Sunday, November 16, 2008

Out of the East

You all know Spengler, the columnist at Asia Times Online. At least I hope you do. It surprises me how little play he gets in the Catholic blogosphere given how often he talks about the Catholic Church and his obvious admiration for Benedict XVI.

Anyway, he has a new piece posted about the recent conference in Rome with a group of Muslim scholars. Spengler refers to the conference as a 'pyrrhic propaganda victory' for the Church. The Soviet example:

Leonid Brezhnev left the 1975 Helsinki meetings on European security
cooperation convinced that he had won an enormous concession - final recognition of the Soviet Union's postwar borders - in return for lip service to human rights that the communist regime never could or would provide. "Instead," wrote Cold War historian John Gaddis, the Helsinki Accords "gradually became a manifesto of the dissident and liberal movement ... What this meant was that the people who lived under these systems - at least the more courageous - could claim official permission to say what they thought."

The Jewish "refusenik" Natan Sharansky became a symbol of Soviet human rights violation, and president Ronald Reagan's personal support for the dissidents - often over objections of his diplomats - introduced hairline fractures into Soviet Power.

On contrast to this, Spengler describes the concessions of the Muslim scholars in Rome. After much negotiation, they agreed in their statement to pledge their adherence to the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights. Spengler points out the problem with this:

The fact that the attending Muslim scholars - who have no authority over the laws of Muslim countries - piggy-backed on the UN Declaration of Human Rights does not augur well for the "Helsinki" strategy. After all, having signed the UN Declaration of Human Rights does not in the least inhibit Muslim governments from persecuting non-Muslims in their own countries; why should the affirmation of such rights by a group of Muslim scholars have any additional impact?

Spengler then goes on to discuss the superficial agreement between Catholics and Muslims on abortion, but he makes the argument that the two religions have fundamentally different outlooks on God's relationship with Man:

[...] At best the conflation of the Islamic and Judeo-Christian concept of love is an exercise in self-deception. For those who find the theological arguments obscure, I suggest searching the word "love" in any of several online versions of the Koran, and doing the same in the online Bible, and comparing its frequency and context. Even more simply, try a Google search on the respect terms, "God loves you" and "Allah loves you".

The column concludes with a look at Tariq Ramadan's participation in the conference and a look at the consequences of a photo op with the Pope. Spengler ends with a brief paragraph and I join my hopes to his:

Ramadan, as Sandro Magister observed, portrayed the November 4-7 meeting as a rollback of Benedict's Regensburg speech. I hope the pope proves him wrong.

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