Saturday, December 10, 2005

All Muslims are fundamentalists

Charles Moore: But, Archbishop, this is the bleak mid-winter for many Christians

I am looking at a book called What Every Christian Should Know about Islam, published by the Islamic Foundation. So far as I know, it presents an orthodox account of Muslim belief. It says that Mohammed was probably illiterate, and that the Koran was therefore dictated by him from memory after he had received it in visions. It is not his teaching: it is the unmediated word of God: "The Holy Koran differs from any other religious text in that it was not written or edited by any human author; no word has been added to it or subtracted from it."

What this means is that all Muslims are what we call "fundamentalist" in a way that no Christian, not even the most literalist, can quite be. One man, the Prophet, was given the perfect truth in one form, and so the truth, and the form, are absolute. To question the status of the Koran as described above is to insult God.

Certain consequences flow. Because Islam sees itself as imposing a political order on the world, it makes enforceable law, including the law of blasphemy. In Pakistan, where Dr Williams was speaking, Article 295-B of the country's Penal Code makes it an offence - punishable by life imprisonment - to desecrate the Koran. Article 295-C forbids any defiling of the name of Mohammed. The penalty for this is death.


It occurs to me that the Archbishop, and other Western church leaders, are indeed promoting a Western political agenda, but it is almost the opposite of the one he described. The agenda - and, in the case of the Anglican Church, this is very closely co-ordinated with the British Government - is to try to placate. Sorry about the Crusades, sorry about George Bush, sorry, sorry, sorry, they say, in the hope that Muslims will start to say sorry, too. But where is the evidence that this pre-emptive self-abasement is working? The grim fact is that the development of Christian/Muslim official dialogue has coincided with much greater Muslim persecution of other faiths than 30 years ago.

It comes naturally to Anglicans - the product of an imperial structure, still known in the Gulf as "the Queen's Church" - to want to have talks with the potentates of other religions and polities. But these jaunts remind me of peace delegations to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. They create a structure of unreality and leave millions of the victims of persecution where they were before the delegations arrived - frightened and alone.

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