Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Philip Jenkins at USC (Part II)

this is a continuation from the previous post that introduced the discussion by Philip Jenkins at USC on October 16th.

On Islam, the procedure was the same as with Christianity - Jenkins presented the suppositions of the MSM and the presumptions of the world at large. First was the notion that Isalm is on the ascendancy in Europe.

He mentions as an iconic starting reference to this the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie in the 80's because of the book Satanic Verses and the subsequent protests by Muslims in Europe. During the protest people held up placards that read: Islam - our religion today, your religion tomorrow. This image passed the world round was but one catalyst of the futurology of Islamization of Europe transforming the continent into Eurabia. And then he mentioned the notion that most Europeans know someone who knows someone who overheard a muslim say "we're going to out breed you," in reaction to the demographic changes. Then there is the shock of old (ancient) Churches being converted into Mosques, which compounds the sense of encroachment when the reality is that if the church isn't currently an active sanctuary or museum these building are being converted into condos, retail spaces, and warehouses. As before, after making these assertions counter points were offered.

First came the statistics. Dr. Jenkins said that the maximum population of Muslims in Europe is 4.5%. And even these numbers are skewed. He offered this: in all European statistics, people of Muslim Heritage - whether practicing or not, are counted statistically while conversely non-practicing 'cultural Christians' are excluded from the numbers. In regards to real terms then, of practicing Muslims, the figure is cut in half to 2% which is similar to that of the US.

Speaking of statistics and numbers, Jenkins stressed that if nothing else people take the following from the lecture: We pay immense attention to the Middle East - fertility rates in many traditionally Muslim nations have collapsed and themselves within a generation will be in the same state as Europe.

Fertility - the main propelling concern of the Europe question. Where today Europeans are reproducing at the rate of about 1.1 children per woman - Muslim residents are reproducing at about the same rate 1.2. And in the Middle East? In Iran in 1980 the average woman had 6 children, today she has 2. Interestingly those Iranian numbers also coincide with the drastic increase in the number of women graduating from University. He noted an English saying that in Europe the closer you lived to Rome the lower the birthrate, well the same is true for the Arab world - the closer you lived to Rome the lower the birthrate.

Back to that 2% or 4.5% of the population comparison. Dr. Jenkins insisted that immigrants can't help but absorb portions if not most of the European secular culture. Where people have said Europe is to become Eurabia Jenkins offers the opposite that with the current trends Arabia is becoming Arabiope.

The Crisis?
Well according to Jenkins, other than localized instances of religious sectarian violence (usually as reprisals for an equally atrocious act against a Muslim of the community) the problems in Europe didn't take on the guise of religious in nature until after 9/11. When before a protest in London was by poor Pakistanis (class & race) against the elite white majority, today it's the Muslims against the elite white majority. Notice the epithet Christian isn't used in reference to the whites because it is still ultimately an issue of race and class just with a new excuse. The flip side of course is that in the wake of the actual religious violence in Europe, we've already mentioned, is the emergence of the cultural Christian.

But new labelling aside, Professor Jenkins stands firm in belief that it comes back to inculturation. He even makes a comparison, albeit broad, between the immigrants of Europe today (of which many are Muslim) to the immigrant communities of the US at the turn of the 20th century. He asked us to consider how long it took the Italians and Irish and others to become "American." The difference being of course that Europe is only now considering full inclusion for these communities of non European 'guests.' (Think the Turks of Germany and Algerians of France) Is it to late? No it isn't says Jenkins.

It is important for the governments of Europe to strip away their "liberal litmus test" of determining who are radical Muslims and therefore Un-European. The example given was how readily accepting the newcomer is to homosexual marriage. (That's a really tough one for even most liberal Americans to take let alone an average Muslim from Indonesia) The second is for governments to realize that Islam is not monolithic per se - it is actually rather diverse. Whether you're Sunni or Shi'a, Salafist or Sufi - European leaders, he stressed, need to recognize this fact and understand that the NGE's that they're in dialogue with to understand their Muslim populations aren't representative. In fact most of these groups represent the minority, it just so happens that they're loud and well funded from outside of the country. (Think Salafist and Wahabbi organizations, a US example would be CAIR)

Europe is going through a transformation, but Dr Jenkins likens it more to the Reformation rather than the French Revolution. Islam is not encountering a dead Christendom necessarily but a different, vibrant, and equally diverse body of Christ that is very much alive and growing.

After the talk a couple of questions were asked - rather statements shared. Yours truly asked a question about the release recently of the "Open Letter" and what his opinion was on the letter and the responses so far, noting the Vatican's initial response being rather "political" while the ABC hailed it as the best thing since slice bread, and his underling the Bishop of Rochester practically decried it. He said he welcomed the letter because it gave voice to the majority of Muslims world wide. It was inclusive of the various Muslim denominations and philosophies. He was especially encouraged by the Sufi voice made present in the letter, because in countries dominated by radical militant Islam, the Sufis are the first to go. He also noted that the British government no longer dialogues and with the Salafists but has begun talking with other more representative groups of British Muslims which include a number of Sufis. He did say that America needs to take note, especially in the prison chaplaincy system - because radicals have realized those are the best places to plant the seeds of their ideology and if the person gets out is a useful warrior (pawn) in their ideological warfare.

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