First published in the Catholic Herald.

A few days ago, as I walked through the Underground a large Muslim, four inches taller than me, barreled up to me and out of nowhere threatened to beat me up if I didn’t get out of his way.

This was something of a surprise. I don’t think looking at me it shows, but I have always feared I am man who contains the inner potential for serious violence if challenged or attacked.

It’s one of the reasons I have always loved rugby. It lets it out in a safe way.  So I have always been more than ready to defend myself vigorously in the case that a mugger should pick on the wrong person. But I am older now, and he was not only bigger but thirty years younger.

For a couple of seconds, I wondered if my inner Neanderthal would suddenly emerge berserk and lethal to confront him. Another voice in the complexity of what passes for personality put a counter argument: should I risk a broken nose and a painful dental bill? Should I risk a knife? Should I risk my pride? 

Instead, I held his gaze, didn’t deviate my steps and prayed for his soul as I walked past. The threatened fight didn’t happen. But I spent the next six hours losing the excess testosterone that had flooded me within a nano-second of his threat.

It was only as I looked on twitter later that I saw a clip of Islamic demonstrators mocking two poppy-wearing Englishmen in the Underground and a fist-fight breaking out that I wondered if it had been my poppy rather than my face that he had been triggered by?

The poppy is a sign of a particular culture within our culture. I have always lamented its diminishing symbolic power as sacrifice, gratitude, remembrance, and the rebuke of supine appeasement lose traction.

One of the strange side effects of uncontrolled immigration and the presence of Muslims among us in increasingly large numbers is that it seems its power has been recently refreshed. But why?

We may be about to experience a clash of cultures so dramatic and severe that most people won’t have given even the possibility much thought, let alone what strategy might be employed once it happens.

Islamic and Palestinian leaders have been organising demonstrations around the world to express their anger.

It turns out from interviews with those kids on the streets chortling with some transgressive glee, “from the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”, that most have so little knowledge of the conflict that they can’t name the river in the chant. 

The enthusiastic support of the Palestinian cause among American youth, who do not know any of the history that the competing claims are rooted in, has been traced to the influence of Critical Race Theory. 

Palestinians have been cast as black, and Jews as white. In CRT the oppressed Black/Palestinians need no further justification than that they claim oppression, to be morally untouchable in all they do. So “two legs good, four legs bad”: Palestinians good, Jews bad.

In the UK though, the antipathy to the Cenotaph and the poppy expressed by the Islamic pro-Palestinian demonstrators locates the clash in an antipathy to anti-Muslim culture. The use of “prayer” meetings to flood Whitehall, with scores of thousands of praying Muslims kneeling in the road, was as much a show of power as a demonstration of piety.

For many of us, the quest for a narrative to explain the seismic shifts that have taken place since the end of the Cold War have revolved around three schools of thought.

Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History suggested that free market liberal capitalism had triumphed and the Marxist challenge has burn out.

John Mearsheimer, a structural realist historian, argues in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics that the structure of the international system is a cause of conflict. This is more powerful than moral or ethical concerns, or any particular leader. On the question of how much power states want to accumulate, he claims that states want as much power as they can get, rather than what “defensive realists”, as he terms them, claim which is that states are interested in maintaining the balance of power. So power wins.

In his Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel Huntingdon sparked a furious debate which continues to provoke and enrage critics (which suggests a degree of accuracy).

Huntington argues that the future of warfare would be fought along civilisational “fault-lines”. The civilisations include the West, Latin America, Africa, Orthodox, Sinic, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and Japanese. 

One of the most controversial components of Huntington’s argument is the line “Islam has bloody borders”, which infers that the Islamic civilisation in particular tends to become violently embroiled with other civilisations on its periphery. 

Fukuyama has been proved to be lamentably mistaken with the explosion of neo-Marxism in cultural form. Mearsheimer has been proved alarmingly right in his prophesying the Ukrainian conflict engendered by the unbridled expansionism of NATO. And while intelligent society tried to rubbish Huntingdon because his view of Islam ran counter to the soft soapy idealism of multiculturalism, the present conflict demands we revisit his thesis.

For the Islamic rage directed towards poppies and cenotaphs, as well as anything Jewish, suggests Huntingdon may be right.

The great flaw in the defence of Western civilisation is that it has abandoned the faith that created it. It has voluntarily and energetically orphaned itself from Catholicism.

Christians and liberal secularists are going to face a serious challenge this coming weekend when, as seems likely, Islamic protest marches “spill over” to confront the vestiges of Remembrance culture. 

Will the secularists realise that pleasure-seeking consumerism is not powerful enough to provide boundaries to contain Islamic expansionism and missionary ambition? They have refused to this far. And if they wake up to their own limitations and existential sterility, which way will they turn?

Catholics and other Christians will be faced with the challenge of re-articulating the virtues of faith. This will involve the deeply uncomfortable task of beginning to face up to the demands of real evangelism again. And that means explaining why the character and agenda of Jesus Christ, the redeeming sacrificial lamb, is more appealing than the character and agenda of Mohammed the warlord.

The truth is, this is not so much a clash of cultures as a clash of gods. But few people are brave enough to say so.

(Royal British Legion poppy sellers look on as they are surrounded by people staging a sit-in inside Charing Cross train station during a pro-Palestinian demonstration on November 4, 2023 in London, United Kingdom | Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)