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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Disturbing Thoughts About "the Religion of Peace"

Recently, 57% of Swiss voters voted to ban the building of minarets in their country. This was neither a ban on the practice of Islam or the building of mosques. Perhaps the reason was that they just didn't like the thought of five daily Azzan disturbing the peace of their cobbled cities and Alpine valleys. Perhaps they thought that the minaret is a sign of Islamic triumphalism rather than the mere practice of the religion.

In any case. Libya's Moammar Qaddafi reacted to the news by saying how hard it would be to build new churches in Muslim-majority countries.


Already, few Muslim countries permit the building of new churches. In Egypt and Turkey, Christians (and Jews) are required to worship in pre-existing edifaces, following older Ottoman statutes. In Saudi Arabia, the practice of any non-Islamic religion is forbidden, and can be punished by deportation or even death. Where new Christian movements have arisen, such as Evangelicals in Turkey and the Kabyle region of Algeria, they are required to meet in private homes--although there may be some unlicensed shanties in a couple of Turkish cities used as churches.

While the Swiss electorate's reaction to Islamic inroads in Europe may be extreme, the fact is that the Muslim world is extremely short on tolerance--regardless of what President Obama said in Cairo. At the present time, there are active movements against the Coptic minority in Egypt, while half of pre-war Iraq's Christians have fled. Arrests of Christians of Muslim background are on the rise in Iran, while Pakistan's Christians are subjected to frequent abductions and rapes of their daughters.

Indeed, while many school textbooks laud the toleration of Ummayad Spain and Saladin's Egypt (with no mention of how Dhimmi laws, which made a tolerated non-Muslim's testimony equal to half of that of a Muslim), the Qu'ran and Hadith are replete with commands to subjugate non-believers. Many still take Muhammad's massacre of the Jewish males of Medina and the enslavement of the women and children as normative Islamic practice. The late Samuel Huntington paused to reflect on Islam's "bloody borders"--and recent developments in the south of Thailand showthat the main counterfactual to Huntington's thesis no longer holds.

Finally, Qaddafi's reaction expresses an all-too common Muslim attitude of "Call us a religion of peace, or we'll murder, pillage, rape, and bomb you, and persecute your co-religionists." This is hardly expressive of a sincere desire for cross-cultural dialogue, and makes the Swiss vote all the more understandable.


  1. Thanks for sending me the link to your blog. I've enjoyed reading your posts. This one prompted several thoughts.

    Like yourself, I assumed that displeasure with the call to prayer was one cause of the vote to ban minaret construction, but apparently the call to prayer was already banned in Switzerland.

    It is possible that support for the ban rests on racism or a resistance to assimilation of a different culture. But I'm more intrigued by the possibility that the ban is prompted by a conclusion that the expansion of Islam threatens the character of Switzerland's secular government. There's Sharia of course, but at a more basic level, the lack of a tradition of church/state separation within Islam (as I understand it).

    Do you feel that Islam as a faith is more intolerant of competing faiths, and is intolerant of secular government itself?

    And if so, I wonder if there are ways to foster an evolution of the Islamic belief system such that there's less of a threat to the Western way of life. A billion Muslims aren't going away, and banning minarets/mosques seems likely to be counterproductive.

  2. John: Your question deserves a lengthy answer. I've written a new post.