Gotta love the Aussies, they are true allies and they speak plainly. Prime Minister John Howard recently visited the US, and he had many kind things to say:
"Without American leadership, the trials and tragedies of recent years could be but a prelude of darker days to come," Mr Howard said in an address yesterday to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. "With American leadership, we can build a better world — not just for us, but for all." Sharpening his call for the US to play a greater role in global affairs, Mr Howard told the council: "To the voices of anti-Americanism around the world, to those who shout 'Yankee go home', let me offer some quiet advice: be careful what you wish for."
Earlier this month, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, spoke plainly at a meeting in Florida about whether and Islam and Western democracies can peacefully co-exist. Pell discusses the experience of non-Muslims under Muslim rule in Andalusia (Spain):
"The history of relations between Muslims on the one hand and Christians and Jews on the other does not always offer reasons for optimism in the way that some people easily assume. The claims of Muslim tolerance of Christian and Jewish minorities are largely mythical, as the history of Islamic conquest and domination in the Middle East, the Iberian peninsula and the Balkans makes abundantly clear. In the territory of modern-day Spain and Portugal, which was ruled by Muslims from 716 and not finally cleared of Muslim rule until the surrender of Granada in 1491 (although over half the peninsula had been reclaimed by 1150, and all of the peninsula except the region surrounding Granada by 1300), Christians and Jews were tolerated only as dhimmis, subject to punitive taxation, legal discrimination, and a range of minor and major humiliations. If a dhimmi harmed a Muslim, his entire community would forfeit protection and be freely subject to pillage, enslavement and murder. Harsh reprisals, including mutilations, deportations and crucifixions, were imposed on Christians who appealed for help to the Christian kings or who were suspected of having converted to Islam opportunistically. Raiding parties were sent out several times every year against the Spanish kingdoms in the north, and also against France and Italy, for loot and slaves. The caliph in Andalusia maintained an army of tens of thousand of Christian slaves from all over Europe, and also kept a harem of captured Christian women. The Jewish community in the Iberian peninsula suffered similar sorts of discriminations and penalties, including restrictions on how they could dress. A pogrom in Granada in 1066 annihilated the Jewish population there and killed over 5000 people. Over the course of its history Muslim rule in the peninsula was characterised by outbreaks of violence and fanaticism as different factions assumed power, and as the Spanish gradually reclaimed territory. Arab rule in Spain and Portugal was a disaster for Christians and Jews, as was Turkish rule in the Balkans."
It's a wonderful speech, please read the whole thing. Gives lie to the widely-held notion of the multi-culti Andalusia where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived so well together. Pell raises a number of questions:
"These are also legitimate requests for our Islamic partners in dialogue. Do they believe that the peaceful suras of the Koran are abrogated by the verses of the sword? Is the programme of military expansion (100 years after Muhammad’s death Muslim armies reached Spain and India) to be resumed when possible? Do they believe that democratic majorities of Muslims in Europe would impose Sharia law? Can we discuss Islamic history and even the hermeneutical problems around the origins of the Koran without threats of violence?"
Pell was, of course, criticized by the usual Islamic leaders in Australia (and elsewhere), but PM Howard defended him. Good chap.