Of course not, but I have been accused of being a racist several times recently. Why, and by whom?
I have suggested that Islam is problematical. Not Muslims. I don't know many but the ones I have met personally seem pleasant enough and when I had an operation a few years ago I had no qualms about putting my life in the hands of an anaesthetist whose name pointed to a Moslem background. But to question Islam is no more racist than to question Communism or a political party manifesto. Múslims are not a race. They are people who follow a particular creed. They may be born into that but when they are adults, it can be taken that they are continuing to follow it out of choice. Unlike Jews, for example, who may become atheists, Catholics, Buddhists, or Muslims, but remain Jews. (Incidentally, the Jewish Cardinal Lustiger, former Archbishop of Paris, died last week, a piece of news which I was sorry to read).
Now if one had a religion whose text was Mein Kampf, one might expect problems from some of its followers. I am not going to quote from the Koran, but if anyone thinks it is a suitable text for a religion of peace, they should do a search on "Jews, Christians, kill" and look at what it says. It is little better than Mein Kampf. Some of its sayings are reminiscent of Hitler's. On these grounds the Koran could be regarded as an incitement to racial hatred and its publication in breach of British law. Of course there are different ways of interpreting the Koran, but in the absence of any authoritative body or figure to say how this should be done, it is inevitable that some people will take it literally.
It has been in discussions with "liberals" that the accusation has come up. In my experience, liberals are as intolerant of others' views as the most hardened reactionaries, but the irony here is that they are defending something that stands in direct opposition to their values and whose followers, if they got the chance, would quickly do away with all that they hold dear.
As the discussion goes on, it usually then turns into an attack on the bloodthirstiness of the Bible and the warlike behaviour of Christians. Now Christianity was indeed a religion of peace until around 1000AD. It turned warlike with the Crusades but these began as a defensive action, following 400 years of Muslim aggression. The trouble was that things got completely out of hand, with attacks on Jews and then on fellow Christians in the Byzantine empire. This was the start of the disgraceful and indefensible treatment of the Jews during the Middle Ages, sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The goings-on in South America were essentially a colonial action involving the theft of land and precious metals. But conversion to Catholicism at least, has on the whole been a peaceful affair. I cannot comment on Protestantism, but it is unfortunate that the two branches of Christianity are lumped together as they are indeed very different, with different attitudes to proselytisation; indeed, some branches of Protestantism have close affinities with Islam both in their rigid adherence to a text and their aggressive approach to conversion.
What of the Bible? It is essential to remember that the Bible is the foundation text of the Catholic Church, which defined it in its early years. So bible-believing Protestants are just taking the Catholic Church's book and leaving part of the rest of its teaching, a curious, illogical and inconsistent thing to do but that is their choice. The Catholic Church, through its body of tradition, lays down how the bible is to be interpreted. The essential point in this connection is that the New Testament takes precedence and supersedes the Old. So when people describe the Bible as being as bloodthirsty as the Koran, it is necessary only to ask them if they can find any bloodthirstiness in the New Testament, as interpreted by the Catholic Church? They will not find any.
What to do? We need to go out of our way to treat our Muslim neighbours well and not to let our attitudes be coloured by prejudice. But we should also be on our guard and in no doubt they they subscribe, with more or less commitment, to a creed that is pledged to destroy all that is good in the European way of life.
And I will make a prediction. The British will tolerate one more terrorist incident resulting in loss of live. The incident after that will trigger communal violence which will prove impossible to stop. Decent people will end up protecting people who would do away with them if they had the power. When the mosques have been attacked it will be the Christian communities who will be letting Muslims use church halls for their services. Strange times are approaching.
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