Persecuted Minorities and Minorities that Persecute

The final episode of Gunpowder was aired on BBC One yesterday. There is a scene in which the Jesuit priest Henry Garnet is talking with William Cecil, the King’s spymaster. Cecil accuses Garnett of stoking the fires of sedition with his teaching. Garnet retaliates by saying that Cecil too most bear some responsibility for the plot to blow up Parliament. He goes on to explain that when you persecute people they will eventually be forced to fight back.

I agree with him. Roman Catholics were horribly persecuted in this country and it is a wonder they did not fight back more frequently. Parallels have been drawn between this particular religious minority and that of Muslims in 21st century Britain. Some of them, too, fight back. They attack police officers and the civilian population. But unlike 17th century Catholics, they are not persecuted. Indeed, they are living in a Britain which has never been so tolerant of ethnic minorities and of non-Christian religions. So why, pray tell, are some of these Muslims so intent on violence? Notwithstanding the many peaceable Muslims who would never dream of blowing people up, I was interested to come across Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, a 2015 book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali advocates that a Muslim reformation is the only way to end the horrors of terrorism, sectarian warfare and the repression of women and minorities.

The Reformation did Christianity a world of good. Perhaps Islam is next. If men and women of violence really wish to reform, however, only the Prince of Peace can melt their stony hearts.