Rod Dreher of The American Conservative writes: “I am more concerned today, in 2015, post-Indiana and post-Brendan Eich, with secularist threats to religious liberty and religious tolerance than I am with Islam in America — and if you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that’s a big shift for me.” Indeed it is. Way back in 2002, Dreher wrote a favorable review of my book Islam Unveiled in National Review (now apparently scrubbed from the NR site, but available here) that got the book widespread notice and led to my continuing to do this work. Dreher and I kept in sporadic and always friendly contact over the years, but that review was a very long time ago, and when I started asking him why The American Conservative was embracing the Islamic supremacist imperative to destroy the freedom of speech and echoing Muslim Brotherhood-group talking points about “Islamophobia,” he clammed up.
Now we see why: he says it is a “relief” that a correspondent named Matthew, who I take to be his son, has a Muslim RA at his college dorm, and praises another correspondent for being happy that her daughter’s RA is a hijab-wearing Muslim girl. I am sure these RA’s are wonderful people, but Dreher’s point is that it is better for a young Christian in college to have a Muslim RA than an aggressive secularist who will push the Christian to accept gay marriage, transgenderism, abortion, and whatever else the secular Left is pushing at the time.
This is a common argument among Christian social conservatives. It proceeds, however, on the false assumption that Christian and Muslim moral teaching are essentially identical. Yet there are serious differences that have up to now received far less attention than the similarities, although they are no less important. For although fornication and adultery are indeed forbidden in Islam as in Christianity, and there are other apparent moral similarities between the two religions, the Muslim understanding of marriage and sexual morality differs so greatly from the Christian understanding that it renders those similarities void of meaning. Islamic morality allows for numerous practices that Christianity abhors and that manifest a completely different understanding of marriage and the dignity of the human person, including child marriage, polygamy, female genital mutilation, and even sexual slavery of non-Muslim women.
It’s the same situation with abortion, as well: many Christians, and Catholics in particular, believe that Muslims are pro-life and thus reliable comrades-in-arms on life issues, but this is also a false assumption. The contemporary Islamic scholar Azizah al-Hibri sums up the prevailing view: “The majority of Muslim scholars permit abortion, although they differ on the stage of fetal development beyond which it becomes prohibited.” Furthermore, says al-Hibri, all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence “permit abortion for exigencies such as saving the mother’s life.” Another Islamic scholar, the American convert to Islam Sherman Jackson, explains that only a “minority of jurists” believe that Islam forbids abortion “even during the first trimester,” and counsels Muslims against engaging in any kind of pro-life activism: “While abortion, even during the first trimester, is forbidden according to a minority of jurists, it is not held to be an offense for which there are criminal or even civil sanctions. On this understanding, Muslim-Americans who oppose abortion should assiduously limit their activism to the moral sphere and avoid supporting positions that favor the imposition of criminal or civil sanctions in an area into which Islamic law itself never contemplated injecting these.” (Sherman Jackson, Islam and the Blackamerican: looking toward the third resurrection, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 151.)
This is not to say that Matthew’s RA, or the hijab-wearing RA, are going to be hosting an FGM Night or a Sex Slave Auction in the dorm. They may not even be aware of the sanction such practices have in Islamic texts and teachings. But the fact that they do have such sanction calls into question Dreher’s idea that Christian social conservatives have a reliable ally in Muslims. I wonder if Dreher knows that American Muslim advocacy groups, already firmly aligned with the Left, generally supported gay marriage, for the obvious reason that it will lead to the legalization of polygamy. There can be little doubt that he knows about Islamic law’s classic provisions for the subjugation and institutionalized second-class status of Christians and other non-Muslims; as he is an Orthodox Christian, one would think that even a glancing knowledge of the history of his Church would give him a healthy awareness of what that means for religious freedom and the chance to live a full Christian life.
In light of his shift in direction, and of the friendly relationship we once had, I am offering Rod Dreher a gift: a free ticket to Mosul or Raqqa, or any other Islamic State stronghold of his choice, so that he can experience in undistilled, undiluted form what life is like for Christians under Islamic law. I’ll even throw in another free ticket for Kelley Beaucar Vlahos. I wonder if, after a day or a week or a month of that, Dreher would still think secularist threats to religious liberty and religious tolerance to be greater than the threat of Islamic jihad. But he might not be able to speak from his severed head to explain the latest evolution of his views.
“The New ‘Ecumenism of the Trenches,’” by Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, June 9, 2015:
A reader says something fascinating:
The things you have been writing about lately on your blog made me realize something today. My daughter, a high schooler, is spending a good part of her summer off at college. It’s not really college, but a program for gifted & talented kids administered by [name of secular university]. When I moved her into the dorm, I was startled to see that the RA on her hall was a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. She was very polite. I liked her right away, but I have to confess that as a conservative Christian from a non-diverse part of the country, it made me nervous to think about my Christian daughter in the care of a Muslim woman, even a Muslim woman that was really nice.
Now I have come to be so grateful for that Muslim RA, and I want to tell you why. In hearing from my daughter about what the other kids are like at that summer program, and the things they talk about and believe, I am comforted that there is at least someone in her dorm who shares her belief in God, and in moral sanity. My daughter is not having a bad time at all, and I’m not worried about her. If things do go south in some way, or if she has questions or concerns, it is a relief to know that the woman in charge of her residence hall is someone whose moral instincts I can trust. I had to write to tell you about this revelation, and how it made me confront my prejudice. I never imagined that I would be living in a world where as a conservative Christian in America, I am surprised to discover that when it comes to the care and raising of our children, I have more in common with believing Muslims than I do with seculars who look like me. On the other hand, I never imagined I would be living in a nation that has lost its sense of right and wrong. How weird it is to think about my minor daughter far away from home, in an “in loco parentis” situation, and to be able to say as a Christian parent, and mean it, “Thank God for that Muslim.”
That’s really interesting, and I completely agree with this reader. This note brought to mind a 2012 story The New York Times did about Muslim students from abroad choosing US Catholic colleges.…
It is important to realize that not all Christian colleges really have a Christian ethos on campus. Still, it occurs to me that post-Christian America will likely bring about surprising practical alliances between small-o orthodox Christians and believing Muslims, in the same way that post-Sixties America facilitated practical alliances between conservative Evangelicals and conservative Catholics.
Who will be the Chuck Colson and Richard John Neuhaus of the Christian-Muslim rapprochement? What I mean is, which Christian and Muslim leaders have the status and the vision to bring small-o orthodox Christians and believing Muslims together to stand side by side in the public square on social issues of mutual concern? I’m not talking about goo-goo ecumenism that ignores meaningful differences. I’m talking about what came to be known (in Colson’s phrase) as the “ecumenism of the trenches” — a practical coalition of divergent believers who will not yield on theological distinctives, but who recognize a certain theological commonality and need to work together on public issues of mutual concern.
What would need to happen for this to work on a broader level than just episodic situations like a college dorm? Me, I would need to be confident that the American Muslims with whom I was working were not part of a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood. I could imagine that Muslims would likely object to working with Evangelicals who were heavily involved in promoting Israel. Other obstacles are not hard to foresee. Nevertheless, I am more concerned today, in 2015, post-Indiana and post-Brendan Eich, with secularist threats to religious liberty and religious tolerance than I am with Islam in America — and if you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that’s a big shift for me….
UPDATE: What do you know! Got a text from Matthew saying that his RA is, in fact, a Muslim man. That’s a relief….