Two years after the Islamic jihadist attack on the World Trade Center, a book appeared which purported to reveal a conspiracy to cover up the truth about a major world religion. According to the book, powerful people, both inside and outside this male-dominated, woman-hating religion, had conspired to falsely represent it as a religion of piety and peace.
At the time, the book and its author were widely hailed for finally breaking through the code of silence that had long protected this ancient institution from criticism.
Islam? Er, no. The repressive, misogynistic religion at the center of The Da Vinci Code is the Catholic Church. Do you really think any major publisher would dare to publish a work claiming that Islam is a fraud? That was tried in 1988 with the release of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. The resulting attack on two translators, one publisher, and an entire hotel-full of people (see the “Sivas Massacre”) convinced publishers not to make that mistake again. Yet Rushdie’s criticisms of Muhammad were almost incidental to the main plot of his story and were fairly mild compared to Dan Brown’s all-out assault on Catholicism. Dan Brown has been a celebrity ever since, and Salman Rushdie, with a fatwa hanging over his head, has been under police protection.
Looked at in perspective, the enormous popularity of The Da Vinci Code (both the book and the movie) presents us with a massive irony. Just at that moment in time when a truly misogynistic religion was spreading rapidly all over the globe, the opinion-makers decided to focus their ire on the faith that had markedly elevated the status of women. And just when Islam’s historical penchant for silencing dissenters was once again on display, the trend-setters decided to vent their spleen on an institution which for decades had given a respectful hearing to the dissenters in its midst.
The Da Vinci Code is significant not for what it says about the Catholic Church, but for what it inadvertently says about the state of Western culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The positive reception accorded to The Da Vinci Code reveals a society in deep denial of reality. The book came out to its warm reception after 9/11. The film version came out after the Beslan school massacre, after the Madrid train bombings, after the London tube bombings, and after three weeks of Muslim rioting in 275 French cities. The movie hit the theaters at just about the same time that news of the Mumbai train bombings (which killed 200 and injured 700) hit the news.
Yet such was the public mood that millions of gullible readers and moviegoers were willing to accept the thesis that the greatest threat to human happiness lay in the supposed machinations of powerful figures within the Catholic Church. Future historians will no doubt be amazed at our capacity for self-deception. That presumes, of course, that future historians won’t be under the thumbs of the Ayatollahs and Muftis—a presumption that can no longer be safely entertained.
If the Islamization of all aspects of life—history, education, culture—is the fate of the West, The Da Vinci Code, along with similar fantasies, should bear some of the responsibility. By doing his best to deconstruct the religion that historically had stood as the main bulwark against Islamic fanaticism, the author has served as an enabler of Islam’s spread into the West. The weakening of Christianity has done little to strengthen the cause of goddess worship, but it has done a great deal to further the cause of Islam.
Whatever future historians may say about The Da Vinci Code, contemporary chroniclers are already saying that the rise of Islam in the West is directly related to the decline of Christianity. As I wrote four years ago:
As Europeans started to lose their faith, they stopped having babies. They stopped having babies because they had nothing meaningful to pass on to the next generation—and also because babies get in the way of self-gratification. The decline of Christianity in Europe created a population vacuum and a spiritual vacuum, both of which Islam soon began to fill. If Christian faith had been more robust in Europe, it is unlikely that radical Islam would have advanced so far, so fast.
A number of recent surveys show that Christianity is also on the decline in America. Increasing numbers of Americans now identify as “no religion” or “agnostic” rather than as Christians. As in Europe, this will eventually create a population shift. Filled with faith, the Muslim population will grow, and lacking it, the indigenous population will grow older.
As in Europe, the spiritual shift will also have an effect on the will to resist Islamization. Traditionally, Christianity has been the main source of meaning in the lives of most Americans. Once deprived of that meaning, they will begin to lose the will to resist. What’s the point of resisting if everything is relative? If one religion is as good as another? If you have nothing meaningful to stand for? Better in that case to submit and go along with the new order of things, distasteful as it may be.
Of course, the responsibility for the decline of Christianity in the West can hardly be pinned on Dan Brown alone. The decline was underway long before he put pen to paper. The Sexual Revolution, the lure of secularism, and the work of celebrity atheists had already done considerable damage to the Christian faith. Brown provided one more excuse for not believing, and because his thesis was dressed up in the language of scholarship it proved to be a potent excuse.
Brown quite obviously intended to undermine traditional Christianity and, in the process, pave the way for a non-patriarchal, feminine-friendly type of spirituality. Ironically, one of the effects of his and similar deconstruction efforts was to strengthen the hand of the most male-dominated, anti-feminine religion on the planet. Thanks in part to Brown and his fellow demolitionists, the institutionalized oppression of women that was once largely confined to Islamic lands has now set up shop in Europe.
There is another irony surrounding the Da Vinci Code phenomenon that seems to have been lost on its fans. The plot of the book centers on a massive cover-up of the truth about Christianity by the Catholic Church. As any number of experts have pointed out, however, there was never anything to cover up: The Da Vinci Code’s version of the Christian story is an almost total fabrication. On the other hand, many of its false accusations about the Catholic Church are actually true of Islam: the misogyny, the fabrication of documents, the silencing of dissenters, and the suppression of the truth about the life of Jesus. What’s more, there really is a concerted, well-documented, and largely successful effort to cover up all the damaging facts about Islam.
In this case, the cover-up does not depend on forged documents, secret conclaves, or albino assassins. Social and media elites have been all too happy to cooperate in the deception—not because they deeply believe in Islam, but because they deeply believe in political correctness. By now everyone knows the PC routine by heart: “violence has nothing to do with Islam,” “a handful of terrorists have hijacked a great religion,” “jihadists have perverted their faith,” and so on. The astonishing thing is that this false narrative about Islam has thus far prevailed. Unlike the deception described in The Da Vinci Code, the whole thing has been done in broad daylight. Apparently, if enough powerful people insist that black is white or that violence has nothing to do with Islam, a significant portion of the populace will ignore the evidence of their eyes and go along with the lie. Here’s how I described the situation four years ago:
The cover-up is occurring at the highest levels of society: the media largely refuse to report stories damaging to Islam; presidents and prime ministers praise it a religion of peace; and in many parts of the Western world, new laws are being proposed that would make criticism of Islam a crime. Meanwhile, school textbooks are rewritten to malign Christianity and idealize Islam; government officials in the United States are forbidden to mention the word jihad; and their counterparts in the United Kingdom are now required to refer to Islamic terrorism as “anti-Islamic activity.”
So, while millions were congratulating Dan Brown on his fictional story about the cover-up of Christianity’s true meaning, they were completely oblivious of the real-life cover-up of Islam’s aggressive nature.
What’s more, the Islamic deception is enforced every bit as rigorously as the one described in the novel. The Da Vinci Code makes much of the fact that its two heroes, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu, are in constant danger because of their attempts to uncover the true Christian story, but in the non-fictional world, the ones who run the real risks are those who are willing to expose the violent side of Islam.
Take the case of Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP who has been highly critical of Islam. He’s been under police protection ever since 2004, and he and his family are forced to move from safe house to safe house on a regular basis. In addition to bodyguards, Wilders is also in need of lawyers. That’s because he’s been hauled before courts on a regular basis ever since 2008 on charges that he has defamed Islam. Currently, he is in court once again—this time on hate speech charges.
Wilders’ sin is to warn against the threat to the West from Islam. It’s a threat that anyone with common sense can now see. Even his prosecutors recognize the danger. Because of the numerous threats to his life, his trial is being conducted in a bunker under Shiphol Airport.
Wilders is not alone. For breaking the code of silence that protects Islam, numerous others have faced death threats, or trials, or a combination of both. Contrary to The Da Vinci Code, you can say what you like about Christianity without fear of reprisals, but speak the truth about Islam and you will be in for a heap of trouble.
The cover-up puts us all in danger because it leaves us unprepared for the aggression that almost always follows once Muslims reach a certain percentage of the population. Europeans, for instance, were unprepared for the crime waves and sexual assault epidemics that ensued after the admission of millions of migrants into Europe in 2015. To anyone with a knowledge of Islamic culture, religion, and history, what happened was predictable. But politically correct codes dictated that only whitewashed versions of Islamic history and beliefs could be taught in European schools. Even now, after the folly of their open-door immigration policy is blazingly evident, European elites are insistent on maintaining the cover-up. The troubles, they assert, are entirely due to the “unwelcoming” and “xenophobic” attitudes of native Europeans.
What if a massive cover-up similar to the one described in The Da Vinci Code was happening right now? We would be quick to spot it, wouldn’t we? Or would we?
Editor’s note: This essay first appeared March 24, 2016 on Catholic World Report and is reprinted with permission.
By William Kilpatrick
William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Psychological Seduction; Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com