Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

August 7, 2009


Today's title is from a headline in last Saturday's NY Times.The story describes how a mob of some 20,000, enraged at a spurious rumor that a copy of the Koran had been desecrated, engulfed the tiny Christian enclave in Gojra, Pakistan. An accompanying photo shows a man and woman, heartsick, sitting in the ruins of the Hameed family home, six of whom were burned to death, a seventh, an aged grandfather, shot in the head. Some one hundred others were seriously wounded.

Although local police did little to defend those attacked, Pakistani authorities subsequently arrested some of the ring leaders. The laws on blasphemy have been described as so loosely interpreted and publicized by mullahs as to inflame public opinion and incite mob action.

It is clear that this and similar persecutions of Christians in Islamic lands flows from the basic Muslim division of the world into two parts: the Dar al-Islam - the House of Peace, ruled by sharia - and the Dar al-Harb, the House of War, not ruled by sharia now but destined ultimately to be so ruled. It lies behind the total banning of Christianity in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. It lies behind the edict on Valentine's Day 1989 by the Ayatolla Khomeini: "I inform the proud Muslim people of the world the the author of "The Satanic Verses" book [Salman Rushdie], which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication, who are aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I ask all Muslims to execute them wherever they find them." Rushdie went into hiding and has been guarded by the British police ever since.

Pim Fortuyn's "Against the Islamization of Our Culture" warned that his country, the Netherlands, which generously subsidized Muslim families, mosques, and schools, failed to challenge the freedom-denying values of the Muslim culture, the values that are irreconcilable with Western democracies and freedom. Fortuyn ran for the Dutch parliament. He was attacked not only by Muslim voices but by the intelligentia and the media as lacking in sensitivity to the newcomers in their society! On May 6,2002, he was murdered by an assassin, who testified that he had killed Fortuyn because of his views on Muslim immigration.

Theo van Gogh, a Dutch intellectual, celebrity, and TV personality, had seen his city, Amsterdam, become a quarter to a third Muslim. He produced a film "Submission",
treating the oppression of women in Muslim culture. A similar theme was featured in a televison movie he produced. A few weeks later, on November 4, 2004, he was assassinated by a man, who later declared he had killed van Gogh because of the hostility to Islam in his TV production.

As van Gogh fell to the ground having been shot, his killer pinned a note to the dead man's chest, threatening to kill one Ayaan Hirsh Ali, a young Somali woman writer and member of the Dutch parliament. As an outspoken feminist, she outraged the Muslim community on a second count. She had been a Muslim. Disenchanted, she became an atheist. Her life threatened, she was given police protection. Various pressures induced her to resign from parliament. She came to the United States to work for the American Enterprise Institute.

These few examples demonstrate the denial of freedom of speech in Muslim culture. In each incident, with the exception of Salman Rushie's fatwa, there were always voices of academicians, writers, and assorted artistic types asserting that host nations and cultures should be more accomodating to the "sensitivities" of the newcomers.

I, too, have experienced a chilling of my own free speech through similar misplaced sensitivity. After the horrors of 9/11, I prepared a short essay for the newsletter of our Ruppert House development where I was livng. The main theme was David's lament on the death of his friend, Jonathan. "How are the valiant fallen!" I called upon "our Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other neighbors" to join in heartfelt prayer for a new spirit of peace. The Chairman of our board called me. "We decided not to have your piece in the newsletter." Startled, I, incredulous, asked why. "Well, the Muslim group here (a small number of families) prepared a piece. We don't want to run it. So if we ran your entry, we would have to include theirs." Astonished, I remonstrated. I was the founder of this development. We had welcomed these newcomers to our neighborhood. They enjoy this housing provided mostly by government funds. And on and on. It was not a calm discussion. But he prevailed. As was happening in Europe, my free speech rights had been denied for a false sensitivity. A cloud of this other culture had fallen across our path of freedom!

To date, I have seen no statement by Muslim clergy or Pakistani diplomats here decrying the devastation of Christians in Gojra simply because they were Christians.


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