(Photo credit: Associated Press)
Crisis Magazine, by William Kirkpatrick, June 12, 2017:
On May 22, an Islamic suicide bomber detonated himself outside a pop concert in Manchester, England, killing and wounding dozens, many of them young children.
The terrorist was a 22-year-old named Salman Abedi. A few days after the attack, I was reading an article about the mosque he attended—the Didsbury Mosque. “That’s funny,” I thought looking at the accompanying photo, “that doesn’t look like a mosque, it looks like a church.”
Sure enough, as I discovered, the Didsbury Mosque was once the Albert Park Methodist Chapel. It had been bought by the local Syrian Muslim community and transformed into a Muslim place of worship.
Similar transformations have been taking place in other parts of the UK. St. Mark’s Church in London is now the New Peckham Mosque, St. Peter’s Church in Cobridge was sold to the Madina Mosque. The Brick Lane Mosque in London was originally a Methodist church. But church-to-mosque conversions are only part of a larger story. There are now 423 mosques in London, and the number is expected to grow. Meanwhile, 500 London churches have closed since 2001, and in all of England 10,000 churches have closed since 1960.
The transformation of the Albert Park Methodist Church to the Didsbury Mosque is emblematic of one of the most significant shifts in history: the transformation of Europe from a largely Christian continent to a largely Islamic one. The transformation is far from complete, and there’s an outside chance the process can be reversed, but time and demographics favor Islam.
In several of Europe’s cities, the Muslim population now hovers around the thirty percent mark. In ten years’ time, that will be forty percent. Of course that doesn’t mean 40 percent of highly committed Muslims facing 60 percent of deeply devout Christians. Both faiths have their share of half-hearted “nominals” for whom religion is more a cultural inheritance than a deeply held conviction. Still, the “nominal” problem is a much greater problem for European Christians than for European Muslims. In many European countries, Sunday church attendance is the 5-10 percent range whereas mosque attendance is very high in relation to the size of the Muslim population. In England, there are already more Muslims attending Friday prayers than there are Christians attending Anglican services on Sundays. A study by Christian Research predicts that by 2020 the number of Muslims attending prayer service in England and Wales will exceed the number of Catholics attending weekly Mass.
It’s also noteworthy that the expanding Muslim population in Europe is relatively young, whereas the declining “Christian” population is an aging one. Sixty-forty seems like good odds until you realize that the average age of the 60 percenters will be around 55 while the average age of the 40 percenters will be around 25.
You may object that if there is any fighting to be done, most of the fighting on the “Christian” side will be done by the army, not by citizens in walkers and wheelchairs. But keep in mind that the military draws its recruits from the ranks of the young. As the population of the people that Islamists refer to as “crusaders” ages, European governments will be forced to draw more of their new recruits from the Muslim population. The same goes for the police forces. Many Muslims will serve their country or their city faithfully, but many will have divided loyalties, and some will have signed up in the first place with mutiny in mind.
Most likely, however, the transformation will be effected without major battles. It won’t be a matter of numbers or of military strength, but of strength of belief. Those with the strongest beliefs will prevail. Those who are not sure what to believe will submit without a fight.
Will Europe Defend its “Values”?
That’s the theme of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, a novel about the gradual Islamization of France. The protagonist, a middle-aged professor, has a number of qualms about the Islamic takeover of the university system, but nothing sufficient to resist it. The things he values most—literature, good food, and sex—are, in the end, no impediment to accepting Islam. True, he is offered several inducements to convert—career advancement, plenty of money, and several “wives”—but one gets the impression that, even without these incentives, he would still eventually convert. At one point prior to his submission, he thinks about joining a monastic order as his literary hero, J.K. Huysmans, had done, but he soon realizes that he lacks the necessary Christian conviction. Indeed, he has no strong convictions.
His plight is the plight of contemporary Europe in a nutshell. Many Europeans see no sense in resisting Islamization because they have nothing worth defending. To be sure, European leaders still talk about “our values,” but they can’t seem to specify what those values are, beyond appeals to “diversity” and “pluralism.” For example, after the Manchester massacre, British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that “our values—the liberal, pluralistic values of Britain—will always prevail over the hateful ideology of the terrorists.”
I’m not so sure of that. In an earlier era, Brits would have connected their values to God, country, family, and honor. In other words, things worth fighting for. But “liberal, pluralistic values”? That’s not very solid ground on which to take your stand. Who wants to die for diversity? Indeed, it can be argued that the worship of diversity for its own sake is what allowed terrorists to get a foothold in England in the first place. No one wanted to question all those diverse preachers spreading their diverse message about Jews, infidels, and homosexuals. The trouble is, unless there are higher values than diversity, there’s no way of judging between good diversities and bad diversities—between, say, honoring your wife and honor-killing her if she displeases you.
The same is true of freedom. Freedom is a fundamental right, but what you do with your freedom is also important. There has to be some higher objective value that directs our choices to good ends rather than bad ones. Otherwise, freedom becomes a license to do anything one pleases.
An Attack on Childhood
Here we touch on a very touchy subject. I would not like to be in Theresa May’s shoes when, after a horrifying attack, she has to come up with just the right words. But one thing she said struck me as not quite right. She said: “We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish, but as an opportunity for carnage.”
It’s possible to fully agree with May’s sentiments while, at the same time, noting that there once was a time when a room full of children watching an Ariana Grande concert would not be considered “a scene to cherish.” “Her dress, dancing, and song lyrics,” wrote one columnist, “are deliberately decadent and immodest.” And, after watching some YouTube clips of her performances, I would have to agree. I’m pretty sure that most of the parents I know would not want their children to attend one of her concerts.
While the world was justly outraged at Salman Abedi’s attack on innocent children, no one seems to notice the attack on childhood innocence that the typical pop concert represents. The two “attacks” should not be equated, of course. The producers of pop concerts are not the moral equivalents of a suicide bomber. Still, the fact that so many parents saw nothing wrong with dropping their children off at the Manchester concert suggests a great deal of moral confusion in the West.
Unfortunately, such moral confusion leaves people vulnerable to those who are absolutely certain about their beliefs. The moral relativism of the West is one of the chief reasons why the Islamic cultural jihad has been so successful. People who can’t see that the soft-porn style of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Ariana Grande is not good for children will have difficulty seeing the problem with polygamy, child marriage, and other aspects of sharia law. In a relativistic society, the safest default position is “who’s to judge?”
Relativism Leads to Islamic Dominance
Earlier I said that Europe is being transformed from a Christian culture to an Islamic culture, but that’s not quite accurate because it’s actually a three-stage transformation. Much of Europe has already transitioned out of its Christian stage and into a post-Christian or secular stage. There are still many Christians in Europe, but Europe’s Christian consciousness has been largely lost. The next stage is the transition from secularism to Islam. That’s not inevitable, but it’s likely because without a framework of Judeo-Christian beliefs, secularism becomes relativism and relativism can’t offer much resistance to determined true believers.
Back in 2014, Theresa May said “we celebrate different ways of life, we value diversity, and we cherish our freedom to lead our lives as we choose.” But if your culture stands for nothing more than the freedom to shop for different lifestyles, it won’t last long. The contemporary Western fascination with pop culture highlights the problem. Pop culture is by its very nature a transient phenomenon. What is pop today won’t be pop tomorrow. Indeed, the popular culture of tomorrow may very well favor burqas, multiple wives, and male supremacy. There may still be a place for singer-dancers like Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus, but that place would most likely be as a harem dancer in a Sultan’s palace or as entertainment for a Saudi prince who has bought up a country estate in Oxfordshire.
It’s hard to beat transcendent values with transient values. That’s especially the case when the transcendent crowd are willing to die (and kill you in the process) for their values. Most Brits, on the other hand, are not willing to lay down their lives for the sake of keeping bacon on the menu or porn on the telly.
Christianity vs. Two Forms of Totalitarianism
When I use the word “transcendent,” I refer only to a belief in an eternal life beyond this worldly existence. Quite obviously, as in the case of Salman Abedi, transcendent values can be twisted. The idea that God will reward you for murdering innocent young women in Manchester by furnishing you with virginal young women in paradise is a truly twisted concept. But apparently it is widely shared in the Muslim world. When, during a World Cup qualifier in Australia, a minute of silence was called to commemorate the London terror victims, the whole Saudi soccer team refused to observe it. As Sheik Mohammad Tawhidi later explained:
In their eyes the attackers are martyrs who are going to paradise. And if they stand for a minute of silence they are against their Muslim brothers who fought for jihad and fought the infidels.
As twisted as these values may be, it’s beginning to look as though secular values aren’t up to the job of opposing them. The trouble with secular values when they are cut off from their Judeo-Christian roots is that they are arbitrary. Autonomy? Dignity? Equality? Says who?
“If there is no God,” wrote Dostoevsky, “everything is permitted.” Secularism has no God and, therefore, no ultimate standard of judgment. The end result is that each man becomes his own god and does his own thing—even if that “thing” involves the exploitation of childhood innocence. Islam, on the other hand, does believe in God, but not the God Dostoevsky had in mind. The God of Islam is an arbitrary despot whose commands are not rooted in reason, love, or justice.
So we have two arbitrary systems vying for control of the West—the soft totalitarianism of secularism and the hard totalitarianism of Islam. Both are really forms of slavery. Muslims are slaves of a tyrannical God, and secular man becomes the slave of his own desires and addictions. It may seem unthinkable that the West will ever submit to Islam, but many Western citizens are already in submission mode. Submission to their desires has put them in a bad spot. As a result, they are looking for something bigger to submit to—something outside and above their own fragile selves. Some have already turned to Islam. Many more will unless…
Unless, that is, there is a recovery of the Judeo-Christian belief that God is a God of love, justice, reason, and goodness—and that we are made in his image (a concept which does not exist in Islam). In the context of that vision, belief in human dignity and the rights of man is thoroughly justified.
People who believe that they and their neighbor are made in the image of God will generally have a strong sense of their responsibility to act accordingly. Such people will be far from perfect, but they will at least realize that it is wrong to submit both to Islam’s warped image of God and to secularism’s degraded image of man.
In the end, the choice for the West is not between Islam and pluralistic secularism. A rootless secularism will almost certainly submit to Islam. The only real hope for the West is the recovery of the faith that once inspired Christians to build a beautiful church near Albert Park in West Didsbury, England.
William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com