Meeting the Challenge of Political, Militant, Strategic Islam: Part II—The Response
Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury
The cover of the biography, Baroness Cox: A Voice for the Voiceless, bears these words of tribute from Elena Bonner Sakharov, widow of Soviet nuclear physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov: “She [Cox] has seen their suffering with her own eyes, spent nights with them in air-raid shelters . . . She has shared their bread, when they had any, and wept for their dead sons and husbands.” Often on the front lines of conflict, standing with those who suffer unjustly, Baroness Cox has now joined in the struggle against resurgent, totalitarian Islam. In that connection, she has co-authored, with John Marks (Order of the British Empire), The West, Islam and Islamism: Is Ideological Islam Compatible with Liberal Democracy?
The following observations continue the excerpts from Baroness Cox’s videotaped presentation to the 2007 Kairos Journal Award dinner. Having outlined the dire situation in Part I, here she suggests corrective steps.
Bridge-Building in Indonesia
In response, I suggest a twin track. First of all, where possible, we must build bridges, not walls. One example: I had the opportunity to be in Indonesia when Laskar Jihad hit Indonesia big time in the early part of this century. Indonesia had an honorable record of religious tolerance and cultural diversity. Christians had been allowed to settle and flourish in the areas where they had chosen to live—until international, strategic, militant jihad hit in the form of Laskar Jihad.1 I was down in Ambon in the exotic Spice Islands, when there were 4,000-5,000 jihad warriors there alone. Thousands of Christians were killed; hundreds of thousands displaced.
But there were, and still are, moderate Muslims, the traditional Muslim leaders, who don’t like this jihad, who want to normalize relationships with the Christians. They needed help because they were also under attack from the Laskar Jihad warriors. So in Jakarta, we launched a new organization with an endless title. It’s called the International Islamic-Christian Organization for Reconciliation and Reconstruction. It abbreviates to IICORR. IICORR’s president is Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president of Indonesia . . . When we launched IICORR in Jakarta, he made a very good speech, in which he said that modern Islam had to begin think about a reformation. Modern Islam had to think about those parts of Islamic teaching which were compatible with the modern day world, and those parts which needed to be changed or perhaps jettisoned.
Now, most Muslims who say that are in real danger, but there are Muslims who are trying to think of ways of bringing Islam forward into its equivalent of a Reformation. They need a helping hand; they need friendship. They’re vulnerable, they’re courageous, and they’re our only hope for the future, if we’re going to coexist in peaceful, mutual respect for the right to religious freedom. . .
Resistance to Sharia Law in the West
We have to think strategically back at home. We have to look at the legal threats and make sure we don’t give any more ground away legally. For example, where there are attempts to impose sharia, however subtly, we have to stop that . . . We have to protect our fundamental values and principles. In Britain, we don’t believe in polygamy. It’s illegal. Yet our welfare services are providing welfare support to the wives in polygamous marriages2—and not only to spouses in polygamous marriages in Britain. We’re sending money abroad. Why are we implicitly condoning polygamy?
Financially, Islamic sharia banking, Islamic financing of charities, is expanding and, indeed, encouraged by our chancellor here in Britain, our chancellor of the Exchequer. We’ve go to wake up here. Islamic charities are not like Christian charities. On the whole, Western charities are very carefully controlled and have to achieve their charitable objectives. A lot of Islamic “charitable money” can go to fund jihad, and, indeed, is so going. So why are we allowing that subversion of monies, subversion of our financial assistance, in our societies? Wake up, watch out, see what’s happening, interpret the signs. . .
A police chief in Katmandu once said to a colleague of mine, “You know, I’d never put a Jew in prison without due cause because international Judaism would make my life hell. I’d never put a Muslim in prison without due cause; international Islam would create chaos. I couldn’t survive. I could put a Christian in prison without due reason, and nobody says anything—and so I do.” Why are our media, our Christian media, silent about the rights of Christians to practice their faith and about assaults on those who are at the front line of persecution, and allowing militant Islam to get away with it with impunity? . . .
I would plead that we must enable our students to understand different aspects of Islam, and perhaps particularly our theological students. I would like each Bible college, seminary, and theological college to teach serious, sober, accounts of different forms of Islam. Otherwise, how can we support our brothers and sisters at the front line, holding that line of faith and freedom under fire for the rest of us?
But also, our students are going to be ill-equipped. In Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur last year, talking to a Roman Catholic chaplain, I heard that it’s difficult for the Christian students to get to university because of discrimination. When they do, they’re immediately targeted by Muslim students who’ve done their homework. Those Muslim students invite the Christians to debate. They challenge them because they’ve done their homework. They bring up various interpretations of the Bible. They challenge them with a guilt trip on the Crusades. The Christians come back to the Roman Catholic chaplain, battered, their faith shattered, and their confidence completely evaporated. The chaplain confesses, “I don’t know how to help them, because no one has taught me about Islam. So I am helpless to help them.” Why do we let that happen? Please, can we wake up and use our education systems, our Bible schools, our theological colleges, to equip our students to understand Islam and to support each other in proper, principled, strategic, spiritual, and intellectual response. . .
Chamberlain or Churchill?
We have to realize we’re living in the equivalent of the 1930s. Are we in a mode of appeasement, of apathy, of complacency? Or in the phrase used by Peter Riddell at a 2006 conference in England, “Are we going to be Chamberlains or Churchills?” I hope passionately that we will wake up in time, because at the moment, the clock is ticking against us. Much of this change is irreversible, in Africa, in Asia, in our own countries. Please, many people paid the ultimate price for us to have our spiritual, political heritage of freedom, democracy, and faith. Are we going to be worthy of that heritage? Are we going to pass it on undiminished, or are we going to let it go to militant, political, strategic Islam?
See Noorhaidi, “Laskar Jihad : Islam, Militancy and the Quest for Identity in Post-New Order Indonesia” (Dissertation), Utrecht University, http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/dissertations/2006-0705-200332/UUindex.html (accessed April 30, 2007).
Cf. “Polygamous Husbands Can Claim Cash for Their Harems,” This Is London, April 17, 2007 http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23393028-details/Polygamous%20husbands%20can%20claim%20cash%20for%20their%20harems/article.do (accessed April 30, 2007).