We’re conversing again about Islam, as the recent Orlando massacre has raised awareness to a new level. Before September 11, 2001, few people in America ever talked about Islam. Indeed few were knowledgeable enough to carry on a decent conversation. But we now live in a post 9/11 world, and it is difficult to ignore the potential threat of Muslims in our midst. Yes, we need to have a national conversation and we need it to be an honest one.
Undoubtedly, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful individuals, not intent on murder, who are good citizens and neighbors. They live in America because they appreciate the religious freedom guaranteed by our Constitution as well as the economic opportunities available here, just like most of us who are not Muslims. But the problem is that radical Muslims keep blowing people up in the name of Islam, and it’s getting harder to ignore the connection between Islam and the constant threat to law abiding Americans.
Radical Muslims, those favoring jihad for the sake of Islam, comprise a small minority of the total Muslim population. Some have estimated that jihadists comprise only ten percent of all Muslims world-wide and a much smaller percentage here in America. However, with total world population around 1.5 billion, ten percent is one hundred fifty million. That’s a whole lot of fanatical people willing to become martyrs in a crusade against infidels, their term for non-Muslims.
Some insist that Islam is a religion of peace, and that radical Muslims are distorting a noble world religion for political purposes. It’s impossible to tell if such people have never studied Muslim doctrine or else are deliberately misrepresenting it. Although most individual Muslims are peaceful people, the official doctrines of Islam are not. The Quran teaches Muslims to strike terror into the hearts of Islam’s enemies. It teaches that all Muslims are to wage jihad until Sharia law is established throughout the world. It directs Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as their friends. “Fight those who believe not in Allah, and fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.” (Sura 9:5) Similar quotations could be multiplied.
It’s not that radical Muslims are hijacking a peaceful religion, but that peaceful Muslims are ignoring some basic teachings of their religion. It’s radical Muslims who are faithfully following the teachings of the Quran and the words of Mohammed, the founder of Islam. That is why it is so easy to radicalize Muslims. All that’s needed is to convince them to act upon the true teachings of their religion, and they are ready to annihilate anyone who refuses to submit to Allah.
Christianity and Islam
We are told that the Bible contains examples of God ordering people to wage war on their enemies, which is true. We are encouraged to conclude therefore, that Christianity and Islam are basically the same. Both, we are told, venerate scriptures that advocate violence, but both are essentially religions of peace, in spite of these war-like references. But that ignores important differences. The reason Christianity bears its name is because its adherents follow the teachings of Christ, who taught his followers to love their enemies. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” and “if someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other also,” and other similar statements. You will be hard pressed to find anything comparable in the teachings of Mohammed.
Because of the words of Christ, we recognize that Old Testament instructions to fight were temporarily limited to a specific historical situation, whereas the words of Mohammed are not limited in any way. Many Muslims choose to interpret his teachings as limited to a particular historical context, but that’s creative contextualization, not literal exposition. We are thankful that most Muslims embrace a peaceful perspective, and we encourage all to follow suit. However, there is little in the Quran to support such a view, unlike the Bible, where the teachings of Christ specifically require love for one’s enemies and strongly condemn violence against them. A Christian who advocates violence has to contradict the teachings of the founder of his religion. Actually, such a person should not be considered a Christian at all, for how can one be a Christian who flagrantly violates the teachings of Christ? However, a Muslim who advocates peaceful co-existence with non-Muslims is contradicting the teachings of the founder of his religion. Radical Muslims are right. It is peace-loving Muslims who are misrepresenting their religion, not the other way around. There is no legitimate equation between Christianity and Islam. When was the last time you heard someone worry about Christians becoming radicalized by other Christians?
Why do so many American political leaders insist that Islam is a religion of peace? Apparently, because that fits their worldview. The evidence does not support such idealism, but they insist on it none-the-less. They want to believe that Islam is basically the same as Christianity, with both fostering similar views about God and society. But the sacred writings of Islam are fundamentally opposed to human rights. Islam rejects freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion. It rejects equal rights between men and women and between Muslim and non-Muslim. If you want to know what it teaches, visit a few countries where Islam has been in control for a while and evaluate the conditions of that society. It seems strange to me, that the same people who criticize Christianity for opposing gay marriage, defend Islam which requires the death penalty for homosexuals, and carries out public executions of offenders. Why do you think Omar Mateen killed forty-nine people in a gay nightclub In Orlando? He was following the teachings of his Muslim religion, and was praised for this slaughter by Muslim fundamentalists all over the world. Where Muslim Imams control society, there is no free speech, free press, freedom of dress, or any of the many freedoms we take for granted in America.
Truth vs. Fiction
We do not help the situation by denying the connection between Islam and the acts of violence carried out in the name of Allah. How much better to acknowledge the facts and encourage Muslims to recognize this connection and renounce the violent teachings of their religion. Perhaps if we are willing to speak the truth in love, some Muslims might realize these errors are rooted in their scriptures, and will be encouraged to abandon Islam to follow Christ. But too many Americans reject Christ and would rather perpetuate lies about Islam than risk encouraging someone to embrace Christ. This may be why we continue to hear fiction instead of factual representation.
As Christians, we do not join those who advocate mistreatment of Muslims. As followers of Christ, we believe in loving our neighbors as ourselves, even if our neighbor turns out to be our enemy. We believe in speaking the truth, but speaking the truth in love, not in hatred nor violence. The weapons of our warfare are not guns and bombs, but truth, righteousness, and loving compassion. We understand the potential of God’s Word to change hearts when empowered by the Holy Spirit, and we pray earnestly for our Muslim friends and neighbors, that they may acknowledge their need of Christ, and embrace Him as Lord and Savior. We know that some will, by the grace of God, and that others may not, but we will love them in either case.
There is a difference between the responsibility of government to protect and defend its citizens, and the responsibility of individual Christians to pray for and love our neighbors. We don’t want to confuse these responsibilities as we weigh our choices at the ballot box. Don’t forget, most Muslim countries do not allow their citizens to vote. That’s a privilege found mainly in societies influenced by Christianity. There are more differences between Islam and Christianity than many realize. Christianity is unique among world religions because it alone possesses truth revealed by Almighty God, Creator and Ruler of everything.
G. N. Barkman received his BA and MA from BJU and later founded Beacon Baptist Church in Burlington, NC where has pastored for over 40 years. In addition, Pastor Barkman broadcasts over several radio stations in NC, VA, TN, and the island of Granada and conducts annual pastors’ training seminars in Zimbabwe, Africa. He and his wife, Marti have been blessed with four daughters and six grandchildren.