Carlos Alberto Montaner

September 1, 2014

Past looms large in Islamist outlook

The radical Islamists want to kill Pope Francis, according to the Italian daily Il Tempo. I’m not surprised. The permanent enemy of these anachronistic characters is Christianity, not the Jews.

The radical Islamists want to kill Pope Francis, according to the Italian daily Il Tempo. I’m not surprised. The permanent enemy of these anachronistic characters is Christianity, not the Jews.

The Jews do not proselytize. They don’t want to convince anyone of anything. Only those born of a Jewish mother can be part of that people. Conversion is possible, but very complicated. The Jews occupy a small territory that was once under Islam and must be regained for the faith of Mohammed because the Quran so prescribes, but that’s all.

To the Salafists, the black beast that needs to be extirpated is Christianity, and Francis is its principal head. That’s why they want to chop it off.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of the Islamic State, has said that he intends to conquer Rome. He has a doctorate in Quranic studies. That makes him more dangerous and delirious. He brings to our present a historic vision fixed on the Medieval centuries — from the 7th to the 11th — when there was a hegemonic Islamic civilization that contributed to define Europe as “Christianity.”

Europe became something else after the Muslim onslaught. A spectacular reaction took place. Europeans ended up resembling the enemy. Until the conquest of Spain by the Arabs in A.D. 711, the peninsula was perceived as a Goth kingdom that continued the Roman tradition.

But “the Moors” fought with chaotic raids, magical incantations and promises of a paradise full of virginal houris, claiming that “Allah is the only god and Muhammad is his prophet.” It was the jihad, the holy war. They were fighting by Allah’s design, as Muhammad told them in the Koran.

At the other end of the conflict, the Hispanic Goths learned the lesson and battled to the cry of “For Santiago, charge, Spain!” Santiago [St. James] was one of Jesus’ apostles and allegedly visited Spain. According to Christian legend, in the 9th Century he appeared at the Battle of Clavijo, riding an imposing white steed and wielding a shining sword of silver, with which he beheaded 70,000 Saracens. That bloody feat justly earned him the name of Matamoros — slayer of Moors.

Fortunately, time, science and, above all, the rational ideas of the Enlightenment slowly pruned Europe of fanaticism and strengthened the values of freedom, democracy, tolerance, laity, religious freedom, legal equality and mutual respect that revealed themselves in the best aspects of Judeo-Christianity.

Nothing like it occurred in the Islamic world. Radical Islamists continue to stick to the story of Mohammed and his confused 7th Century. They continue to hate anyone who professes a different religion and does not submit or convert to the Islamic faith.

Today, the Islamic State persecutes the Yazidis in Iraq. The al Qaida hordes kill Christians in Syria whenever they can. The Muslim Brotherhood annihilated hundreds of Copts in Egypt. Shiites and Sunnis, while fighting each other, detest and sporadically battle the Lebanese Maronites. And in Nigeria, the slaughter of Christians goes on daily.

Not long ago, I signed, along with thousands of indignant people, a letter to the government of Sudan, asking it not to execute a pregnant woman who had converted to Christianity.

I fear that the problem is not limited to the barbarity of a small group of extremists. The matter is much more serious. According to the Report 2000 on religious freedom worldwide, in 23 Islamic countries the Christian minorities are trampled on, persecuted and sometimes cruelly exterminated.

The governments and religious leaders interpret, to the letter, the Quran’s ferocious instructions against the infidels, and in the name of their faith wreak terrible punishment against the Christians. There’s nothing wrong in the Arab world wanting to become again the world’s leaders; that’s understandable. The Chinese, who also boast a glorious past, want to regain that position of leadership.

But the Chinese have not opted to destroy Western civilization; they imitate it, with the intention of surpassing it. The Chinese look to the future. The Arabs, instead, have not managed to overcome the past. That is very dangerous.

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