Saturday, March 25, 2006

Just what are we fighting for?

The case of Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert from Islam, now facing the death penalty in Afghanistan, is getting lots of attention, as well it should.

Here's a great quote from columnist Mark Steyn, which I saw at National Review Online:

I can understand why the president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would rather deal with this through back channels, private assurances from their Afghan counterparts, etc. But the public rhetoric is critical, too. At some point we have to face down a culture in which not only the mob in the street but the highest judges and academics talk like crazies. Abdul Rahman embodies the question at the heart of this struggle: If Islam is a religion one can only convert to, not from, then in the long run it is a threat to every free person on the planet.

What can we do? Should governments with troops in Afghanistan pass joint emergency legislation conferring their citizenship on this poor man and declaring him, as much as Karzai, under their protection?

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee" - the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

...Oh, and a tip of the biretta to Mark Anthony, who raised the matter of this issue, in his own, irenic way, several days ago on his site.

3 comments:

Mark Anthony said...

Thanks for the shout out, Father.

While I certainly don't support the use of gallows, I agree with the general thrust of Sir Napier's comment. Democracy is more than elections; the Soviets had those. A democratic view of the world presupposes that the individual has the right to choose his or her own path.

Islam in itself is not the problem. There have been periods when Islamic societies have flourished intellectually and actual endorsed religious freedom within their borders. An intolerant form of Islam is taking hold of much of the Middle East, but that is a political situation needing a political solution.

Perhaps the first step is to require fledgling democracies to face the fundamental nature of democracy and not hide behind the trappings of elections, parties and parliaments. Without that essential grasp of freedom's philosophical underpinnings, no democracy can grow, in the Middle East, Africa, South America or Asia.

joeh said...

Wish I was able to agree on the Islamic faith. The only time I have seen in history when they have been tolerant of other faiths is when they are not in the majority or in a power position. Other than that, I think they have a very violent attitude that believes that anyone who does not believe is an infidel. I hold little hope for democracy flourishing in this part of the world.
We waited 300 years before the Christian world, under attack all over the known world at the time from Islamic forces, set out with the Crusades to defend and take back what they had taken by force. When they lose power, you hear the tolerant speeches because they are looking for tolerance from us to exist in our country and many others. When they win power, there is no mention of that word again. They may allow you to exist with your faith in some areas, but make sure you do not become public about it or try to walk the streets with a Bible. They do not see this as being intolerant for they are allowing you to exist.
Today, our world is more dangerous because of WMD where entire cities can be wiped out in an instant. We cannot wait 300 years.

Mike L said...

I think in a nutshell what we are fighting for is the right to impose our will on other countries. We want them to be democratic, but only so long as they chose what we want them to chose. I think it is called the phillosophy of Might makes Right.

While we do not want to remember it, Iraq was probably the most tolerant of Christians of any of the Islamic nations, and we did a wonderful job of ending that. But as I said, we have the might, therefore the right.

It has not been unkown for the Catholic Church to execute apostates. I don't think that Islamic nations are doing much, if anything, that Catholic countries have not done in the past.

As for hiding behind the trappings of elections, etc, are we that much better off? It seems to me that over the last 50 years of my life that we have lost an awesome amount of freedom.

Perhaps we should really turn a critical eye toward our own government and what it is doing before we start trying to use force to control other governments. If we can't be honest enough about our own actions, and love our own country enough to criticize it where it needs criticism, we are going to lose our freedom.

Perhaps we need to follow Christ's advice, look to the beam in our own eye before we look for mote's in others.

We have a wonderful country, can we keep it that way? Or is it going to go the way of so many others?

Mike L