Pat Buchanan’s “Why the War is Coming Home” has sparked a lively debate on this website, revealing that there are some very hard views that quickly surface in any debate about Islam and the West. I tend to agree with Pat and Ron Paul that a growing number of Muslims is in our face because we are in their faces “over there,” frequently killing them. At the same time, I think it is quite reasonable to accept that Islam has some extremely rough edges that have nothing to do with American empire. Islam has bloody borders, many Muslims are intolerant, most terrorists are Muslims, Islam is only occasionally a “religion of peace,” and the expression “moderate Islamists” is pretty much an oxymoron. In addition, the largely Islamic Third World is a demographic threat to our Christian culture. But what is true of some Muslims is not true of most. Terrorists are only a tiny percentage of Muslims and few believe in the forcible conversion of infidels. Also, the repeated groupthink characterization of Muslims as inimical to the values that we hold dear is somewhat simplistic and contrived. It ignores the cultural, national, and intellectual diversity of what constitutes Islam. In a sense, the evils of Islam are largely externalized and really amount to blaming the wrong party. It should be acknowledged that we in the West are often the problem, not the Muslims, due to our failure to value that Christian and Western culture that we have all but discarded. Poor Muslims seeking work in wealthy Europe have not set out with a plan to overwhelm the West any more than a Mexican picking tomatoes in the Imperial Valley is doing so in hopes of creating Mexifornia.
My point is that unless I am missing something we have to learn to coexist with Islam and the world’s more than one billion Muslims, like it or not. Clearly, it is possible selectively to revisit history and to play with historical analogies all day to come up with damning conclusions about the interplay of Islam and the West. In the fifteenth century, the Ottoman Turks were both admired and reviled by Europeans, seen positively as a dynamic state that was heir to the traditions of the Byzantine Empire and negatively as the cutting edge of the sword of Islam. Probably they were both, but the current reality is what matters. By all means let us seriously revisit the God-awful immigration policies both in Europe and the US that will ultimately transform by sheer weight of numbers the Christian and Western culture that we rightly should be protecting. But as we examine the very real issues in a reasonable fashion, it behooves us as good Christians to regard Muslims as moral and responsible individuals very much like ourselves, not as part of an undifferentiated gray mass that exists in our minds only as a threat.