Just in time for Christmas came the news, as encouraging as it was unexpected, that the Prince of Wales has spoken out on behalf of “our brothers and sisters in Christ,” the victims of “organized persecution across the Middle East.” [“Christianity beginning ‘to disappear’ in its birthplace, warns Prince of Wales,” www.telegraph.co.uk, December 12, 2013; “Prince Charles Speaks Up for Persecuted Christians,” www.frontpagemag.com, December 20, 2013.] In what the Religious Affairs Editor of the Telegraph characterizes as “an impassioned intervention,” Charles now warns the world that it is in danger of losing something “irreplaceably precious with communities tracing their history back to the time of Jesus now under threat from fundamentalist Islamist militants.” Best of all is the fact that major news papers have featured this story on their front pages, thus giving pride of place to a theme (Muslim persecution of Christian communities throughout the Middle East) that their editors have virtually buried up until now.
Charles describes the worsening situation of Christians in the Arab world calmly but accurately:
It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants…. For 20 years now I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. The point though surely is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being destroyed by those with vested interest in doing so. This is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organized persecution including upon Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.
The Public Reputation (So Far) of the Heir to the Throne
For some decades now the prospect of Charles’ succession to the Throne has, to put it kindly, turned off most people here in Canada and generally around the world. Serious students of British History in our time recall the near-disaster that receives a single paragraph in the History books as the Reign of Edward VIII (January to December, 1936.) Narcissistic and adamant against instruction about his duties, Edward, Prince of Wales, had become obsessed with a dim-bulb American divorcee whom he was determined to marry, at the cost of abandoning the throne.
Edward’s abdication turned out to be the best thing that had happened in centuries to the monarchy! Had Edward continued on the throne he would almost certainly have become a channel through which Hitler would have made Britain an accomplice in his work of destruction of civilization. There followed two monarchs (George VI, 1936-1952, and Elizabeth II, 1952 to present) who had been studiously educated to full appreciation of the best British values and the best values of our civilization (but then, I repeat myself.) Precisely because the accomplishments of these two monarchs, and of their consorts, have been so great, many fear that the law of averages, if nothing else, will deny us a third succession of equal distinction.
The popular verdict on Charles, right from the beginning, has been on the negative side. He did not measure up to the Royal Family’s reputation for marital fidelity. More seriously, he has always seemed too susceptible to the moral mood-swings of degraded popular culture. The late Christopher Hitchens spotted Charles long ago as a case of “empty sails… so rigged as to be swelled by any passing waft or breeze of crankiness and cant…. The heir to the throne seems to possess the ability to surround himself … with every moonfaced spoon-bender, shrub flattener and water diviner. ” In short, an English upper class twit of the sort beloved by readers of the novels of P.G. Wodehouse.
Of course, this is unfair; but even if the least part of it is true the institution could no doubt survive a few years. But as the years have gone by Charles’s enthusiasms for the causes that seduce entertainment celebrities and their fans gave way to something more dangerous – an actual degree of commitment to religious faith. It was not however the Constitutionally-prescribed faith, embodied in the Church of England, that engaged his loyalty. As has happened with so many academic-intellectuals and especially (for some reason) Professors of Philosophy in Britain and in Europe, dalliance with hyper- ecumenicism became a slippery-slope towards the certainties of ISLAM! In a television interview in 1994 Charles professed his conscientious objection to taking the pledge that has gone with the office since the days of Henry VIII – “Defender of the Faith”. Instead, he looked forward to becoming “Defender of FAITH.”
A Serious Dalliance with Islam
Daniel Pipes, editor of the Middle East Forum, working in part from research done by Ronni L. Gordon and David M. Stillman, has worked out a check list of steps by which, beginning in 1993 with his address on Islam at Oxford, Charles edged steadily towards profession of admiration, suggestive, some said, of an inclination to conversion, towards Islam. [Daniel Pipes, “Is Prince Charles a Convert to Islam?” www.danielpipes.org/blog, November, 2003 (updated September, 2013); Ronni L. Gordon and David M. Stillman, “Prince Charles of Arabia,” www.danielpipes.org/blog, September, 1997.] Charles’ Lawrence-of-Arabia-style gush about the natural mysticism and exceptional benevolence that beats in every Arab heart has caused the British government embarrassment – as when he spoke up during the Danish cartoon controversy of 2006, to the effect that “the recent ghastly strife and anger over the Danish cartoons shows the danger that comes of our failure to listen to and respect what is precious and sacred to others.” This singular fixation on “our failure” taken together with Charles’ insistence on magnifying and prettifying the accomplishments of Islamic governments of the past and present, led him to the grotesque judgment that the abundance of desert waste throughout the Arab world stands as proof of the exceptional sensitivity of Muslims to environmental issues.
The inconvenient truth” [Charles proclaimed] is that we share this planet with the rest of creation for a very good reason – and that is that, we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around. Islam has always taught this and to ignore that lesson is to default on our contract with creation. In those instances where Islam chooses to reject Western materialism, this is not, in my view, a political affectation or the result of envy or a sense of inferiority. Quite the opposite…. Islamic culture in its traditional form has striven to preserve this integrated, spiritual view of the world in a way which we have not seen fit to do in recent generations in the West. [“‘Follow the Islamic way to save the world,’ Charges urges environmentalists,” www.dailymail.co.uk. June 10, 2010.]
Along the way, the Prince of Wales appointed a panel of “twelve wise men” to advise him on Islamic religion and culture, and he began to seek out invitations to speak and to lecture at Islamic events. It occurred to the team of Pipes, Gordon and Stillman that, “should Charles persist in his admiration of Islam and defamation of his own culture” his accession to the throne will indeed usher in “a different kind of monarchy.”
The Deconversion of the Prince of Wales
Perhaps a full and sufficient explanation of Prince Charles’ intervention in the cause of the persecuted Christians of the Middle East is that, as the Arab Spring unfolds, he has come to understand that more democracy is not the answer to what is wrong in the Arab world. Linked to that might be the revelation that we lack is not what Islam has on offer.
Every turn of the political wheel during this Arab Spring has increased the power of the Islamists and this has increased the vulnerability of all of Middle East’s ancient Christian communities. Now the Prince Charles has spoken out against the pending liquidation of the Christian communities in the Muslim world, and has done so with such rhetorical force and with such moral clarity as to make it very difficult in future for Western governments (with the government of Barack Obama leading) to go on minimizing the plight of Christian communities. Hopefully, Charles has given pause to editorialists and academic experts who have worked for decades to sociologize the facts behind the story of Arab politics—sedulously leveling the moral playing field by re-interpreting systematic and ruthless assaults by Muslim majorities (where Muslims are in the majority) and politically-chilling terrorist activity (where they are not a majority, such as in Kenya and the Central African Republic) so that brutal campaigns of extermination against Christians get framed as “sectarian conflicts” — as though Christian minorities were everywhere mindlessly initiating assaults upon Muslim majorities for the purpose of liquidating them.
In Charles’ intervention we hope to see the power that the British monarchy still has to focus the moral attention of the British nation and a good part of the world on matters that secular elites have generally insisted belong to them and to their judgment. At the same time, it seems to indicate – I repeat, seems to indicate – a dramatic change in the personal philosophy, and with that the public authority of the man whose succession to the throne seems almost inevitable.