The Byzantine icon above is the work of the 16th-century iconographer Theophanes the Cretan. Many Muslims around the world today would consider it offensive and insulting to Islam. Muslims in the Balkans just a few years ago have entered churches and destroyed icons like this one for precisely that reason.
How does this icon insult Islam? In many ways, including these:
1. It depicts human beings, which violates the traditional Islamic prohibition of images and would be considered idolatrous and blasphemous on its face.
2. It depicts Jesus not as a Muslim prophet, as this does:
Instead, it depicts Jesus in the traditional Christian manner, as the incarnate Son of God: his halo reads ο ων, the One Who Is, a title of divinity derived from the name of God that God gives to Moses in Exodus 3:14), in violation of the oft-repeated Qur'anic injunction that Allah has no Son (4:171; 9:30; 25:2; 39:4; 72:3; etc. etc.).
3. In line with #2, it depicts what Muslims would consider to be idolatry, as the holy child's mother kneels and adores him.
4. In the beam or spear coming from heaven down to the child in the cradle, it depicts the activity of the Divine in the world, assuming the doctrine of the Trinity, which is rejected somewhat imprecisely in Qur'an 4:171 and 5:116.
5. The cradle resembles a casket, foreshadowing the core and heart of Christianity, the redemptive death of Christ, which is denied in Qur'an 4:157.
Now, whether you are a Christian or not, and whether or not you believe all or any of these things, the question that is before us with particular urgency this Christmas is whether or not people should be allowed to believe these things freely, without being brutalized or discriminated against, if they live in, say, Iraq, or Egypt, or Pakistan, or Gaza, or Indonesia, and whether free people of all creeds and perspectives should defend their right to do so.
In those countries, as well as in the Philippines and Nigeria where jihad attacks just took place today, Christians are being kidnapped, imprisoned, wrongly arrested, beaten, and murdered not because of anything they have done, but because they have dared to believe some of the things I have adumbrated above -- beliefs that are considered blasphemous in authoritative Islam. And it is hardly better elsewhere in the Islamic world: nowhere in majority-Muslim countries today do people who believe these things enjoy full equality of rights with Muslims.
We see this at Jihad Watch every day. We see jihadists attacking Christians with increasing fury. We also see the world largely yawning and indifferent as all this goes on. Christianity is a large and multifaceted thing, with so many different and various manifestations, but in the mind of the opinion makers of the West it is Western, white, suburban, wealthy, comfortable, oppressive, and oppressing. Christians are, in the little dramas that play out in mainstream media stories every day, a bit cracked, a bit sinister, a bit dangerous, a bit grasping, and sometimes fanatically jingoistic and xenophobic. They are never victims. Muslims, by contrast, are in the daily mainstream media playlets always cast as non-Western, nonwhite, poor, wise, serene, and oppressed. (The Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan have recently been featured repeatedly in these roles.)
And so when it comes to the specter of non-Western, nonwhite Christians being persecuted by Muslims, the mainstream media's circuitry explodes. They can't handle it. They have no paradigm for doing so. It violates every rule in their playbook. So they either ignore it or mask the identity and/or motives of the perpetrators, and try to cast the focus elsewhere.
And so remember this Christmas: those Christians who are being persecuted in Iraq, and the Philippines, and Nigeria, and Egypt, and Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Islamic world, are standing in your place. The jihadis would just as soon attack you as well, and will eventually if they get the chance. Remember that the Islamic supremacist program has you on its list. You may not be a Christian. You may not be a Jew. You may not be a Hindu. You may not wish to pay attention to the jihad at all. But the jihad is universal, and relentless. And you are on its list.
So this Christmas, may all of us whose conversion, subjugation, or death is envisioned by the adherents of Sharia stand together. Let us stand together as Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, secularists, what have you, and stand up against those who would kill us or subject us to institutionalized discrimination because they find our beliefs offensive.
For be assured: if we do not stand together, they will prevail. And if they prevail, then all the richest manifestations of the unfettered human spirit, from Theophanes the Cretan above to the fashioners of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, from the Hagia Sophia to the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura, from the works of Socrates and Aristotle to those of Moses Maimonides and Dante Alighieri and Winston Churchill and Oriana Fallaci, will be trampled into the mud, destroyed, exploded, ruined, effaced. We will all be the poorer. Our children will be the poorer.
It is time to fight for our life.
Merry Christmas to all Christian Jihad Watchers who celebrate the Feast on this day.