European Secularism Imperils Religious Freedom
Liberal Europe’s secular project and its pandering to potentiallyviolent Islamist critics has imperiled religious freedom, said Dr. Jenny Taylor in Prague at the conference on Understanding and Reporting on Religion in Europe.
Taylor, founder of Lapido Media, which works for religious literacy in the media, had been covering racial issues in Europe for some time when she realized that religion, not race, was the real story. She also noticed that European media were missing this story because they did not understand or respect religion.
“I discovered how badly religion was being covered throughout the media - and how central it was to the way the world turns and is turning,” said Taylor.
The religious ground was shifting under Europeans’ feet, but no one seemed to notice. Taylor says that the number of Muslims in Europe now stands at approximately 54 million, or approaching ten percent of the population. Statistics cited for Britain’s Muslim population are probably unreliable, having remained steady at 1.6 million, or 3.4% of the population, for about a decade.
Religious illiteracy afflicts European governments, as well, Taylor said. European political systems take a view of blind “neutrality” toward all religions. This approach is faulty, Taylor argues, because it assumes that religions have no substantive differences.
“All religions are equally mad, or equally benevolent or equally vicious to the religiously illiterate — secularized — mind,” Taylor affirmed.
This blind neutrality ignores Islam’s very troubled track record on press freedom, Taylor said. Of the 20 countries at the bottom of the Reporters without Borders Index of Press Freedom, half are Muslim. These same countries, especially Pakistan and Somalia, provide a high proportion of migrants to the European Union.
Yet Europe’s public institutions lack the discourse and will to address the religious aspects of culture.
“Europe convinced itself, exceptionally, that religion was a thing of the past, a phenomenon of patriarchalism and oppression,” said Taylor. “Islam did not exist as a political reality, because we had ideologically blinded ourselves to it.”
Taylor argues that Europe’s media are beginning to accommodate the strictures of these immigrant communities out of fear and ignorance. This accommodation threatens freedom of expression and religion.
She cites the example of the novel Fatima’s Scarf, which was written by a respected journalist and was critical of Islam. Publishers praised it in private but abandoned it publicly out of fear of Muslim backlash, Taylor claims.
In another more recent case, police attempted to prosecute British documentary journalists for inciting racial hatred because they had secretly recorded teachings in Birmingham’s Green Lane mosque. The recordings captured imams advocating bigotry, intolerance and violence. While police went after the journalists, authorities made no effort to deal with the Wahhabi mosque where the teachings took place.
She also told of the threatened arrest of two evangelists for hate crimes. The evangelists had handed out Christian reading material in an area the Community Support Officer who threatened them - a Muslim - declared to be a “Muslim area.”
Taylor insists there is a simple reason for these cases.
“This secularism which still dominates the thinking of our European rulers…is no match for ambitious Islam,” said Taylor. “It ends up pandering to it, out of fear of violence.”
Under these circumstances, Taylor sees an urgent need for Christian journalists to commit to the cause of telling the truth. Above all, Christians should avoid a ghetto mentality and not retreat to the Christian media.
“That is because the Church is where the poor are, and that is where God is transforming lives,” Taylor said. “We have special access and insight into the roots of suffering and poverty - and those are world issues. That’s where the news is.”
For Taylor, the debate hinges on the question of which religious factors promote press freedom and which ones do not. She finds the answer in the Index of Press Freedom. Whereas the nations at the bottom of this index tend to be Muslim, 14 of the 20 nations at the top of the index have Protestant Christian majorities.
She suggests that Christians who enter the news industry must show that freedom of conscience and speech is under attack by secular governments that are afraid of Muslim violence.
“Avoiding this task could have catastrophic consequences,” Taylor concluded. “Truth, in an ideologically or Islamically pressured context, is what the police will allow.”