Below is another essay from our friend Paul Merkley.

I can say categorically that there never was a moment in my life when I could detect anything appealing in Islam.

To begin with,  I am far too respectful of the positive accomplishments of our civilization to be tempted by “orientalism” in all of its forms. The manly accomplishments as well as the thoughts of Lawrence of Arabia are wasted on me. But as for the substance: Muslims seek to change our minds about the allegiances that we might have inherited from four  two thousand years of the history of Christianity by directing our attention to Islam’s sacred history – which, quite apart from being 3400 years shorter, has to me the aesthetic appeal of desiccated fruit.

According to Islamic teaching, “God created man from clot of blood. “Surah 96. How did blood get onto the scene of human history before or any  part of the animal creation did? Whose blood, then?

There is an Islamic answer to this and other mysteries. It is: Shut up!   

Consider that, by contrast, for several centuries radical criticism of our own sacred texts has taken place, not only in our academic world and in our general culture but perhaps most aggressively in our theological seminaries.  A Christian intellectual knows that his faith has been fully examined — inside-out and upside-down  – not  always with profit, but certainly exhaustively — by all branches of scholarship. That it seems to lack appeal among intellectuals today is owing to the shallowness and frivolity of secular scholarship.

In Islam, the merest gesture towards  criticizing a text or doubting a truth allegedly based upon a text puts the questioner at immediate liability to death at the hand of the nearest male member of family. This duty is mandated by Islamic scripture.


It is true that many young people in our part of the world are converting from Judaism and Christianity to Islam, Still, this is not happening at the  rate that young people all around the world are turning from traditional faith systems to Christianity. (According to one scholarly source, “since the 1960s, there has been a substantial increase in the number of known conversions from Islam to Christianity. Most of these conversions have been to forms of evangelical or Pentecostal Christianity Duane Alexander Miller. “Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census, St.  Mary’s University San Antonio, Texas. WEC International Singapore Abstract.)

Behind each defection from Christianity in our part of the world is usually a story of parental failure and\or the success of our now aggressively-atheist school systems. It is rarely impelled by philosophy.

The record of history, as well as contemporary political reality, bears out the fact that the religion of Islam offers no materials out of which stable society can be built. The famous Nineteenth Century French philosopher and Sociologist, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859) saw this clearly:

I studied the Quran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. As far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself

Winston Churchill’s bloody-minded judgment on Islam, formed in his youth as a soldier in India and Sudan, is frequently quoted:

Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.

Our contemporary, Robert Redeker, an academic philosopher who writes for Le Figaro, brings this indictment up to date:

A merciless war chief, plunderer, slaughterer of Jews and a polygamists, such is the man revealed through the Koran… The stoning of Satan, each year at Mecca, is not just a superstitious phenomenon… Here in effect is a rite, which each Muslim is invited to submit himself to, emphasizing violence as a sacred duty in the heart of the believer. This stoning, annually accompanied with deaths by trampling of the faithful, sometimes in several hundreds, is a ritual which nurtures archaic violence…

(As it happens, I write this on the day when the  hajj begins in Mecca, and when authorities are predicting the probability of hundreds of deaths though the crushing effect of these exalted crowds. (

Islam is a religion which, even in its sacred text, as well as in its banal rites, exalts violence and hate. Hate and violence inhabit the book with which each Muslim is educated, the Koran. (Robert Redeker, “Face aux intimidations islamistes, que doit faire le monde libre?”, Le Figaro, september 2006.)

Not surprisingly, death threats poured down upon this man for these words, and he was forced into hiding under police protection. “The West is under ideological surveillance by Islam,” Redeker concluded. “I have the impression that I’ve been drafted against my will into a conflict from the 17th or 18th century. It’s all about opposing religious intolerance.”

As so often, Mark Twain gets to the heart of the matter:

That is a simple rule, and easy to remember. When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters.

But returning to my opening thought: why does this embarrassingly barbaric teaching appeal to so many young people?

The question answers itself! It is because it is barbaric. We live in an age in which all moral advantage belongs to those who most viciously attack received faith in any and all its forms. This is increasingly an age of barbarism. The news-media , the journals of opinion, the universities – and even increasingly the pulpits – are commanded by barbaric souls – that is, souls who are self-consciously aware of themselves as in revolt against received culture and tradition. The most barbaric of these barbarians, having captured the castles of elite opinion, are now finding sustenance for their barbaric suppression of thought in the mindless pages of the Qur’an.

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