The Flying Inn

door lievendebrouwere


Begin dit jaar verscheen ‘Soumission‘ het boek waarin Michel Houellebecq beschrijft hoe Frankrijk onder islamitisch bewind komt. De publicatie viel samen met de aanslag op Charlie Hebdo en een en ander deed heel wat stof opwaaien. Nochtans was Houellebecqs idee niet nieuw, integendeel. Het was precies 101 jaar oud, want in 1914 schreef G.K. Chesterton The Flying Inn, waarin hij de avonturen vertelt van Patrick Dalroy and Humphrey Pump die met hun ‘Vliegende Pub’ (een auto volgestouwd met drank) door geïslamiseerd Engeland rijden. Een mens vraagt zich af hoe Chesterton op dat idee kwam in een tijd dat Europa wel andere katten te geselen had dan de islam. In ieder geval, wat hij over Mohammed en de islam schrijft, snijdt hout. Leest u maar. (Voor alle duidelijkheid: de citaten komen niet uit The Flying Inn.)

‘Unitarians are often reformers by the accident that throws so many small sects into such an attitude. But there is nothing in the least liberal or akin to reform in the substitution of pure monotheism for the Trinity. The complex God of the Athanasian Creed may be an enigma for the intellect, but He is far less likely to gather the mystery and cruelty of a Sultan than the lonely god of Mahomet. The god who is a mere awful unity is not only a king but an Eastern king. The heart of humanity, especially of European humanity, is certainly much more satisfied by the strange hints and symbols that gather round the Trinitarian idea, the image of a council at which mercy pleads as well as justice, the conception of a sort of liberty and variety existing even in the inmost chamber of the world. For Western religion has always felt keenly the idea “it is not well for man to be alone.” The social instinct asserted itself everywhere as when the Eastern idea of hermits was practically expelled by the Western idea of monks. So even asceticism became brotherly. And the Trappists were sociable even when they were silent. If this love of a living complexity be our test, it is certainly healthier to have the Trinitarian religion than the Unitarian. For to us Trinitarians God Himself is a society. It is indeed a fathomless mystery of theology, and even if I were theologian enough to deal with it directly, it would not be relevant to do so here. Suffice it to say here that this triple enigma is as comforting as wine and open as an English fireside. This thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart. But out of the desert, from the dry places and, the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God, the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone.’

‘When people talk as if the Crusades were nothing more than an aggressive raid against Islam, they seem to forget in the strangest way that Islam itself was only an aggressive raid against the old and ordered civilization in these parts. I do not say it in mere hostility to the religion of Mahomet, I am fully conscious of many values and virtues in it. But certainly it was Islam that was the invasion and Christendom that was the thing invaded.’ 

‘The effort of the Crusades was sufficient to stop the advance of Islam, but not sufficient to exhaust it. A few centuries after, the Moslem attacked once more, with modern weapons and in a more indifferent age. Amid the disputes of diplomatists and the dying debates of the Reformation, he succeeded in sailing up the Danube and nearly becoming a central European Power like Poland or Austria. From this position, after prodigious efforts, he was slowly and painfully dislodged. But Austria, though rescued, was exhausted and reluctant to pursue, and the Turk was left in possession of the countries he had devoured in his advance.’

‘It was exactly because it seemed self-evident, to Moslems as to Bolshevists, that their simple creed was suited to everybody, that they wished in that particular sweeping fashion to impose it on everybody. It was because Islam was broad that Moslems were narrow. And because it was not a hard religion it was a heavy rule. Because it was without a self-correcting complexity, it allowed of those simple and masculine but mostly rather dangerous appetites that show themselves in a chieftain or a lord. As it had the simplest sort of religion, monotheism, so it had the simplest sort of government, monarchy. There was exactly the same direct spirit in its despotism as in its deism. The Code, the Common Law, the give and take of charters and chivalric vows, did not grow in that golden desert. The great sun was in the sky and the great Saladin was in his tent, and he must be obeyed unless he were assassinated. Those who complain of our creeds as elaborate often forget that the elaborate Western creeds have produced the elaborate Western constitutions; and that they are elaborate because they are emancipated.’

“There is in Islam a paradox which is perhaps a permanent menace. The great creed born in the desert creates a kind of ecstasy out of the very emptiness of its own land, and even, one may say, out of the emptiness of its own theology. It affirms, with no little sublimity, something that is not merely the singleness but rather the solitude of God. There is the same extreme simplification in the solitary figure of the Prophet; and yet this isolation perpetually reacts into its own opposite. A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet produces an endless procession of Mahomets. Of these the mightiest in modern times were the man whose name was Ahmed, and whose more famous title was the Mahdi; and his more ferocious successor Abdullahi, who was generally known as the Khalifa. These great fanatics, or great creators of fanaticism, succeeded in making a militarism almost as famous and formidable as that of the Turkish Empire on whose frontiers it hovered, and in spreading a reign of terror such as can seldom be organised except by civilisation…’