the unconditional condemnation of Islam. It is evil! Islamic scriptures constitute a set of manuals on committing crimes against humanity, particularly its non-Muslim’s constituent. The Koran is the volume of instructions and the Hadith is the illustration supplement. The fact that the vast majority of muslims, together with their apologists, are “blissfully” unaware of this fundamental truth does not alter the reality of it. Let us ask ourselves this: would there be any need to justify the unequivocal condemnation of Nazism?

    • Warty says:

      I don’t know about Peter’s discussion of ‘interfaith dialogue’ being ‘altogether wasted’: I would have thought any positive discussion of our Judeo-Christian heritage to be worthwhile, after all this is what the radical left is intent on dismantling.
      What you say about you both say about Islam is of course entirely true, and there we many of us see an enemy that we can tackle head on (at least we should be) but liberal secular humanism and the ravages it has already inflicted on our millennia old traditions is not so easy to unravel, because we have to challenge some of our own, some of our seemingly second-nature thoughts and feelings, in order to kill the ‘serpent’. Often it masquerades as compassion, which is why so many ‘liberal’ churches rebel against our ‘closed borders’ policy; and that whole ‘do unto others’ bit, has a way of eating away at our other ‘eternal vigilance’ bit.
      Our times are unscripted, which is why the enemy is so difficult to pin down, but we have to recommence the dialogue about what is wonderful about our culture, so as to undo the damage done by those inflicted with the guilt virus.

  3. Lacebug says:

    I’ve never really understood the Left’s infatuation with Islam. Surely it would represent everything they hate: the persecution of homosexuals; the persecution of women; etc etc.
    Can someone please explain the attraction?

    • Jody says:

      It’s precisely what Islam ISN’T which appeals to the Left: Christian, establishment, culturally hegemonic, built upon affluence and bi-products of it (art, music, cathedrals) and the proximity to Christianity to the legal system, ethics and morality of society. None of those things can be said about Islam – at least none which has any meaning to the western world – and this is why it is of such value as a ‘weapon’ to use against all of us because it signals our ‘white privilege’. What a sad little bunch of aggrieved marxists we have in our midst. I’d like to use a musical metaphor and ship them all to Siberia where they can play their favourite agitprop tunes in the familiar key of “A Salt Miner”.

      • ArthurB says:

        Although Marxists eschew religion, they and Islamists have a lot in common. As long ago as 1939 Franz Borkenau described the Bolsheviks as being “formed of young men of all classes who break every connection with their social background and live in hiding, in a close community resembling that of the early Christians, for the sole purpose of revolutionary work; men as ready for self-sacrifice and martyrdom, as contemptuous of the good things of the world, as devoted to the work to which they have vowed their lives, as those early Christians themselves.” Of Nechaev, one of the founders of Bolshevism, Borkenau remarked that his ideology was very close to “the ideas of certain fanatical Islamic sects”.

    • Invariably leftists have and always will support totalitarianism over freedom/capitalism. The leftists have in the past and continue to support/promote now secular totalitarianism in its various guises such as communism, Nazism, environmentalism etc. They also will support/promote theological totalitarianism of Islam over that of western values.

  4. Bran Dee says:

    ‘We Christians are not doormats’ from this point on! Thank you Peter, if mild mannered Anglican parishioners can say ‘here I stand’ Mohammedanism is an ideology not dissimilar to Communism or Nazism then there is hope for Australia. We recall that Jesus never invited the Pharisees to feel welcome and to have their feet washed. They opposed his message and his existence and Jesus unmasked and opposed their ideology. Similarly Jesus warned off those who wanted to stone a woman to death [but not the man who must have been involved in the supposed adultery]. By his support for monogamy Jesus also opposed polygamy so why do we not implacably oppose the modern manifestations of these injustices in Shariah law. Why do we not close our borders to it?

    The Weekend Australian magazine of Dec 05-06, in a somewhat unsympathetic article on modern Buddhist nationalist movements in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, quoted a defender of the Buddhist faith as saying “the biggest challenge to Buddhism is Islam.Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia – - these countries which are nowadays Muslim used to be Buddhist. Now they are working so hard to make Burma an Islamic state also”.

  5. Matt says:

    Yes, good essay. May its message spread far and wide. A large proportion of the New Testament is taken up with stern warnings about false teachers and ‘do not be deceived’ passages. Given Jesus’ extremely harsh condemnation of false-teaching religious leaders of his day recorded in Mt 23 (“child of hell, blind fools, blind guides, hypocrites, bunch of snakes…”), one wonders what he is thinking now of many among the clergy of our day of the ilk you describe.

    • Jim Campbell says:

      Peter, your salient article prompts a few thoughts.
      * I’ve never understood how a committed Christian can hold a post in a university religious faculty. I think to do such a post justice one would need to be a good atheist.
      * I just don’t understand interfaith dialogue when it comes to Islam and Christianity.
      * I din’t understand how any Christian church leader, can do anything other than take a clear stand against Islam. After all the Qur’an equates the God of the Qur’an with the God of the Bible. Demonstrably false, fanciful, and an affront.
      *Jesus said, ‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.’
      * It is time for the Church to take the initiative. Christian leaders should: require all churches at all services to include a prayer for the nation and a prayer for Muslims; hold public meetings explaining the chasm between Islam and Christianity including public prayer.

  6. Jody says:

    You won’t need to hold public meetings explaining the chasm between Islam and Christianity; I would have thought it will become increasingly obviously, especially in Europe where millions are now flocking. Don’t imagine for a second that these same people will want to adopt the native culture of the host nations either.

  7. johnhenry says:

    It occurs to me that the photo introducing this piece would make an excellent avatar for a Muslim blogger with a puckish sense of humour. Are there any such? Borat perhaps?

  8. Ian MacDougall says:

    Sam Harris has an excellent article ( May 25, 2011) on Islam at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/losing-our-spines-to-save_b_100132.html

    Geert Wilders, conservative Dutch politician and provocateur, has become the latest projectile in the world’s most important culture war: the zero-sum conflict between civil society and traditional Islam. Wilders, who lives under perpetual armed guard due to death threats, recently released a 15 minute film entitled Fitna(“strife” in Arabic) over the internet. The film has been deemed offensive because it juxtaposes images of Muslim violence with passages from the Qur’an. Given that the perpetrators of such violence regularly cite these same passages as justification for their actions, merely depicting this connection in a film would seem uncontroversial. Controversial or not, one surely would expect politicians and journalists in every free society to strenuously defend Wilders’ right to make such a film. But then one would be living on another planet, a planet where people do not happily repudiate their most basic freedoms in the name of “religious sensitivity.”

  9. Warty says:

    What came to mind was the real reason for Pope John Paul II kissing the Qu’ran. He was told it was a cake.
    The conversation, as I recall, was rather interesting, because it revealed the level of senility afflicting His Holiness (forgive me Pope John Paul, for I know not what I say). The conversation went something like this:

    “What is this”?
    “It’s a cake, your Holiness”.
    “It looks very much like a book to me”.
    “Yes, your Holiness, it is supposed to look like a holy book: it makes the eating look almost guilt-free”.
    “How come it doesn’t feel all sticky, the way icing normally does”?
    “Well, your Holiness, it has between 50 and 60% cocoa-butter mass, which makes the chocolate icing a lot harder”.
    “Well, I suppose it’s alright then”. He takes a little nibble (not a kiss).
    The camera doesn’t show his undisguised disappointment. Edited out I think.

    • johnhenry says:

      That might be faintly amusing to some people, Wart, if you don’t mind my using your diminutive; but not to Catholics and many non-Catholics who revere St John Paul for his years of courageous suffering and for his formidable intellect, sadly weakened in the end by Parkinson’s, but never by senility. He had passing moments of semi-lucidity, to be sure, but how many seniors do not? (I forgot my sister’s name once). He’s a saint all the same. You may have been too impressed by John Cornwell’s 2004 hatchet job, “The Pope in Winter”. Pax.

  10. Rob Ellison says:

    The truth is that any of this superficial analysis could be equally applied to the Jewish or Christian religions. For something more balanced and in depth – https://libraryoflights.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/unholy-war-terror-in-the-name-of-islam-john-l-esposito.pdf

    “In addition to the requirements of Australian law, the religious obligations of Islam provide that it is an individual and collective obligation for all citizens and residents of Australia to protect life and property in Australia against violence or harm.

    This is an unanimous position and emerges directly from the core principles of Islam, including the Holy Qur’an and the authentic practice of the Prophet Muhammad.” Australian Council of Imans

    There are far more Muslima that abjure terrorism than support – these are equally the enemies of the small sect of would be 7th century Arabians.

    http://nceis.unimelb.edu.au/about/projects/national_imams_consultative_forum/fatwa_and_rulings_against_terrorism_in_islam

    Indeed I find the whole – including the responses – a far more insidious threat to western enlightenment values than the Council of Imans ever could be.

    • Warty says:

      I am always suspicious when someone begins by insulting an author, or a piece of writing, for instance this article by Peter Smith. The first phrase of the very first sentence states ‘The truth is that any of this superficial analysis . . .’. Hm, red alert. Then there is your statement in your fourth paragraph: ”there are far more Muslima that abjure terrorism than support . . .’ and then you go on to say that ‘these are equally the enemies of the small sect of would be 7th Century Arabians’. I had to pinch myself to find out whether or not I was having a particularly cosy little dream, but no, that is indeed the statement I read. Now, as I recall, the population of Pakistan is 178 million Muslims and of those (the PEW research centre claim) 75% believe in the death penalty for apostasy, and I really can’t think of a better way of shutting down debate than lopping somebody’s head: works every time. These are the same countrymen that went absolutely amok, when those endearing Danish cartoons came out poking fun at Muhammad (remember that?).
      But of course you back up your statement with proof: your second hyperlink. Now here’s the interesting think . . . these powerful fatwas against terrorism (your proof that ‘there are far more Muslima that abjure terrorism than support) stops at March 2010: that’s six whole years ago. What has happened since? I suspect the Jihadis managed to get at these very brave muslims (not Muslima) and cut their heads off for daring to post heretical fatwas.

  11. Rob Ellison says:

    Muslims is always capitalised – and the a is an obvious typo such as is almost universally ignored on the interweb.

    I called it superficial and offered a more thoughtful alternative. It seems relatively moderate. It seems relatively obvious that the qualifying phase on this sort of analysis being equally applicable to Christianity and Judaism is reason enough. It is not so ago that witches and heretics suffered supreme sanctions in the west as just one instance of many. Let alone harking back to the 7th century.

    As for the 2010 cut of date for Fatwahs – I assumed it was the when the page was created. The Council of Imans is more recent. More recent yet is just a Google away.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/70000-indian-muslim-clerics-issue-fatwa-against-isis-the-taliban-al-qaida-and-other-terror-groups-a6768191.html

    It is actually 76% of those who believe that Sharia law should be law of the nation. Which in Pakistan is a sizeable majority. Then there is the question on whether Sharia – the way – as an interpretation of the Qu’ran is open to interpretation. As of matter of theology and practice – it is evident that it is.

    I have no time for criminal behaviours – as little as the Imans it seems. Almost as little time as for the appallingly unfunny, supercilious mockery that passes for progressive humour.

    It is incumbent on all religions in our nation to find ways to live within the hard won freedoms of our enlightenment heritage. In this tradition – all religions are given succour. Boofheads are another matter – they lead nowhere useful.

    • Warty says:

      If you read the response (above) again, you’ll see that the 75% related to the percentage who believe that apostasy should be punishable by death. Those who believe that Sharia is the indivisible word of God is 81% and of course they believe Pakistan should come under Sharia law.