I came across an article the other day which, in the light of the London bombings and other acts of Muslim terrorism in Western Europe, gave me cause to reflect afresh on the growing population of Muslims here in New Zealand.
I offer no opinion on what follows; I record it merely for those who have an interest in such matters, and because there seems to be a dearth of this sort of analytical writing down this end of the world.
Dr Sookhdeo says that at a political level, European countries were responding in different ways to the challenge of Islam.
France was determinedly protecting its secularism and had banned the hijab in school.
The Netherlands had lately swung from one extreme to the other, following the ritualised killing of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh by a young Muslim in November last year. The Dutch were turning against multiculturalism and becoming concerned to control immigration.
Britain seemed to be trying to replicate the segregation and communalism of the British Raj in India, whereby the various religious communities were each given their own laws, a policy that would certainly mesh well with some Muslim leaders' plans for Britain.
Muslims, even with an estimated 20 million living in the European Union, were still a minority in numerical terms, writes Dr Sookhdeo. No country apart from Albania had a Muslim community amounting to more than about 10 per cent of the population.
However, demographic studies indicated that Muslim populations were growing far faster than the non-Muslim populations, partly through continued immigration and conversion, but mainly because of the larger number of children that Muslim families typically had.
Now, the problem that I have is not over the truth of writings such as Dr Sookhdeo, or GG himself, or even of Islam.
The difficulty that I have is over the paranoia.
Surely if Christianity is so much better than Islam, there will be no problem. Start preaching the true Christianity, start living the true Christianity, show what can be achieved for the world through the application of true Christian principles and if your religion is stronger then your god should prevail.
It is not a war that is fought with bombs and missiles (of any kind). That will never, as Iraq will show, "win the hearts and minds".
It is not the kind of war that will ever, as Islam will find out in Europe and elsewhere, be won by the application of religious belief through democratic political structures.
The warning that GG should be spreading, the warning that we should ALL heed is this -
Religion and governance are immiscible fluids.
That was proven in Europe 600 years ago and since.
It is the one reason for the modern cultural differences between Europe and Christian culture generally and Islam.
The power of the Church was removed from national governance in all of the European nations through events such as the French Revolution. Henry VIII intentionally weakened the power of the church in England by creating the English Church. In Germany and the Low Countries it was Luther who attained the same objective. In Spain it was not until the 20th Century that the final bonds between Church and State were finally broken by Franco. The replacement of religious belief by the "worship of the State" has been proven to not work with the collapse of the Eastern European communist regimes.
Looking at the other side of the argument, nations where religion is part of governance the tendancy is toward totalitarian government. The obvious examples of the moment are the extreme Islamic nations - Afghanistan under the Taliban, less so Pakistan though they have their "moments", even Indonesia. Less obvious are the "Christian" totalitarian states; Phillipines under Marcos, Mexico, even Ireland (I know that scratches the barrel bottom but remember the ban on the "pill"?). And, to follow the previous paragraph, the "worship of the State" group would still number China and Cuba amonst their ranks.
Come to think of it, should China ever become a "fundamental Islamic nation" then would be time to get worried...