To the Editor:
Christian Delacampagne has much to say about the reaction in France to an article by Robert Redeker about Islam, but he passes over the content of Redeker’s article without comment [“The Redeker Affair,” January]. Mr. Delacampagne summarizes its thesis as follows:
If Jesus was “a master of love,” Muhammad was “a master of hatred.” Of the three “religions of the book,” Islam was the only one that overtly preached holy war. “Whereas Judaism and Christianity are religions whose rites reject and delegitimize violence . . . Islam is a religion that, in its own sacred text, as well as in its everyday rites, exalts violence and hatred.”
The notion that Islam promotes violence is patently incorrect. The Eid of the Haj festival that recently passed is a period in which Muslims are supposed to turn to forgiveness and love. At the end of Ramadan, a vast number of Muslims practice peace and charity. This charity amounts to far more than the pittance that Britain’s Department of Overseas Development pays in charity—a mere .08 percent of GDP (as compared, say, with Saudi Arabia’s 12 percent). Muslims customarily pay 2.5 percent of their gross income, including savings, to charity.
To say that one religion is different from another with regard to violence is also patently false. The Crusades were a period when the most heinous crimes were perpetrated by Christians against “the infidel.” The fact is that all Abrahamic traditions have an equally balanced and unbalanced attitude to violence. To preach that “turning the other cheek” is the sole province of Judaism and Christianity is misguided. The Qur’an offers many examples of forgiveness.
Redeker’s imputation is that the prophet of Islam was an instigator of violence, but Muhammad’s life and message come out clearly against violence for its own sake and, like other religions, only calls for war when Islam itself is under attack. Redeker’s diatribe was clearly racist in its intent and tone. At a time when care needs to be taken to avoid the activities of jihadist extremists in the Muslim fold, he would have done better to look for points of similarity in the three great religions—an area rich in material for consideration.
Haj Jaffer Clarke
Muslim Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
To the Editor:
Christian Delacampagne rises to the defense of Robert Redeker, but I found the latter’s generalizations about Islam troubling. One cannot say that a religion is this or that, as the wide diversity in Christianity clearly shows. Islam is fundamentally what Muslims make of it.
As an artist living in the Netherlands, in a city where almost half of the population consists of Muslims from very different backgrounds (Moroccan, Turkish, Indonesian, and Pakistani), I am certain that the majority of Muslims here do not endorse a violent interpretation of their faith. When Muslims cling to their religion, it is often out of a need to find an anchor for personal and cultural identity in a society that on the whole is not very welcoming to them. To say that Islam is by nature a violent religion, as Redeker seems to think, is a painful stigma for such Muslims.
All in all, it is surprising how well most immigrants in Amsterdam are able to integrate under the circumstances. Scholars like Redeker who make gross generalizations do not seem to be very professional, and critiques of their work are certainly justified. It also need hardly be said that the small number of cranks who threaten such a scholar have not the slightest idea what Europe really is.
To the Editor:
I found Christian Delacampagne’s article on Robert Redeker truly shocking. In New Zealand, where I live, as far from Europe as it is possible to be, it is hard to get a clear perspective on France when bombarded on the one hand by the berets-and-baguettes view of travel brochures and movies, and on the other hand by the writings of someone like Oriana Fallaci. Few here have heard of Theo van Gogh (let alone Robert Redeker), and we are still firmly immersed in the phase in which Islam goes uncriticized because of political correctness (rather than because of fear).
The origins of our local political correctness lie in the perceived successes and rightness of the American civil-rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam war and apartheid, and the renaissance of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people. The consequence is an overwhelming sense of self-righteousness on the Left, paradoxically combined with a loathing of the Anglo-Saxon West. In a recent interview, a Muslim member of Parliament from the Labor party, Ashraf Choudhary, assented to the idea that if the Qur’an holds that homosexuals should be stoned to death, this is what should be done. (He later qualified his remarks.) There was some fuss, but not nearly enough.
When I queried my local Green-party candidate about this, his campaign manager responded by pointing out that historically, Catholics maintained authoritarian theocracies in which men were tortured and women subjugated. He also argued that the “U.S./UK” props up corrupt regimes with bad human-rights records. So somehow or other, and inevitably, the West is again to blame. Indeed, almost any discussion of Iraq in leftist circles sooner or later descends into an anti-Bush, anti-American tirade.
Reflecting on these anecdotes, I was amazed at how declared advocates for feminism and gay rights had allowed themselves to turn a blind eye to the agenda of the Islamists. After reading Mr. Delacampagne’s article, my amazement is now at the extent to which appeasement is the norm in Europe, with chilling resonances of the 1930’s.
Christchurch, New Zealand
Christian Delacampagne writes:
I would offer the same response to Haj Jaffer Clarke and John Borstlap. Both emphasize their disagreement with the interpretation of Islam offered by Robert Redeker in the op-ed that led to his being sentenced to death by some Muslim individuals. But the point of my article was not to pass judgment on the content of Redeker’s views, or to favor some interpretations of Islam over others. On the contrary, my point was that in a secular, democratic country (like France or the U.S.), all interpretations of a religion, including critical interpretations, may be expressed publicly, and deserve protection. That is why I was shocked that so many people in the French establishment and media (especially on the Left), instead of defending Redeker’s right to free speech, issued strident denunciations. (Incidentally, the term “racist” is altogether inapt here, Islam being a religion and not a “race.”)
I thank Ray Prebble for his remarks. I agree that blaming the West for everything that goes wrong on our planet is absurd, and that the “will for appeasement” that is the new norm in Europe (again, especially on the Left) is not the best way of fighting Islamism and terrorism. Appeasement was the policy of the main European democracies toward Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco in the 1930’s—and we know perfectly well what the result was.