Tomislav Sunic’s (“The Gulf Crisis in Europe,” May 1991) proposal of an Islamic conversion for neo-pagan Western Europe as some type of alternative cultural synthesis is an eyebrow raiser. But to state that the Moslem religion’s “record of zeal and intolerance is no worse than that of other monotheistic beliefs” is a denial of the historical evidence. The Eastern Orthodox Church has a liturgical calendar full of martyrs, and a long history of suffering as a direct result of excessive Islamic “zeal and intolerance.” Volumes can and have been written (see New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke, St. Nectarios Press, Seattle, 1985) on the subject. There is no correlative behavior to be found on the Christian side.
In an Islamic society. Christians are effectively second-class citizens. Such has been the case in the Middle East for centuries and so it continues to be now in modern Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon. For a Moslem to convert to Christ has been a crime punishable by death throughout Moslem history for the most part. An Islamic majority in Western Europe can eventually be expected to attempt to root out from it the last vestiges of Christian culture. What traditional European culture would look like then can be witnessed in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus today.
—The Reverend Alexander Fecanin
Old Forge, PA
Mr. Sunic Replies:
I did not mean to belittle the important role of Christianity, nor in any way suggest that the Eastern Orthodox Church may be inferior to Islam. But it is difficult to deny that Christian churches also knew their own spectacular hit parade of violence—ad majorem Dei gloriam—which at times paralleled or eclipsed Islamic intolerance towards Christians. Surely, one must agree that unlike Islam, Christian churches have discovered more rapidly human rights, democracy, ecumenism, and, last but not least, the secular theology of the big buck. But all Christian religions, including Eastern Orthodoxy, at some point in their history, practiced discrimination and genocide against a wide number of “infidels.” Mircea Eliade was not incorrect when he wrote that “the intolerance and fanaticism of the prophets and missionaries is the hallmark of all the three monotheist religions.” The alterophobia of Islam towards Christians during the Turkish or Tartar Yoke was soon recompensed by the intolerance of Christian Orthodoxy, under the banner of destructive pan-Slavism, against Turkic peoples, Jews, Catholic Poles, Lithuanians, etc.
We all tend to exonerate our religions from historical scrutiny, and we all resort to the convenient “spirit of our time” strategy in justifying our own religious aberrations. For a change, I would suggest to the Reverend Fecanin, T.R. Glover’s The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire (1909), which documents the crimes committed by former Christian martyrs against pagans, who, just a century earlier made Christians look like martyrs. Also a good reference is Ralph W. Scott’s A New Look at Biblical Crime (1979).