February 14, 2008

"Christian Ramadan"

An odd story out of the Netherlands:

To motivate young people to observe fasting and prayer during the 40-day Lent, Catholics are promoting the religious occasion this year as a "Christian Ramadan", the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday, February 12.

...

Der Kuil said the idea of "Christian Ramadan" was spurred by concerns that the Lent has become less important for Dutch over the last generation, especially since the Vatican loosened fasting strictures in 1967.

He notes that of the four million Dutch who describe themselves as Catholics and the 400,000 who attend Mass every week only a few tens of thousands still fast Lent.

Most Catholics now focus on charitable work during the 40-day feast.

Through the "Christian Ramadan" campaign, the organizers hope to bring back spirituality and sobriety to the Catholic tradition.

...

Der Kuil said they wanted to benefit from the increasing familiarity and popularity of the word Ramadan.

"The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent."

...

Der Kuil recognized that through the campaign they came to realize the amount of similarities between Muslims and Christians.

"The agreements are more striking than the differences," der Kuil maintained.

"Both for Muslims and Catholic faithful the values of frugality and spirituality play a central role in this tradition."

(Source)

Several thoughts come to mind:
  • Does this mean that Christianity is so weak in Europe that a Christian concept such as Lent can only be understood by defining it through the terms of what many view as a rival religion?
  • If you have to define your own religion in terms of another's, then it's time to admit that the other side has "won," that Dutch Catholics should admit the truth and become Muslims.
  • That if your religion is so weak and your culture doesn't practice - literally - what you preach, then maybe it's best to get on the cases of your lapsed brethren for their own faults rather than bad-mouthing people from other religions who are more pious than you.

    The real problem in Europe isn't "Multiculturalism" or "Shari'ah" or "Jihad" or "Eurabia" or any of the other bogey words that have come to symbolize the West's Islamophobia. The real problem is that most Muslims practice what they preach, that they live their religion (as we are supposed to), and that just scares the crap out of them. Because Europeans are afraid of religion. Because living a religious life will take them out of their comfort zone, introducing them to new routines and a new lifestyle. But especially because they realize that they live in a religious backwater. That despite all their material achievements and economic success, they've become spiritually backwards. The Quraish were in a similar situation during the last stages of the Age of Jahiliyah: economically successful, spiritually impoverished. Allah (swt) was merciful to the Quraish: they realized the truth before it was too late and became Muslim when they had the chance. The question now is whether Europeans (in particular, and the West in general) will do the same.

    Insha'allah.
  • 15 comments:

    George Carty said...

    Does this mean that Christianity is so weak in Europe that a Christian concept such as Lent can only be understood by defining it through the terms of what many view as a rival religion?

    Pretty much. The two World Wars have a lot to do with Europe's extreme secularism today, both because the devastation caused a general loss of faith, and also because many of the Christian – especially Catholic – establishment were discredited by support for reactionary right-wing politicians (who ended up collaborating with the Nazis).

    Most of the anti-Nazi resistance movements were dominated by (atheist) Communists. Note that Poland -- today the most Christian country in Europe -- is the only major country with a mostly non-Communist resistance during WWII.

    The real problem is that most Muslims practice what they preach, that they live their religion (as we are supposed to), and that just scares the crap out of them.

    Hello? Ever heard of something called the "Thirty Years' War"? A war between Catholics and Protestants which devastated Germany as much as both twentieth-century World Wars put together?

    You betcha that politicized religion scares the shit out of Europeans!

    By the way, I've often wondered if the US plans to destroy Islamism by fomenting a Sunni/Shi'a bloodbath in Iraq, which would do to Islam what the TYW did to Christianity.

    By the way, what do you think of radical antitheism as exemplified by Richard Dawkins?

    JDsg said...

    Hello? Ever heard of something called the "Thirty Years' War"?

    Hello? George? This is your history-loving buddy! ;) Of course I know about the Thirty Years' War, the Peace of Westphalia, and all that. But the essence of the European argument seems to be that "Since we can't stop killing each other, let's forget about God instead." Astaghfirullah! Which they've very nearly done after all these centuries. But I can't buy that argument. Asia is the home of numerous major world religions, but the continent has largely been free of major religious-based conflicts like the Thirty Years' War. (Not that there haven't been conflicts, but certainly not to the 30YW-level.) The problem, from my perspective, is that Europeans (and Americans, as the children of Europe), could never figure out how to live with one another and still maintain a religious life. Asians could and continue to do that.


    By the way, I've often wondered if the US plans to destroy Islamism by fomenting a Sunni/Shi'a bloodbath in Iraq, which would do to Islam what the TYW did to Christianity.

    They may want to do something like that, but I doubt that it will come to that over the long-term. The Sunnis and Shia have been living in close proximity to each other since the very beginning, 1400 years ago. We know each other. I view the current problems in Iraq to be a small-scale version of the Partition between India and Pakistan. Once the US is forced out of Iraq, as it eventually will be, insha'allah, then I think you'll see relations between the Sunni and Shia returning to a "normal" state, insha'allah. However, until then, I think you're going to see the Shia continue to battle the Sunnis in Iraq in retribution for the sufferings the Shia had under Saddam (a Sunni), and until the mini-Partition is completed.


    By the way, what do you think of radical antitheism as exemplified by Richard Dawkins?

    To be honest, I don't. I think Dawkins and the others are a flash in the pan.

    George Carty said...

    The problem, from my perspective, is that Europeans (and Americans, as the children of Europe), could never figure out how to live with one another and still maintain a religious life. Asians could and continue to do that.

    Why is this? Is it to do with the nature of Christianity to obsess over heresy (note other Christian own goals like the Battle of Yarmuk or the Fourth Crusade), or is it more to do with European culture?

    By the way have you ever thought of other aspects of Christianity in Islamocentric terms? Have you ever thought of Easter as "Christian 'Eid", or Gregorian chants as "Christian nasheeds", for example?

    JDsg said...

    Why is this? Is it to do with the nature of Christianity to obsess over heresy (note other Christian own goals like the Battle of Yarmuk or the Fourth Crusade), or is it more to do with European culture?

    I think Christianity plays a role, but less so than European culture itself. I recently read Karen Armstrong's book "Holy Wars," and was struck by a number of aspects of Western European culture that I began to think of as "the Western disease." I haven't written down all of the "symptoms" of the Western disease, but I would include your "Christianity obsessing over heresies" as one aspect. But Christianity obsesses over more than just heresies or, rather, European culture obsesses over "the Other." The Crusades weren't just about defeating the Muslims and gaining control over the Holy Land. As you pointed out, the Fourth Crusade as an "own goal" is appropriate, being a war over the Orthodox Christian Greeks, whom Armstrong points out that the Western Europeans felt intimidated by in a number of respects, including culturally and national wealth. And Armstrong also pointed out that prior to every Crusade, there was an anti-Jewish pogrom. So, heretics, Greeks, Jews, Muslims, yes, the Western Europeans seemed to find it difficult to deal with anyone whom they didn't see eye to eye with. Armstrong said the Western Europeans practiced an "aggressive righteousness" (and I think can also be summed up by "White Man's Burden"), which I think continues to this day. One other symptom from Armstrong's book that I find continuing today is that Western Europeans often project their psychological fears about themselves onto others. Islam and Muslims were (and are) accused of being things they are not. Instead, it was the Western Europeans who were primarily guilty of the sins and crimes they accused others of. But this doesn't necessarily need to be "Christian" in origin. The American right/neo-cons often play this game. I think Jonah Goldberg's new book, "Liberal Fascism," is a classic example of this.

    One other reason why I think this is more cultural than Christian is because I don't see the types of problems discussed above being part of the native Asian Christian population, both past and present. Although the Asian Christian population is relatively small compared to the other religions out here (Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism), I think the Christian beliefs become melded and perhaps even mellowed by the basic Asian culture that all the native Asians grow up with, even if they aren't Christian. For example, Christians in Korea make up at least 25% of the population, if not more (up to about one-half, according to some estimates). But I don't think there's as much of "the Western disease" prevalent among Korean Christians because of the much stronger influence of Korean culture.

    BTW, when I thought of Christian "own goals," my first thought was more like the Battle of Hattin. The Fourth Crusade? Yeah, absolutely an own goal.


    By the way have you ever thought of other aspects of Christianity in Islamocentric terms? Have you ever thought of Easter as "Christian 'Eid", or Gregorian chants as "Christian nasheeds", for example?

    Not really. Having grown up Catholic, I understood Christian terms and beliefs from a Christian perspective. As an adult revert, I don't' think I've ever needed to think about aspects of Christianity from an Islamic perspective. The idea of Gregorian chants as "Christian nasheeds" is an interesting thought, though.

    George Carty said...

    Do you have anything to say regarding my original suggestion that the World Wars have a lot to do with European secularization?

    Also, this Western obsession with the "Other" that you speak of - how do you think it originated? Is the "Western disease" present at all in the Philippines? (Given that it's the only major Asian country with a solidly Christian majority...)

    On "own goals", Hattin was a tactical own goal, while Yarmuk and the Fourth Crusade were strategic own goals.

    Going back to your original post, what would you say to someone who says "Spirituality doesn't matter. Material wealth is all there is, and the West has it"? (I guess I was alluding to this with my question on antitheist activism.)

    JDsg said...

    Do you have anything to say regarding my original suggestion that the World Wars have a lot to do with European secularization?

    Not really. Based on my readings, I thought your analysis was fairly correct. Certainly the Nazis found the Socialists/Communists threatening and did everything they could to neutralize or destroy them. I found Richard Evans' book, "The Third Reich in Power" very helpful in understanding the period between the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a copy of the first book in the series, "The Coming of the Third Reich."


    Also, this Western obsession with the "Other" that you speak of - how do you think it originated?

    I think it comes from several things: one, the tribalistic nature of Europeans, and two, the numerous mass migrations/invasions that almost always came out of the east. (About the only mass migrations that didn't come from the east were the Goten migrations, starting around 150 AD and, of course, the Viking/Norman invasions later on, both of which started out of Scandinavia). I think the two work hand-in-hand, and it's only when you have a much larger organization in Europe (the Roman Empire, the Christian church, the Crusades) that you start to see tribalism becoming less important. That was one of the immediate impacts Islam had on Arabia. In Islam, it didn't matter what tribe you originally belonged to. Al-Ansar, the helpers of Medinah, were two tribes (the Aws and Khazraj) who had been at each other's throats during the Age of Jahiliyyah, but began to put away their enmity toward each other and work together when they brought Muhammad (pbuh) and the Makkahn Muslims (a third tribe) into their midst.


    Is the "Western disease" present at all in the Philippines? (Given that it's the only major Asian country with a solidly Christian majority...)

    Based on all the Filipinos whom I've met and worked with over the past few years (and I'm working with a number of them right now), I'd have to say "no." Likewise for the various Indian Christians (primarily Catholics) whom I've met.

    Going back to your original post, what would you say to someone who says "Spirituality doesn't matter. Material wealth is all there is, and the West has it"? (I guess I was alluding to this with my question on antitheist activism.)

    Have a nice time in Hell? There's nothing wrong with material wealth in Islam. Muhammad (pbuh) was a trader who was offered marriage by Khadija, his employer, because he was so good at trading. The Qur'an has numerous references to trading, and some spiritual matters are couched in trading references. The real answer is not "spirituality or material wealth." It's "spirituality and material wealth." The "winners" are those who do both; the "losers," those who follow only the latter.

    Grande Strategy said...
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    George Carty said...

    Are you sure that Westerners are not specifically afraid of Islam, more so than religion in general?

    Given that Westerners prize their individual freedom, is it not to be expected that they'd fear a religion whose very name means "submission"?

    (I'm just curious, but have you ever heard of anyone who was traumatized by the sight of Muslims prostrated in prayer?)

    Then again, it does seem as though Pim Fortuyn was one of a kind. Geert Wilders by contrast is not a "liberal fundamentalist" in the Fortuyn mould, but simply a racist. The same could be said about Nick Griffin or Jean-Marie Le Pen.

    JDsg said...

    Are you sure that Westerners are not specifically afraid of Islam, more so than religion in general?

    I think Americans in general are fairly accepting of religion but not of religions other than Christianity, including but not limited to Islam. I suspect that attitudes in Europe are across the board: I suspect the UK has attitudes similar to the US, although maybe not as accepting of religion in general. Most of continental Europe I suspect is more or less equally afraid of both religion in general and Islam.


    Given that Westerners prize their individual freedom, is it not to be expected that they'd fear a religion whose very name means "submission"?

    If this is truly the case, then it's for lack of understanding of what "submission" in Islam truly means. Not that that's anything new, misunderstanding Islam, that is. I may write a bit more about this later; I've gotta start getting ready to go to work. :)


    (I'm just curious, but have you ever heard of anyone who was traumatized by the sight of Muslims prostrated in prayer?)

    No, but ask around some; someone might surprise you with their answer.


    Then again, it does seem as though Pim Fortuyn was one of a kind. Geert Wilders by contrast is not a "liberal fundamentalist" in the Fortuyn mould, but simply a racist. The same could be said about Nick Griffin or Jean-Marie Le Pen.

    Regarding Pim, possibly, although my opinion of him was that he was quite racist as well. Also, add to your list Jorg Haider.

    嘉乐 said...
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    George Carty said...

    Why do you think Pim Fortuyn was a racist? I thought his antipathy to Islam was directed against Islam's strict sexual morality.

    (Let's not forget that Fortuyn was openly homosexual...)

    JDsg said...

    Why do you think Pim Fortuyn was a racist? I thought his antipathy to Islam was directed against Islam's strict sexual morality.

    No, his antipathy to Islam was much broader based than just sexuality. Certainly he used his homosexuality to bait Muslims, but his phobia about Islam was much broader in perspective than just that one issue. The man openly declared "I consider it [Islam] a backward culture." That satisfies my definition of a racist (a member of one race who considers his or her race to be superior to other races).

    George Carty said...

    Maybe my definition of "racism" is too narrow, concentrating only on belief in biological supremacy...

    JDsg said...

    Unfortunately, George, I've had too many dealings with racists in the past, usually in the US with respect to white hatred of blacks and Hispanics. My first college roommate used to brag about how he'd go to parties where he'd knew there'd be blacks there dressed like a Klansman.

    Cultural racism, like that shown by Fortuyn, is probably more prevalent but flies under most people's radar. Of course cultures worldwide are at various stages of development, some more advanced than others, but most people don't understand how the other culture works or the reasons why it does things the way it does. We're all guilty of this to one degree or another. But Fortuyn, in his public comments, didn't seem to try to empathize with Islamic culture; instead, he retreated to the arrogant racist snobbery that I've so often come across, especially on the Internet... "they're a backwards culture." That, to me, is racism, no less than my former roommate's dressing up in a bedsheet. And I despise that sort of shit.

    George Carty said...

    Sorry to rejoin this thread so late, but what do you think of John Maqdisi's paper in North Carolina Law Review? Is is plausible the Anglosphere's common law itself owes a lot to the Shari'ah?