Sunday, 5 July 2015

What was Catholic Professor Charmley really trying to say about Islam and ISIS?


Hello. Welcome to this week's Catholic Herald podcast where we discuss what's really happening in the Catholic Church. I'm the Associate Editor Madeleine Teahan and today I am joined by Professor John Charmley of the University of East Anglia. In this week's magazine Professor Charmley writes that religious literacy is at a low ebb in the West and simply educating people about spirituality in general terms cannot make up for this. Firstly, Professor Charmley, you make the point in your article that the Foreign Office for example is full of political science graduates and when they are analysing events for example what's going on with ISIS at the moment they are analysing it through a purely political lens and I think your point was very well-proven when the Prime Minister told the BBC a few days ago to stop calling ISIS Islamic State because it's a perversion of a great religion.What did you make of the Prime Minister's intervention?


I am afraid what he [David Cameron] showed was that I was even more correct than I thought I was in that piece [below]. Let's take for example the fact that he mentions - which is perfectly true - they are brutal, they are unpleasant, they kill gay people, they oppress women. I think ISIS actually came to most people's notice a year ago when they occupied Mosul when they drove out all the Christians. Now perhaps there were some gay Christians - certainly there were lots of women Christians - but they were not being targeted by ISIS because they were gay or because they were women, they were being targeted because they are Christians. Anybody with any knowledge of the history of that region will be well aware that from the original Islamic conquests that you have a parallel: ISIS did precisely what the first followers of Muhammad did. When they conquered a town they gave them a choice, and the people of Mosul were given that choice. They were not given that choice because they were gay or women, they were given it because they were Christians, as Christians were given it before by Muslim conquerors, which is not to say all Muslims do this, which is convert - and that is what they really wanted - and what were they converting to? Not terrorism but to Islam or pay a heavy tax, or leave.  If you don't convert, you are killed, so I think we see here precisely the problem: Mr Cameron like Mr Obama is analysing this problem though secular lenses and through secular lenses you see the preoccupations of our own secular liberal elite: women and gay people. [Professor Charmley claims Islam is a religion that harbours murderous intentions towards Christians by reason of their faith alone. If this is so, what would he like to do? Ban Islam? Close down mosques? Burn the Koran? Intern or expel Muslims? I think we should be told.] Obviously, unless you are a member of ISIS, you don't actually want to oppress women and you don't want to oppress gay people, but if that is how you see ISIS, as a terrorist group that does these things because it is a terrorist group, you're not actually seeing what ISIS really is and I find it very hard to see if you misdiagnose the problem how you can get to a solution. [It is perfectly possible to be an anti-feminist and want to criminalise extramarital sex for eugenic reasons in order to prevent degeneracy, I would argue. The Bible actually says worse things about sodomites than the Koran at 4:16. If Professor Charmley is so clever why doesn't he ask the question the government is not asking and answer it for them? What would he like to do? Declare the imminent reunion of the Catholic Church and State? Conduct another Inquisition? I think we should be told.]


You are absolutely right. He continues his discussion of Islamic State saying "I think this is particularly offensive" - namely referring to them as Islamic State. "I think this is particularly offensive to Muslims who see - as I see - not a state, but a barbaric regime of terrorism and oppression that takes delight in murder and oppressing women and murdering people because they are gay." Absolutely no mention of the persecution of Christians, which I thought was really quite shocking.  [MT does not seem aware that Christianity is now regarded by African Muslims as the religion of people who want to spread gay marriage all over the world. The Archbishop of Canterbury already knows the real reason why African Muslims murder African Christians. I have pointed this out to Professor Charmley before, but he is mendacious and chooses to ignore the report below, doubtless because he prefers to propagate his narrative that Islam commands Muslims to murder Christians just because they are Christian.]

African Christians will be killed if C of E accepts gay marriage, says Justin Welby

Justin Welby said he had stood by a mass grave in Nigeria of 330 Christians who had been massacred by neighbours who had justified the atrocity by saying: "If we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians."

"I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact," Welby said. If the Church of England celebrated gay marriages, he added, "the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic. Everything we say here goes round the world."

Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Nicholls displaying the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of modern Christianity

Does the Archbishop of Canterbury think the state religion of Britain is PC Libtardism?

Why did Meriam Ishag sacrifice so much for Christianity when it is only the religion of white people who support gay marriage?


I think that is the perfect example of why - if you diagnose it the way he is diagnosing it - you actually get it wrong - and I think he has got it wrong - so we end up with - in my view ridiculous ideas such as "Let's now attack ISIS in a conventional way - maybe even boots on the ground." When we last had boots on the ground against the Intifada - effectively an Intifada in Iraq - it didn't work terribly well and then we were dealing with scattered groups of fanatics. Here we are dealing with a well-organised, well-funded group of fanatics. They are searching around for solutions that match their vision and their vision is seriously wrong. What's changed is what I regard as religious illiteracy is now endemic and we can come on discuss why but that is what we are seeing, which is that we have a group of politicians - Mr Cameron's age or thereabouts, group of advisers, all of whom take, broadly speaking, what has happened in the West to be normative. Now what has happened in the West is  we have seen in the last fifty years an enormous secularisation and they have imbibed the assumption - which actually is very politically incorrect when it is pointed out to them - that the rest of the world is going to follow the Western example, and therefore religion is going to become less important. I can remember being told by one of my tutors at Oxford - where I wanted to study theology and history - why did I want to do theology, because clearly by the time I was his age - which I am now - nobody would be concerned about religion. That wasn't the best prediction, but the point is that if that is what you assume - which is that the rest of the world is going to eventually catch up with you - I noticed some of the comments on my piece in the Catholic Herald - Islam is just 600 years behind us and it will catch up.  There is no sign of any of that happening so. In other words, all the secularist assumptions that feed into their policy are actually wrong, and I think we are now at a stage in history where we can see that they are demonstrably wrong, and trying to analyse what is happening in most of the world without reference to religion is I think simply getting it very wrong indeed and I think what we are getting is that we're getting the wrong diagnosis from people who don't even know what questions to ask, but are very very confident that the political science models they are dealing with are right. [What does Professor Charmley mean by "religious literacy"? It is just a euphemism for Catholics not knowing that adultery, fornication and LGBT sex is a mortal sin ie not even knowing they are not supposed to do these things. Why don't these Catholic priests tell them? Probably because most of them are gay and know gay marriage legitimises their homosexuality. What better trick if you are gay and Catholic than to become the priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal or even Pope of married Catholics and have them kiss your ring? If you enjoy sodomy, what better place for you to safely break your vow of chastity than in a Catholic seminary where you will meet like-minded men who share your interests and proclivities and never ever be caught impregnating a woman not your wife? The Catholic Church, as you may have gathered by now, has been institutionally corrupt since the time it started selling relics, monetising sin and selling indulgences.]

MT makes a long rambling complaint about the government walking on eggshells in its anxiety not to offend Muslims while ignoring the hurt feelings of Catholics.


It is an interesting point and I it would be hard to deny in the light of what we have seen of the way child abuse cases in Oxford, Rotheram and Bradford have all been handled by the police. It would be very very hard to deny that, if you like, instead of looking at these things through the lenses of faith, too many people in authority in our country look at them through the lens of race - as though Islam were a race. They look at them through political correct spectacles because they can't quite work out Islam. I've lost count of the number of times that people have talked about Islam as though it were something to do with race.  It isn't but it is very interesting that many many people in our society confuse the two because it shows you where they are coming from.  Again, it is back to this thing with Mr Cameron about gays, women and ISIS, it's about Islam and race, and what this actually reveals is the underlying mindset of the people who rule us is really about. They understand race, they understand equality and diversity, so they reduce all faith issues to issues they do understand because actually they don't understand faith and what is really sad is that they don't understand that they don't understand. It's what Donald Rumsfeld called the unknown unknown. [Nicky Morgan has already said that those who express vociferous disapproval of LGBTs should be treated as potential extremists, and potential extremists should be treated as potential terrorists. Muslims are already on notice that they will be spied on and targeted. If Professor Charmley wants more bad stuff to happen to them, he should say exactly what would satisfy him eg internment, expulsion, Inquisition, immolation?]


Can you tell us where is the evidence that suggests that religious literacy is at such a low ebb?


It is very very widespread but I can give you a very concrete example. I went a few weeks back to an event hosted at the LSE by the Leadership Foundation where the Director  of the LSE Professor Craig Calhoun actually commented thus: "The thin grasp of religion's place  in British history raises an issue for higher education. Religion is unevenly taught and studied and even when theology and religion are subjects, knowledge of them is poorly integrated into other fields" and Professor Tariq Mahmoud of Bristol who is another expert in this field commented at the same conference: "The decline of religion in the second half of the 20th century means that British society including higher education and its leaders have little or no understanding of religion." So there's two experts in the field at a conference that was actually convened because people are starting to get worried. People are starting to realise that it is a problem. So for example you have the Foreign Office who are now I think now trying to find out ways of informing their trainee diplomats about religion but if you look at your own field with the Catholic Herald I am pleased to say as a shining example against the trend, but none of our national broadsheets now have a full-time religious affairs correspondent. I won't name them because it is embarrassing for them. I can remember the time when the Anglicans ordained women bishops and religious affairs correspondent commenting on the radio that it will be the Catholics next, and the level of religious illiteracy that shows is quite astonishing.  It is not as though it were a correspondent from The Tablet either. Wishful thinking that. So wherever one looks if you do not have a national broadcaster who has a trained religious affairs correspondent .. The BBC would not hire just anybody to comment on Wimbledon or football ... [How on earth would having religious Religious Affairs Correspondents create greater religious literacy if the Catholic Church is now too cowardly or corrupt to teach Catholic teaching?]


... They don't understand Catholicism, certainly.


They understand as little about Islam and Judaism as well so what they do is that they bring the things that concern them on their secularist agenda, and they read religion and they read faith through those lenses and that I think is a form of reductionism and it partly stems from the fact that in my own area of higher education far too much study of religion and the church takes the form of reductionism so we examine the economic impact of religion in the 19th century, we examine the social impact, we examine its artistic impact, we examine its impact on political thought, but in all of these things we are examining if you like the epiphenomena when we are not examining the thing itself, and I think modern historians in particular have a real difficulty understanding that the weird thing is from their point of view all these people in the past and some of us in the present actually do believe these things. It's not a substitute for something else: it is something we deeply believe [What are Catholics really supposed to believe? They are supposed to believe in the absurdity that Jesus is also God and his mother Mary is the mother of God. Yes, really. If you don't believe in any of this you are not Christian and only Christians go to heaven. It is not enough just to obey the laws of God or to believe that an omnipotent and perfectly moral God exists. The Doctrine of the Trinity is the additional requirement Christians are supposed to believe in order to distinguish themselves from those pesky Jews and Muslims they so despise and make themselves feel special and better than the other two branches of the Abrahamic faiths. Antisemitism is endemic to Christianity and requires hatred not only of Jews, but also of Arabs, for both are Semitic peoples whose respective faiths deny the Trinity.] and it is actually and again this is another problem we live in a world of we keep your religion to yourself, it can't come in the public sphere but inevitably if one has an active faith, it is bound to influence the way you behave. There is simply no way it can't. Therefore again we start from the assumption that well, whatever these ISIS people say about Islam it is nothing to do with the way they behave and that is to get it wrong. It is not to say heaven forfend it is not true or even a majority or even a minority of Muslims are like that, but it is to say that ISIS is Islamic, the people they convert are converted to Islam, not to terrorism. [Again, Professor Charmley repeats his lie that the Koran tells Muslims to kill Christians just because they are Christians, in his avuncular but mendacious way. His message is actually more insidious than Tommy Robinson's or the EDL's just because he seems so damned affable and avuncular when he says these things. He has a way of talking that can make the foulest lie and suggestion seem good natured - a kind of gurgle and chortle when he speaks. He probably can quite convincingly claim to even have Muslim friends, but Muslims should be in no doubt about how much contempt, hatred and fear Catholics like him feel for them and Islam. The Catholic Church is supposed to be the world's most powerful church and it would absolutely hate to cede its top dog position to the faith of brown people whom they have always regarded as congenitally backward and barbaric.]


Catholics have to ask themselves what they can do to address a lack of religious literacy. You talk about the failure of catechesis is evident in the result of the Irish referendum so the Church really has to look at itself, doesn't it, before it criticises the outside world because it is quite clear that there are many of us - my generation especially, I am 28  - I don't think I was well catechised through school or through church and the Church has a lot of work to do.


There is a good side and a bad side to it. The bad side is that you are absolutely right: the Church has a huge amount to do. I think very few people would wish to defend the catechetical education of the last 50 years. I think it has been at best poor and patchy. Obviously, one can't generalise and say it has been poor everywhere, but when you consider for example that in Ireland most people have had what 12, 14 years of Catholic education insofar as Ireland has been a very Catholic country and yet it is not simply the way they vote it is the way in which the debate was carried out in entirely secular terms. It seems to me that neither the bishops and archbishop mounted a very effective defence of the Catholic position and I didn't hear once any one of them referring to the Pope John Paul II's theology of the body, for example, and it is not like you have to go back to Aquinas. Some very good recent teaching from St John Paul, Benedict XVI so this leads us to the good side of it, which is that the Church is there, and you look at things for example what's happening down at Buckfast Abbey the new school of the Annunciation and places like Merryvale. There are some very good initiatives which our bishops are behind, very good stuff happening in Lancaster for example. Very good catechetical course designed by Nick Donnelly so there are some very good examples out there and there are some very good young orthodox priests who are very very keen to put this right and I think from that point of view the Church is very well-placed to, if you like, to - I don't like to talk in terms of leading the fightback because it sounds a bit crusadery in this context obviously you don't want to mention crusaders, but I think that the Church is very well-placed to begin the process - starting to begin the process of "I am dealing with this religious illiteracy." [I am afraid it is now too late to tell Catholics about mortal sin when the sex education they get at school tells them that the precise opposite is the case: that extramarital sex - instead of being a mortal sin - is actually their human right. If Professor Charmley himself is too afraid of calling a spade a spade, calling extramarital sex a mortal sin and calling gay marriage Her Majesty's Government's sanctification of a mortal sin, what hope is there for Christianity as a religion? It is clearly kaput, rotten with corruption and cowardice and cannot be fixed.]

Below is his article in the Catholic Herald whose language is an exercise in obfuscation and fudge. It is an amusing exercise in a pot calling the kettle black though. 

The failure of catechesis evident in the result of the Irish referendum is a symptom of a wider failure in the Western education system. Religious literacy is at a low ebb. Education in “spirituality”, while a useful corrective to a tendency towards utilitarianism verging on the Gradgrindian, does not fill the gap left by the ebb of faith in our society.

What Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism” is relativistic about everything except itself. It seeks to dissolve the organic fabric of established order and replace it with its own, appropriating Orwell’s insight that you cannot express things you do not have words for – which is why it tries so hard to change the language. A world in which a man can be a “mother” and priests can wonder whether the Holy Spirit is feminine, without asking what it then means to say that Our Lord was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, is one in which Christian anthropology has vanished from the public square.

The effects of this go wider than the Church. A state department or a Foreign Office full of political science graduates will tend to analyse things through certain lenses, which is why they will advise politicians to say of ISIS that it is not “Islamic”, and instead, use the language of terrorism and national security. This plays well to an agenda of not upsetting an abstraction called “Muslim opinion”, but is it true? We deal with terrorists, in part, by isolating their political demands and seeing what deal can be struck.

But if, as history suggests, ISIS shares many characteristics which inspired the initial Islamic conquests, its demands are not likely to be ones to which we can agree. If we do not understand this, and if we insist on a reductionist approach to religion, which sees it as an adjunct to secularist definitions of quality and inclusion, then, unable even to ask the right questions, we are unlikely to get close to the right answers.

Any attempt to do this is further hindered by other manifestations of this mindset. Not one of our national broadsheets any longer has a full-time religious affairs correspondent – the splendid Ruth Gledhill of The Times was the last of the breed. The Catholic Herald, The Spectator and Standpoint cannot, by themselves, dispel a religious illiteracy which is both embarrassing and dangerous.
Does the Church have a part to play here? Blessed John Henry Newman wrote that “the Gospel requires the reception of definite and positive Articles” and the reverent acceptance of the “doctrinal Truths which have come down to us”. It is even more the fashion of our age than it was of his to ignore this wisdom in favour of a vague belief in personal spirituality; recovery of his ideal is essential both to good catechesis and a wider religious literacy. The idea of a received truth, which cannot be changed at the whim of fashion or a majority, is at the heart of the faith once received – and of other faiths too. As Newman wrote: “Faith is a state of mind, it is a particular mode of thinking and acting, which is exercised, always indeed towards God, in very various ways.” This non-reductionist way of thinking about faith is one way in which the Church could help fill the gaps in our public discourse.

Catholics believe in the Church as a visible community of the faithful, one of the functions of which is to provide catechesis. Its failings here have long been a cause for concern, but there are encouraging signs at Maryvale in Birmingham, and elsewhere, including the new School of the Annunciation at Buckfast. With such initiatives, our bishops are setting a course towards better religious literacy from which both the faithful – and the wider society they inhabit – will benefit.

None of this is to say that only people of faith can understand other religious people, but it is to suggest that they can bring to the study of such things a language, and an understanding, not readily available from an education system which studies the many epiphenomena of religion without understanding the phenomenon itself.
When I suggest having extramarital sex should attract corporal punishment as prescribed in 24:2 of the Koran, Professor Charmley calls me a "barbarian", when all I did was show "religious literacy", as he would call it.

I think he is saying that non-Muslims, especially Christians, should be very very afraid of Muslims because the Koran tells them to kill non-Muslims. Professor Charmley is Catholic and Catholics seem to make it a point of hating every other religion even as theirs is obviously failing.

It is not enough to bomb them with conventional warfare, more must be done, but Professor Charmley does not specify what.

He seems from the interview to be rather exercised by the jizya, which is a conditional tribute. A conditional tribute is one which can be avoided by converting to Islam. If you do not wish to pay it you could convert to Islam. If you do not wish to become Muslim you can opt to pay the tribute. A conditional tribute is therefore less oppressive than a unconditional tribute, which you have to pay, or else. Professor Charmley for some reason cannot follow this logic.

How do I know Catholicism is failing? Because Catholics are afraid to say anything at all. You would have thought that their faith would assist them in proclaiming what they believe to be the truth, but not a bit of it.

A Christian must bear witness to the truth of the Gospel in every field of his activity, both public and private, and also if necessary, with the sacrifice of his very life. Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith.
This is a rather extreme requirement, would you not say? It is even more extreme than the Koran which only sees fit to promise the followers of Muhammad they will be rewarded by God in the afterlife if they sacrifice life, limb and liberty, not just a simple demand that they should die just to tell the truth. The Koran allows Muslims to conceal their faith if not to do so would result in injury or death, which is far more moderate and practical.

It is probably because Christians have so long ignored what the Bible actually says that they are now aghast that Muslims should take seriously and literally their holy book - which they believe to be the directly revealed Word of God - and this is why Catholics like Professor Charmley tell such lies: because they fear that Catholicism will be rivalled and superseded by Islam which they regard as an existential threat.

If Catholicism - the world's most powerful church - has now failed and fallen to gay marriage, then we should be grateful that Islam is waiting in the wings to fill the moral vacuum that Christianity has now become. No honest and good Jew or Christian should find any Koranic principle out of keeping with any Biblical principle. All the laws of the Koran if enforced would allow them to be better Jews and Christians, but their hatred and fear is unreasoning. They hold on to their hatred and chauvinism, turning it up all the more when in doubt, because their hatred gives them the false certainty that they must be right and Islam wrong.

Professor Charmley is supposed to be in education but I have found from experience that if you ask him an awkward question he will call you stupid, uneducated and tell you do your "research". contains a Catholic irony and satire that Professor Charmley was not up to explaining.

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