A former student sent me an article from the Daily Mail, and asked me to comment upon it. Since the gist of the article follows upon my last post, I thought, why not get right to it, then on to other things, like the Holy Father’s latest encyclical. (warning: if you do go on Daily Mail webpage, be prepared for gossip, verbiage, and various smutty photos in the right-hand column, nearly impossible for the eye to avoid). Anyway, the article described a store in Bordeaux, France, whose owner is of a certain Middle-Eastern-cultural-religious background, who has now instituted a strict segregation policy, with men and women only being allowed to shop on different days.
Now, just so we are all clear, this is not what I meant by segregation in my last post, but rather an aberration, along with many others, flowing from a ‘strict’ (true?) interpretation of Islamic decree.
Here are some points that come to mind as I reflect upon the store’s policy, especially in light of Friday’s attacks across Europe:
To begin, Islam is not an inherently rational religion. There are elements of reason within it, insofar as it overlaps with the true religion: the call to fasting, prayer, almsgiving, for example, belief in one God, and so on. However, their view of God’s will is different from Christianity. In the Islamic mind, at least according to its ‘strict’ interpretation by the followers of ISIS, Allah may decree things that not only go beyond our reason, but even things that, from our point of view, go against reason: Lying, murder, pillage, theft, domination, forced conversion, at least against the infidel, and of ‘heretical’ Muslims. We can in no way access the mind of Allah, nor judge his decrees. There is no Incarnation in Islam, no God-become-Man, no Mediator, no imago Dei, no Trinitarian communion within the Godhead, no God-as-Father. Just pure will, pure command, pure decree.
I am not entirely clear, and I don’t think anyone else is, on how the various Islamic factions, from Sunni to Shia and all points in-between, discern the ‘will of Allah’, derived from the often -obscure Suras of the Qur’an. There is the Hadith, the traditional literal sayings of Muhammad, but the various branches of Islam have different ‘Hadiths’. Even within each tradition, individual imams interpret and apply the principles of Islam differently. We now have ISIS claiming central authority of a sort, but it is chaotic, violent, reactionary, unstable, its ‘leaders’ come and go, are killed, deposed.
On Friday, to take a far more serious example than the store segregation, there were four major terrorist attacks following a call to violence during Ramadan by ISIS ‘senior leader’ (for now) Mohammad Al-Adnani: in Tunisia, at the resort town of Sousse, two gunmen opened fire on sunbathers and swimmers at the idyllic beach resort, before entering the hotel and shooting at random, killing 40, injuring 38, most of the victims vacationers from Europe; ISIS apparently considers the hotels ‘brothels’. In Libya, a suicide bombing during Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque (whom Sunni ISIS considers heretics), 27 killed, 227 injured; in Somalia, an attack by Al-Shabaab on an African Union soldier outpost, where 70 soldiers were killed; and in France, where the store is segregated, an Islamic terrorist beheaded a man who had apparently employed him, displaying his dismembered head, before trying to blow up an oil tank.
All of these attacks are irrational; they lead to no good, no discernible ‘end’ or purpose. Random violence, to ‘send a message’, to destabilize, to instill fear and create chaos. Then again, perhaps the purpose is that, after the breakdown, ISIS or some other Islamic acronym will take over, but then what? Another faction will come along, claiming that only they speak for Muhammad, for true Islam. A house divided against itself….
Given the existence of irrational, and even evil, elements within our midst, how are we as a society to tolerate them? Can we prevent such attacks before they happen by making illegal such things as store or swimming pool segregation, or, on a more serious note, the supporters of jihad?
In Saint Thomas’ treatise on law (I-II, q.90, ff.), he asks whether the State should forbid all vices, and he answers no, for such would be impossible, would stretch the power of the State beyond its limits, and would lead to open rebellion by the people. For not all are equal in virtue, and we do not even agree on what virtue, and vice, really are.
However, we must agree to criminalize some things, those things that Thomas describes as “to the harm of others, without which society could not function”.
In a broad, multicultural and multireligious society like France (or Canada), we must tolerate a lot of things in others with which we may disagree, such as their style of dress, their boorish behaviour, swearing, overeating, lust and a host of other ‘vices’, but some things we cannot tolerate, such as murder, rape, theft and so on.
The difficulty arises in the middle ground, in things that are difficult to legislate, such as the store segregation, and, more to the point, the very mindset (or, more properly, the ‘religious-set’) that gives rise to such ideas.
Here are some thoughts: If the store is located in a remote area, such as Nunavut, where the only other grocery outlet is a thousand miles south, then one could make a strong case for the State to force the owner to open his store to all, men and women, at all hours. Such a society could not function with a store operating according to Sharia law.
However, if his store is in a busy location, with five other stores within walking distance, well then, let people vote with their feet, and just not shop there.
The problem in France, one which is already arising in many other countries including Canada, is that culture always beats law. In the words of Saint Thomas, “culture has the force of law, abolishes law and is the interpreter of law”. Law, which is a means to an end, one that teaches us to do the right thing (or, more properly, not do the wrong thing), and forces us in some way to comply, is always the product of a society’s culture, as we also witnessed on Friday in the decision by United States Supreme Court to legalize ‘same sex’ marriage throughout all fifty States of the Union (about which I will have more to say in a later post).
If a culture is irrational and pathological, then so will be its laws.
Culture, however, is signified by how people actually act as a group, based on their beliefs, and culture is the result, as I have written before, of a strong, cohesive community. When there are enough people in one place all believing and acting the same way, they will always be able to change the law. Not least, as Mark Steyn likes to say, since demography is destiny, and those who have the children will make the customs, and write the laws.
France has about 5 million or so Muslims, roughly 7.5-10% of its population, and these numbers are growing geometrically both by birth, and immigration, legal and illegal (which is why hard figures are hard to come by); in fact, Islam is about the only growth demographic in all of Europe, and, in the main, its adherents all tend to live in the same region, the same neighbourhoods, attend the same mosques, follow the same religion and the same customs. Thus, they want a store that segregates men and women, and the owner will cater to them.
The State may be able to force desegregation for a limited time, but that does not often work out too well, as witness the still-evident signs of racial segregation in the United States, after decades of laws and education. There are still black and white neighbourhoods, schools, music…Culture trumps law.
What we are facing as our Western society breaks down is the danger of a strong culture that does not follow our ‘values’, and in fact considers our values to be immoral, evil, to be stamped out at all costs. Such thoughts and principles, which reside in the hearts of the people, are like ticking time bombs, but mostly opaque to the eyes of the State and its laws. I wonder how many Muslims were secretly pleased with the massacres on Friday, or at least not unpleased, thinking, well, it was too bad, but they were all infidels anyway. For every deranged jihadi killer, there are many more who may not do the deed, but are to some degree supportive.
Such thoughts, at least until they break forth into action, cannot easily be controlled by law. In Canada, recently, a young man named Aaron Driver was prosecuted as a vocal supporter of ISIS, and of the attack in the fall of 2014 on Parliament Hill. Driver insists he himself is not a threat. How do you charge someone for how they think, or what they support? How far do we permit different cultures within our midst, particularly Islam, whose very name means submission, and which has world domination or, if you will, ‘conversion’, as one of its tenets? At present, in Canada, we may presume that Aaron Driver is an aberration, but there may come a day not too far in the future when he is not. How many ‘Aaron Drivers’ can a society tolerate?
People may now realize why there was a need in the Middle Ages for something like the Inquisition, and why there may be a need for a new, perhaps not improved, variety. For unlike the old Inquisition, whatever one thinks of its methods, the nova inquisitio will not be based on objective truth in a society unhinged from any true notion of good and evil, but on the spirit of the age, decreed by our ‘elites’, by what passes for wisdom in our judicial system.
The day after the attacks, Tunisia announced that it is closing 80 mosques for ‘inciting violence’. Hmm. There may be a lot more mosques to come, but what then? What do you think the NSA in America will do with the myriads of data it is collecting on our phone and internet conversations? Searching for potential ‘terrorists’, one may presume, but with the criminalization of ‘hate speech’, we are on the verge of our very thoughts being declared illegal, whether truly jihadi-minded or not.
Thus, we already have a ‘secular inquisition’. The question is, what do we use it for, and whose purpose does it serve?
The store segregation is but one small sign, amongst numerous others, that some cultures and their customs do not easily mix, and are in fact antagonistic. Islam in particular has a difficult time assimilating. Indeed, such assimilation is against their creed, which states very clearly that they must assimilate us to them. Given the weakness and continuing death spiral of our own culture, that may not be too difficult to accomplish. Dhimmitude, here we come…
The Chinese have a proverb: ‘ May you live in interesting times’. I sometimes wish the times weren’t quite so interesting.
June 27, 2015
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor