The worst place for a leader to be is behind those he seeks to lead, desperately calling out to a crowd that is increasingly outdistancing him, in a vain attempt to shift them this way or that. Sometimes opinion "leaders" put themselves in a retrograde position by ignoring what everyone around them plainly sees. Here's an example: writing in the context of the controversy generated by Pope Benedict XVI's remarks, ABC News says the 'Day of Rage' is not a day of rage..
London, Sept. 18, 2006 — Three words suddenly have a lot of Westerners worried and, it must be said, likely making some wrong assumptions about modern Islam. "Yaum al Ghadab" is Arabic for "Day of Rage." When the Qatari Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi called for a Day of Rage this Friday in response to Pope Benedict XVI's remarks about Muslims, it might have sounded like a call for street violence. ...
But why do Islamic leaders use what many Westerners regard as inflammatory language? Because it is not inflammatory, at least not in the context of Islamic culture. "We must not try to interpret Islamic terms and cultural signals by using our Western ideas," said Fawaz Gerges, a professor in the department of international affairs and Middle Eastern studies at Sarah Lawrence College, and an ABC News consultant.
These hilarious semantic contortions are not the fault of Muslims, who are pretty straightforward about what they believe in, so much as the willful obtuseness of the politically correct Western cultural elite, which feels the need to interpret the world for a perfectly literate public, like some pedant who insists on reading out a poster to his students. It is so tellingly absurd that even retired clergymen from the Church of England find themselves compelled to blurt out the obvious. The rage is rage. The Times of London reports that the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey challenged Islam to confront its "violent" strain.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of Clifton has issued his own challenge to “violent” Islam in a lecture in which he defends the Pope’s “extraordinarily effective and lucid” speech. Lord Carey said that Muslims must address “with great urgency” their religion’s association with violence. He made it clear that he believed the “clash of civilisations” endangering the world was not between Islamist extremists and the West, but with Islam as a whole. “We are living in dangerous and potentially cataclysmic times,” he said. “There will be no significant material and economic progress [in Muslim communities] until the Muslim mind is allowed to challenge the status quo of Muslim conventions and even their most cherished shibboleths.”
Cardinal George Pell, leader of Australia's 5.1 million Catholics had said almost the same thing as Lord Carey shortly before.
The violent reaction in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears," Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, said in a statement on Web sites of the Catholic Church of Australia. They showed the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence," he said.
How has it happened that the most unlikely persons are speaking on what is apparently the most volatile of subjects? It is doubly surprising because there is a powerful reluctance within the organizational culture of Christian churches to voice any criticism of another religion. The statements by Pope Benedict XVI, Lord Carey and Cardinal Pell are really near-despairing expedients to fill the aching void left by Western cultural and political leaders -- a vacuum which has emboldened militant Islamic preachers to cross boundaries they would have respected until recently. This erasure of cultural borders caused by the near total desertion of the frontier by the so-called opinion-leaders has invited the most reckless elements of Islam across and raised the risk of real clash of civilizations. As Lord Carey put it: "We are living in dangerous and potentially cataclysmic times". It is a time made perilous not only by the absence of moderate voices within Islam but by the even more conspicuous absence of any leadership among Western politicians. It is a failure which will sooner or later lead to what military historians call a "meeting engagement" in which two forces, each possessed of its own momentum, blunder into each other with catastrophic results. A false kind of tolerance has abolished the fence between the piggery and mosque, the adult video store and the cathedral, the flaming match and the stick of dynamite and called it progress. It is no such thing. It is called stupidity.