The lever and the foundations
Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat ... Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt’s Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East — have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of “dhimmitude” (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words. ... The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones.
Even if one were not a Christian, it's interesting to ask how one Coptic priest operating on a shoestring wage such successful information warfare? To save money Botros uses the "new media": satellite TV and the Internet. Secondly, he communicaes in Arabic. Thirdly, Botros tackles Islam on its own ground. He is intimately familiar with the Koran and phrases the issues in ways that are not only linguistically familiar to Middle Easterners but in accordance with their categories of thought. According to Raymond Ibrahim at NRO:
Botros’s motive is not to incite the West against Islam, promote “Israeli interests,” or “demonize” Muslims, but to draw Muslims away from the dead legalism of sharia to the spirituality of Christianity. Many Western critics fail to appreciate that, to disempower radical Islam, something theocentric and spiritually satisfying — not secularism, democracy, capitalism, materialism, feminism, etc. — must be offered in its place. The truths of one religion can only be challenged and supplanted by the truths of another. And so Father Zakaria Botros has been fighting fire with fire.
Raymond Ibrahim's summary omits one key factor in Botros' success. It is factor hardest for the West to reproduce. Western intellectuals can also use the "new media"; learn to speak in Arabic; even learn Koranic theology. They potentially have everything but the one thing that Botros spontaneously possesses in spades. Faith.
Botros believes he has found the true religion and is eager to tell Muslims about it. Thus he offers them not only a critique of the absurdities of Islam but an invitation to embrace an alternative. He tells them not only what to turn away from but what to turn to. It is this last obstacle which the modern intellectual stumbles over. The modern intellectual can say nothing about what a man should fight or die for. Two generations ago, even non-religious people in the West still had a country, culture or tribe they could feel loyal too. Albert Camus could declare quite seriously that "the French language is my homeland". Although he loved disembodied ideas they never lifted him above loyalty. Explaining why he opposed terrorism Camus said, "I must also denounce a terrorism which is exercised blindly, in the streets of Algiers for example, and which one day could strike my mother or my family. I believe in justice, but I shall defend my mother before justice."
Today it is quite conceivable for someone who declares his affection for the English language in America to be accused of "hate speech"; and for a man who compares his grandmother to a ranting demogogue to be likened to Abrham Lincoln. In malls all over the Western world the boomer generation gets teary-eyed over the appeal to believe in nothing.
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
And while those sentiments are all very well they prevent Western intellectuals from taking the last step which Zakarai Botros is capable of. Challenging Islam's roots requires the challenger to have an irrational loyalty to roots of his own. Faith is a special kind of information that arises from providing answers to questions that are undecidable within our formal logical system; that lie beneath the foundations of our civilization rather than in a development of its precepts. It lies within our choice of axioms rather than the theorems that arise from them. And because axioms cannot be proved, "our way of life" will always rest on prejudice -- or if you will -- faith. Like Camus, we can never rise completely above all our attachments and still retain our capacity to act.
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