September 19, 2006

Karen Armstrong--Former Nun Shills For Islam

An editorial by former nun Karen Armstrong in al-Guardian, the UK's Islam apologetics spin machine, begins with the following headline:
We cannot afford to maintain these ancient prejudices against Islam

The Pope's remarks were dangerous, and will convince many more Muslims that the west is incurably Islamophobic"
"Ancient prejudices"? "Incurably Islamophobic"? Has Karen Armstrong been getting into the communion wine?

Moral equivalency, historical disingenuousness, and self-loathing continue apace:
In the 12th century, Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, initiated a dialogue with the Islamic world. "I approach you not with arms, but with words," he wrote to the Muslims whom he imagined reading his book, "not with force, but with reason, not with hatred, but with love." Yet his treatise was entitled Summary of the Whole Heresy of the Diabolical Sect of the Saracens and segued repeatedly into spluttering intransigence. Words failed Peter when he contemplated the "bestial cruelty" of Islam, which, he claimed, had established itself by the sword. Was Muhammad a true prophet? "I shall be worse than a donkey if I agree," he expostulated, "worse than cattle if I assent!"

Peter was writing at the time of the Crusades. Even when Christians were trying to be fair, their entrenched loathing of Islam made it impossible for them to approach it objectively. For Peter, Islam was so self-evidently evil that it did not seem to occur to him that the Muslims he approached with such "love" might be offended by his remarks. This medieval cast of mind is still alive and well.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI quoted, without qualification and with apparent approval, the words of the 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The Vatican seemed bemused by the Muslim outrage occasioned by the Pope's words, claiming that the Holy Father had simply intended "to cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, and obviously also towards Islam".

But the Pope's good intentions seem far from obvious. Hatred of Islam is so ubiquitous and so deeply rooted in western culture that it brings together people who are usually at daggers drawn. Neither the Danish cartoonists, who published the offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad last February, nor the Christian fundamentalists who have called him a paedophile and a terrorist, would ordinarily make common cause with the Pope; yet on the subject of Islam they are in full agreement.
Armstrong's apologetics for Islam, historical confusion/misinformation/falsehood, and willingness to heap the blame for Muslim Pope Rage on Catholics and the West in general, might be indicative of an inner desire to appease those she sees as the future--a sort of "get-out-of-jail" card for the former nun. An example:
The early conquests in Persia and Byzantium after the Prophet's death were inspired by political rather than religious aspirations. Until the middle of the eighth century, Jews and Christians in the Muslim empire were actively discouraged from conversion to Islam, as, according to Qur'anic teaching, they had received authentic revelations of their own. The extremism and intolerance that have surfaced in the Muslim world in our own day are a response to intractable political problems - oil, Palestine, the occupation of Muslim lands, the prevelance of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, and the west's perceived "double standards" - and not to an ingrained religious imperative.
Separating the religious from the political in Islam is impossible. Sharia law, the ultimate law in Islam, recognizes no distinction. This stands in contrast to Christianity, who from the earliest writers recognized that however much Christianity had taken hold, the spiritual and temporal held sway in different spheres. Armstrong asserts that expansion by Islam after Muhammad's death was merely political and that conversion was not compulsory. She fails to mention that for Islam, the necessity for expansion was as much motivated by religious convictions to bring the world under Islam as it was by political desires to peel off wealthy Byzantine possessions and destroy the Persian Sassanid dynasty. She also neglects to explain that the primary reason, indeed the most compelling argument for not forcing conversions on the native populations--the jizya tax. Unconverted subject people provided more tax revenue for the wealthy Caliphate than converted Muslims. Perhaps Armstrong forgot, or chose to exclude anything that might weaken her position. She even toes the appeasement line by mentioning "Palestine" instead of Israel, and claiming that Iraq and Afghanistan are "occupied" Muslim lands.

What size burqa will that be, Ms. Armstrong?

Cross-posted at Freedom's Zone

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