The Brittleness of Islam

Westerners spend a lot of time fretting about the strength of Islam.  I’m not so sure:

Islamic authorities will provide counseling to a dozen Malaysian  Muslims to “restore their belief and faith” after they attended a  community dinner at a church hall, a royal sultan said Monday.

The case has triggered worries among officials in  Muslim-majority Malaysia that some non-Muslims were trying to convert  Muslims. Proselytizing of Muslims is punishable by prison terms of  various lengths in most Malaysian states.

Sorry, but behavior like that is not a sign of strength. It is a sign of profound weakness and brittleness. I mean, come on! Lunch with a few Methodists requires some hysterical intervention? Talk about not ready for adulthood or civilization! I believe that such a brittle culture will not, in the end, be able to survive a real encounter with the gospel. I doubt, in fact, that it can even survive an encounter with Western secular consumer culture. If Christian culture, with all its spiritual resources to draw on, is in a struggle here, how much more with the barren and dessicated thing that is this brittle and fragile Islam be in crisis? Indeed, much of the violence of Islam is precisely due to its interior fragility.

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  • dancingcrane

    Brittle though it is, Islam all but destroyed African Christianity, and seems ready to finally annihilate the Copts in Egypt. It also seems poised to take over Europe, albeit by immigration this time rather than war. So, will it last? It has for almost 1400 years. It wouldn’t be the first time that rich cultures have fallen to barbaric ones. With the self-absorbed sterility that characterizes much of secular culture, it is anyone’s guess which will survive in any given place. This is a time for fasting and sacrifice.

    • Marthe Lépine

      I would like more information about what is supposed to have happened in Africa. Other information that I have read elsewhere said that the Catholic Church was the church that was growing the fastest in Africa. I guess I should ask our new parish priest who is to be officially installed next Sunday the 16th… He was sent to us from Nigeria; so was my best friend’s parish priest in another city, by the way, and the small town next to the one where I live has a priest from the Congo. When I asked him if what his predecessor had said to introduce him, about him having been sent by his Nigerian bishop to do mission work in North America, was true, he jokingly replied: “Yes, it is retribution time!”.

      • S. Murphy

        The African Christianity that Islam all but destroyed was (like the middle eastern Chrisitanity Islam all but destroyed) there from the original spread of Christianity –the ancient Churches of North Africa, not the colonial/post colonial Churches of sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Kirt Higdon

    African Christianity has proven quite resilient. In the 20th Century, Christianity went from 2% to almost 50% of Africa’s population, most of this growth happening after decolonization. Vocations to the priesthood have been so numerous that African priests staff many US parishes. In contrast, Islam went from 25% of the African population to 27% in the same period.

  • Yes, I was at a symposium on relativism in Ottawa this summer, and at a workshop on the Islamic view of Jesus read a fascinating document. It is an Islamic ‘proof’ that Jesus is not God, using the Gospels. The thing is, this essay is printed as an appendix to every English translation of the Koran that comes out of Saudi Arabia. It occurred to me, reading this, that I have never seen an appendix in a Bible refuting the Muslim view of Jesus or God. So I think there is a nervousness in Islam about the power of Christianity. A book called Secret Believers came out a few years ago about the numbers of secret converts to Christianity from Islam… anyhow, something (and a lot of someones) to pray for.

  • Sandra Miesel

    Before Islam, North Africa, Egypt, Nubia, and Ethiopia were Christian and afterwards…. not so much. The modern Christianization of Africa is all in sub-Saharan black Africa. We’re not coming back in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, or Libyia until the world is broken and remade.

  • kenneth

    This sort of behavior does point to insecurity, but it is not unique to Islam. Many corners of Catholicism, other branches of Christianity and Judaism also have some very insular habits designed to limit exposure to outside ideas that might “corrupt” their faith. A fair percentage of the home schooling movement is based on that idea, and its historically been one of the reasons parents chose Catholic schools.

    In 12 years of Catholic schooling, I can’t remember a single instance where we had any interactions with other groups – not even protestants much less Muslims. For that matter, the whole process of becoming Catholic is not one that places much stock in fully informed free choice. Outside of converts, no one chooses to be Catholic. You can choose how fully to live it as an adult, but in general, people are baptized as infants and according to canon law, from that point, you’re irrevocably Catholic forever.

    There are tens of millions of us who have left the church, but the church still counts us all as members. For a while, there was a procedure called formal defection which at least acknowledged one’s departure from the earthly/temporal organization of the church, but even that was abolished a year or two ago as it became uncomfortably popular in some countries. Then there is the matter of confirmation. I’ve heard it may be different these days, but in my time, we were making this supposedly fully informed adult decision at age 13 or something like that.

    Going back into older history, we find things like the Inquisition and a list of books which Catholics were banned from reading even into relatively recent times.

    None of this is as loony as a squad of “de-programmers” after sharing a meal with Methodists, but on the other hand, none of the examples I mention strike me as the actions of an organization which is truly confident in the power of its ideas to win hearts and minds on their own merits.

    • Arnold

      Actually, I do not think that is a true statement, that the Church counts all the departed Catholics as still members. If that were so, then the official membership total would be in excess of 90 million rather than around 70 million. Some experts think that the official numbers are in fact understated by several million.

      • Timothy of Seattle

        It’s a juridic thing. In recent years, it was decided that, absent going through a canonical process, even if you leave the faith, canon law still applies to you.

        This can have implications for the sacramental validity of marriages and so forth contracted while people were away from the Church, if they later come back.

        From a secular perspective, though, I don’t think it makes much difference to people who don’t plan on returning to the Church. It doesn’t affect the way demographics are counted.

  • Nemo

    The elephant in the room that Muslims, at least, admit is the danger of syncretism. It’s easy to say “what’s the big deal” about having dinner with Methodists, but perhaps it is a big deal. We’ve just gotten used to doctrinal slippage.

    • kenneth

      You’re exactly right. Dawkins himself started off as one of Opus Dei’s leading young men. After one night with the Methodists, the fall began. Before long, he was dabbling in Lutheranism and then Unitarian drum circles! From there there was no turning back from the abyss of ultimate darkness! 🙂

      • Margaret

        And now, Kenneth, we will have to send one of our albino assassin monks after you for letting it slip about Dawkins… Tsk tsk. 😉

      • Lorenz

        Kenneth, I don’t think Dawkins ever was involved in Opus Dei let alone Catholicism.

        From Wikipedia:

        Dawkins describes his childhood as “a normal Anglican upbringing”.[12] Though he began having doubts about the existence of a god when he was about nine years old, he was persuaded by the argument from design, an argument for the existence of a god or a creator based on perceived evidence of order, purpose, or design in nature, and embraced Christianity.[8][not in citation given] In his mid-teens, he concluded that the theory of evolution was a better explanation for life’s complexity, and ceased believing in a god.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    I probably should not tell you this, but formal defection wasn’t ended, it was altered.

    And not because too many were flocking to make use of it, but rather because the Church recognized how unfair it was for European states to tax apostates like you for our support.

    So the Church made it easier for you to go your own way,and you repay that with a viscous lie?

    There’s no pleasing some folks!!!

    • kenneth

      So far as I know, the process was ended. For others in this thread, I’m talking about a process which existed for a time in the Catholic Church called Actus Formalis ab Ecclesia Cathlolica. (An Act of Formal Defection). Basically it was a procedure you could use to resign/”be stricken from the rolls” as it were.

      You had to make the request in writing to a bishop/diocese headquarters, show them some proof of ID, tell them you definitely wanted out and understood the consequences, and they would send you a letter back saying the fact of your defection was recorded on your baptismal records or the like. It wasn’t a “de-baptism” and you were still canonically considered Catholic on the theory that no earth-bound authority could undo the ontological change of baptism. It did release you from one set of canon law requirements – the obligation to follow Catholic forms of marriage. Most of us who used the process of course weren’t concerned with canon law fineries. It was a way to let the church know they didn’t speak on our behalf anymore, and conversely, to do them the honor of not being “Catholic in name only.”

      In certain European countries, you’re correct, it did also have tax implications as the governments there collect some of your income tax on behalf of whatever church you say you belong to.

      At any rate, I’m quite certain that the process has been ended. If there are any canon lawyers or Vatican policy wonks who know differently, I’m open to correction on that point.

  • Hezekiah,

    Can you please explain what you are talking about? By “formal defection” do you mean converting from the Muslim faith to another faith? How was it altered? Is there a death penalty for those who do that?

    I don’t understand what you are saying about taxes.

  • I am a former Muslim, who converted to Catholicism, and can attest to this brittleness. It is a brittleness that is defended by the sword, though.

    • SKay

      Your conversion is wonderful news Guillermo. Thanks for pointing out the truth about Islam.
      It is a reminder that the Christian minister in Iran needs our prayers.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    That’s cool, Kenneth.

    I’m pretty sure you’re a red-assed baboon.

    But I am open to correction if there is a primatologist available.

    Now, if you object, might I remind you of sauce and geese and ganders?

    • kenneth

      I may well be a red-assed baboon, but at least I’m one who can advance an argument with facts and logic without having to resort to highbrow rhetorical tactics (like calling someone a red-assed baboon). Would that it were I had a posterior like our cousins of the genus Papio. I’d save a lot of money on seat cushions. Alas, I have a standard Hank Hill white boy ass……

    • Mark Shea

      Keep it civil or you will be gone, Hezekiah.

  • Joseph

    I am sure the people attending the meal must be re-taught that the nice looking people without swords were in fact apes and pigs. The disguise they used of a human, is just their clever sorcery. I am also sure that when people stop killing for the “Islamic Authority”, the authorities will have to fend for themselves. That seems the more reasonable stance by the “royal sultan”, to keeping truth out of the community.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Maybe you can, Kenneth. Feel free to begin whenever you so desire. For thus far you’ve made an assertion that a major change occurred, which harms you in some manner, “a couple of years ago”.

    You could tell us who made this change, how it was effected, etc.

    But until you do that, you have to enjoy the company of the feminist twit who accused “the church ” of decreeing women weren’t fully human. After 2 days of research to find out what crap she was spewing, followed by her absolute refusal to engage any of the further context I worked so hard to provide, I decided never to waste my time on baseless assertions from axe grinders. So provide some useful data and quit preening.


    If that was insufficiently civil I apologize. I honestly gave it the best shot I had.

  • kenneth

    “The motu proprio Omnium in mentem of 26 October 2009 removed from the canons in question all reference to an act of formal defection from the Catholic Church.[2][3][4] Accordingly, “it is no longer appropriate to enter attempts at formal defection in the sacramental records since this juridic action is now abolished. “[5]
    In late August 2010, the Holy See confirmed that it was no longer possible to defect formally from the Catholic Church.[6] However, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin declared on 12 October 2010 that it intended to keep a register of those who expressed the wish to defect.[6][7] Since this fell short of making an annotation in the baptismal register, an association in the archdiocese which had been promoting formal defections from the Catholic Church thereupon ceased to provide defection forms.[8][9]
    Although the act of formal defection from the Catholic Church has thus been abolished, de facto defection is of course still possible and does occur. It is subject to the automatic spiritual penalty of excommunication laid down in canon 1364 of the Code of Canon Law.”

    This is the update in Wikipedia, and it is substantially in agreement with other sources I have seen over the past year, including many Catholic oriented sites.

  • kenneth

    I should mention that the change doesn’t “harm” me in any way. I had completed the process the year before. Even if I hadn’t, it’s not that big a deal. I knew in my own heart and conscious what I was, and was not, relative to the Catholic faith. Presumably, God knows too. I just thought it would be best to get that square with the earth-based Church, so to speak. I’m not grinding any particular axe of feminism or anything else. My reasons for leaving are my own and based on a lifetime of discernment and spiritual growth.

    My only point in raising it is this: it speaks to the original issue of the thread. Mark pointed out actions that are obviously indicative of deep insecurities within Islamic authorities about the faith’s ability to survive even brief “contamination” by exposure to other faiths. Fair enough. But the implication is that Christianity/Catholicism has no such fragility. I would dispute that, given that the RCC, at least, inducts almost all of its members before the age of reason and holds those who do wish to leave against their will, even if only on paper.

    I propose that any faith which truly believed in the merit of its own ideas and revelations, would want only those people who truly wanted to be there and understood why they wanted to be there, whether that number was 10 or 1.3 billion. The fact that tens or hundreds of millions of people need to be “helped” to stay in place by violence on the one hand (Islam) or by administrative sleight of hand (Catholicism), demonstrates that neither religion is as internally confident as they might be.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Thanks. And that blows. On the one hand I don’t spend my time looking for the exits, and freely admit befuddlement at a fellow watching them from his rearview mirror. On the other hand a clarification on this issue in 05 or 06 caused me some personal harm.

    So anyway, sorry. But facts deployed early can avoid such things. I doubt your confidence in your humanity was shaken by a baseless assertion. Moral of the story, lay a foundation for claims you make if you wish to be taken seriously.

  • Don Schenk

    Of course Islam is brittle. that’s why our troops–OUR troops, according to CNN–destroy every Arabic-language Bible that they could find in Afghanistan, which by now is down to the last Jew and has no more churches.