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Is it just me, or does it feel like a giant, cosmic gauntlet has been thrown down from on High? Like in this Lenten season, leading up to Easter, the Christian nations are being put to a test – the test being, as Mark Steyn asks in his outstanding and brave column,
Will We Stick Our Necks Out for His Faith?
The answer is very important, I think.
The fragile Afghan state is protected by American, British, Canadian, Australian, Italian and other troops, hundreds of whom have died. You cannot ask Americans or Britons to expend blood and treasure to build a society in which a man can be executed for his choice of religion. You cannot tell a Canadian soldier serving in Kandahar that he, as a Christian, must sacrifice his life to create a Muslim state in which his faith is a capital offense.
As always, we come back to the words of Osama bin Laden: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” That’s really the only issue: The Islamists know our side have tanks and planes, but they have will and faith, and they reckon in a long struggle that’s the better bet. Most prominent Western leaders sound way too eager to climb into the weak-horse suit and audition to play the rear end. Consider, for example, the words of the Prince of Wales, speaking a few days ago at al-Azhar University in Cairo, which makes the average Ivy League nuthouse look like a beacon of sanity. Anyway, this is what His Royal Highness had to say to 800 Islamic “scholars”:
“The recent ghastly strife and anger over the Danish cartoons shows the danger that comes of our failure to listen and to respect what is precious and sacred to others. In my view, the true mark of a civilized society is the respect it pays to minorities and to strangers.”
That’s correct. But the reality is that our society pays enormous respect to minorities – President Bush holds a monthlong Ramadan-a-ding-dong at the White House every year. The immediate reaction to the slaughter of 9/11 by Western leaders everywhere was to visit a mosque to demonstrate their great respect for Islam. One party to this dispute is respectful to a fault: after all, to describe the violence perpetrated by Muslims over the Danish cartoons as the “recent ghastly strife” barely passes muster as effete Brit toff understatement.
Unfortunately, what’s “precious and sacred” to Islam is its institutional contempt for others. In his book “Islam And The West,” Bernard Lewis writes, “The primary duty of the Muslim as set forth not once but many times in the Quran is ‘to command good and forbid evil.’ It is not enough to do good and refrain from evil as a personal choice. It is incumbent upon Muslims also to command and forbid.” Or as the Canadian columnist David Warren put it: “We take it for granted that it is wrong to kill someone for his religious beliefs. Whereas Islam holds it is wrong not to kill him.” In that sense, those imams are right, and Karzai’s attempts to finesse the issue are, sharia-wise, wrong.
I can understand why the president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would rather deal with this through back channels, private assurances from their Afghan counterparts, etc. But the public rhetoric is critical, too. At some point we have to face down a culture in which not only the mob in the street but the highest judges and academics talk like crazies. Abdul Rahman embodies the question at the heart of this struggle: If Islam is a religion one can only convert to, not from, then in the long run it is a threat to every free person on the planet.
Perhaps in this time of Lent, some serious prayer and fasting – over and above what you or I might be doing – is what is called for, and not merely for Abdul Rahman.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey and Michelle Malkin, among others are writing on a report that the charges against Rahman have been dropped. Let us pray that this is real, and that he’s not simply going to be released into a situation wherein some random Islamist decides he needs to die, anyway. As Michelle says, this story is far from over. Writes Ed:
This isn’t the end of the story, and it may well be that Rahman faces more danger now than he did before. Earlier today, before the decision was announced, Afghan authorities transferred Rahman to a maximum-security prison where former Taliban soldiers and al-Qaeda terrorists are detained. One can imagine how precarious Rahman’s fate will be when word gets around the yard about his conversion to Christianity — which will probably be obvious five times a day when Rahman doesn’t kneel in the direction of Mecca. Even if he survives to be released, he faces a nation that overwhelmingly believes he deserves punishment for his religious beliefs, and some may feel it necessary to deliver it personally.
Is Islam capable of growing into religious tolerance? That’s the bugaboo.
RELATED: Sanctuary for Abdul Rahman!