Top Vatican historian speaks the saving truth about Islam
In the midst of my criticisms yesterday of Pope Benedict, I said that I admired and liked him. That may have sounded like hypocritical cover, but I meant it. And here’s a reason why. Even as the pope was issuing what I described as liberal boilerplate about the Muslim riots in France, his own Vatican was showing a true and realistic and therefore confrontational attitude toward Islam, something that would have been inconceivable under the ecumenism-soaked pontificate of his predecessor. At a meeting held this month at the Pontifical Lateran University on “Christianity and Islam, Yesterday and Today,” monsignor Walter Brandmüller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, delivered a speech on “Christianity and Islam in History.” Unlike the Bernard Lewises and the Daniel Pipeses and the Francis Fukuyamas and the Olivier Roys and the entire respectable intellectual establishment of the secular West, Brandmüller focused, not on some secondary social problem afflicting Islam, such as “poor development” or “discrimination” or “cultural dislocation,” that supposedly makes Muslims today troublesome (as though they hadn’t been troublesome for the last 1,400 years), but on the character of Islam itself, as a religious/military/political movement seeking power over the world. If our so-called leaders and intellectual lights understood the simple, true points made in the below excerpts from the speech, the current nonsense about “moderate Islam” versus “radical Islam”—nonsense that leads us to try to “engage” with Muslims and “democratize” Muslims and “assimilate” Muslims and “integrate” Muslims instead of defending ourselves from Muslims—would vanish in the wind.
But on the part of the Muslims, from the earliest times, even while Mohammed was still alive, conversion was imposed through the use of force. The expansion and extension of Islam’s sphere of influence came through war with the tribes that did not accept conversion peacefully, and this went hand in hand with submission to Islamic political authority. Islamism, unlike Christianity, expressed a comprehensive religious, cultural, social, and political strategy. While Christianity spread during its first three centuries in spite of persecution and martyrdom, and in many ways in opposition to Roman domination, introducing a clear separation between the spiritual and political spheres, Islam was imposed through the power of political domination.Pius V was the pope under whom the forces of Christendom won the great naval battle of Lepanto against the Ottomans in 1571. Brandmüller, bless him, is saying that Europe must defend itself from Islam—culturally, politically, and even through the use of military force.
A reader writes:
You note in your post on the Brandmüller talk:The reader is right. But the larger point I’m stressing, the hopeful point, is that the West, if it is to survive, must cease being liberal, and can cease being liberal. As long as the liberal West is what it is, we are doomed. But the unprecedented nature and scale of the current threat from Islam may, bit by bit, bring the West to a new understanding. This Vatican speech is an important instance of that.
It should also be remembered that when I say the West must cease being liberal, I do not mean liberal in all meanings of the word. I mean the core affirmations of the modern liberal faith: that society consists only of individuals and their desires and needs; that the main purpose and justification of society is to satisfy those desires and needs; that there are no spiritual or natural or civilizational distinctions that matter politically or should be allowed to matter politically; and that there must ultimately be no boundaries between our culture and others.