The New York Times today, in the form of Ross Douthat’s column, has published what could fairly be described as a call for a Christian religious war — certainly metaphorical and perhaps literal — against Islam. Douthat praises recent efforts by Pope Benedict to recruit disaffected Anglicans back into the Catholic Church by dispensing with the last half-century’s practice of religions “being exquisitely polite to one another.” Douthat claims — approvingly — that Benedict’s current recruitment efforts are grounded in “Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.” Declaring Islam to be “Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe,” Douthat says that many Christians want confrontation — not accommodation, “conciliation,” or “appeasement” — with Islam, and thus may flock to the Catholic Church to get behind Benedict’s forceful denunciations of the faith of 25% of the world’s population:
Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly challenged Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason — and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.
By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.
There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.
So, Douthat excitedly suggests, Anglicans may unite behind the Catholic Church out of eagerness to directly “confront” and denounce — rather than accommodate — Islam, which, the leader of this movement argues, is incompatible “with the Western way of reason.” Increased attacks by Christians on Islam is supposed to be a good thing? And is an institution which demands acceptance from its followers of “papal infallability” — and ingrains in them disturbed and warped sentiments about sex like this — really an ideal candidate to lead the crusade in defense of “the Western way of reason”? How ironic that someone who is virtually calling for a worldwide religious conflagration is simultaneously condemning his targets for lacking “Western reason.”
It’s obviously true that some Islamic extremists are inherently incompatible “with the Western way of reason,” but that’s just as true of Christian extremists and Jewish extremists and a whole array of other kinds of extremists. And some measures taken in the name of accommodating Islam are in tension with core liberties — just as laws enacted in order to impose Judeo-Christian dogma are.
But the claim that Islam itself — and the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims — cannot be accommodated by, or peacefully co-exist with, Western values or Christianity specifically is bigotry in its purest and most dangerous form. It’s hard to imagine anything more inflammatory, hostile and outright threatening than a call for Christians of all denominations to unite behind the common cause of fighting against Islam as Christianity’s most “enduring and impressive foe.” No more “conciliation” or appeasement. What, exactly, does Douthat have in mind for vanquishing the Islamic menace from Europe? What weapons will this “united Anglican-Catholic front” employ against its reason-hating enemy? Which “accommodations” of Islam exactly should cease?
Just today, the French Foreign Minister predicted/threatened an Israeli attack on Iran. Leading American political and media elites routinely advocate and threaten an American attack on that same country. Over the weekend, Afghan officials angrily objected to a “hit list” compiled by the U.S. military of alleged drug kingpins in their country whom we intend to murder on sight without a trial. The U.S. is actively waging war in three Muslim countries simultaneously while it has supported Israel in bombing three others (including Gaza) in the last three years alone. One leading U.S. general explicitly said the invasion of Iraq was about vindicating the Christian God against the Islamic one. Two weeks ago, several members of Congress depicted the presence of Muslim interns as some sort of grave internal threat. And now a columnist in America’s leading newspaper approvingly and breathlessly predicts that Christians will set aside their dogmatic differences in order to unite against Islam on the ground that it is an enemy of reason and cannot be accommodated by the West.
Who exactly are the threatening, hostile and belligerent parties here? Who is actually at war with “the Western way of reason”?
UPDATE: Is the John Hagee/Joe Lieberman alliance of right-wing American Jews and evangelical Christians — based on the premise that God demands that all land, including the West Bank and Gaza, be possessed by Jews — devoted to the advancement of “the Western way of reason”? Is the platform of the Texas GOP — which calls for the criminalization of all sex between gay adults; the denial of all custody rights to gay people, even over their own children; the teaching of creationism in all public schools; and the denial of medical care to prisoners other than those who can pay for it — an example of “the Western way of reason”? How about the Catholic Church’s proselytizing against birth control in areas of the world drowning in poverty, AIDS and overpopulation? Are torture, Guantanamo, Bagram, disappearing people, immunizing war criminals and multiple decade-long wars shining examples of “the Western way of reason”? How about invading a country on totally false pretenses, shattering and destroying it, and causing the deaths of at least 100,000 human beings?
Hey – look over there. Muslims. They’re waging war on reason and taking over. We have to unite to stop them.
UPDATE II: From CNN today:
The Israeli government has ruled out setting up an independent investigative body that would interview Israeli military personnel about allegations that the military committed war crimes during its offensive against Hamas earlier this year.
According to an Israeli government official, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday met with representatives from the Defense, Justice and Foreign ministries to discuss the 575-page report — approved by the U.N. Council for Human Rights earlier this month — which accuses both Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas of “actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity” during the three-week offensive which ended in January. . . .
The U.N. report, based on a fact-finding mission led by South African former jurist Richard Goldstone, calls for both Israel and Hamas to independently investigate the alleged human rights violations cited in the report. . . The prime minister suggested that “he would not agree to any proposal that would mean that soldiers or officers would be interrogated outside of the army investigations,” the official said.
Is that another example of “the Western way of reason” that Muslims simply can’t manage to understand or accept? Along those lines, here’s Matt Yglesias contrasting the reaction of Hamas with the reaction of Israel to the Goldstone report.