We reported last week about the silencing of the writer Benno Barnard, whose lecture at the University of Antwerp was cancelled a few moments after it began, thanks to the loud intimidation of young Muslims who had gathered for the express purpose of preventing him from speaking.
Knack has published the lecture that Benno Barnard would have given in Antwerp, had he been allowed to proceed. Many thanks to our Flemish correspondent VH for translating the article and compiling this report:
Long live God, down with Allah
For [the Flemish magazine] Knack, Benno Barnard writes freely what he was not allowed and was unable to say on the pulpit of academic freedom. Read the essence of his speech, in which Barnard argues that the separation of church and state since the beginning was embedded in Christianity, in contrast to Islam.
Note from the author:
At the request of the editors I post here some excerpts from my aborted lecture for the “Vrijzinnige Dienst” of the University of Antwerp. The title is indeed a provocation — given that I was expecting to provoke an audience of middle-aged liberals. Meanwhile, to my mind, there is nothing in the following I have not already stated before, but repetition is the servant of the truth. Also, of course, of the lie, but you will have to look elsewhere for that, for example in De Morgen [left-wing Flemish newspaper].
Prologue (apologies to Shakespeare)
I warn you, dear audience — I have not come to praise liberalism, I have come to bury its fundamental mistake. That fallacy is that “religion” is the enemy of all intellectual independence and spiritual progression. And the premise of this fallacy is that you could interpret the legacy of Moses and Christ in a similar way to the legacy of the Prophet.
I want to demonstrate that this is dangerous nonsense, that liberalism is but precisely a logical product of the Jewish and Christian tradition; yes, that atheism also has biblical roots.
Let me first slightly position my own thinking and my own view of “religion”, so you understand who is addressing you. To begin with, I am an Anglican, just like my heroes W.H. Auden and T.S. Eliot. I belong to one of those slightly watered-down regional variants of Christianity; unlike the majority of my Christian-educated contemporaries, I have never found reason enough to distance myself from my church.
The Jewish roots of Christianity
As a connoisseur of the ancient Hebrew language and Hebrew literature, my father has raised me with the notion that Christianity in its core is a large sect of Judaism. In summary, that means the following.
– – – – – – – – –
The ancient Jews decided it is better to load a billy goat with all one’s sins than a human. The Lamb of God took on the role of that goat (the metaphor is somewhat in the atmosphere of a children’s farm), and in doing so allowed atheism penetrate the religion. A dead godliness! Isn’t that a paradox that twists your neck into a corkscrew? In that context, however, I dare to state that although my deeply atheist friends Wim van Rooy and Geert van Istendael have raised their children without a deity, they nevertheless did so in the best Christian manner.
The Christian roots of humanism and [classic] liberalism
If we wish to surrender our culture to Islam, we will first have to understand that Lucas Catherine is a liar and secondly, that we should take a different attitude towards our Judeo-Christian heritage than nowadays is the case. We will have to acknowledge that our humanist and modernist views, our liberal democratic tradition, and our ideas about human rights not only are not only superior to all existing alternatives, but also that they are products of that legacy. If you want to renounce Christian civilization on the basis of its ungodly acts in the past, you can also abolish the social democratic parties, using as an argument the practices of Stalinism.
Many veterans of 1968, haunted by memories of cruel priests and nuns, embrace what is to me an amazing pensée unique, as if they are connected to one single central brain that constantly emits evil pulses.
I have no understanding with God. Yet my children, just as I, are baptized Anglicans, and our house is in the border region between Judaism and Christianity. To begin with, I want my children to acquire as much knowledge as possible in that area, learn to read the little crosses on the mental map of Europe that is being imprinted in their brains. That is not so very self-evident. School education is largely a disaster. Five years ago, the multicultural kindergarten of my children — this was in Antwerp — banned any declaration of Christmas as being the birth of Jesus, but did celebrate the Sugar Feast [Eid al-Fitr, end of Ramadan], which we have nothing to do with. […]
Do we hear the thunder of the cavalry coming to the rescue? This I read in “La defaite de la pensée” by Alain Finkielkraut: “Enough playing: now that thinking, art, and everyday life have sunk into debauchery; we must again have them undergo the salutary sufferings of religious unrest; the hereafter must again become the continuous horizon and the ultimate goal of all human activities.”
Rite and ethics
What many God-renouncers do not understand is that religion is not a system of cognitive truths, but to begin with a liturgical, ritual praxis, which serves to prevent us from going insane in this universe — a place that already made Pascal so nervous. I do not at all believe in the virile cry that we should be happy with the futility of everything. I think death is a scandal. Or, to put it another way: the evolution-practice is our problem. And I think that in Christianity at least a there is a respectable attempt made to respond to that practice.
But there is more than the rites, which by themselves have a very calming effect on the neurosis-prone nervous system. There is also the evangelical ethic, which in short comes down to the idea that I must love Herman de Ley as much as I do myself. Everyone understands that this will not come lightly to me.
In an unprecedentedly cruel social system — that of the Roman empire — a small, quick-tempered man preached a difficult, almost impossible ethics, which I personally find to be of a much too annoying character. Two millennia later we have collectively become insensitive to the radical nature of such notions as forgiveness and being willing to sacrifice, precisely because Christian teaching has held that up to us for so long. We are like big children who are annoyed by the whining of their parents. It is as if we say they have left us a lot of old junk, of which we want a few paintings and gramophone records, but not the rest of the inheritance.
Separating Church and State in Christianity
The fall of Christianity is known to me. I do not need to have it here in the purple of the cardinal, which color stands for the blood shed by the Church. But the fact that Christianity tarnished and disavowed its own ethical criteria says nothing against those criteria. Moreover, our historical consciousness reacts to Christianity as to the news: it’s only worthwhile when it’s disastrous.
The English conservative philosopher Roger Scruton defends the thesis that the separation of church and state was from the outset was built into Christianity. The apostle Paul, who paired Roman citizenship to juridical knowledge, appealed to the right of the early church to be protected by the secular power of Rome — but it did not occur to him to be willing to replace the legal order. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s,” as Jesus said about paying taxes. Man in the Christian vision is — all still according to Scruton — both a servant of God and of a secular order. That this order after a long period of brilliance and horror has finally become democratic, we owe — according to him — to the Christian heritage. The Enlightenment is the product of the gospel; our ideas about human rights are translations of the Ten Commandments into the dialect of our time. We must not seek to install God’s kingdom on earth, but try to live together using mild and reasonable laws.
Primacy of religion in Islam
Political misery is mostly the result of bad intentions or good intentions. As soon as you found the Kingdom of God on earth, you discover you have imitated hell. Realistic intentions are more realistic. According to Scruton, and also according to me, the Judeo-Christian conception of social organization is fundamentally different than the Islamic one. The legal order in Islam purports — in all dominant beliefs of Islam — to be founded on the divine commandment, and the only logical Islamic form of state is the theocracy, with Sharia as the lawbook. Human rights? Equality of men and women? Tolerance of other beliefs? Weakness reflecting western superstition! Intolerable decadence! Fortunately, the vast majority of Muslims possess enough common sense to reject theocracy and Sharia.
Epilogue (to the deniers of Christianity)
The difference between God and Allah is that God does not need to exist. The death of God is not necessarily disastrous for Western civilization; though the decline of religion is, as I believe it: with her a world of stories and customs dies that connects us with our ancestors. My annoyance with the God-deniers is not that they deny God, but consider their enlightened status as a liberation from the Judeo-Christian history. In other words: I have no problem with God-deniers, but I do have a problem with Christianity-deniers.
And from vandaag.be:
Dewinter provided the bodyguards to Benno Barnard
During his lecture at the University of Antwerp the Dutch writer Benno Barnard was assisted by two personal bodyguards of Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter. This is what the regional TV channel ATV reported Monday.
The author himself went to Vlaams Belang to request advice for protection [Vlaams Belang politicians, like PVV politicians, are about the only ones needing protection in the Low Countries], for the Antwerp police refused to provide any. According to ATV the bodyguards were then made available through Tanguy Veys, Chairman of the Vlaams Belang fraction in the provincial council of East Flanders and a confidant of Filip Dewinter.
The lecture of Barnard, entitled “Long Live God, down with Allah”, was disturbed last Wednesday night by fanatical Muslims, as called for by the website “Sharia4Belgium”.
 Lucas Catherine [Lucas Vereertbrugghen] is a well-known left-wing Flemish writer, publicist and Israel-basher, who equated the Sharia4Belgium Muslims with Punks: “A group of marginal religious punks. Instead of flaming hair spikes and piercings they wear turbans and burqas,” and accused Barnard of demonizing Muslims. The Dutch writer and journalist Martin van Amerongen once quoted “De Groene Amsterdammer” in a short article on Lucas Catherine, saying: “How is it possible that people who consider themselves left-wing to lapse into such blatant anti-Semitism,” and added: “He is one of tomorrow’s murderers.”
 Herman de Ley is a professor at the University of Gent, former director of the Center for Islam in Europe of the University of Gent, Islam appeaser and Stalinist. According to De Ley, criticism of Islam is taboo; only the West bears the blame for everything that goes wrong in the world.
 Wim van Rooy is, among other things, a writer and former editor of “PEN-Tijdingen”. This magazine of the Flemish PEN writers association published his impressive study “Europe and Islam, the malaise of multiculturalism”: “I try to show in my book that the Islam as the youngest offshoot of monotheism rightly means a total break with the Judeo-Christian thought that preceded it. A moral order has been baked into the first two monotheisms, along with a potential for secularization that Islam totally lacks. In this sense, Judaism and Christianity are infinitely superior to the Islam as culture, religion and ideology.” [source]
 Geert van Istendael [Vanistendael] is a writer, poet and essayist. He is also chairman of voorzitter van PEN-Flanders, and as an Islam critic, along with Barnard wrote for example an opinion article against the headscarf. “Al Qaeda and the Sharia are logical consequences of the petrified religion called Islam that for a thousand years with tooth and nail has opposed any free interpretation of the revealed texts.” In response to the lecture-scandal, Van Istendael stated: “our rights and freedoms urgently needs a defense.”