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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

4/27/2004

Of Church and State

The comments on my post about David Warren's conclusion that Islam and democracy are incompatible have been worth reading. James Bow asks, "How would you categorize King Henry VIII's declaration that he be the head of the Church of England?"

Or, James, the imposition of the Commonwealth with Cromwell in the unlikely position of Lord Protector.

Which is largely my point. The creation of a real distinction between Church and State may well have been anticipated by certain sections of Scripture; but it took a long, long time for the Christian world to draw a bright line between the private sphrere of belief and the public square, (to mix a geometric metaphor). However, once that line had been draw the West surged ahead notwithstanding the periodic attempts of the religious to use the state to impose one or another versions of God's law.

To draw a rather shakey parallel: the Holy Roman Empire in which, when people could agree on who was in fact Pope, the Pope crowned the Emperor, was the closest thing the Christian world has produced to the Caliphate which Mark Cameron suggests is hardwired into Islam's DNA, "In Islam, Mohammed was both religious prophet and political leader of the Islamic state. The idea of Caliphate has a single head - the Caliph, who is the Pope and Emperor rolled into one."

My own sense is that the future of Islam is captured by these quotes from a story on the calls for jihad in England buried in a story which Sean pointed to in the New York Times,
Mainstream Muslims are outraged by the situation, saying the actions of a few are causing their communities to be singled out for surveillance and making the larger population distrustful of them.

Muhammad Sulaiman, a stalwart of the mainstream Central Mosque here, was penniless when he arrived from the Kashmiri frontier of Pakistan in 1956. He raised money to build the Central Mosque here and now leads a campaign to ban Al Muhajiroun radicals from the city's 10 mosques.

"This is show-off business," he says in accented English. "I don't want these kids in my mosque."

Other community leaders look to the government to do something, if only to help prevent the demonization of British Muslims, or "Islamophobia," as some here call it.

"I think these kids are being brainwashed by a few radical clerics," said Akhbar Dad Khan, another elder of the Central Mosque. He wants them prosecuted or deported. "We should be able to control this negativity," he said.
new york times


It would be a radical distortion of Christian history to take the Puritan desire for the creation of God's Kingdom on Earth or the Medieval Church's regulation of virtually all personal and political activity and pretend it never happened. It did. Just as ignoring the waves of Islamic fundamentalism and expansionism pretty much from the time of the Prophet would mis-represent Islamic history.

The critical element which I think Warren's article missed is that the current wave of jihad is very different from the waves which proceeded it. This time the mullahs are right -- if they do not defeat the Great Satan, the Little Satan and the mini-Satans of the EU, Islamic fundamentalism will be drowned, once and for all, in the modern world. The mullahs and Ayatollahs and incendairy Imams will be left powerless. The old ways, the honour killings, the veil, the endless repetition of the Koran, the dispair of the villages, the certainty that this must all be someone else's fault, will collapse.

There will always be Islamic cranks - Lord knows Christianity has its share ranging from Ian Paisley to Pat Robertson - preeching on street corners and on the Internet. But the unstoppable combination of technology and prosperity will leave them without power or followers or money. For a few years, with the short sighted forebearance of some Islamic states, these cranks will, no doubt, cause terror. But with attacks in Saudi, Jordan and Iraq all the cranks are doing is hardening the mainstream of the Muslim world against the very idea of a theocratic nirvana.

The Christian Churches, Protestant and Catholic, did not embrace their dis-establishment. Fiery sermons, full scale wars, slaughters, and gunpowder plots were thrown against the advance of a purely secular state. In the end, the day was won by individuals who, while they might well have been devout Christians, were convinced that this was a route to personal salvation rather than a guide to national government. There is no reason to believe Muslims cannot reach the same conclusion.