The survival of Western countries depends on embracing their Judaeo-Christian heritage

February 22, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Judeo-Christian heritageWorld, Febuary 16, 2016: One of the buzz-words of the last 30 years among academics and writers was the phrase “cultural imperialism”. It was argued that after the end of the Second World War, although Western countries no longer had political empires, they nonetheless imposed their cultural values on the rest of the world. There was of course some truth in this; there had too often been an unfounded assumption that Western ways of thinking and doing were best.

However, what happened next was equally problematic. Among many Western academics, journalists and politicians there was  first, a rejection of the West, including its values, many of which had been derived from its Judaeo-Christian heritage. Secondly, this was coupled with a relativism that claimed that all religions and cultures were good and equally valid. The next step was a decision by governments to actively promote a form of multiculturalism that went well beyond the externals of culture i.e. the type of clothes we wear and food we eat, but one that actively promoted a diversity of different values.

The trouble was that by promoting the values of different cultures not only did we downgrade or even reject the importance of the historic values of Western countries, many, though by no means all of which were Judaeo-Christian ones, we also imported the value structures of other countries. Christians from countries such as Pakistan would often end up at best ignored by the government as ministers engaged with self-appointed community leaders who were invariably Muslims. There were issues that for years were regarded as taboo subjects that governments refused to talk about, such as how women and girls were treated in some communities. These included honour killings, female genital mutilation and crucially as far as Barnabas Fund is concerned, the issue of forced reconversion: violence against Christians from a Muslim family background seeking to intimidate them to revert to Islam.

Consequently, as the 21st century dawned, and when the West began to experience significant levels of Islamist terrorism, the West was woefully ill equipped. Most Western countries had lost confidence in their own cultural identity and values and were in the process of replacing values derived over many centuries from their Judaeo-Christian heritage with vague notions such as the promotion of “diversity”. Too often the Western journalists and politicians were unable to recognise that some of the “diversity” that they were actively promoting, such as sharia (Islamic law), fundamentally undermined the freedoms and values on which Western society was built.

The present vulnerability of the West

As a result, when the current wave of Islamist terrorism began to hit the West there was a refusal to accept that concepts such as jihad has any religious basis. Public figures, with little or no personal understanding of the range of beliefs within Islam, repeatedly told the public that there was no connection between Islam and terrorism. Such statements were profoundly dangerous for a whole variety of reasons. First, because they significantly handicapped the fight against terrorism, as governments claimed that Islamist terrorism was due to socio-economic disadvantage, rather than being driven by religious ideology; secondly, such statements enabled too many Muslim leaders in the West to similarly claim that violence had nothing to do with Islam, instead of urgently thinking through what they should do about Islamic texts that advocated jihad against non-Muslims; and thirdly, as the number of Islamist terrorist attacks increased many ordinary people simply stopped believing the politicians claims that “this has nothing to do with Islam”.

This in turn created an opportunity for racist extremists to incite anti-Muslim hatred by falsely claiming that all Muslims were terrorists; fourthly, governments struggled to define what “extremism” actually was. Instead of defining extremism as “extreme” in relation to British or Canadian, or German values, it was often defined in terms of some Muslims being more extreme than others. Sometimes this resulted in governments listening to, or even funding Islamist groups such as those linked to the Muslim Brotherhood because one could always find another Islamic group somewhere in the world that was even more extreme.

We still see this happening today. During President Obama’s presidential visit to a mosque at the beginning of February he claimed that, “For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace.” and referred to violent jihad as“a perverted interpretation of Islam”.

In fact, of course concepts such as jihad to impose sharia and Islamic government on non-Muslims have been part of classical Islam for its entire existence, even if they have not always been fully implemented.

The West’s denial of Islam’s persecution of Christians

Accompanying this denial that there is any problem with Islam has been another denial that the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters in countries such as Nigeria, Syria and Iraq has got anything to do with Islam.

Yet our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of the actions of Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq are in many cases the descendants of those who have suffered in previous jihads, attempts to impose dhimmitude or slavery or were subject to massacres. In fact, for centuries Christians in this region have lived under the oppression of sharia. This has involved them suffering dhimmi status – second class status for non-Muslims – with, in practice, almost no legal rights, and on occasions being the objects of jihad, enslavement and arbitrary execution. In fact, there have been at least seven genocides among Christians in this region over the last 225 years. All of these were justified at the time as a jihad against non-Muslims, and significantly , all but one happened before the emergence of rise of modern Islamism.

It is a terrible thing to suffer persecution, it is far worse though when other people refuse to accept that you have been persecuted or even blame you for what has happened. Yet that happened in Nigeria, where until November 2013 the US State Department refused to recognise that the actions of Boko Haram were in any way motivated by Islam. Instead they claimed that the attacks on churches, murder and kidnapping of thousands of Christians and Boko Haram’s violent enforcement of sharia were due to socio-economic tensions between Christians and Muslims. In fact, it was a full six months after Boko Haram reintroduced the aspects of sharia allowing the enslavement of non-Muslims, a move shortly afterwards followed by IS, that the US government finally recognised Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation.

What President Obama and other like-minded public figures are actually doing is more than simply acting like the ostrich that puts its head in the sand to avoid seeing danger. In fact they are engaging in a new form of “cultural imperialism” as they seek to impose on the non-Western world their own relativist belief that all religions and cultures are equally good and valid. In practice what they are also actually doing, whether they realise it or not, is often empowering the value structures that have for centuries oppressed Christians and other non-Muslim minorities in countries such as Nigeria, Iraq and Syria.

The West must reassert its confidence in its Judaeo-Christian values

There are however, signs of progress in countries such as Australia and the UK, where there is now a recognition that the terrorist ideology is religious. In December last year former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, recognising that there is a problem within some historic interpretations of Islam, said:

“There needs to be as President al-Sisi of Egypt has said a religious revolution inside Islam. The other thing that is needed is a restoration of cultural self-belief in those who are supporters of Western civilisation. All cultures are not equal and frankly a culture that believes in decency and tolerance is much to be preferred to one which thinks you can kill in the name of God.” The UK has been on something of a journey in this respect. The years immediately following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 saw repeated claims by politicians, police chiefs and other public officials that Islam has nothing to do with violence. Even the official report into the 7/7 2005 bus and underground train bombings in London concluded that it was not clear what the bombers’ motivation was. Now the UK government’s counter terrorism strategy clearly identifies the issue as ideological with a strategy that recognises the need for government institutions to work towards the integration of those vulnerable to radicalisation into wider society, rather than simply promoting “diversity” as it has done in the past. Even more significantly, extremism is now defined as being “extreme” in relation to values that have historically evolved in the UK and become embedded in its national institutions.

But this still leaves a vitally important question, if as at least some Western governments are now increasingly recognising that the battle against Islamism is, apart from anything else, ideological, how does one deconstruct an ideology?

We have actually been here before.

First, in 1857 a number of Islamic leaders declared a jihad against British rule in India. The military defeat of the subsequent uprising led to a number Indian Islamic leaders concluding that God had punished them with an “infidel” government as a result of their own unfaithfulness. They therefore decided to abandon any attempt at military jihad and instead focus on inward spiritual purity. The result was that the Indian subcontinent produced several generations of Muslims who in the main followed a primarily devotional, peaceful, form of Islam, a form which they brought to Western countries where many migrated in the second half of the 20th century. However, it was not simply military defeat that caused the collapse of the jihadi ideology, something else was needed to take its place. For many Muslims from the Indian subcontinent, that “something else” was that they imbibed at least something of those Judaeo-Christian values that had become embedded in British institutions such as democracy and freedom of religion. Now, however, we have a situation where Western countries are increasingly abandoning those very values derived from their Judaeo-Christian heritage that have been so important in the past. At the same time globalisation and the internet has meant that many young Muslims are influenced by other streams of Islam such as those from Saudi Arabia, which are far less tolerant. There the only law is sharia and Muslims are taught that Muslims should rule non-Muslims, that sharia and Islamic government should be extended across the globe and apostasy – leaving Islam for another faith – should be met with an automatic death sentence.

Secondly, during the Second World War the Western world faced an ideological threat of a similar magnitude to radical Islamism from Nazi ideology. In the UK the government of Winston Churchill recognised that it was not enough to defeat Nazism militarily, it must also provide a counter narrative. Churchill in fact, spoke of it as a battle for the survival of those Judaeo-Christian values which he termed “Christian civilisation”, famously declaring in 1940 on the eve of the battle of Britain “Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation.” One small, but significant step his government took was to pass an Education Act in 1944 requiring all children to be taught Christianity in order to prevent any ideology similar Nazism ever taking root in the UK. Similarly, Konrad Andenauer, Germany’s first post-war chancellor, facing an even greater challenge of rebuilding a destroyed country while de-Nazifying an entire generation, consciously sought to rebuild Germany on the basis of Christian values.

The West is slowly waking up to what the Islamist agenda really is, but on the whole is failing to construct a counter narrative. It must reassert its Judaeo-Christian values if it is to do so. At the moment its failure to do so is not only leaving it vulnerable to Islamism, but as we have seen in the case of Nigeria, is also making it difficult for Western governments to fully recognise the suffering that the enforcement of sharia and other aspects of classical Islam such as jihad and dhimmi ­ status create for Christians in many Muslim-majority contexts.

– barnabas team

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