Sinead O Connor’s conversion to Islam has also lead to a number of negative reactions. Christian Theologian John Milibank took aim at O’Connor’s conversion when he tweeted:
“Sinead O’Connor’s conversion suggest that Houillebecq has it right. Liberals will embrace an authoritarianism to escape their own contradictions if it is respectably other and non-Western. She is a civilisational traitress. And has no taste.” Many on his twitter questioned why he was so concerned with the faith of one woman, while others called his tweet “crypto-fascistic nonsense.”
Many noted their surprise by his sentiment and choice of words, but English and Muslim Scholar H.A. Hellyer in a response published in ABC Religion and Ethics, believes it is unsurprising, noting that O’Connor’s conversion ties into a larger concern (or irrational fear, depending on the viewpoint) that conversions to Islam by Westerners poses an ‘existential threat’ to the West. Hellyer believes that for Milbank, it is the “very act of embracing is Islam” which is “antithetical to belonging to Western civilisation.” But Hellyer points out the influence of Muslims on Western civilisation, not just from the outside, but from within; at the hands of Western Muslims. In fact, “Western civilization is impossible to discuss without reference to Islam” He also warns of the real-life implications of rhetoric such as Milbank’s. In a “backdrop of intense anti-Muslim bigotry throughout the West”, that leads violence and exploitation by political opportunists.
In his response, Milbank does not appear to reject Hellyer’s assessment that he sees Islam as an ‘existential threat’, rather he confirms it, noting his concern of surrendering the “Christian project to Islam”. He does acknowledge a limited influence of Muslims on Christianity in the medieval period, that everyone has a right to convert in both directions, and that he shares with Hellyer common ground in critiquing a purely secular and liberal society. However, he explains that inherent in this critique is the understanding that religion is “not just an individual matter”, but a “a social one and has the capacity to shape whole cultures and civilisations”. While he acknowledges Christianity and Islam “share a common cultural legacy”, “they nonetheless represent somewhat differing civilisational tendencies” so to be a Muslim is to “have made a different civilisational choice”, even if they may be similar. He therefore believes the question today is how “one prevailing civilisation can tolerantly include within its midst other partially-different civilisational tendencies without compromising its own culture.” He suggests Christians cannot therefore “be complacent about the prospect of the Islamification of Europe” because for a Christian, “the abandonment of Christianity means nothing less than the abandonment of God’s appearance and voice in the world in human guise.” Instead, Christians should learn from Muslims to try to “recover ourselves a more integrated religious-secular culture” following the Western abandonment of a Christian legacy.
O’Connor’s response to the hate she has received online has also lead to further controversy. She had previously mentioned that she would have shut her twitter occasionally “to clear (white male’s) abuse.” A a few days later, she tweeted:
“I’m terribly sorry. What I’m about to say is something so racist I never thought my soul could ever feel it. But truly I never wanna spend time with white people again (if that’s what non-muslims are called). Not for one moment, for any reason. They are disgusting.”
This has been met with uproar, and has also been met with Muslims directly messaging her to reject this, though in advisory tones. Author and storyteller, Rukhsana Khan, responded, “No sister. That’s not fair. No ethnic group contains all good people or all bad. It all depends on their actions.”@FatiSada reminded her that “All are equal in the eyes of Allah” Also pointed out was the incorrect distinction between Muslims and white people. @stabbatha stated that she is a white Muslim and “there are good and bad Muslims & non Muslims everywhere, instead of concentrating on someone’s colour or religion focus on those that are good and kind & spend time with them, never judge someone on colour or faith.” While criticisms were severe, many also stressed that O’Connor suffers from mental health issues, that should be taken into account with such tweets. O’Connor has since deleted her twitter account.