Contemporary debate over Europe’s identity increasingly refers to the continent’s Christian or Judeo-Christian heritage. But a closer look at the history books belies this theory and teaches us that for centuries, Islam and Judaism have played an integral role in shaping European history and that both religions have been regarded with deep hostility down through the centuries. By Stefan Schreiner
Whenever discussions centre on how Europe perceives itself and in particular on the continent’s values, it is still commonplace – today apparently even more so than in the past – to speak of a “Christian” Europe, or at least to make reference to its Christian roots and to emphasise the Christian character that these roots have produced. But political correctness forbids the exclusive interpretation of the word “Christian” in this context, and particularly well-meaning commentators are quick to define it instead as a Judeo-Christian tradition or Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage, which does little to improve matters.
On the contrary – upon closer inspection, this reference to Europe’s Judeo-Christian tradition or its Judeo-Christian heritage is revealed all too smartly as a transparent manoeuvre. After all, those who most vociferously reclaim a Judeo-Christian tradition for Europe generally do this with the sole aim of saying that Islam does not per definitionem belong to the continent.
From a historical point of view, however, the Christianization of Europe was an arduous process that took more than a millennium and followed anything but a straightforward course. In fact it was a process that was repeatedly dogged by “setbacks”. Essentially, the Christianization of Europe never really reached a conclusion or was properly completed. This is because at the point when the last Muslim had been driven from the Iberian Peninsula in the West, and the “last heathens of Europe” – the Lithuanians – had been converted to Christianity in the East (in the fourteenth/fifteenth century), Islam had long begun to spread back into Europe from the East and the South-East (the Balkans). Muslim communities would then maintain a long-term presence in central and eastern Europe (Lithuania, Poland, Belarus), just as they did in the Balkans.
Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus are accusing Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum of bigotry and ignorance after he said that “equality” is solely a Judeo-Christian concept.
“Where do you think the concept of equality comes from?” Santorum said on the campaign trail last Friday (Jan. 20). “It doesn’t come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions. It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
MORE than a dozen American states are considering outlawing aspects of Shariah law. Some of these efforts would curtail Muslims from settling disputes over dietary laws and marriage through religious arbitration, while others would go even further in stigmatizing Islamic life: a bill recently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly equates Shariah with a set of rules that promote “the destruction of the national existence of the United States.”
Supporters of these bills contend that such measures are needed to protect the country against homegrown terrorism and safeguard its Judeo-Christian values. The Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has said that “Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.”
This is exactly wrong. The crusade against Shariah undermines American democracy, ignores our country’s successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest-growing religious minority.
5 October 2010
Leading conservative German politicians assailed President Christian Wulff on Tuesday for comments intimating Islam had gained a status comparable to Christianity and Judaism in Germany. Wulff riled his fellow Christian Democrats by saying Islam had become an important part of German society in a speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of German reunification on Sunday.
While several Christian Democrats and their Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies grudgingly admitted Muslims had earned a place in Germany, they bristled at the idea they were changing the core social fabric of the country. “The speech was easily misunderstood,” CSU politician Norbert Geis told Bild on Tuesday. “If the president wanted to equate Islam in Germany with Christianity and Judaism, then I’d consider that wrong.”
In his first major speech on Sunday since taking office in July, Wulff extended the hand of friendship to Muslims, saying the challenge of integrating them into society was comparable to reunifying the country after the Cold War. “Christianity is of course part of Germany. Judaism is of course part of Germany. This is our Judeo-Christian history… But now Islam is also part of Germany,” he said in his speech. “When German Muslims write to me to say ‘you are our president’, I reply with all my heart ‘yes, of course I am your president’.”
His comments were welcomed by leading German Muslim groups as an important sign that they were not second-class citizens in Germany.
By Khalid Hasan WASHINGTON: American Muslims have expressed outrage following the assertion by popular right-wing Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that Muslim holidays should not be observed since America is a Judeo-Christian country. On the October 27 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly called the idea of closing public schools for the observance of Muslim holidays _absurd’. He made the remark during a discussion with Hillsborough County (Florida) Commissioner Brian Blair, who opposed the Hillsborough County School board’s decision to keep public schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-07 school year, a departure from the school district’s earlier practice of closing schools on those days. In December 2004, Hillsborough County Muslims, with the backing of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asked the school board to close schools on the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr. Instead of giving students the day off on Eid-ul-Fitr, the school board voted to keep schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-2007 school year, arguing that the school district could close schools on days when a substantial number of students would be absent, but could not close schools specifically for the observance of religious holidays. Students however can take the day off on such occasions. In his discussion on the question with Blair, Bill O’Reilly said, So a Muslim wanted a Muslim holiday, which is absurd in a Judeo-Christian country. I mean we can’t be having Hindu and Buddha. I mean, come on. I mean this country is founded on Judeo-Christian traditions. Those traditions have been in play for more than 200 years. Christmas is a federal holiday. You know, somebody walks in and says, _Well, I just moved here and I want, you know, this Shinto shrine.’ And you’re going, _Well, look, this is a traditional American situation that we’ve done for hundreds of years.’ But now you knocked it out.