Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pell's straight talk on Islam

Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, has backed the comments made recently by Pope Benedict linking Islam with violence.

In a statement Cardinal Pell noted that,

The violent reactions in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears. They showed the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence.

Dr Pell also described the response of Australia's mufti, Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali as "unfortunately typical and unhelpful":

It is always someone else's fault and issues touching on the nature of Islam are ignored. Sheik Alhilali often responds to criticism by questioning the intelligence and competence of the questioner or critic.

He added later in a radio interview this observation about Sheik Alhilali:

I'm tempted to say almost never does he address the criticism of Islam but diverts the question away from it and I think resorts to evasions.

In other news on this issue, there was a demonstration by Muslims outside London's Westminster Cathedral. The placards held by the demonstrators make for interesting reading: "May Allah curse the Pope," "Pope go to Hell", "Jesus is the slave of Allah" and most bluntly revealing of all, "Islam will conquer Rome".


  1. Sort of proves the point that Pope was making in his lecture doesent it ?
    Sadly the left seems very keen to make excuses for that which they should ,as supporters of free spech, should be denouncing long and loud.

  2. Yeh, those Muslims and their love of violence. Think of their Crusades, and their Inquisition, their IRA, and their talk of an eye for an eye. I mean, it's no wonder Bush appeals to a "higher father" when he launches pre-emptive war.

  3. Predictable Pell-speak. Nothing like pouring a little more fuel on the inevitable reactionary fire. The Pope's provocative comments cannot possibly have been a blunder...he's infallible, right? That means he and Pell are hell(pell)-bent on exploiting Islamophobia for all it's worth. Didn't the same thing happen in whipping up support for the Crusades? Deja vu.

  4. Roger, a few points:

    1) The IRA is not a Catholic organisation. Its ideology is, in fact, a secular leftist one. If you don't believe this, take a look at Sinn Fein's website.

    According to this site:

    "Sinn Fein is committed to the transformation of Irish society and to a negotiated and democratic settlement. It knows that peace is not simply the absence of violence. Real peace - a lasting peace - is based on democracy, justice, freedom and equality."

    They go on and on like this, talking left-speak. They are definitely not a bunch of serious Catholics dedicated to spreading a religious truth through force of arms.

    2) The context of the Crusades was the conquest by Islam of formerly Christian lands in the Middle East. Once the Crusades declined Islam was free again to continue its territorial expansion, including into significant areas of Europe.


    Why shouldn't someone like Pell ask Muslim leaders to give straight answers to important questions?

    Recently, there was a suggestion by police in Britain that there be "profiling" at airports - meaning that some Muslims might be more likely to have their luggage searched and so on.

    The response of the most important leader of Britain's Muslims? He said such measures would so aggravate Muslims that:

    "Britain will have to deal with two million Muslim terrorists, 700,000 of them in London. If you attack a whole community, it becomes despondent and aggressive."

    This is the kind of thing Pell is talking about. It's not a rational response to a situation, but is a threat of massive violence. It's a threat not made by a rank and file hothead but by the top leadership.

    Anonymous, you are asserting cynically that the Pope and Archbishop Pell have sinister political motives. There is much evidence, though, that Pell is acting responsibly in confronting a real problem.

  5. Mark Richardson replies to me, in part, by saying:

    "The IRA is not a Catholic organisation."

    Quite so, but then neither were those Muslims to which Mark referred - demonstrating outside London's Westminster Cathedral - Islamic organisations.

    I am unclear what the point of Mark's reference (in reply) to "the context of the Crusades" can be, although it sounds very much like the beginnings of an attempt to justify the Crusades.

    Now, please all join me in a rousing chorus of Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War.

  6. Roger, the protesters demonstrating outside Westminster Cathedral were there as Muslims. They were holding signs talking about Islam conquering Rome and Jesus being subservient to Allah.

    They were not acting in accordance with a left-wing secular republicanism, as did members of the IRA.

    As for the Crusades, I can only repeat that they were called for after the loss of further territory to Muslim armies in the Middle East.

    The Crusades were a counter-offensive. The one thing they did achieve was to halt further Muslim expansion for a number of generations.

    When the Islamic offensive resumed it was disastrous for Europe. Constantinople eventually fell, as did a considerable part of south-eastern Europe.

  7. Mark replies with the different point that:

    ...the protesters demonstrating outside Westminster Cathedral were there as Muslims.

    I accept that point (and the related point that the IRA did not do what they did as Catholics). Of course, they mostly were Catholics, just as the UDA mostly were Protestants. But we are to ignore these doses of historical reality.

    Can I just draw upon the sensible remark of Joee Blogs (the Londoner who is Mark's original source of news of the demonstration at Westminster Cathedral), who writes:

    "These were 100 Muslims out of the 2 million (ish?) living in Britain. Thus this is hardly representative of all muslims."

    I am concerned that the press make use of the actions of a miniscule minority of extremists in meeting the imperative to sell newspapers, and that the electronic media does the same in meeting its need to sell airtime. And that, subsequently, people like Mark - who are very likely good to their kids - get themselves disproportionately worked up. They lose their sense of proportion, thinking of the linguistic results of that loss as mere "straight talk". This is not rational. They have been manipulated by a press which is driven, however understandably, by the profit motive. Or so it seems to me.

    In this particular case, I am not certain how extreme these 100 or so people actually were. They were demonstrating. Horrors! Some placards, some shouting - you know. . . exercising free speech. One of the virtues of a liberal culture.

    All the while, people like Mark also appear to lose a sense of the plentiful existence of historical and contemporary extremists of their own ilk, Christian extremists - much more powerful, may I say, than any contemporary Muslim extremists.

    Finally, I note that Mark does suppose the Crusades were "called for". How about the Inquisition?

  8. The Crusades were centuries ago; likewise the Inquisition. Is that the best the leftist Christian-haters can come up with, to dredge up centuries-old events? Let's talk about today, shall we? How many acts of violence by Mohammedans have there been in recent times? Beheadings, some of them recorded on videotape, suicide bombings, and various other acts of mayhem? And what about the many thousands of Moslems rioting around the world? And I don't care that they are supposedly only a 'tiny percentage' of the total number of Moslems. Prove to me that the majority are 'peaceful.' The majority of them do nothing to distance themselves from the supposed 'tiny minority of extremists.' Silence implies consent.
    And as for the supposed 'Christian extremists' -- who are they? People handing out tracts with un-PC language in them? I guess I haven't noticed all the 'Christian extremists' crashing planes into skyscrapers and beheading non-Christians. If Christians are so much of a threat, why is it that Christians in many places in Europe are being prosecuted for quoting the Bible, and why, in America, is the name of Christ banned from public places, and prayer banned in schools?
    Nobody believes those tired and snarky talking-points except the true-believer leftists.
    There is just no believable way to rationalize Moslem violence and terror, especially by resorting to such feeble 'arguments' as the 'Christian extremist' threat.

  9. Dear Vanishing American,

    Would that you were.

    Alas, in the last 5 years, you have multiplied and twice elected Mr. Bush - who, for these purposes, will be my chief exhibit of a contemporary Christian extremist. I assume you will not contest his professed Christianity, so the issue between us will turn on whether he is an extremist.

    I regard him so principally because of what he did in Iraq (not Afghanistan, by the way). There, he launched a pre-emptive war (Bush himself thought of it that way) on a country that was not, in fact, a threat - and certainly not an imminent threat (not a 'clear and present danger') - to the U.S. (Remember, there were no Iraqis in the 9/11 planes. They were mostly Saudis.) George's attack did not amount to a few beheadings but rather the deaths (and maimings) of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of civilians. It caused just a little resentment which we pretend, at our peril, not to understand. If silence implies consent, as you say, then the silence of many Americans similarly implies consent to this slaughter. Just as the silence of most Jews to Israeli aggression would imply consent.

    I'm not a leftist Christian-hater, as you charge, nor a Jew-hater, nor a Muslim-hater. I do suspect you of the latter. But, be that as it may, my beef is increasingly with religion itself. The Protestants, the Catholics, the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindus - all of them - constantly at one another's throats, dragging the rest of us along, urging us to take sides in the mayhem. It's enough already.

  10. Roger, the problem is not a one-off demonstration by 100 protesters. It's an ongoing process. Think of the London bombings, the Madrid bombings, the Danish cartoon affair, the Bali bombings, 9/11, the murder of Theo van Gogh, the Paris riots, the arrest of terrorist cells in Melbourne and Sydney, the foiled attempt to bomb trains in Germany. Think too of how Muslim leaders have reacted to these events, trying to use them strategically to force concessions from Western governments.

    Don't you think there's a legitimate issue to address? Do you really see this as simply a beat up by the press wanting to sell papers?

  11. "Don't you think there's a legitimate issue to address? Do you really see this as simply a beat up by the press wanting to sell papers?"


    Each of these events was, of course, "a legitimate issue to address". Under a plausible rubric, they may - taken together - constitute a legitimate issue to address. Whether there is such a plausible rubric, and its exact nature, ought to be discussed, however. But sensibly. Probably, this constitutes a sliver of common ground between us.

    And so, no, I don't see this as simply a beat-up by the press (and certain politicians). Nevertheless, it is beaten up (to an absolute froth) by the press and certain politicians. And people are manipulated by the beat-up to the point where they lose, in my view, their native sense of proportionality. Then the resultant 'analysis' of the issue becomes torturously shallow, and the blood is stirred for an old-fashioned tribal fight. Not good.

    So, legitimate issues to address?: yes. The question is, of course, how to address them. A good first step is to take a deep breath, and calm down. Thinking about numbers of people involved - both as perpetrators, and as victims - is not a bad second step. And then, given that there is a problem of some magnitude, think carefully about its causes and even - this will come hard for many - about what causal role we might have played, and about some of the excesses we authored. And also about whether we might be continuing to aggravate the problem by some of our actions, actions we might well forgo. A bit of self-examination wouldn't go astray, and it is one of the traditional strengths of Western culture. You know, even the Bush administration has at least pretended to do this - in suggesting (rightly or wrongly) that the West's propping up of various Middle Eastern dictatorships over the decades has something to do with the discontent of the region. Then too, many Muslims complain about the U.S.'s recent one-sided support of the Israeli government over the Palestinians. Maybe we could, maybe we should, take a serious look at that complaint, instead of continually averting our gaze for fear of charges of anti-Semitism. Maybe Bush himself could have, and should have, over the last 6 years, made a serious effort to make some progress in that central dispute. And so on. Or is it rather, to quote you against you, "always someone else's fault"?

    Legitimate issues to be addressed legitimately. Waving banners is not part of it. You don't want to get into the business of incitement.

  12. Roger, the idea that the West has somehow incited Islamic terrorism has a major flaw.

    This argument would be more persuasive if Islamic terrorism were directed at the US, Britain and Australia, as these are the countries best known for their military intervention in Muslim countries and their tendency to support Israel.

    However, Islamic terrorism is more widespread than this. It has occurred in India, in Thailand, and the Philippines. It has occurred also in fighting between different sects of Islam in Iraq.

    Nor do those European countries which have tended to support the Palestinians, such as France, feel immune from Islamic terrorism because of their pro-Palestinian political stance; the French have maintained a large anti-terrorist apparatus and monitor the mosques as closely as in any other Western country.

    Remember too that the terrorists often advance different reasons than the one you suggest for carrying out their attacks. For instance, Osama bin Laden has demanded that the Americans convert to Islam as a precondition for peace.

    Similarly, Abu Bakar Bashir has said in relation to the Bali bombings that:

    "We have to be fanatic with Islam. No matter what, Islamic law must be imposed … For centuries Islam reigned the world, the world was safe, prosperity and justice everywhere. After the fall of Islam and the world was reigned by infidels the world is now in full darkness and full of injustice."

    For Bashir, "justice" means imposing Sharia on the world. In line with this he too has called on Australians in general and Mr Howard in particular to convert to Islam.

    What I'm suggesting to you is that there is little we can really do to satisfy what Islamic terrorists want from us. If terrorism is to stop it will have to be because of changes within Islam itself.

    So the real debate is whether the terrorists have merely "misinterpreted" Islam or whether there really is support within Islam for violent or coercive jihad.

    What Cardinal Pell and others are finding is that there is evasiveness on such issues by Muslim leaders. Muslim leaders tend to divert attention away from such questions by turning the focus toward how they themselves are treated by the West.

    We must continue to call the Muslim leaders on the central issues at hand, rather than encourage them to turn the focus of debate elsewhere.

  13. Alas, in the last 5 years, you have multiplied and twice elected Mr. Bush - who, for these purposes, will be my chief exhibit of a contemporary Christian extremist. I assume you will not contest his professed Christianity, so the issue between us will turn on whether he is an extremist.

    That is a pretty weak exhibit - the launching of his war in Iraq was clearly protested against by two Popes (immediate past and current), US Bishops, and many other Christian leaders. What Bush did in Iraq had nothing to do with him being Christian - if he were a secular atheist he would have done the same (in fact, many secular atheists supported the war). It seems you are unable to recognize the distinction between a person of a particular religion taking an action for non-religious reasons (eg, defending your country against terrorism, spreading democracy), and one taking an action based upon those religious convictions. Moreover, where are all the Muslim protests against Muslim terrorism comparable to the Christian protests against the Iraq war?

  14. Here I take up a portion of c matt's contribution:

    "What Bush did in Iraq had nothing to do with him being Christian - if he were a secular atheist he would have done the same (in fact, many secular atheists supported the war). It seems you are unable to recognize the distinction between a person of a particular religion taking an action for non-religious reasons (eg, defending your country against terrorism, spreading democracy), and one taking an action based upon those religious convictions."

    I acknowledge the distinction alluded to, and its relevance to the discussion - provided it actually applies to Bush. However, I am not so convinced as c matt is that it does apply.

    What are we to make of this?

    "The president described praying as he walked outside the Oval Office after giving the order to begin combat operations against Iraq, and the powerful role his religious beliefs played throughout that time.
    'Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. . . . I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible. And then, of course, I pray for personal strength and for forgiveness.'"

    The passage is from William Hamilton's review of Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack (at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17347-2004Apr16.html).

    I don't know about you fellers but I'm a little bit worried George thinks God is giving the Almighty thumbs-up to his shenanigans. Worried because - if he believes that the Almighty approves (because, after all, he has prayed to Him, and hasn't heard otherwise) - such thinking may comfort him a bit too much, cause him to not exercise such critical faculties as he has, you know, not think about things he should never stop thinking about. In the passage above, he appears to say that what he is doing is the Lord's will, or is at least consistent with the Lord's will - and that (whew!) he is acting as a messenger of the Lord's will.

    Furthermore, I think it is incontestable that a host (if I may be permitted) of fundamentalist American Christians think the same thing.

    I say all that is a worry.

    And then there's this bit (same source):

    "Bush said he did not remember asking the question [about the advisability of attacking Iraq] of his father, former president George H.W. Bush, who fought Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But, he added that the two had discussed developments in Iraq.

    'You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to,' Bush said.”

    So, when c matt confidently proclaims: "What Bush did in Iraq had nothing to do with him being Christian", I am not convinced. I think there is reason to believe that his professed Christianity had a fair bit to do with what he did, or at the very least with how he justified it to himself.

  15. I made the comment before that if a leftist can't see a leftist-approved solution, he won't see a problem. Roger beautifully illustrates that point.

  16. "I made the comment before that if a leftist can't see a leftist-approved solution, he won't see a problem. Roger beautifully illustrates that point."

    Brett_McS's dismissive sniff is unfair. Its unfairness originates in its inattentiveness. Did I say, or even imply, that I didn't "see a problem"? Nowhere. In fact, attentiveness from Brett would have netted this from me:

    "Each of these events was, of course, 'a legitimate issue to address'. Under a plausible rubric, they may - taken together - constitute a legitimate issue to address."


    "So, legitimate issues to address? Yes."

    The question is, how big an issue ("a problem") are we looking at? As I have already avowed, I am a tad suspicious of religion in general, so I certainly don't want to underestimate the problem posed by Islamic extremism. But, as you will have noticed, neither do I want to ignore the problems posed by other religious groups. (I think your average contributor to this discussion is in danger of doing that.) But further, neither do I want to overestimate the extent of the hazard posed by Islamic extremism. And, as I have argued, I think the usual tribal blood lust, urged on by the corporate press and by so-called conservative discussants, is likely to lead to that outcome.

    Then there's another more personal thing here - about which I have so far said nothing. But perhaps now is the time. According to Brett_McS, I am "a leftist". I'm not sure what he has in mind by that description, apart from the fact that it is evidently not intended to be a compliment. Is he sure what he has in mind? But just maybe, given whatever it is that he has in mind by it, the charge against "leftism" is fair - perhaps something like, 'a leftist is somebody who is such that if they don't see a leftist solution to an alleged problem, they don't see a problem'. But then, of course, there would be the problem of what a "leftist solution" is supposed to be. So much circular banner waving around here.

    But the thing is, I don't really think of myself as a leftist. It may surprise that I think that I'm conservative in a traditional sort of way - a traditional conservative, if you will. Not one of these folks who have stolen the decent label of conservative to further their various mean-spirited ends. Oh, and please remember, I did indicate somewhere in the above that I was not against the attack on Afghanistan. Was that attack supposed by Brett McS to be one of my "leftist solutions"?

    Let me turn things around a bit here, Brett. What is the problem? How big is it? And what is your solution?

  17. My solution to the problem of the Crusades is to ignore it.

    Of course Leftists are probably the most conservative people going these days. Talk about hanging on to a failed ideology.