A Christians call to halt mass Muslim migration to Europe

“What we call moderate Muslims are theologically and politically out-manoeuvred by radical Muslims. The inexorable rise of ISIS is predicated on this theological principle of Koranic interpretation. Milder Islam will always give way to violent Islam.”

For Christians, no event is purely political or pragmatic. Events are set in the context of the struggle for the Kingdom of Heaven as Jesus described it. Christians ought therefore to be used to looking beyond the surface of things to understand their more nuanced implications. If the Anglican Church has a weakness today, it is to have surrendered its grasp of the spiritual to its passion for the political.

The migration crisis that Europe faces divides people and politicians in their response. Just at the political and practical level, no one seems to know how to manage the humanitarian crisis on the one hand and the forces that have created it on the other.

For once our spiritual incompetence appear matched by our political impotence. Looking back things might have been done differently. Perhaps our Governments should not have interfered in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya after all? Perhaps if the boats had been sent back from Greece and Italy, the murderous people-smuggling racket would have soon dried up. The Australians tried that, and it worked.

Perhaps if the Western politicians could work out which side to support in the Syrian civil war, that might dampen things down, but they can’t. They change their minds every few months.

Perhaps if there was a concerted military response to Isis, that might reduce the tidal shock waves of displaced fleeing families; but there isn’t one.

Solving the causes of the issues appears to be beyond our politicians. We are left with the symptom of the breakdown of states in the Middle East. But in the meantime the trickle of migrants, only in their hundreds of thousands at present, will turn into a greater flood. Not many have pointed out that providing help for those on the move is at the expense of providing help for those marooned in the refugee camps. It is the rich, who can afford to bribe the people smugglers, who are getting preferential treatment, as the gates to Europe are opened for them, and the poor who remain out of the public eye remain in the destitute misery of the camps. Compassion is like Cyclops here. It seems to have only one eye.

Deepening the helplessness in the face of our inability to do anything more than mop of some of the symptoms of this migration, is the development of what many now call ‘virtue-signalling’.

Virtue –signaling involves making a good deal of public noise about how much one ‘cares’. It isn’t necessarily linked to doing anything about it. Emoting publicly is what is required. Everyone then gets to be reassured about how compassionate one is.

Recently, driven by particular gut wrenching, media-massaged images the declarations of public compassion have reached new levels. God forbid, well actually, ‘public opinion forbid’ that you might express reservations about how the media is presenting this unprecedented migration crisis. You might appear uncaring. Yet all TV news bulletins, are edited, choosing to show some images and not show others.

Needless to say, no parent, no person can be anything but heart-hurting, heart-weary, heart anxious seeing other parents walking in the heat, trying to protect their children and find a better life for them. Who would not do anything, everything they could to provide safety and a better future for their children? That’s what it is to be human. It’s called common humanity. No one has a monopoly on it.* Faced with hard choices, we long for one simple solution to soothe our and others pain.

Luckily, the media suggests, we are in fact presented with a simple choice to solve the most pressing ethical dilemma and our accompanying pain. “Let the mass migration movement of Muslims into Europe.’ (They are between 70-90% Muslim).

It’s only when one steps out of the heart-hurting place of human solidarity and begins to think, that other consequences appear attached to this course of action. Many people are surprised that something as beautiful and as ethically simple as compassion may have complex consequences beyond relieving existential pain.

The consequences threaten to be quite problematic. The terrifying numbers of refugees are hard to conceive of. The Syrian civil war alone has displaced over twelve million people.

I have three stories which affect the way I look at this mass migration, and they raise difficult questions. They draw the eye beyond the immediate impact of the media images.

They come from two Archbishops and an imam, who was a friend.

The Archbishop of Canterbury tells us that faced with this crisis, his heart is broken, and we must find a solution. Who can disagree?

If the Archbishop’s role is to articulate pain on behalf of an anxious population, he has done well. But this comes too problematically close to virtue signalling. It’s nice to know the Archbishop cares. But what if his role were to be a guardian of the Christian faith and an interpreter of a spiritual as well as political conflict? Might there be more to be said about the implications of this developing crisis? Might the pain in his heart extend to the threat to the Church in Europe and the practice of the Christian faith here?* The only solution that appears to be on offer to ease the heartbreak of the Archbishop, is to welcome some unknown number of migrants and refugees into Europe as they demand. If you interrogate this wave of compassion by asking ‘how many’ – or what the limits might be, no answer is offered. Perhaps people are too overcome with their compassion to be able to think of one.

Yet there are over twelve million displaced people, and that’s just Syrians, waiting. There are also, Eritreans, Iraqi, Libyans, Afghans, and refugees from Darfur. The European politicians have just muddied the waters by removing the distinction between refugees and economic migrants, by reclassifying refugees as “people who are poor”. But compared to Europe, the whole of Africa is poor. How does that help?* The Archbishop might have expressed hope alongside his articulation of public pain; the hope that if the Churches in Europe roused themselves, they might succeed in presenting Jesus as a better life companion than Mohammed to the displaced suffering Muslims.

There are welcome indications of refugee families converting to Christianity in Germany, though a certain lack of clarity over whether this is because they have been born again, or cementing a case for showing that expelling them would cause them persecution. But, pain in the face of migration might be tempered by the promise of joy in the face of salvation- were the Christians in Europe to rouse themselves to offering the spiritual sanctuary of evangelism, as well as political sanctuary of asylum.

And if they don’t, there is a much more serious difficulty facing us. It is an acute and contemporary problem. The hard facts are that in so many places where Muslims become the majority, they give Christians in particular a hard time. They persecute them. Churches are burnt, people are killed, bells are silenced, bibles are banned.

So here is my second story, through which I look to interpret the consequences of this enormous movement of migrating Muslims.

Another Archbishop, the Archbishop of Mosul in Northern Iraq, standing in the ruins of his cathedral, has also sent us a message. In 2014 he said:

“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The Islamic radicals want us converted or dead….Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemies you have welcomed in your home.”

I doubt people will be willing to hear his message. Some people will claim he is mistaken. After all, the media tells us there are two kinds of Islam – radical and accommodating. Perhaps he suffered at the hands of the wrong kind of Muslim? Hopefully there are no radical Muslims heading for Europe. Though I can’t help wondering, if there were, how would we know?

We have not shown ourselves to be very skilled at handling the distinctions between the shades of Islam that we experience and observe. There is an acute theological problem that (what we call) ‘non-radicalised Muslims’ suffer from. When faced with a call to implement the violence against non-Muslims that the post Medina verses in the Koran insist on, milder Muslims can find have no theological access to Koranic verses urging restraint.

The principle of abrogation gives the later verses in the Koran, where the majority of the violence is to be found, more weight than the gentler verses, which come earlier in the Koran. And because of this, what we call moderate Muslims are theologically and politically out-manoeuvred by radical Muslims. The inexorable rise of ISIS is predicated on this theological principle of Koranic interpretation. Milder Islam will always give way to violent Islam.

The media, which neither understands Islam, nor theology, and has no reading of history, makes a false distinction between Muslims and Islamists. This is a piece of political and theological self-delusion. It serves us very badly. There is no such distinction in Islamic theology, the Koran or the Hadith.

But here is a third message which informs my assessment of the consequences of the present mass migration of Muslims.

It comes from an imam who was a friend of mine. I had asked him to speak at a University Conference on Inter-Faith dialogue from a Muslim perspective. After some erudite papers given by Christian and Jewish speakers he stood up to make his own contribution. But he astonished us saying that he was not in fact going to deliver paper on Inter-Faith communication, because he had no need to. Where Muslims were in the majority, they did not care or need to engage in Inter-Faith dialogue. * He was, he said, confident that his grandchildren will live in a Muslim majority UK.

“Already, (in 2008) in five northern cities, the majority of people under 15, are Muslim. Your birth rate is unsustainable and ours is more than double yours. Through simple democracy and demographics, in many UK cities, we will become the majority. Maybe even in the lifetime of my children, but certainly in the lifetime of my grandchildren. And wherever we are the majority in a city or community, we will demand the implementation of Sharia law through democratic channels.” He’s right about the demographics, I checked. We might hope the Archbishop of Mosul is wrong. But the evidence is beginning to suggest he may already be right as the culture and demographics in Britain suffer a seismic shift.

The Barnabas Fund highlighted the case of Nissar Hussain.

“He is British man who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1996. He has written a letter to his local MP recounting some of the long catalogue of violence, abuse and other attacks that he has suffered at the hands of some Muslims in the area of Bradford where he lives. Recently Nissar and his wife, Kubra, who have six children, have each had false allegations against them brought to the police for separate “offences” resulting in each of them being held at the police station for hours. Their car has been maliciously damaged four times, making it almost impossible for the family to meet the repair and insurance costs. Yet despite appealing to local authorities and organisations for support, Mr Hussain has struggled to find support and help.”

You might think that the British rule of law has survived the weight of multiculturalism. You would, in this case, be wrong.

“One of the most frustrating and distressing features of these problems is that the family gets little help from police, local authorities or even other Christians. Previously, he received advice from one police officer to consider moving house if he wanted to escape the intimidation and on another occasion he was advised by the police sergeant to “stop trying to be a crusader and move out”.

Bradford is not Mosul; not yet, but it seems to be moving inexorably in that direction.

Islamic voices in the Gulf States often claim as a justification for ‘radical’ Muslims bombing and murdering in the West, that the Muslim world is ‘one’. Therefore any damage to a Muslim in one part of the world will be repaid in vengeance by other Muslims in another part of the world. Strangely this concept of the one Muslim world is not applied in the exercise of compassion towards other Muslims.

Saudi Arabia (in common with all the other Gulf states) has taken in no Muslim refugees at all. But it has offered to fund the building of 20 mosques in Germany to cater for the huge influx of refugees there.

Why might that be? Is it possible that this represents a thought out policy of any kind? Does this mass migration serve any other Islamic ambitions?

Europe resisted Islamic aggression as Muslims sought to conquer it by force of arms in a series of major battles, notably, Tours in 732, Lepanto of 1571 and Vienna 1683.

But what Islam failed to achieve by violence it now appears ready to achieve by force of migration.

The Judaeo-Christian foundations in Europe have been corrupted by our own nationalism and aggression, but nonetheless have provided the rule of law, freedom of speech and democracy. Muslim states have not provided these values. It would be an odd thing for even secular Europeans to surrender their achievements to a growing Islamic presence, which clamoured for the implementation of Sharia law wherever its numbers made it possible.

Compassion is a fine and generous virtue. But like other virtues it can be exercised wisely or foolishly. There is something oddly and worryingly foolish and self-defeating about the way in which parts of Europe are setting about applying compassion. Some commentators have suggested it represents a form of cultural death wish.* The short emotive fix is unlikely to bring either stability or safety to those struggling to retain the Judaeo Christian culture out of which Europe was born and with which it flourished. It misunderstands the history of Islam and the reality of Islamic theological and cultural ambition. The migrants or refuges may intend nothing but their own safety and a better standard of living than they previously knew. But those welcoming them in, may find that there are serious consequences to the way in which they have chosen to offer compassion which alter the shape and nature of our freedoms in Europe for ever.

Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury should offer sanctuary to the Archbishop of Mosul? It might inform both his and our pain.

© Gavin Ashenden 2015

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