Some Catholics have looked to fundamentalist Muslims as allies in their culture wars. They need to take a hard second look at who they are actually allying themselves with.
The toxic fallout from the sexual revolution is difficult to ignore. It turns out that “sex without consequences” really does have consequences; in the case of our society, they include single mothers struggling to raise families, generations of fatherless children, and blighted inner cities that resemble war zones.
It’s not surprising that in their desire to restore the moral order that was lost in the sexual revolution, Catholics should look for like-minded allies. Unfortunately, some Catholics are looking in all the wrong places – or, at least, in one wrong place. I’m referring to the belief held by some conservative Catholics that Islam can prove to be a reliable ally in the culture wars.
On the face of it, Catholics and Muslims share similar values about modesty and chastity and share a similar opposition to adultery, pornography, and homosexual behavior. Moreover, Catholics and Muslims have worked together in the past to oppose the imposition of secular agendas – most notably at the World Population Conference in Cairo in 1994.
Nevertheless, despite the surface similarities, there is a vast difference between Catholic sexual morality and Islamic sexual morality – differences that should make Catholics hesitant about aligning themselves with the more enthusiastic followers of the Prophet. One of the main differences is that while Catholic morality is voluntary, Islamic morality is not. For example, Muslim women who don’t observe the rules of chastity risk beatings, lashings, imprisonment, and death – including death at the hands of their own relatives.
In looking for allies to fight alongside them in the culture wars, some Catholics tend to overlook these differences. Worse still, by assuming the existence of a shared system of values, they risk misreading Islam entirely. And in these risky times, that is a big risk to take.
Take the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It is the model for all the disastrous “Arab Spring” revolutions of the past few years – revolutions that have resulted in increased instability in the Middle East and North Africa and increased persecution of Christians. Considering the centrality of the Iranian Revolution in recent history, it’s imperative to understand just what it was all about. Yet some Catholics seem to view the event through rose-colored glasses.
E. Michael Jones, the editor of Culture Wars (formerly Fidelity Magazine), has written extensively and sometimes quite perceptively over the years about the damage wrought by the sexual revolution. In recent years, however, his culture war battles have led him to forge some strange alliances – most notably and most recently with the government of Iran. This is significant because Jones has a large following in some traditionalist Catholic circles, many of which are already predisposed to believe that Catholics and Muslims are in the same moral camp.
Jones’s take on the Iranian Revolution is that it was essentially a good thing. In his latest book, Culture Jihad in Tehran, he goes so far as to say that “Iran is the leader of the free world,” by which he means free of the sexual revolution and its aftermath. When visiting Iran in 2013 to speak at a conference on “Hollywoodism,” Jones was asked by a reporter what struck him most about Iranian society. “Desexualization” was Jones’ answer: “The Iranians have desexualized the culture after Khomeini’s revolution. They have removed sex from the public sphere and put it back into the private sphere where it belongs.”
According to Jones, Iran had been sexualized as a result of the import of debased Hollywood values during the rule of the Shah. By Jones’ account, Khomeini’s revolution was, in essence, a counter-sexual revolution meant to restore moral order to the people of Iran. It was, he maintains, the revolution that should have been undertaken by Catholics in the West: “The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was the counter-revolution against modernity which should have been launched by Vatican II.”
Through its revolution, says Jones, Iran was able to avoid the fate of western Catholics, that is, “the destruction of a culture based on the family” and its replacement by “a culture of anomic, sexually frenzied individuals.”
It’s quite true, of course, that the Iranian Revolution had something to do with a rejection of Western moral decadence. This is a theme that can be found in the writings of the Ayatollah Khomeini, as well as in the pronouncements of Osama bin Laden. It’s also an important theme in the writings of Sayyid Qutb, the leading Islamic theorist of the 20th century.