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The 9/11 flag-burners oppose what is true and beautiful

What struck me about these extremists was the sheer ugliness of their attitude

By on Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Servicemen in London hold wreaths honouring the victims of 9/11 (Luke MacGregor/PA Wire)

Servicemen in London hold wreaths honouring the victims of 9/11 (Luke MacGregor/PA Wire)

The 9/11 anniversary has come and gone, and perhaps no future anniversaries will be as poignant and as raw as this one. But of the many images the day provided one has stayed behind to trouble me, and that is the picture of Muslim extremists burning the American flag outside the US embassy in London. There is a report of the incident here.

Clearly this flag-burning was calculated to cause maximum offence, timed as it was to take place during the special silence. Just in case anyone asks, yes, I do support free speech, and though I find the flag-burning and the attendant demonstration deeply upsetting and offensive, I would not support any law that tried to restrict such a form of demonstration. If that is what people want to do, they have a right to do it. The best attitude from those of us who are offended is to ignore such demonstrations; and indeed it does go against the grain to dignify the demonstrators with any comment, but there is something here that is worth commenting on, I feel.

The demonstrators call themselves Muslims against Crusades, which should alert us to the structure of their mental world. Their website is very up-to-date, technically speaking, but its contents exhibit a complete rejection of reason. In fact, they make it clear that they wish to abolish all man-made laws and replace them with what they consider to be a law made by God, namely Shariah. One cannot engage with that sort of mindset, because there is no common ground between us and them; they reject the facts of history (there are some claims they make that made me laugh out loud), and they reject reason. It is hardly worthwhile visiting their website, except to see that it is the abode of those who reject modernity.

But this is really what should worry us – not their religious beliefs – but their rejection of what ought to be everyday thought processes. And sadly it is not just them. Westerners who have grown up in countries like Britain and America, with all the advantages in education that should entail, also reject reason when they subscribe to crazy conspiracy theories about “what really happened” on 9/11.

What is the solution? Perhaps the whole world needs to be given a copy of Fides et Ratio, the superb encyclical of Blessed John Paul II that explains the way reason and faith go together. Come to think of it, one could even go back to 1870 and the document of the first Vatican Council, entitled Dei Filius, which condemns both rationalism and traditionalism as two equally misguided approaches: the first which rejects religion totally, the second which rejects reason in its entirety.

The fact remains that human truth is truth, and to be believed because, among other reasons, God is the author of humanity. Again this is spelled out in Gaudium et Spes. Sadly, it is unlikely that anyone of these extremists is likely to be brought round by reading Vatican documents, because it is precisely this sort of reasoning to which they are seemingly immune.

But looking at the flag-burners, I was struck by the sheer ugliness of their attitude, and their beliefs. There were some Muslim counter-demonstrators also present (mentioned in the report above) who were there to sympathise with the victims of 9/11 and show respect for their memory. There really is no contest as to which group I would prefer to go and have a cup of coffee with afterwards. And this is not a flippant point. There are the arguments to do with rationality, which must have their place; but before that there is something else – an argument to do with the rationality of aesthetics, if one could describe it as such. This might just touch people in a way that an appeal to bare reason may not; it is an appeal to reason, but to a reason of another kind.

“Muslims against Crusades”, or whoever rejects reason, are ugly. Their slogans are ugly, their contorted faces are ugly. Their flag burning is ugly. Their mocking of the dead is ugly, and their celebrating of mass murder is cruel in the extreme. These people are quite simply unkind, rude, inhumane, keen to inflict distress. The 9/11 “Truthers”, the Holocaust deniers, people like that sad old man Bishop Williamson, are (or should be) objects of revulsion. By contrast, all that points to truth is beautiful. A proper mourning of the dead is beautiful, dignified and healthy. So many of the fruits of our Western culture are beautiful, and beautiful because they point to truth. We need to point to what is beautiful, and point out what is not.

There will always be arguments about truth, and quite rightly, but there need to be more arguments about beauty. God is supreme Truth but He is also supreme Beauty. Just as post-modern philosophy has tried to dethrone Truth and replace it with equal and contradictory “truths”, it has also declared that Beauty is exclusively in the eye of the beholder, utterly subjective. Well, it isn’t. Look at what the Taliban did to Afghanistan, and are still doing there: that provides its own unanswerable argument. Look at what happened to the Buddhas of Bamiyan – this action shows us the truth about Talibanism. Let us talk about what is beautiful and what is not – surely a conversation that many would like to have – perhaps that way we can move beyond our current lack of dialogue.

  • Parasum

    “But this is really what should worry us – not their religious beliefs –
    but their rejection of what ought to be everyday thought processes.”

    Question: what is meant by “everyday thought-processes” ? STM this needs to be examined.

    From their website – http://www.muslimsagainstcrusades.com/non-muslims/the-islamic-creed

    “…So what is the Islamic creed? In a nutshell, it first demands the
    rejection of false beliefs that are attributed to God, or which destroy
    the Oneness of His Names, Attributes and Functions. For example, an
    individual may believe in one God, but when it comes to His exclusive
    quality of being able to forgive all sins, he or she may share this
    attribute with other things, rendering God similar to His creation.

    By isolating everything that is ‘Godly’ to God, the Islamic creed
    allows an individual to appreciate the greatness of who He is; in other
    words he or she will have no other choice but to conclude that nothing
    else can truly have His status in anything.

    Subsequently, if any individual does claim such Godliness, or that it
    is embodied within creation, then this false belief will have to be
    shunned, because it diverts the reliance of human beings on to something
    which has no power to do anything, except with the permission of God;
    this will cause harm by placing the welfare of mankind into the hands of
    incompetent men and women…”

    The position seems a perfectly reasonable, and true, one. It may be incomplete; that is not the same being wrong. Much of it’s very familiar from Calvinism, perhaps because both religions think in a “Semitic” rather than a “Greek” manner. Catholicism with its Christian humanism is more Greek than Semitic – maybe that’s one reason for difficulties in dialogue between Catholics & Muslims.

  • Parasum

    “The 9/11 “Truthers”, the Holocaust deniers, people like that sad old man
    Bishop Williamson, are (or should be) objects of revulsion.”

    The Shoah has no dogmatic or doctrinal status – Bishop Williamson’s status as a Catholic & a bishop is unaffected by his opinions on a purely historical question. Any revulsion should be preserved for *truly* revolting ecclesiastics, like those who have presided over years of cover-ups.

  • Chris McLaughlin

    I don’t support the EDL in any way. But two questions do spring to mind about this: 1) Why was it that the EDL were prohibited from making their counter-demonstration? 2) Where were the people from “Unite Against Fascism” who disrupt every EDL gathering but were nowhere to be seen for this display of Islamist fascism.

  • Anonymous

    Fides et Ratio is a superb encyclical and one which I agree everybody would do well to read.

    Maryvale Institute offers study guides to a number of papal encyclicals, including this one, and you can either audit the course or be assessed. Well worth the time and pretty cheap.

    http://www.maryvale.ac.uk/index.php?id=210

  • Anonymous

    Fides et Ratio is a superb encyclical and one which I agree everybody would do well to read.

    Maryvale Institute offers study guides to a number of papal encyclicals, including this one, and you can either audit the course or be assessed. Well worth the time and pretty cheap.

    http://www.maryvale.ac.uk/index.php?id=210

  • Anonymous

    Why give extremists a voice? Lets talk about the real issues, that affect real people. Small groups of idiots will always exist.

  • Parasum

    “Look at what the Taliban did to Afghanistan, and are still doing there:
    that provides its own unanswerable argument. Look at what happened to
    the Buddhas of Bamiyan – this action shows us the truth about Talibanism.”

    ## The Taleban were not against beauty – they were against false religion; in this case, Buddhism. Isn’t it more beautiful to serve God as He wills, than to construct or
    tolerate beautiful objects ? If so, then living by what God has revealed
    is better and more important than conserving the images that express a false religion. Christians destroyed the Serapeum  in Alexandria in 391, not because it was beautiful, but because it represented a false religion. Likewise at the Reformation – the beauty of what was destroyed was by the way: the doctrinal reason for the destruction was that God hates idols, images of Saints were reckoned to be idols by Protestants, therefore, the Protestant iconoclasts destroyed them. Images of the Buddha have no place in Islam; so destroying the Buddhas is perfectly legitimate, defencible and right. So what if they were beautiful ? Evil things often are – that’s no reason to tolerate them. The Taleban had the courage of their convictions – unlike too many Christians. Paradoxically, their iconoclasm is a good example of the spiritual beauty of serving the One God – it just happens not to be a tangible beauty.

  • Auricularis

    I really have no idea why Fr. Lucie-Smith writes this article in the way he does. Is he not aware that Muslims (not just Muslims Against Crusades) also actively deny the divinity of Christ and the Trinity too, and wherever they are the majority, they persecute and massacre Christians?

  • Sisaspid

    I guarentee that 99% of them are undercover agents, give or take 1%.

  • Anonymous

    If you weren’t at any of the anti EDL demonstrations then I don’t think you are in any position to talk.