(Click on the logo to return to the main blog.)

The Price of Conversion
01/12/2003

I've been following Sean Roberts's conversion to Catholicism from atheism, and the awkwardness that periodically arises with his Protestant parents. Today, in the Corner, Rod Dreher points out Ahmer Khokhar's conversion story — from Islam to Christianity. Suffice to say that Khokhar is expecting another round of conflict when he refuses his arranged bride in the near future.

I'm happy that Mr. Khokhar has opened himself to Christ's truth, but the following (fairly lengthy) excerpt seems to carry an underlying indication that Western liberalism hums at a pitch in harmony with Muslim radicals. In my opinion, this consonance contributes to Khokhar's internal conflict; on a broader scale, it is dangerous. See if you can hear it:

The last year, however, since September 11, has been the most traumatic for me. The focus on al-Qaeda has destroyed what was left of the relationship between me and my father and highlighted the enormous differences between us. He cannot understand why I do not support al-Qaeda. What the US and the Western world must understand is the real root of the conflict. They must realise that the creation of Israel is the pinnacle of the Islamic world's hatred.

I fully understand the Israelis' reaction to terrorism and why they want Israel to exist. But we have to find a way for Palestine to exist also. I think many Christians in the current climate perceive Islam as a religion of fanatical extremists who commit acts of terrorism. There is a major lack of understanding of each other’s beliefs and values.

My parents and relatives of the same generation support al-Qaeda. They see the current conflict as a struggle between Islam and the tyranny of Christians and Jews in the Western world. Their anger is mainly against Israel, the presence of American soldiers in the Middle East and US threats to attack their Muslim brothers in Iraq.

My father has always believed that if Palestine displaced Israel, American soldiers left the Middle East and sanctions against Iraq were lifted, al-Qaeda and other martyrs, as he calls them, would lose their support. He claims that 90 per cent of terrorism from the Islamic world would end, and many Muslims around the world share those views; that America and Israel are the two biggest enemies of Islam.

It is difficult for the second and third generations of immigrant families to share all of their parents’ beliefs. I speak English as well as Urdu, watch American films, wear designer labels and listen to Western music.

Since September 11, many Muslims have developed a hatred of Christianity when they see so-called Christian countries such as Britain and Australia joining the US and supporting Israel.

Well, Israel is certainly a useful symbol to whip up Muslim antipathy, as are U.S. troops in the region, even though they are there, in part, to quell internecine conflict. In the case of Israel, note how even this Christian Arab glides from the exhortation that we "find a way for Palestine to exist also" to implying, via his father's Muslim opinion, that terrorism would subside if Palestine displaced Israel.

The most significant blind spot that I see in this excerpt, however, suggests that the problem is not merely with the radical minority of Muslims, but with the complicity of the "many Muslims around the world" who support al Qaeda based on these grievances. They don't condemn the terrorism; they hold the suicide bombers as martyrs; and they insist that the Christians and Jews of the West stop their "tyranny." This position gives dictators — real tyrants — broad, ensured support. Not for nothing did Saddam Hussein "convert" to Islam.

What's worse, even Khokhar seems likely to see observations such as mine as indicative of a need for more understanding of Islam. Not all Muslims "commit acts of terrorism," but how many lend it implicit and explicit support? Particularly considering this ex-Muslim Christian's continued equivalence of burden between Westerners, who need more understanding, and Muslims who would kill their coreligionists for seeking the same.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:13 PM EST