Archives – Commentary | Nov. 16, 2006
It is often said that Israel is the canary in the coal mine: Whatever
happens to it will soon enough be the fate of Europe, America and Canada. According to this view,
Muslim neighbors finish with it, they will turn their attention to bigger
conquests. But this scenario assumes that Islamic expansion will occur mostly
through war and terror. What if Muslim hegemony expands mainly through
In that case, a better candidate
for lead canary might be England.
Or, if you prefer a different bird, think of it this way: When the nightingale
in Berkeley Square
starts singing a different tune, the rest of the world had better take notice.
These thoughts occurred to me
after reviewing reports of the peculiar behavior of Prince Charles in recent
years. You see, the heir to the British throne has become England’s chief
Islamophile. It’s not just that the Prince is the
patron of the Centre for Islamic Studies. It’s not just that he’s installed an
elaborate Islamic garden at his Highgrove residence.
And it’s not just that he has appeared on several occasions wearing turbans and
bedouin robes. All that could be passed off as typical
of the English elites’ long-standing romance with Araby.
But actions speak louder than wardrobes, and the Prince’s actions and words
over the years indicate that this may be more than a passing Lawrence-of-Arabia phase.
Take, for instance, his role in the
construction of the Finsbury
Park mosque in North
London. According to Melanie Phillips in her book Londonistan, the
mosque “owed its existence to the Prince of Wales, who persuaded King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to donate well over £1.3 million to
construct (the building)…” It was not the Prince’s fault that the mosque was
subsequently hijacked by radicals and turned into the headquarters for jihad in
but the ironic turn of events surely has symbolic significance.
The Prince’s public utterances on
the subject of Islam are also revealing. In a 1993 speech at Oxford, Prince Charles praised Islam as a
religion of peace, and noted that Sharia law was
mischaracterized as cruel and unjust. “My own understanding,” he said, “is that
extremes, like the cutting off of hands, are rarely practiced.” Christianity
doesn’t fare as well. He goes on to say, “Islam can teach us a way of
understanding and living in the world which Christianity itself is poorer for
In a 1996 speech on Islamic pedagogy
the Prince contrasted Islam’s “integrated spiritual view of the world” with the
West’s inability to achieve the same, and opined that “we need to be taught by
Islamic teachers how to learn with our hearts as well as our heads.” In a
similar vein, addressing a group of Muslims at a Ramadan celebration at St. James
Palace in 2001, the Prince praised “the
greater sensitivity and imagination” offered by Muslim youth because, lacking
that, “we will become so much more dry and sterile.”
For those who like to believe that
there will always be an England,
the Prince’s words cannot be very encouraging.
futuristic novel, Prayers for the
Assassin, pictures an America
that has by-and-large converted to Islam. Significantly, the elites — in our
case, the sports heroes and movie stars — are the first to convert, and the
rest follow along. The Prince of Wales is not exactly a sports star (although
he is handy with a polo mallet), but he is certainly an elite. Royals, of
course, don’t set the political agenda anymore, but they are still influential
in setting the social tone.
Charles is, in a sense, a
celebrity, and celebrities are celebrated, among other reasons, for doing
what’s fashionable. And in England Islam is fast becoming fashionable. The Earl
of Yarborough is a convert; so is Emma Clark, the designer of Prince Charles’
garden, and the great-granddaughter of a British Prime Minister. Cat Stevens
(now Yusuf Islam) is a well-known convert, and counts
the Prince of Wales among his admirers. Prominent soccer players have
converted, and “trophy lists” of converts have sprung up on English Islamic
websites. “We’re all the rage,” said Emma Clark. “I hope it’s not a passing
fashion.” Not since Rudolph Valentino played a desert prince in the movies have
sheiks been so chic.
Rumors abound that Charles has
already secretly converted, or that he plans to do so. Whether or not there’s
any truth to that, it seems that a line has already been crossed. Prince
Charles has made it known that when he becomes King he would like to be known
as “Defender of Faith,” not “Defender of the Faith” — one of the traditional
titles conferred on the English monarch. The faith that he’s supposed to
defend, of course, is the Christian faith.
Another title conferred on the
British monarch is “Head of the Church of England.” Yes, the Archbishop of
Canterbury is the acting head of the church, but he is nominated for his
position by the Crown. It’s not likely that we’ll see an “Ayatollah of
Canterbury” in the near future, but the heir to the throne seems to be
signaling that he thinks Christianity doesn’t have much of a future in England. And if
he, the Defender of the Faith, thinks that way, what is the average Christian
supposed to think?
Although the majority of English
regard themselves as Christians, the faith — if judged by church attendance —
is not widely practiced. There are more Muslims attending mosque each week in England than
there are Anglicans attending Church of England services. England is, in many senses, a post-Christian
society, and Muslims are merely expanding into the spiritual vacuum that has
resulted from England’s
turn to secularism.
From one perspective Charles could
be looked upon as a far-seeing sage who recognizes that a nation needs
spiritual sustenance, and who judges that the Church of England isn’t doing the
job. In that view he’s paving the way for a peaceful transition to a more
From another perspective he is
helping to deliver his countrymen into the hands of puritan zealots who will
make Oliver Cromwell seem benign by comparison. Melanie Phillips is of the
second opinion. She writes: “At a time when Britain’s fundamental values are
under attack, its future monarch is preparing to abandon them with an explicit
aim of replacing them by the ‘spiritually superior’ forces of Islam.”
Elizabeth steps down or passes on, England may witness a royal shake
up (or is that “sheik up”) such as it hasn’t seen since the days when an
earlier Charles lost his head over another difference of religion.
William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from
Wrong, and other books.