Saudi Arabian King Abdullah visited Pope Benedict XVI last week at the Vatican. This was part of the king’s feigned gesture of inter-religious understanding, as he made his way around Europe.
As far as Islamists like King Abdullah are concerned, religious understanding means that the Pope is supposed to apologize for speaking the truth about the violent, intolerant nature of Islamic jihad, while Muslim leaders need not apologize for the actual violence committed every day around the world in their religion’s name.
King Abdullah’s gift to the Pope was a sword. How ironic. He would have done better if he had made a solemn promise to end his country’s religious apartheid and the lessons of hate that are spoon fed every day to Saudi schoolchildren. But the king knows that had he made such an offer and tried to carry it out back home, he and his royal brethren would face beheadings under the vengeful swords wielded by the Wahabi extremists who set and enforce the religious rules in Saudi Arabia.
Indeed, while the king’s gift of a sword can be explained away as the traditional Bedouin custom the Saudis follow when foreign leaders visit their country, the gift also speaks volumes about the Muslim culture of violence. The Saudi flag itself contains a sword right under an Arabic inscription of faith.
As John F. Cullinan, a former senior foreign-policy adviser to the U.S. Catholic bishops, explained, “jihad — in the sense of armed conflict for religious reasons — remains a living element of Islamic thought and life”.
It is no wonder, then, that Pope Benedict’s pleas to King Abdullah on behalf of Christians and other minorities, who are suffering daily persecutions in the Muslim world, fell on deaf ears. Until there is a true reform movement against the prevailing lethal strains of hatred, intolerance and violence that have infected Muslim societies and which the Islamic extremists seek to export world-wide, any inter-religious dialogues are pointless theatrical exercises.
We should not expect any real reforms any time soon. There is no centralized hierarchy to help move mainstream Muslim thought and beliefs toward a more modern, pluralistic worldview. The most extreme leaders have filled the vacuum.
The Islamists impose rigid religious orthodoxy in their own countries, with no room for individual rights or freedom of conscience, while hiding behind and manipulating the freedoms afforded to Muslims living in Western societies. Muslims are free to preach their beliefs in the West and to win over converts under the protection of Western law, but the conversion of Muslims to other religions is forbidden under Islamic law, which considers apostasy a crime punishable by death.
The fact is that the two most powerful Muslim nations in the world – Saudi Arabia and Iran – are ruled under strict Islamic religious laws (Sharia) that brook no dissent, allow no freedom of religion, and provide no equal rights for women or non-Muslim minorities. While they live under their own respective versions of Islam (Sunni and Shiite, respectively), they share in common the fusion of religion and government in their everyday life and a “system of religion-based behavioral control in which certain crimes are punishable by stoning, flogging, amputation, and beheading, punishments intended to inspire subjection and fear.”
These values are completely alien to ours. It is no use trying to paper over the differences with glib words about how we must all get along.
In Saudi Arabia, the religious police enforce the prohibition on the public practice of non-Muslim religions, including against the estimated 1.5 million Christians still living in Saudi Arabia. Outward signs of other faiths are forbidden. Non-Muslim worshipers risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes torture for violating this prohibition.
Non-Muslims are also barred from entering the city of Medina and Mecca, the holiest cities in Islam, under penalty of death. The exclusion started with Muhammad’s forceful banishment of Jews from their own centuries-old homes in those cities. As an aside, what do you think would happen if Jews asked to invoke the right of return to Medina and Mecca that the Saudis insist upon for Palestinians as part of their phony peace package?
Saudi Arabia’s education system reinforces its exclusionary theology. According to the Freedom House's 2006 report, Saudi textbooks “continue to promote an ideology of hatred that teaches bigotry and deplores tolerance. These texts continue to instruct students to hold a dualistic worldview in which there exist two incompatible realms – one consisting of true believers in Islam ... and the other the unbelievers – realms that can never coexist in peace.”
Iran is no better today. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran mandates that the official religion of Iran is Islam. The Baha'is, Iran's largest non-Islamic religious minority, are persecuted. Hundreds of Baha'is have been executed since 1979. Other religious minorities live in a precarious state. Religious police are cracking down on displays of Western influence, such as movies, dress and music. Political dissenters, including students, professors and journalists, are jailed under torturous conditions or are executed for such vaguely worded offenses as "insulting Islam" and "damaging the foundations of the Islamic Republic."
Saudi Arabia and Iran may be extreme cases, to be sure, but religious intolerance is the norm in many other Islamic countries as well. We see the evidence every day in the persecution of Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt and Indonesia, for example. This is true even in those countries such as Indonesia where their governments pay lip service to religious freedom.
In short, conditions for non-Muslims in Muslim lands are getting worse, while inter-faith dialogues (including the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations) prattle on about how we have to be more understanding of each other.
Indeed, while we are lulled into thinking that these theatrics are worth the time and effort, the Islamists are plotting to destroy our way of life in our own societies. Just last month, for example, a research group called the Policy Exchange released a report that said that extremist material, much of it exported from Saudi Arabia, was being distributed in a number of major mosques across Great Britain. And the Muslim religious leaders in those mosques use the material to preach hatred against their host country.
Consider, as a case in point, Riyadh ul Haq - the leading preacher of Great Britain’s most influential Islamic sect, which controls almost half of British mosques. Mr.ul Haq preaches that all non-Muslims are evil and that their ways are corrupting. “Allah has warned us in the Koran, do not befriend the kuffar [unbelievers], do not align yourselves with the kuffar.”
Not surprisingly, this preacher of hate reserves his most strident venom for Jews:
“They’re all the same. The Jews don’t have to be in Israel to be like this. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in New York, Houston, St Louis, London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester. They’re all the same. They’ve monopolised everything: the Holocaust, God, money, interest, usury, the world economy, the media, political institutions . . . they monopolised tyranny and oppression as well. And injustice”
What kind of society does this leading Muslim preacher in Great Britain want to see worldwide? The Taliban are his model.
Meanwhile, our politically correct leaders bend over backwards to accommodate and even exalt the anti-Western values of Islam.
In an example of multiculturalism gone wild in Great Britain, a public school there recently celebrated a Muslim festival by requiring all 257 students and 41 teachers to wear Muslim garb. The school also held a women-only party out of respect for the Muslim tradition of wives not mixing with other men. Only two members of the staff – a part-time teacher and a teaching assistant – are Muslim.
“It’s all part of a diversity project to promote multiculturalism,” said Sally Bloomer, head of Rufford primary school in Lye, West Midlands.
If you think that such extreme multiculturalism is only a problem in Great Britain and other European countries, think again. It is happening in our own backyard. The Muslim Students’ Association is demanding “accommodations” for Muslims attending American schools. The Council on American-Islamic Relations insists that this country “has to now accommodate things that are not traditionally accounted for before", including the teaching of their skewed version of history.
And our schools are acceding. A San Diego public school, for example, has set aside 15 minutes of classroom instruction time for Muslim students to pray and has banned foods that conflict with the Islamic diet. It even has segregated classes for girls. Seventh-graders at a San Francisco-area school were required to "become Muslims" for two full weeks as part of California's world history curriculum and to recite "Allah is the only true God and Muhammad is his messenger". Other public schools, such as in Oak Lawn, Illinois, are considering eliminating traditional holiday celebrations that we have taken for granted for generations because they are afraid of offending the Muslim residents who do not share these traditions.
Textbooks used in our public schools today have been re-written under pressure from the diversity police and Islamic advocacy groups like the Council on Islamic Education to whitewash the history of Islamic intolerance of and violence against non-believers and to stress the crimes of the Western oppressors.
We are an open society where Muslims are free to build their mosques and pray there or in their homes as they wish. They are also free to send their children to private religious schools, as Catholics and Jews have done for many years. But it is time to stop obscuring our Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment roots that have allowed us to advance far beyond the fundamentalist-dominated Muslim world, just to prove how understanding we are of the sensibilities of our Muslim minority population.
Muslim countries that base their laws on Sharia, and the leading preachers in the Muslim world and the West who say they are following Sharia, believe that Islam should dominate every sphere of life. They believe that non-Muslims are innately inferior, and they preach a theology that denies the cornerstone of Western democracies – the equal worth and dignity of every human being.
The problem is not the lack of dialogue or understanding between Western and Islamic societies. The problem is that we in the West are confronting an ideology that values death over life and violence over the peaceful solution of differences. We are confronting an ideology in which it is impossible for faithful Muslim believers to co-exist on equal terms with those whom they regard as unbelievers. No amount of dialogue will bridge that gap unless we surrender our own distinct identity and beliefs in response to the siren call of multiculturalism.
Until there is a fundamental change in the culture of hatred, separatism and violence that dominate the Muslim world today, there can be no genuine reconciliation with the West.
Tragically, such reconciliation is not likely to happen during our lifetimes.
 Holy Challenge: A new chapter in Christian-Muslim relations? by John F. Cullinan, National Review Online (September 29, 2006).
 Islam and the Textbooks, Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2003).
 The homegrown cleric who loathes the British by Andrew Norfolk, TimesOnline (September 7, 2007).
 Teachers’ Muslim dress order by Andrew Parker, The Sun (October 31, 2007).
 Jihad In Schools? Investor’s Business Daily (July 9, 2007).