In the Australian on the 6th of June, a senior British Muslim politician, Sajid Javid, in response to the latest atrocities in London, said that the solution to the problems must come from within the Muslim community. Few non-Muslim people would disagree with that.
Mr Javid then continued: ‘I’m not for one second saying that Muslims are in anyway responsible for terrorists. Around the world Muslims are fighting on the frontline in the battle against extremism. It would be absurd to say the actions of a handful in anyway represent a peaceful, wonderful religion that is the guiding light for more than a billion people.’
On the same page, in an associated article, Greg Sheridan pointed out that only 1 in 20 British Muslims believes that al-Qa’ida was responsible for the 9/11 atrocity and that more than 30 per cent believe that the US government was responsible. Mr Javid and Greg Sheridan would probably agree that the Muslim communities in the West have to do more to prevent the sort of atrocities that are now weekly occurrences.
The soul searching and hand wringing that has gone on in the Western media in the past few months has been almost as sickening as the terrorist atrocities themselves. Every time there is another ghastly rampage by Muslim fanatics, politicians and Muslim leaders trot out the party line that Islam is a religion of peace. This is simply not true at the present time. Islam is a religion at war with itself and with the world in general. In every society around the world where Islamic communities and non Islamic communities coexist, there has been some form of conflict in my lifetime. One of the standard lines of the apologists for Islamic violence is that it is a reflection of the history of colonialism or oppression by the West.
How then do we explain the conflict in Southern Thailand where Islamist terrorists seeking independence have caused the death of more than 6,000 in the past 20 years? Thailand was never colonised and the Buddhist majority must be among the least aggressive people on the planet.
How do we explain the history of anti-Christian riots in Indonesia over the past 20 years where thousands of Christians and Balinese Hindus have experienced terror, murder and mass rape by Islamic gangs? In 2005, Islamic terrorists in Sulawesi beheaded 3 Indonesian Christian schoolgirls on their way to school. In what way did this represent a valid critique of Western oppression? The recent ugly election campaign in Jakarta in which Islamic hardliners claimed that Chinese Indonesian Christians should never be allowed to govern Indonesian Muslims hardly betokens the peaceful coexistence envisaged by Mr Javid.
In Mindanao, in the Southern Philippines, for the past 30 years a low level insurgency has continued as Muslims refuse to accept the authority of the central government. Even in countries where the non-Muslims represent a tiny minority of the populace, they are not safe from persecution by the Islamic hardliners. Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian who has been accused of blasphemy and has been in jail for seven years while the grotesque case against her winds its way through what passes for a legal system in that benighted country. One of the lawyers who was defending this unfortunate woman, Salman Taseer, was himself murdered by his own Islamic bodyguard because in defending her he was guilty of blasphemy.
I would be very interested to see how the left wing apologists who claim Islamic atrocities are due to colonialism can establish a link between colonial oppression and the Mumbai hotel massacres in 2008, which were of course carried out by Pakistani Islamists.
In the main centres of Islam in the Middle East, violence is causing chaos and misery on an unprecedented scale as not only do the Islamic fundamentalists have the Christians and Jews to hate, but they are at each other’s throats as the Sunni and Shia sects threaten to create World War III.
We have to recognise that Islam is no longer (if it ever was) ‘a religion of peace’. It is a religion which, for a variety of reasons, is unable to coexist with other groups in the modern world. We must recognise that the violence and conflict which is now commonplace is simply a continuation of a struggle which has been continuing for the past fifteen centuries.
Twenty years ago, the British writer William Dalrymple, in From the Holy Mountain, talking about the decline of Middle Eastern Christianity, said: ‘Christianity is an Eastern religion which grew firmly rooted in the intellectual ferment of the Middle East’. The fall of Constantinople in the fifth century, and Alexandria two centuries later, began the slow decline of Middle Eastern Christianity. A decline which was arrested during the Ottoman Empire but which is now progressing rapidly. The millions of Coptic Christians who lived in Egypt for almost two thousand years are now down to a few thousand and will soon be gone. Ask any of the thousands of Lebanese Christians who came to Australia following the Lebanese civil war what future they see for Christianity in Lebanon and they will tell you ‘None’.
We are now witnessing the beginning of the end of a Christian presence in the Middle East due entirely to the inability of Islam to peacefully coexist with alternative belief systems.
As an atheist I believe the world will be a better place when all religions are cast into the dustbin of history. But I do not accept that all religions are equal. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism and a host of lesser religions, have all learned, to a greater or lesser extent, to coexist. They have recognised that they have no alternative. This is a lesson which Islam has yet to accept.
This is also a lesson which we in the West have to understand and Western politicians, whatever their religious perspective, must recognise that the problem confronting us all is not a handful of terrorists or religious extremists.
The problem is a religious belief system which cannot accept pluralism. There are no politically acceptable solutions to this problem but pretending it doesn’t exist will not help.
Tony Letford was the winner of The 2015 Spectator Australia Thawley Essay prize