Iben Thranholm , Theologian and Journalist, Talks to Anne Keeling About Islam
Part 1 of a 2 Part Interview with Anne Keeling.
The biggest problem: lack of faith
Iben Thanholm is generous with her time and in sharing her knowledge with Catholic Voice readers on a topic that exercises many in Europe today and on which she holds unique ideas, that of the Islamisation of Europe. She is currently writing a book on this subject, to be published in Danish and English, which will highlight the spiritual causes of the expansion of Islam across the continent and which will suggest solutions to this based on her studies and observations.
“The biggest problem,” she explains, “is that it’s our lack of faith that has caused this, or the abandonment of faith. That’s one of the major reasons why it has come to this. And nobody is aware of it and politicians don’t have a clue. And the Church has become, at least here in Western Europe, very politically correct. Many churches are very politically correct and don’t have the stamina or the strength to stand up against the spirituality in Islam and this is the big thing. Most of our politicians see it as a kind of a political ideology but it’s not. It’s a religion that has a political expression. The roots of it have to do with religion and they have no idea how to handle that.”
She points out that there are limitations to the political view when it comes to tackling the growing Islamic threat to European stability.
“Here in Denmark,” she says, “we have a lot of politicians who try to go up against Islamism and are trying to stop it by some kind of legislation. They want to forbid things, they want to tighten the law, but, yes, we can make it more difficult to practise Islam but I mean those ideas, this faith, doesn’t stop at the border. It doesn’t seek asylum, it’s online, it’s everywhere. They recruit people.
Islam offers a structure
“And you even see now Western people converting to Islam by their own free will. Because people lack structure, a kind of framework, so, what Islam offers is structure. It means that you have a law, you have some regulations for everything in life and it even offers you some transcendence, something transcendent. It means that you have a higher purpose in life because there is a God.
“In many ways the Islamic faith is very simple, compared to Christianity, where you have to use your reason, you have to use faith and reason. You have to sort out things yourself. You know what the Word of God is, you know the Commandments, but it gives you a responsibility. In Islam there’s a rule for everything. You just have to follow the rules.”
She warns of the real popularity of Islam among some Westerners who are affected by “a complete disintegration of our values and our moral foundation” and who are even attracted by the more defined role-types among men and women in Islam. The men in Islam are like “warriors” in comparison to Western men who “have just no masculinity left because of feminism which has completely destroyed it” and, while Western right-wing values have faded from upholding the family as they used to do, “now Islam is representing what used to be the right-wing ideology and I think a lot of people are actually attracted to that because this is the way the Christian society should have been but it’s not anymore, it’s completely destroyed.”
The consequences of this are dire
The consequences of this disintegration are dire, as Thranholm elaborates:
“I think, if we don’t see a Christian revival, Europe will become Islam. Sooner or later. Or, we could say that Islam will be the most dominant religion here. Because it gets absolutely no competition from the Christian church. This is one of the things I would like to encourage the churches to do with my book, is to wake up and be in competition with Islam about souls.
“Because Islam is really expanding and it is the fastest growing religion in Europe. I mean it is worldwide but it is certainly in Europe and since it really has no competition, honestly, there is no competition from the Christian church, from the Jews, from nobody, it means that they can easily expand, because they are not contradicted on a spiritual level, on a religious level. Nobody contradicts them. You have all Europe’s politicians saying ‘well, of course, Islam is a very anti-democratic political ideology, and we have to take care of that, but it’s a peaceful religion and the spirituality in itself is completely fine, we just don’t want to have those political expressions.’
Church has to confront Islam
“But that’s wrong. That’s only to try to heal the symptoms, not the real disease. So the Church has to confront Islam, with love, I would say, and say, well, we care about you, so we think you need to understand you’re wrong, you’re completely mistaken about who God is, and then we will show you something that is much better. But, because we don’t do that, I mean, they have no alternative. There is no alternative.
“If you are a Muslim, and you are having some kind of doubts about your faith, where is the Christian church, to welcome you and talk to you about your faith? Instead you see all the church leaders having a dialogue with those imams from the Middle East, which the Muslims know are extremists. So they say, ok, if the Christian church is in a dialogue with those people I really don’t have any respect for them, because they don’t even try to contradict them and say, well, you’re wrong, you’re dead wrong about this God. It’s really tragic.”
Bishops need to be more proactive
Thranholm believes the hierarchy need to be more proactive:
“We should have bishops, we should even have the Vatican, saying, we don’t condemn you but we just want to stress you’re wrong, you’re wrong about who God is. This is our duty to say as Christians and we can show you a better example. I mean, I think a lot of Muslims who feel depressed and really don’t feel comfortable with their faith, they could find a hope that there could be a different religion that was better.”
The reality that there are many Muslims converting to Christianity in Middle Eastern countries is something Thranholm is very familiar with:
“Just last Sunday I was at a Christian church for immigrants, mainly people from Iran, that have converted to Christianity from Islam…. they called me and I have been doing some studies and some research on that. There is an explosion of Muslims who are converting to Christianity in Iran, Afghanistan, in Syria, everywhere in the Middle East, where it’s very dangerous and they’re very, very interested in Christianity in those areas, because they see how Islam is failing. So they really want to know more about Christianity and, also, they see all the aid organisations in the areas where there are all those terrible fights and wars and they see how Christians care for people who do not share their faith and this makes a huge impact on them.”
Thranholm says this kind of Christian love is having an effect on Muslims who, according to the Koran, should have nothing to do with non-Muslims, or even kill them, and it is leading Muslims there to visit churches and many of them convert.
“But,” says Thranholm, “in Europe it is exactly the opposite. Here they spread the Islamic belief system and people are starting to convert to Islam so those people in the immigrant church said to me, ‘Well, in a few years, we will have to move back to be in a Christian culture, because now this place where we came to, in the hope of escaping Islam, is now becoming Islamic and our own home countries are turning Christian! …. We can’t stay here with this development, we have to go back, because we see that something is growing in our own countries which is in favour of Christianity.’
“I don’t think God has given up on Europe…”
Once again, Thranholm reiterates our responsibility for this strange cultural exchange in Europe.
“I don’t think God has given up on Europe because He never gives up on anybody. He hopes until the last moment that we will change our ways. But I think this is a fatal consequence of our own apostasy and sometimes God has to make us learn it the hard way. And I think people will wake up but, unfortunately, when it’s too late.
“And that’s why I write in my book there are two options for Europe: either it becomes Islamic, or it becomes Christian again. Because there is no third way, there is no secular way. It’s just a very small period [of time] since we have this kind of idea that we can have a society without any kind of God or religious foundation. It had never been tried before in human civilisation and we have tried it and it didn’t work out. So everything that Europe was, and we can only thank Christianity for, could be gone within a few years.
“But that’s our own fault, because we had this kind of cultural pride that we can exist without any kind of reference or relation to Christianity. We can’t. And if we don’t understand this message that God is trying to give us now we will become Islamic and then we will be invaded by those barbarians and we will be slaughtered. And this is what’s already happening.”
Unfortunately, this is true.
Persecution and martyrdom of Christians
“In the meantime,” Thranholm goes on, “it seems that He is doing a lot of work in those Islamic countries because many Muslims, what they tell about their conversion, the starting point for the conversion is that Jesus appears to them. So they have a vision of Him. They see Him in a dream or He appears to them somehow in a kind of vision. And they have no doubt that He is the Son of God, He is not just a prophet. Then they convert.
“Last Sunday, when I visited those people from Iran, there were two people who had had those kinds of experiences. And it’s well known that this is the way that He’s converting them. So He’s taking care of it Himself. It’s quite miraculous, but of course you don’t hear about this in the mainstream media.”
Thranholm then reflects on the widespread persecution of Christians, which has led to martyrdom for many:
“It seems that the Christian church is really growing where there is persecution and martyrdom, and this is what is happening in the Middle East. It’s actually because there has been so much martyrdom and so many witnesses for the faith. It seems like it was in Rome, in the first days, it was exactly the same. And it’s a strange, mysterious thing we don’t even understand but we can see that this is the way it works.
“And I guess Europe has been so complacent for so many years in our welfare state, so we’re not prepared for that. Everything here has been just some kind of cultural Christianity, no real passion. Or people have not been so devout in that sense. Maybe we have to be brought back. I don’t know.”
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.