Iben Thranholm , Theologian and Journalist, Talks to Anne Keeling About Islam
Part 2 of a 2 Part Interview with Anne Keeling.
“Islam – The Real Threat to Christian Europe?”
During the ‘Conference of Catholic Families’ hosted by the Lumen Fidei Institute in August, Mr Márton Gyöngyösi, a Hungarian politician, gave a talk called “Islam – the Real Threat to Christian Europe?” which Iben Thranholm has seen and describes as “completely spot on”.
“He was really interesting,” she says, “really has understood a lot of things that are going on and it’s so important now to encourage the Christian communities that are left now in Europe to understand these because, even though we might not be that many, I still believe that the few can make a change, like it has always been in our Christian history.
Not Just A Legal Matter.
“So these days, I think it’s important to say, I’m not against tightening of the law and every country should be very careful who they let in, it’s completely all right, but the politicians are doing two things wrong. The first thing is that they think that alone, that tightening the law alone, can do it. It cannot. That’s Number One.
“And also I see more and more people are becoming very hateful. Not that I am trying to say that whenever you criticise Islam you’re just a hater or you’re a racist, that’s not what I’m saying, but, I don’t think that going against them only with criticism will make any kind of change, on the contrary, they will be even more devout in their own faith. So I think it’s more a Christian love and a sort of criticism that comes from love, not from being against them, that will make them change their mind.”
Thranholm believes that everyone can somehow respond in a loving way to Muslims in ordinary life, talking to them about ordinary things in a social setting. “But,” she continues, “I also think it’s very important, as a church community, to reach out, to the newcomers. I mean, people who are just arrived in the country.” She recalls reading a book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian immigrant to Holland (now living in the US), who spoke of how a Christian community welcomed her and other immigrants and this group integrated much better as a result, compared to other groups where extremist thinking subsequently became more prevalent.
An Alert Christian Community Seeks To Help.
“It really made me think,” Thranholm says, “how we should be much more alert as a Christian community…. can we do something for those people? Because even though they have the Islamic faith which we are against they are also human beings who come from a very tumultuous background…. So I think if they get a feeling that there are Christian people with a sound morality and they see that they have a faith in God I think it will make a huge impact on them, to see that the church will take care of them, in a way that the State cannot.
“So I think it’s about being human in the beginning and I would suggest, if I were a politician, I would say we need to have priests in the asylum centres. We need to go and visit those people in the asylum centres. We need to talk with them about God. If they want. You cannot impose this kind of conversation but since they are very religious it would be normal for them to speak about their religious beliefs.
“And also tell them that now you have come to a Christian country we would like to inform you about what the Christian faith is. And then of course the Christian communities should do a lot of prayers for those people. I think prayer is number one.”
Thranholm points out that this type of role could give the Church a prominence it no longer has.
The Church can do Something that the State cannot.
“We can do something that the State cannot,” she argues, “so we will make those people integrate much better and give them a notion or an understanding of what Christianity is. Because they won’t meet any teacher in school who will tell them, because they’re all liberals. I mean, forget about that.
“I think that the Christian communities have an enormous task to help with integration and, not to have this kind of superficial, politically correct idea about how to welcome foreigners and just don’t care about what they believe in but, you know, we can ask them some critical questions about their faith when we start to get to know them, in a loving way. It doesn’t have to be full of criticism and that we think they’re doing something wrong but you can say well, have you considered this?”
The Experiences of Former Muslims.
Thranholm has spoken in depth with former Muslims, which has influenced her opinions.
“One of those Iranians (ex-Muslim converts) I met last Sunday,” she explains, “said to me, ‘you have to think about Muslims as orphans’. It means their faith in God, this Islamic belief system, is like being in an orphanage. It means that the grown-ups, that the leaders in this place, are not your parents. Of course, they want to do good to you, but you can never get the same kind of love from those teachers or those leaders or employees at this institution for orphans, even though they take care of you, you can never get the same love as you can from your own parents, it’s not possible. So the Christian faith is being with your parents and being a Muslim is like being in an orphanage. .
“So it means that you need this love. And the Muslims don’t know this kind of love that you can experience coming from God and you also can feel yourself towards God. It doesn’t exist, because it’s all based on fear, on rules, and you are never certain that you are good enough for Heaven. You just don’t know, in the end maybe God says ‘No, you didn’t do well enough so I can’t have anything to do with you.’
“So they always live in this kind of uncertainty because they don’t have the privilege of being the Child of God, they simply don’t have that privilege…. I’ve been talking to so many converts and they all independently stress that – you’re never sure, you’re never sure that God will not send you away. So you are so eager all the time to follow all the rules and do it the right way because maybe it’s not good enough! They all say that.
“I think by showing them this kind of love it will eventually speak to their hearts. And, I think speaking to the heart is probably more important when it comes to Muslims than their mind, because according to these ex-Muslims I’ve been interviewing, they all say that this love you find in Christianity is such a relief for them because they don’t know that.”
The Solution is a Revival of Christianity.
Thranholm is under no illusions that Islam is a benign belief system. Referring to its foundations on the Arian heresy she says it is “built on a lie” and is “a false prophecy”:
“It is actually an anti-Christian religion and it says a lot about our time that this kind of faith is spreading everywhere. Because we also see a lot of persecution of Christians everywhere around the world so we’re living in a very evil time where there are dark evil forces that are really trying to push Christianity back.
“The only medicine for that is a revival of the Christian faith, there is no political ideology that can counteract it. It’s simply about spiritual forces. It is a fight between Christ and anti-Christ. So politicians can do very little. They can set up some kind of limits when it comes to the border. But globally speaking, about this enormous spiritual battle, these politicians can do nothing. That’s why the Christian churches have the right, I would say, weapon to fight this evil, which is of course love.
“Because what is the main theme in the Islamic faith? It is hatred. It is fear. Whereas in Christianity it’s love and you even have love for your enemies, which is exactly what Islam cannot have. They would say ‘kill your enemies’ where in Christianity we would say ‘you have to pray for your enemies, you have to love them’. And this is where we are above human nature, this is really trans-human in a way, this is not the normal human mind-set, whereas in Islam they actually follow the human nature because it’s very normal for sinful people to say ‘of course I should kill my enemies’. It’s not divine. It’s very human…. whereas in Christianity the way Christ judges and the way He sees justice it is something that is very divine because He is able to forgive and He’s able to pray for His enemies. And we believe as Christians that this is what saves the world.”
Thranholm’s is an ethos of faith, hope and love. She challenges us to live up to our Christian duty.
The Role of Women.
“Women especially have a duty,” she maintains, “because if you look into Islam it’s very much the women who are the spirit, because they wear their hijabs, and they are the ones that give Islam identity in the West…. And Western women are suffering the most because we have all these rapes…. When you want to understand how a society is functioning you have to look at how they treat women and no religion ever treated women so well as Christianity.
“And the main figure is actually Our Lady so that means that the woman has been exalted in Christianity like never before in history. Secularism has taken this away because now the women have no defence against this aggressive maleness coming with Islam. It means they will be subject to a new kind of society where women do not have the role that Christianity gave them. And you also see these Western women who are converting to Islam and if you go to the Middle East you see a lot of women there converting from Islam to Christianity.
“If you go to any retreat, any church, most of the people would be women so I think, to bring about this spiritual renewal, this Christian revival that is needed to fill in this spiritual void that is actually nurturing Islam, you need women to be the promoters of this spiritual renewal because if you go to the ancient times, during the Roman Empire, it was also the women who spread Christianity, in the household and everywhere. The first person to see Christ resurrected was a woman. So the women have always been extremely important for building Christian cultures.”
Thranholm says lightly, “If the women would start to revive the Christian faith the men would follow them. It has always been like that! And I think if you look into what European culture is you’ll find an image of Our Lady everywhere. She is everywhere. And she has even been very important for all the battles we have had.”
She expands on her idea about women reviving the Church:
“Maybe [it is] even the elderly women in the Church – there are a lot of them – the grannies that could re-educate the next generation. Because if you look to the Soviet Union it was the babushkas who did the same thing, it was the grandmothers. So you need to speak to this enormous resource that is still within Christian communities, to try to stop the wave coming from Islam, which is anti-Christian culture. So I think it’s very important to activate the women actually, to say, ‘Well, you have a duty here and, if you go forward, the men will follow.’”
Christianity Exalts the Role of Woman.
Ms Thranholm is not convinced that women were historically oppressed, believing that to be a Marxist notion:
“Men in the Western culture always respected women…. and so this idea that women were so oppressed by men I think it’s actually not true, I think a lot of it is false. It’s something that has been created by Marxism because the women were really elevated to a higher status than ever before with Christianity, everywhere.”
Even among the Vikings, she points out, the women persuaded the men to become Christian, because, as she states:
“It was much better for women. They had a much better status in their society and also in the house, in the home, if they became Christians. It was a better way for them to be women. So that’s why they wanted to become Christians and whenever a woman in the house would become Christian the whole house would become Christian.”
Christianity is the antidote to Islam.
Ms Thranholm’s premise, that only a Christian spiritual revival can save Europe from domination by Islam, has been persuasively put forward. As she says, the message of Christianity “is the antidote to what they are preaching or claiming.”
Once again she says:
“I think there are only two options for Europe….. either Christian or Islamic, there is no third way. And I think we have to make up our minds now. And that’s why I think all these women in the Church, who are a little bit flustered about this decline in our Christian culture, they can suddenly become the most important resource and maybe even young women will start to join them and small girls in school. It’s not about being negative, it’s about promoting good and starting to get organised as well and trying to understand what a tremendous task it is.
“I mean God always loves the impossible. The culture has always been saved by the few. We’ve seen that throughout the Bible, it will be the few that will save the majority. I really do have a certain sense that God will act somehow and of course Islam cannot have the last word, that’s impossible.
“But it will be a struggle. It will be a struggle. And we need to join in.”
Iben Thranholm is currently writing a book on Islam and Europe which will be published in Danish and English.
Iben Thranholm is on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter: @IThranholm
Iben Thranholm examines political and social events with a focus on their religious aspects, significance and moral implications. She is one of Denmark’s most widely-read columnists on such matters. Thranholm is a former editor and radio host at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), at which she created a religious news programme that set a new standard for religious analysis in the newsroom. She has travelled extensively in the Middle East, Italy, the United States and Russia to carry out research and interviews. She has been awarded for her investigative research into Danish media coverage of religious issues. A convert to Catholicism since 2003 she holds a Master’s Degree in Theology from the University of Copenhagen and is mother to her 19 year-old son.