North American commentator Mark Steyn, who was recently in Australia, has just penned an opinion piece on the release of the two hostages taken prisoner in Gaza. Entitled “Achilles’ Heel,” the article appeared in the New York Sun (August 28, 2006)
The two captives were released only after they said they had converted to Islam. This of course is not at all novel. In Islam, ‘convert or die’ is standard operational procedure. It always has been. As such, it differs markedly from almost every other world religion.
Says Steyn, “Ever since 9/11, the western multicultural mindset has been desperately trying to swaddle Islam within the fluffy quilt of diversity. It’s ‘just’ another religion, like the Congregationalists and Episcopalians. To be sure, it’s got a few hotheads, but haven’t we all? Sticking with this line requires an awful lot of brushing under the carpet and there’s so much under there by now it looks like a broadloomed Himalayas. For a start, you can’t help noticing the traffic is mostly one-way.”
He then gives a number of examples wherein people are quite free to convert to Islam, but if ever a Muslim seeks to leave Islam, watch out. And this is not just happening in Muslim dictatorships. Try Michigan for example: “Nazra Quraishi, a kindergarten teacher at a local Muslim school, wrote to The Lansing State Journal last month as follows: ‘Islam is a guide for humanity, for all times, until the day of judgment. It is forbidden in Islam to convert to any other religion. The penalty is death. There is no disagreement about it. Islam is being embraced by people of other faiths all the time. They should know they can embrace Islam, but cannot get out. This rule is not made by Muslims; it is the supreme law of God’.”
Christianity is light years apart from Islam in this regard. “Christians and Muslims are both ‘people of the book.’ But there’s a difference: Christianity started out as a religion of the weak, held by the lowliest in society and advanced by conversion and example, independent of the state. A distinction between religion and temporal power is embedded in its founding narratives.”
He goes on to quote from both Jesus and Mohammed, noting the very real differences: “Christ is saying go to the remotest parts of the world and persuade others of what you know to be the truth. Mohammed is saying fight all men until they submit to your truth: It’s not a plan for converting an existing empire (as Christianity did) but for establishing a new empire. Islam was born and spread as a warrior’s creed.”
But critics will be quick to point out things like the Spanish Inquisition. Replies Steyn, “Well, for one thing, the Inquisition killed fewer people in a century and a half than the jihad does in an average year. But, in the larger sense, it’s easy to argue that, numbers aside, it was always an aberration and distortion of Christianity’s roots. It’s less clear that the jihad in its most violent form is a distortion of Mohammed’s message. With Islam, it’s the moderate variants of the Balkans, the Central Asian Stans and South Asia that are the aberration. And they’re all now fading.”
He continues, “Islam was less a proselytizing faith than a rationale for political authority. And today’s jihad has far more in common with a conventional imperial regime than with any religious evangelizing.”
And with maniacs like the current ruler of Iran allowed to run free, this spells trouble. “Which means there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Islam will soon be able to enforce submission-conversion at the point of a nuke. The good news is that any religion that needs to do that is, by definition, a weak one.”
How things proceed in the near future remains to be seen. But as long as Islam sees the use of force as a legitimate means of spreading the faith, the free West needs to be alert and vigilant. Any religion that threatens apostates with the sword is a very worrying phenomenon indeed.