“Arguably there is more to see in Rome than in any other city in the world.” Thus began the chapter on Rome, Italy in a popular travel guide a few years ago. I have not been to every city in the world obviously but, having been to Rome a number of times, I’d be willing to bet that’s a pretty accurate statement. Many of the treasures to be found in Rome are of a religious nature, starting with the Vatican itself, many museums, and hundreds of churches. Indeed, many churches in the city (and throughout the country) have works of art on their walls by some the greatest artists the world has ever known. Example: the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi has three Caravaggio works of art that all depict events from the life of St. Matthew. Another example: the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva has some of Rome’s greatest treasures including the Statue of the Risen Christ by Michelangelo. Then there is the Basilica of Saint Peter and the Sistine Chapel which are as much museums as they are places of worship.
I bring this up, not as an invitation to travel there, but because a member of the Islamic terror group, ISIS, claims they will “conquer Rome.” I know it seems like wishful thinking on their part but what if it really happened? Not only military conquest of Rome (a highly unlikely scenario) but “through the back door.” By that I mean by the increasing Muslim population in many European nations and the corresponding decreasing indigenous populations. In other words, European Muslims are having many more babies per couple than their Italian, Dutch, German, French, etc. counterparts. I have seen estimates that there could be a majority Muslim population in the Netherlands within 40-50 years. (Indeed, some Muslim leaders have openly boasted how they will eventually take over Europe by simply having more children than Europeans do.) To get back to Italy, as of early 2015 there are 2,220,000 Muslims in Italy constituting 3.7% of the population. One ISIS leader recently stated that they intend to enter Europe through the traditional route of immigrants from North Africa (i.e., Libya by sea to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Once in Italy, immigrants can travel throughout most of Europe due to lack of border controls in countries that have signed the Schengen agreement which abolished internal borders for 26 European countries in 1995.) Apparently the ISIS “soldiers” would try to pass as “ordinary” immigrants trying to escape poverty, persecution, etc.
Theoretically, this could add a half a million Muslims to the Italian population (assuming they stayed in Italy) bringing it close to 3 million, which would constitute approximately 5% of the population.) Time magazine recently ran an article stating the Muslim population would increase to 3,199,000 (5.4% of the population) by 2030 without any increase from an ISIS “invasion.” I have seen other estimates stating Europe as a whole could be 55% Muslim by 2050! It is within the realm of possibility that Muslims could outnumber Italians in less than a century.
Let us now consider, focusing on Rome, what a Muslim majority in Italy would mean. From “the horse’s mouth:”
One should realize that the prohibition of picture making is EXTREMELY SEVERE, that it is counted among the enormities, and the threats against doing it are very emphatic. Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim relate that a man came to Ibn Abbas (Allah be well pleased with him and his father) and said, “My livelihood comes solely from my hands, and I make these pictures. Can you give me a legal opinion about them” Ibn Abbas told him, “Come closer,’ and the man did. “Closer,” he said, and the man did, until he put his hand on the man’s head and said: “Shall I tell you what I heard from the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammed (Allah bless him and give him peace) I heard the Messenger of Allah say, “Every maker of pictures will go to the fire, where a being will be set upon him to torment him in hell for each picture he made. So if you must, draw tress and things without animate life in them.”
The reason for the unlawfulness of pictorial representation is that it imitates the creative act of Allah Most High, as is indicated by the hadith related by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim that A’isha (Allah be well pleased with her) said, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) returned from a trip, and I had draped a cloth with picture on it over a small closet. When he saw it, he ripped it down, his face colored, and he said, “A’isha, the people most severely tortured by Allah on the Day of Judgment will be those who try to imitate what Allah has created,”
The foregoing hadiths show that producing representation is unlawful under any circumstances, and just as making a picture is unlawful, so too is procuring one, because the threat that pertains to the users, for pictures are only made to be used. (Website, Islamic Academy, PROHIBITION OF DEPICTING ANIMATE LIFE, http://www.islamicacademy.org/html/Articles/English/Picutres_in_Islam.htm – no date)
It is quite clear that images of anything alive is prohibited by Islam, thus the recent reports of Muslims destroying ancient statues, grave markers, etc. One Islamist leader in Egypt has called for the destruction of the Pyramids and the Sphinx:
An Egyptian jihad leader, with self-professed links to the Taliban, called for the “destruction of the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids in Egypt,” drawing ties between the Egyptian relics and Buddha statues, local media reported this week.
Murgan Salem al-Gohary, an Islamist leader twice-sentenced under former President Hosni Mubarak for advocating violence, called on Muslims to remove such “idols.”
“All Muslims are charged with applying the teachings of Islam to remove such idols, as we did in Afghanistan when we destroyed the Buddha statues,” he said on Saturday during a television interview on an Egyptian private channel, widely watched by Egyptian and Arab audiences.“God ordered Prophet Mohammed to destroy idols,” he added. “When I was with the Taliban we destroyed the statue of Buddha, something the government failed to do.” (Al Arabiya News, ‘Destroy the idols,’ Egyptian jihadist calls for removal of Sphinx, Pyramids,” 12 November 2013)
Now, imagine how the treasures of Rome (not to mention the rest of Italy and Europe) would make out if Shariah became the law in Italy and Europe as a whole. Imagine the destruction of, say, La Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, just about everything in the Basilica of St. Peter, etc. etc. The mind boggles at the thought of these great treasures being defaced, smashed, painted over, etc. (Not only from a religious standpoint but these paintings, statues, frescoes and so forth are great works of art.) By the way, destruction of Christian churches and art by Muslims has a historical antecedent; it happened in Spain a little over a thousand years ago. “Oh, that was a long time ago,” you might say. Well, consider this: according to one source, Muslims have recently destroyed 248 churches in Iraq of the original 300.
Can’t happen in Europe? I can only say I hope so. There is a beginning of a backlash against the growing Muslim populations of Europe fueled in part by the recent terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere. There are Muslim enclaves in Paris and in the United Kingdom that have become “no go” zones for non-Muslims, indicating the great reluctance of Muslims to assimilate and be tolerant of local religions and customs.
There remains therefore the distinct possibility of the Muslim population overtaking in a few, short decades the indigenous populations of many European nations and then instituting Shariah law through the ballot box.
And then, what would happen to the great art treasure of Europe, especially in Rome? As a lover of art and history, a person of Italian heritage, and a practicing Roman Catholic, I can only pray this never comes to pass.
Pictures (all taken by author) – the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica from the outside, Michaelangelo’s La Pieta. Under Shariah – color them gone.