The religious war against all of us


“We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint,” Steve Centanni said.

Olaf Wiig, left, and Steve Centanni of Fox News are shown while still being held captive by Muslim extremists who forced them to convert.

“Don’t get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

What was going on was that Centanni, a correspondent for Fox News, and his colleague Olaf Wiig, a cameraman, were being held hostage by terrorists in Gaza calling themselves the Holy Jihad Brigades. They were held for two weeks before being released on Sunday. During their captivity, they reported being kept face down in a dark garage, being bound in painful positions and being forced to make videotaped statements, including their “conversion” to Islam.

Journalists are committed to telling the truth; without that, the members of our profession are no different from propagandists and gossip-mongers. For journalists such as Messrs. Centanni and Wiig to be forced to lie about the most important truths of all is an abomination worthy of condemnation in the strongest terms. Yet the condemnation was, at best, muted.

Despite my unfamiliarity with Islamic liturgical practices, I would hazard a guess that firearms are not part of the standard conversion rites. So what we have here is a violent and egregious violation of religious liberty. Few observers were too bothered by it. One report on the captives mentioned that they were released “unharmed.” Being forced to abjure your faith at gunpoint, I would suggest, constitutes harm on a rather dramatic scale; it is a gross assault on human rights.

One observes in passing that the international furor about the American military personnel who allegedly desecrated a Koran (the story turned out to be false) was not exactly matched by the outrage over the Holy Jihad Brigades’ evangelization tactics. Perhaps there are just very low standards for Islamist terrorists, so one expects this sort of thing. After all, it’s not beheading. Or perhaps being forced to abjure your (non-Islamic) faith just isn’t taken very seriously.

It’s not Christianity vs. Islam or Judaism vs. Islam. It’s a religious war between a strain of Islam and everyone else, including — as the death toll in Iraq shows in the tens of thousands — other Muslims.

We ought to take it seriously. Indeed, we ought to take seriously that we are engaged in a religious war, and will be for some time. It’s not Christianity vs. Islam or Judaism vs. Islam. It’s a religious war between a strain of Islam and everyone else, including — as the death toll in Iraq shows in the tens of thousands — other Muslims. Call it fundamentalist Islam, or Islamism, or Wahhabism, or whatever you like, but it is the conviction shared by a doctrinally rigorous, zealously organized, well-financed Muslim minority that all others are infidels worthy of destruction if they will not convert, and that the Muslim majority in league with the infidel is also worthy of destruction.

It is important to see the truth, so that the enemy can be more clearly identified and more clearly fought against. In the Islamic world, which has borne the brunt of this new religious war, the threat is more acutely appreciated. One doesn’t find people who have seen it up close — Egyptians or Saudis or Indonesians — nattering on about how poverty causes terrorism or muttering about root causes. Religiously inspired terror is caused by corrupt religious ideas. It is not easy to fight that, but it is impossible if we refuse to see the truth of the matter.

The Gaza kidnappings are just the latest evidence of perhaps the most worrying trend in the Middle East: the Islamification of the Palestinian cause. What began decades ago as a nationalist movement, or even as an ethnic pan-Arabist movement, has since the second Intifada remade itself in Islamist guise. That is deeply disturbing, for nationalist movements can be accommodated with national institutions and national projects; Islamism does not seek such accommodation — only the capitulation of the infidel, at gunpoint if necessary.

Over the next few years, it is expected that Israel will be at war again with either Hezbollah to the north, Hamas to the south, or, farther afield, Iran to the east. This is not a competition of nationalisms; it is a religious war against the Jew, against the infidel.

The infidel includes Canada, as we see in Afghanistan. But it includes everyone, just as much in Cairo and Bali as it does in London and New York.

The deracinated secularists of our culture do not like talk of a religious war. It is not a pleasant topic. But it is worth talking about if, in fact, you are engaged in one.



Father Raymond J. de Souza, "The religious war against all of us." National Post, (Canada) August 31, 2006.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.


Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

Copyright © 2006 National Post

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