Camp of saints

In their latest promotion video for Islam, just released, the Daesh proudly show a fresh atrocity: the murder of thirty kidnapped Ethiopian Christians, who had been working in Libya. The slaughter is presented in two parts: those beheaded by the seaside, and those shot in the desert, respectively. A narrator introduces the film with a message to all Christians:

“To the nation of the Cross, we’re back again! … We swear to Allah that you will not have safety even in your dreams until you embrace Islam.”

But lest that message seem a little harsh, an elderly captive is shown in Iraq: a Christian who has been allowed to live because he is paying the Jizya. One wonders whether the many thousand Christian women and children, kept alive as sex slaves, are deemed to be paying their Jizya, too. Perhaps there are Shariah rulings on this.

Meanwhile Europe’s conscience is troubled by the failure to provide sufficiently prompt and generous welfare assistance to the Muslim refugees, streaming across the Mediterranean in flotillas that may help us to recall Jean Raspail’s apocalyptic novel, Le Camp des saints (1973). The headlines currently focus on one of the larger boats, the latest to capsize with the loss of hundreds. This drowned the news from a smaller boat whose survivors had been rescued by the Italian navy two days before. From that one, the Muslim refugees had tossed a dozen Christians overboard. They had been praying to Jesus Christ. They’d been told they must pray only to Allah.

There is no country with a Muslim majority or even a significant Muslim minority where Christians are not now living under threat of lethal violence. This includes countries like Egypt, where the government is in fact trying to protect them; or like the Philippines, with its strong Catholic majority but a significant Muslim presence in the south.

In Syria, the Christians overwhelmingly support the monstrous dictator Bashir Assad, against his opponents. This is because his opponents are worse. (Some are called “moderates” by e.g. the Obama administration, which specializes in terms that are void of meaning.)

From once-Christian Lebanon — a country carved out of Syria by the French for the express purpose of giving Levantine Christians a safe place to live — the remaining Christians now look for a way out. Beirut, once the cultural centre of the entire Arab world (Christian, Muslim, and “other”) because of the freedom it offered to artists, musicians, writers, is finally an Hezbollic shambles, Christians having been pushed out as from once-Christian Bethlehem. It is an understated preview of what will happen to the Jews of Israel should they ever make the peace the liberals have prepared for them. Once beaten, Lebanon’s Maronites focused on getting out quietly before the worst of the pogroms. In the Israeli case, however, the ones who get out alive will be extraordinarily lucky. Their enemies don’t want them fled, but dead.

As we have been reminded in Yemen, recently, the battle goes to the most ruthless. What the majority of Yemenis think and feel is of no consequence. The civil war is now being conducted between Shia Muslim fanatics under the sponsorship of Iran, and Sunni Muslim fanatics under miscellaneous Arab sponsorships. The Saudi air force is selectively bombing the Shias, with discreet Western support. Elsewhere, we hardly know which side to bomb. In Iraq, for variety, we have decided to help the Iranians by bombing the Sunnis. In Libya, we are trying to decide which of our five or six major allies in deposing Gaddafi would be most suitable for bombing now; all are murderous. The massacre of Christians is a shared enthusiasm among all Muslim “militants”; we might be accused of an unconscious bias against the faction that is massacring most Christians at any given moment.

I am skimming the surface. It is a commonplace that other minorities are under siege, too, throughout the Dar al-Islam (“realm of submission,” i.e. to Allah). Christians are hardly indifferent to their fate, and Christian charities have come spontaneously and universally to their aid as well as to the aid of their fellow Christians. (This is one of those stories our media find too boring to report: that in all of the world’s most dangerous “hot spots,” Christians are risking their lives to deliver food, shelter, and medical services, from out of the inexplicable motive of religious faith.)


As I have written before, the major battle in the Middle East, threatening to become a region-wide conflagration, is between Shia and Sunni factions — the former likelier to be first in bringing nuclear weapons into play, via Tehran. Both sides understand this battle is winner-take-all within Islam. Yet both agree on their primary external enemy. Curiously enough, it is not “the West,” not “the Zionist entity,” not “infidels” of any other kind — neither the “great satan,” nor the “little satan,” but what they call “Rome.”

This aspect of the Muslim matrix — a compound of myth, legend, and some actual history — has been ingrained through several dozen generations. It is not “an artefact of the Crusades,” as is falsely taught by liberal apologists for Islam in the West. The conflict preceded that. Eastern Christendom was overrun. African territories were overrun. Central Asia was overrun. Hindustan was overrun, from what is now Pakistan to what is now Indonesia (where Bali is the only surviving enclave). Everywhere Islam marched, it conquered, and everywhere it conquered, it scoured. (For example: not one ancient Hindu temple was left standing across the plains of northern India.)

Only Western Christendom withstood the successive tides of Islamic conquest; only “Rome,” though it was often touch-and-go. (They almost managed to keep Rome after sacking it in 846 AD.)

We, Catholics, have the honour to be their ultimate enemy, in their apocalyptic scenario (in which their Koranic Jesus comes down from the clouds to slaughter all the remaining Christians).

In the absence of historical memory, or even basic intelligence, the “infidels” of the European Union will not grasp nor consider what is stated plainly in video after video from the Daesh and other Muslim incendiaries. Again and again they state that their target is “Rome.”

Even the swords dripping with blood from the slaughtered Copts on Libyan beaches are raised towards Rome, with the pledge that Rome, across the water, will soon also be awash in blood. (Depictions of Saint Peter’s, remodelled with minarets, are a standard conceit of Islamist propaganda.)

That the great majority of Muslims around the world would rather live in peace, may well be true. This is certainly my own overall impression. But whether true or not, it is irrelevant. The great majority of Muslims have no standing in the Islamist scheme of things, and will never be consulted.

Samuel Huntington famously wrote, “Islam has bloody borders.” As historian, he had noticed this phenomenon was not new. It is fundamental to Islamic teaching: that outside that “realm of submission” is only the Dar al-Harb (“the realm of war”). He had also noticed the complementary feature of Islamic civilization: that where Islam has conquered, and humbled or destroyed all rivals, it becomes just as remarkably placid. Well within those bloody borders, inanition rules. The society becomes quiescent in its obedience to absolute rulers. It falls asleep, for centuries on end. Only the prospect of Jihad can awaken it again.

For this reason, it seems to me, we are witnessing something historically unprecedented. By increments the usual violence around the circumference of the Dar al-Islam is spreading, but unusually, more inward than outward.

I cannot see the future; I merely speculate, as I have done for many years now, that an even greater crisis is overwhelming the Islamic domains, than is overwhelming the old Christian ones, in response to “modernity.” Our primary rival, when not our real and present enemy through the last fourteen centuries, may well be collapsing even faster than we are.

As I have also argued, violent Islamism in this generation is an expression not of hope in conquest, but of despair. For centuries now, the evidence has been accumulating that the old rivalry was decided, and that the West won. In its wake, Western Imperialism left no doubt. To the apocalyptic Muslim mind, it was Roman Imperialism. It wasn’t “technology,” but the despised Christians who had humiliated them.

The “Islamism” of the twentieth century was a response to this. It was founded in the last ditch. Its proponents are on the edge of atheism themselves. They are in effect tempting Allah: demanding that he prove himself the True God by granting them the most unlikely victories. In the lives of the terrorists we find little that resembles religious faith. They go out on the town before committing mass murders. They may recruit in mosques, but hardly ever pray there.

Whereas, the older victorious Islam had confidence — whether merited or not — that it would prevail in righteousness. It carried some sense of honour onto the battlefield; there were certain atrocities it hesitated to commit. It is that righteousness, that honour, that is missing from the current onslaught, both without and within the Dar al-Islam. What I can discern is only desperation.

Materially, the threat may be terrifying. These modern-day desert savages are armed with vastly destructive weapons, which unearned oil wealth has paid for. Yet they hardly know how to use them. Spiritually, they can make some appeal to the “home-grown terrorists” of the West: loners and psychopaths converted in prisons; the fatherless young and hormonally unstable; or at the very bottom, intellectuals in our universities craving radical chic. Yet this is all empty show. They rise above the dysfunctional only with luck. In proportion to the evil they intend, the terrorists deliver little. Most of their schemes end in farce. They can succeed only against the defenceless. Their cause could itself suddenly blow over, the way Arab nationalism did.


This, anyway, is my sense of the matter: that we witness the last flail of a dying enemy, in the final act of his old rage. He is locked in a fantasia, a wild gesticulation against a “Rome” that should surely have fallen by now; yet which is still, despite everything, somehow, unfallen. It is a “Rome” that has now converted sub-Saharan Africa, right under his nose. Which is converting China. Which is even converting Muslims who have settled in defunct Christian Europe. Which just will not die, no matter how many heads he cuts off. And which lacks even the decency to fight back. How incomprehensible! How ridiculous!

(The pagan Romans asked themselves questions like this.)

And mysteriously, to my mind, this Muslim enemy reaches out to Rome, to Europe and the West, for a purpose he does not himself understand. For the truth, expressed in history but larger, is very mysterious in this case. It must necessarily include the fact that Islam was, in its formation, the development of a Christian heresy. It arose from an errant, monophysite Christology: a classical inability to cope with the whole idea of a Messiah who was (and remains) very God, and very Man.

He comes, and he keeps coming, to Rome, to conquer. Yet there is more to it than that. He comes in a sense to “crucify Christ” — what he imagines a false Christ — to where this false Christ is presumed to be living. It is the very Christ whom the Christians claimed was crucified before, but they were lying — that crucifixion was faked. This time the fake Christ will be really crucified, and the lying Christians put to shame. The score with them will finally be settled. And when Rome falls, the Christians will all surrender. Including, of course, all the lapsed ones, and the lapsed beyond lapsed.

Outwardly the intention is violence, but inwardly and at a more profound level this Muslim enemy does not come to defeat Rome at all. Instead he is drawn to that strange and unaccountable “City of God,” for another reason.

It comes finally as a terrible shock to him, a paradox even more invincible than the singularly Triune God, or the singularly dual nature of the Son, whose own Mother has been leading him here. The long path of carnage behind him, he has come to collapse into Christ’s arms.

And that is how he defeats us.