What is for me the most haunting news story this week reveals nothing new. But sometimes a story of brutal simplicity can clarify one’s thoughts. What this one indicates to me is that Samuel Huntington got it right back in 1991 when he said that after the end of the Cold War, “the fundamental source of conflict … will be cultural” and that “the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilisations”.
Huntington singled out particularly the cultural clash that was about to take place between western culture and Islamic culture. This “clash of civilisations” theory was immediately rubbished by the Left-wing intelligentsia, who were led to the charge by the fanatically anti-western Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, who in a snooty piece entitled “The Clash of Ignorance” dismissively sneered that that it was all much more complicated than that, and that there was enormous diversity among Muslims. Huntington, he loftily laid down, had ignored the “internal dynamics and plurality of every civilisation” and “the fact that the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture”.
Well, what emerged this week underlined yet again that Huntington in his simple way was right and that Said in his sophisticated way was just wrong. It was yet another Islamist outrage in Syria, one to which, as so many times before, moderate Islamic opinion has, by its total silence on the matter, given its tacit consent.
Two Christians, Firas Nader, 29, and Fadi Matanius Mattah, 34, were traveling by car from Homs to the Christian village of Marmarita. A group of five armed jihadists intercepted the vehicle and opened fire on it. On reaching the car, militiamen, noting that Fadi was wearing a cross around his neck, beheaded him. They then took money and documents, leaving Firas on the ground wounded, taking him for dead. He escaped to safety. And he then gave one more testimony to what we already knew.
He sent a statement to (of course) Aid to the Church in Need, confirming that violence against Christians in Syria, is becoming “one of the worst persecutions endured by Christians in this part of the third millennium”.
According to the latest reports, more than 600,000 Christians – a third of the total Syrian faithful – are internally displaced or living as refugees in neighboring countries. Christian leaders there are confirming the massive exodus of Christians from Syria, which could seriously jeopardise the future of Christianity in the nation.
That silence of moderate Muslim opinion on all this really does pose the serious question as to whether or not moderate Muslim opinion actually exists. Back in October, after yet another anti-Coptic atrocity in Egypt, the Italian journalist Piero Gheddo pointed out that “just as attacks occurred… in Egypt, many more have occurred in Philippines, Central Africa, Mali, Nigeria, and Syria in recent months”. And he asked the question. Most Muslims he said are peaceful people. “However, why is it that these masses of moderates never protest? Why is it that no Muslim association or group has ever been set up to condemn Salafist violence and terrorists who kill themselves to become ‘martyrs for Islam’?”
Answer came there none. Gheddo’s analysis is surely correct:
The West is deluding itself when it says that “this is not the real Islam.” Indeed, what is the real Islam? Since terrorists and Salafists say they are Muslims and acting in favour of Islam, only a violent Islam has taken central stage.
I know that most believers in Allah and the Qur’an are peaceful people who only want to live in peace and freedom. I have visited every Islamic country, from Indonesia to Morocco, from Somalia to Senegal, from Mozambique to Egypt and Turkey. I have heard Christians and even missionaries, nuns, priests and local bishops always say the same thing.
Still, we have the right to ask, why is it that these masses of moderates never protest? Why is it that no Muslim association or group has ever been created to condemn Salafist violence and terrorists who kill themselves to become “martyrs for Islam”? In Italy, there are two to three million Muslims, whose right to religious freedom is recognised. Why is it they never protest against systematic violence committed by their co-religionists?
There is another question, though. Why are our own politicians also so absolutely silent about Islamist atrocities against Christians? Why do we hear nothing from Obama about it? Why do we hear nothing from Cameron? Is it perhaps because they are terrified to say anything which might offend the Muslim vote in their own countries?
Prince Charles, at least, has now spoken out, and in no uncertain tones: and it’s interesting that when he did, he made the headlines not just in the UK but in America too. How very far he has come since those now remote days in which he expressed such woolly notions about becoming as King “Defender of Faith”, any old faith.
In an address before Christmas he said that Christians in the Middle East were being persecuted by “Islamist fundamentalist militants” and he called upon the followers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam to unite to end the suffering.
Prince Charles said: “I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by the Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East. It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants.”
“Christianity was literally born in the Middle East,” he said, “and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ” (my italics). No Blairist neutralist nonsense there about “not doing [the Christian] God” because of his elevated position.
Cameron and Obama (who gives the Egyptian military, who are doing nothing to defend the Copts, a billion bucks a year) are both supposed to be practising Christians, and even say so when they are campaigning for our votes. Will they say anything similar to what Prince Charles has said in support of the Syrian Christians? Meanwhile, I would like to hear something, anything, from moderate Muslim opinion. I think there will be a deafening silence all round.