“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 17:20 NASB).
Islam and the Muslims: This is the season of Ramadan, when Muslims all over the world fast – “not a drop of water to be sipped” – from sunrise to sunset, followed by communal nightly feasts. This month is a good time to pray for and reflect on our relations with the people of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, for whom he prayed this heartfelt prayer: “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 17:18 NASB). He longed for Ishmael to be reconciled and made ‘acceptable before’ God. The desire to gain divine acceptance is deeply ingrained in the hearts of Muslims.
Islam imitates several aspects of the Old Testament religion, but it does not arise from the same Source, for it ‘denies the Father and the Son’ (1 John 2:22). Christ and the apostles were clear that the purpose of the Old Covenant and the Mosaic Law was fulfilled in the cross of Jesus Christ. Christ set us free of the demands of the Law, so that we may ‘worship the Father in Spirit and truth’. Islam arose 600 years later, with the express intention of subjecting the whole world, to a pseudo-Mosaic legalistic system,the ‘Sharia Law’, which aims to nullify the work of the Cross and deprive us of the freedom we have in Jesus Christ. The fulfilment of the Islamic ‘Great Commission’ – the setting up of a worldwide Caliphate – necessitates the militant Jihad or Holy war, followed by forcible conversions, slaughter or subjugation of those who will not ’embrace’ Islam to a servile ‘dhimmi’ status. In most Islamic countries, Christians practise their faith under severe constraints and evangelisation is a criminal offence. Islam has a long history of war with the ‘People of the Book’, as they term Christians and Jews.
Growing up in the Middle East, my closest friends were Muslims. As shocking as the events of the past 2 decades have been, there is much I love and admire about the Muslims themselves. There is indeed much that non-Muslims can learn from them about friendship, hospitality and loyalty. Since 9/11, however, many of us have been deeply troubled by the terrorism spreading across the globe like wildfires from House of Islam. Many peaceful Muslims are equally dismayed at what is going on, but dare not speak up either from fear of reprisal or a misplaced sense of loyalty. Yet the root cause of the violence, of course, lies in the teachings of the Quran, the Hadith, and the example of Mohammed, their prophet. Thankfully the vast majority of Muslims express their piety by keeping to the Five Pillars of Islam, ignoring the command to wage Jihad. With the recent spread of puritanical teaching by the Saudi Wahabi school of Islam, however, an increasing number of Muslims no longer see Jihad as being optional.
Muslim response to the spread of terror: Ordinary peaceful Muslims are undoubtedly horrified by the spread of Islamic extremism, yet, those Muslims calling for actual Islamic reform like Ayaan Hirsi Ali are vilified and often face death threats. Indeed, the responses of mainstream Muslim leaders and organisations to Islamic terror attacks are confusing to a neutral observer. While Muslim leaders in the Middle East will freely admit that killing infidels is permitted by the Quran, and call for further restrictions on Christians and churches; their western counterparts will assert that Islam is the ‘Religion of Peace’, that terrorism is un-Islamic and therefore reform is unnecessary. They pressure western governments to forcefully defend Islam – often by restricting freedom of speech – against its critics. Islamophobia in the West- which has received them hospitably, granting them citizenship, freedom and rights- they maintain is what stokes the fires of terrorism, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of terrorists originate from Islamic countries, where shades of Sharia law already govern aspects of people’s lives. Others will gleefully point to the internal weaknesses of the societies still reeling from shock, with hardly a word of sympathy for the maimed or families of the dead, or a sense of solidarity with the nations that welcomed them.
Their words reveal that the ultimate goal of these Muslim representatives is to advance Islam, and the fate of its victims come low in their list of priorities. What is most worrying is the increasing sense of entitlement, and Muslim exceptionalism, displayed by mostly second generation Muslims, who demand endless privileges in the nations where their fathers sought refuge, as they smugly flout local cultural norms, refuse to integrate and expect host societies to indulge their every whim. There are 4 noticeable trends that we would be foolish to ignore when seeking solutions – 1. The problem of Islamic terror is growing, not lessening; 2. The well meaning and peaceful Muslims are powerless to do anything about it, 3. The mainstream Islamic leadership lack the will or the ability to contain terrorism, and 4. Muslim reformers have no meaningful influence within their communities; rather their outspokenness puts them in great danger.
The Christian response: What are we Christians – called by our Lord to love those who hate us, and to bless those who curse us – to do in these unstable times? How can we remain free of bitterness and frustration towards Muslims, while standing up for the values of peace, freedom and tolerance in our societies. There are 5 things that we should be careful to do in our relations with our Muslim neighbours:
- Show great love towards Muslims at a personal level. In all our conversations with them, be considerate and respectful. Never give in to the temptation to mock their prophet for this will only hinder all future communication.
- While being respectful, do not hesitate to politely point out aspects of their faith or even their prophet’s teaching, that nurture intolerance or extremism, or are incompatible with our values, in a slavish attempt to be politically correct.
- Pray for their salvation.
- Pray for an end to Jihadism.
- Never compromise when they demand special treatment or privileges.
The role of Christian citizens in the state: The scripture reveals the separate roles of individuals and states in dealing with subjects. In tackling Islamic extremism, the state must employ methods consistent with its role. Whereas individual Christians must reach out to their Muslim neighbours in love, the state has a duty before God to uphold law and order. “For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong” (Romans 13:4 HCSB). Christ, who taught us to turn the other cheek, also warns us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”. There are important lessons to be drawn from the example of Paul who did not hesitate to use his rights as a Roman citizen when confronting his enemies or those in authority. As citizens of democratic societies, Christians ought to hold the state to account, and demand that they actively take steps to limit the damage of violent extremism. As I recently commented on an Anglican blog –
“‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’, is the Christian way, but the state has a duty before God ‘to bear the sword’, not to advance Christ’s kingdom, but to enforce laws which promote social harmony and justice. Rulers are being negligent if they turn a blind eye, when a group of people do harm to their fellow citizens. Muslims are not being forced to give up their faith, but having decided to move to a non-Muslim nation, it is not too much to expect them to practise their religion without inconveniencing their neighbours. If a significant number among them choose to behave badly, and refuse to obey the laws of the land, or heed the counsel of their more moderate co-religionists, the state has the duty to step in and look into this matter for the benefit of all.”
Bearing in mind that granting Islam unrestricted freedom to flourish in the West and elsewhere has produced such damaging consequences, including violence and terrorism, the governments must consider specific measures to curtail the influence of Islamists. Restrictions on Islamic preaching (and preachers); limits on the number, size and funding of mosques; censorship of literature promoting Jihad, and controlling immigration from Muslim terror zones are steps that need to be considered by individual governments. It is wrong to label all such sensible precautions – as the media often does – as ‘undemocratic’. Indeed such measures facilitate the greater common good, so all civilised countries – and none more so than Islamic nations – have, in the past, applied (and still apply) similar restrictions to new arrivals from other cultures. Nor are these violations of human rights, for many lives are saved. Many right-thinking Muslims have been quietly supportive of such measures in the past, for they hardly wish to see their children fall prey to extremism.
The following youtube videos show an Australian Muslim imam discussing Islam and terrorism with such refreshing candour and rare insight, that we would be foolish to ignore his pleas.
The Real Solution: Finally, coming to a significantly more important point. As Christians, we ought to set our own house in order. ‘Islam has always been Islam’ but our generation is more vulnerable to its dangers than our ancestors were. As an Islamic Caliphate, and all that it entails for the ‘Kaffir’, suddenly looms on the horizon, we ought to ask ourselves – “Is this not divine judgment, being poured upon the household of God, for our unfaithfulness?”
Indeed the root problem is not Islam. The spread of violent Jihad, while symptomatic of Islam, is also evidence that God’s hand of protection is being withdrawn from so-called Christian nations that have turned away from Him. Widespread legalised abortion, gay marriage, family breakdown, and the moral corruption promoted by the media and celebrities, show the extent to which the nations despise God. In the midst of such corruption, the church refuses to speak the truth in love to the lost, out of a desire to be politically correct. So He set up leaders who, lacking in discernment, foolishly open the doors to people from cultures that have no intention ‘of seeking the prosperity of the land where they dwell’.
Unless there is true repentance, the Islamists will take over. If we fail to fulfil our divine mandate to be ‘salt and light on this earth’, then the sword of Islam will ensure that our light is hidden, as it is in Muslim lands where evangelism is forbidden; that we are trodden underfoot, cast into a state of dhimmitude, deprived of the freedom, progress and prosperity that followed the Reformation 500 years ago. Therefore, let us pray for ourselves as well as for our Muslim neighbours in these perilous times.
Father, forgive us our unfaithfulness to You. The world no longer respects us because we have forgotten to honour You. Grant us the grace to repent and turn from our sinful ways. Forgive us for being stumbling blocks before an unbelieving world; many have turned away from the waters of eternal life, because of our sins. Help us to live righteous lives, and bear true witness to our Muslim neighbours. Open their eyes to the truth of Jesus and His cross; may they find peace in Him. In Jesus’ name.