by Yashiko Sagamori
When Arabs promise to destroy
or turn American and European cities into infernos with rivers of blood
running along the streets, I don't question their sincerity: as soon as
they think they can do it, they will try. In most other matters, I tend
to distrust them. I certainly get suspicious whenever it comes to
numbers. It's not just because the so-called “Arabic numerals” were
in fact invented by Hindus. It's mainly because the Islamic concepts of
good and evil can be exhaustively described in a single sentence:
Whatever is good for jihad is good, period. It just so happens that
truth is usually bad for jihad. Remember the arithmetic of Jenin,
when I read an article
posted on an English-language Al-Jazeera
website about the Brits converting to Islam by the thousand, I felt
compelled to believe it, because I know from other sources, including
private letters, that this is happening not only in (formerly) Great
Britain, but all across Western Europe. As bizarre as it may seem, this
is not unprecedented. The
British Union of Fascists, organized by Sir
Oswald Mosley in 1932, survived World War II and became, in 1949,
one of the very first proponents of the European Union. Interesting,
isn't it? If some Brits could join a Nazi party during the Battle
of Britain, I don't see why they shouldn't convert to Islam during
jihad. Still, the mentality of betrayal — and conversion to Islam even
in the time of peace constitutes the ultimate betrayal of all our values
— remains a fascinating topic, which is why the Al-Jazeera article is
One of the new converts honored by a personal
reference in the article is Yahya (nee Jonathan) Birt, son of Sir John
Birt, the former director general of the BBC. Even taking into account
the proverbial eccentricity of the British elite, I still find it hard
to fathom. It will forever remain a mystery to us whether the Master
Yahya was influenced by the consistent pro-terrorist bias of the
establishment headed until 2000 by Sir John, or both father and son fell
victim to the same dreadful genetic disorder. The article quotes Yahya
Birt's own explanation (the original punctuation preserved — YS):
Birt said he had no coherent reasons for converting, but “in the
longer term I think it was the overall profundity, balance and
coherence and spirituality of the Muslim way of life which
convinced me,” he said.
find the absence of a coherent reason easier to believe than the rest of
his statement. After all, a truly pristine oasis of Muslim life unmarred
by the corrupting influence of the West is hard to come by.
under the Taliban rule was probably the closest to the ideal. The
profundity was there all right, if you can use the term to denote the
bottomless desperation of its suffering people. But balance? Coherence?
Spirituality? I'd like examples, please. In lieu of those, I am prepared
to presume some deeply personal reasons for Yahya Birt's decision to
join people who look and act like villains in a high school production
of Sinbad the Sailor. Maybe his wife, assuming he is married, is
so ugly that nothing can alleviate his eternal embarrassment but a good chador?
Or maybe he is afflicted with that common manifestation of British
eccentricity, homosexuality, and wrapping his life partner head to toe
in a hijab
is but a desperate attempt to gain social acceptance?
Trying to be realistic though, I have to admit
that the last hypothesis is sheer rubbish. In today's society, you can
come to a party with a live rhino in tow, introduce it as your
significant other, and no one, except for the most contemptible
homophobic bigot, will ask you about the rhino's sex. Could this be the
root of the problem? The article quotes another British convert to
Islam, a former diplomat, Charles Le Gai Eaton, who wrote in one of his
many books on the religion of his choice (the original punctuation
preserved — YS):
have received letters from people who are put off by the
wishy-washy standards of contemporary Christianity and they are
looking for a religion which does not compromise too much with the
me start with the rejection of the modernity. A vital religion evolves
with time. Its progress is similar to the progress of science: our
understanding of the subject either develops ever further or stagnates
as it has happened with Islam. Therefore, modernity does not present a
problem for a true religion. Look, for example, at Orthodox Jews who, in
the modern world, manage to live in the strictest compliance with the
laws of Talmud that were written down centuries before the emergence of
Islam and, unlike the “holy” texts of the Muslims, have never been
edited since. And yet, Europeans convert to Islam rather than Judaism.
Let me ask a funny question: Why?
Probably, because Judaism presumes the freedom
of will, that implies the level of personal responsibility that some
people are unwilling or unable to accept.
Probably, because the level of both faith and
understanding required by true Judaism is too much for most of those who
did not absorb them with mother's milk.
Probably, because being a Jew of any persuasion
requires a commitment that most people who weren't born with that burden
find excessive. It's easier for Christians: Jews, by killing Jesus,
saved every single one of them, from 2,000 years ago till Judgment Day.
For Jews it's a bit trickier. With 2,000 years of ruthless persecution
behind them, with one Holocaust in recent history and the next one
looming ahead, they know that every one of them is the sole savior of
him or herself and, hopefully, their loved ones, and, with God's help,
their people. Who in his sane mind would chose a religion whose road to
salvation leads through the ovens and gas chambers?
In comparison, conversion to Islam is easy. All
it takes is a single statement acknowledging an Arabic deity as your god
and one of the most abysmal characters in human history as its ultimate
prophet. Say it, and you are in. Of course, it is a deceptive ease.
Remember countless bad movies where the enemies make sure the turncoat
is sincere by forcing him to kill his former comrades? In one form or
another, there is no escaping that test for newly converted Muslims, but
never fear: as the American war on terror has demonstrated, most of them
pass it with flying colors.
Please do not overlook this interesting fact:
Islam, even in its most rigid form, lives in a state of permanent
conflict with itself caused by inevitable compromise with modernity.
Every piece of technology Muslims are using, from AK-47's to gold-plated
Cadillacs, to cell phones, to running water, to suitcase nuclear bombs
— all of it comes from the infidels, simply because all the
past, present, and, I assure you, future technology on this planet comes
from the infidels. The fact that use of this modern technology causes no
intellectual discomfort among the followers of the vile non-prophet
suggests that the ability to experience cognitive dissonance, as well as
the urge to invent and discover, emerges only at later stages of
societal evolution than those attained so far by Muslim countries.
No, if I were looking for the cause of mass
conversion to Islam among the Europeans, I would leave modernity alone
and take a hard look at those “wishy-washy standards of contemporary
Christianity”, because they derive straight from the very glue that
holds our civilization together: our tolerance. Our tolerance takes many
forms, and for each of those forms there exists a wide variety of
misinterpretations, both intentional and purely naïve.
Take, for example, the First Amendment, which
is, essentially, a codification of our tolerance of expressions of
dissenting views and opinions. Imagine, for instance that your interior
decorator ignores your detailed instructions. When you come to inspect
his work, you find out that the walls of your living room, instead of
light peach, are now the color of fresh blood, interrupted only by
portraits of Marx, Stalin, Mao and Fidel. Your bedroom is grass green
and decorated with inscriptions of Allah akbar in both Arabic and
Roman letters, lest you miss their meaning, while your pre-teen son's
room is adorned with blown-up reproductions from the Hustler.
Does the First Amendment mean that the
creativity of your interior decorator shall remain unrewarded? No, the
First Amendment means only that the Congress shall pass no laws that
might impede freedom to express one's views. The government won't lock
him up for being a Communist, a Muslim, or a pornographer. However, in a
reasonable society, he will be forced to return everything you paid him,
and recover the costs of undoing his exercises, and compensate you for
whatever legal fees you may incur in the process. Believe it or not, in
addition to granting your interior decorator the freedom to use and
abuse all his freedoms, the First Amendment also implies that Congress
shall pass no laws forcing you to view, listen to, or otherwise consume
expressions of views you find offensive.
Another vitally important manifestation of
tolerance is our freedom of religion. No matter what I believe, no
matter what you believe, none of us has a right to impose his or her
beliefs on the other. This simple rule has managed to keep a terrible
can of worms closed for so long, that we tend to forget that some of our
beliefs are mutually exclusive and cannot be true at the same time,
because there is only one truth. Just one. Any other version of events
is false, regardless of how strong your belief in it is. The only reason
we need freedom of religion is that there is no legal or scientific way
to determine whose version is the closest to the truth.
There is either one god, or several, or none.
God either spoke to Moses from a burning bush or Moses made it up. The
parting of the
is either a metaphor or an historic event. Jesus either lived or was
invented. If he did, he either was a Messiah or wasn't. Jews either
killed him or they didn't. Mohammad was either God's prophet or one of
the worst criminals in human history. He either ascended to heaven on a
winged horse or it is a stupid fairy tale of illiterate savages.
Freedom of religion entitles each one of us to
make his or her own choice among these almost endless possibilities.
However, it does not guarantee that any theoretically possible choice is
true. You have no right to tell me that your faith is truer than mine.
But if you forget that, even for a second, then your faith is as good as
It gets more complicated. Our tolerance extends
so unbelievably far that some creationists acknowledge the right of
others to believe in evolution. They don't understand that the theory of
evolution is not a religious dogma but a scientific theory, that it is a
matter not of faith but of scientific facts, that, unlike any religion,
it is inherently incomplete and limited, and always subject to revision
whenever new relevant facts come up. I, for one, believe that God is the
Creator of the universe. I don't believe however that He created
everything the way it exists today. I can't imagine God drawing pictures
and writing phone numbers on the walls of public toilets; I believe
those art forms are a manifestation of evolution, one of many. I don't
see why God would create a puppet theater rather than a living universe
capable of evolving. According to my belief, there is no incompatibility
between creation and evolution. God made Adam out of clay. An assumption
that God has hands seems a bit of a stretch to me. Is there a reason
that would prevent God from using evolution He Himself started as an
instrument of His creation?
Tolerance allows us to avoid a great many
unnecessary conflicts. One day, we discovered that it was awfully
convenient to tolerate more than just the other guy's religion. Whenever
there is a possibility of a disagreement, polite people avoid the
potentially dangerous topic. This way, we can all party together and
have fun instead of clashing over each other's concepts of right and
wrong. This way, there is no right and wrong outside our minds.
Everything is relative. Everyone is entitled to one's own opinion. Any
two opinions on any subject are equally valid. Insisting that 2x2=4 is
not politically correct.
Take, for instance, the abortion issue. When
performed early, it does not hurt anyone, because the embryo is not
really a human being yet, and the mother-not-to-be gets adequately
anesthetized. Why then would we allow the government to dictate to us
what to do in such intimately personal matters? This, by the way, has
long been my own point of view.
But abortion has an aspect that is rarely
considered by either pro-choicers or even pro-lifers. Before the
children of today's baby boomers are ready to retire, there will be a
shortage of workers in the
. There will not be enough of them to support the retirees. The country
will have to import workers from abroad by the million. Since
will be facing a similar problem, our workers will have to come from the
south if we are lucky or from Greater Arabia if we are not. How long
will it take for the
United States of America
to become a mere extension of
? This, by the way, includes Mexican or, respectively, Iraqi standards
of living, public and personal hygiene, integrity of elected officials,
and all other imaginable and unimaginable fringe benefits. Try to figure
out who will be defending this country when that time comes. Try to
imagine why they would want to risk their lives to defend it. Oops!
We classify things as good or bad depending upon
their consequences. Sometimes however those consequences are too distant
and too difficult to predict, and when you are finally able to see them,
it's way too late to change anything. So, the next time you feel like
saying that something should be legal because it doesn't hurt anyone,
consider the possibility that what you are drinking is a very slow
Complicated? You bet it is. It is so
complicated, in fact, that most people become disoriented. They are
neither capable nor willing to decide for themselves what's right and
what's wrong. Eroded by tolerance, Christianity is no longer capable of
guidance. This creates gaping vacuum. What's going to fill it?
You know the answer.