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Archive for February, 2011

Western leaders are beginning to echo the recent controversial comments of Germany’s Chancellor Merkel. Back in October the Chancellor said multiculturalism “has utterly failed,” meaning four million Muslims in this country have not integrated. Following Merkel’s comments, President of France Nicholas Sarkozy joined the discussion calling multiculturalism a “failure” saying, “We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.” Now, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron is weighing in on the “failure” of multiculturalism suggesting the failure is at least partly responsible for Islamic extremism in Europe. These Western leaders reflect anti-immigration sentiment and fear of Islam throughout Europe but also increasingly in North America.

Not long ago the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said western culture and civilization are superior to anything Islam can come up with. A German economist’s newly published book claims Muslims are genetically inferior. Consistently articles come across my desk, expressing what some Americans and many Europeans fear the most: creeping Shariah (Islamic Law). The threat has been called “Islamofacism.”

It is not my intention here to discuss Islam’s agenda in the West, and what to do about it, but to focus on the spiritual need of Muslims in our world. I teach a course, “Folk Islam,” which explores practical aspects of doing daily battle with Satan and evil spirits. Seventy-five percent of today’s Muslims operate within a worldview that includes charms, amulets, curses, blessings, the evil eye and lots of fear. Western Christians need to be most concerned about this kingdom and the nature of this battle. As Ramez Atallah from Egypt recently said at Lausanne III in Cape Town: “We must recognize that the Church’s real battle is … ‘against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age’ (Ephesians 6:12). How we as a Church fight this cosmic battle is a cosmic matter, and the armor of God is our spiritual equipment that moves us forward to victory.”

In the book of Daniel, fifteen hundred years ago, God spoke to Babylonian and Persian kings through dreams, and how he used a Jewish exile to interpret them. The theme of this prophetic book is that God is sovereign and rules in human affairs. From his own revelations, Daniel was troubled by complex and terrible images, where “beastly” kingdoms rise and fall; he is comforted that the “Ancient of Days” will set up an everlasting kingdom. The Anointed One would be “cut off,” but “Jesus shall reign where ere the sun doeth its successive journeys run.” The good news is that as never before in history God is drawing Muslims to himself through dreams. He is building His kingdom.

I am convinced that the West’s darkest fears of Muslims and Islam are often tied to self interest and not for the glory of Jesus. We want to preserve our values, our cultures, our “kingdoms” and let the Muslims go to hell. Many of Islam’s fiercest critics among us have no intention to repent and no desire to see Muslims rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light. Few, including Christians, understand or care that what Muslims need most is deliverance from satanic bondage and the power of evil spirits. Few are thinking about God’s kingdom, and that he is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).

Warren Larson directs the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University.

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Several days ago, when a friend incredulously asked if the reported threat on Said Musa’s life for apostasy was true, I said yes, but added it probably would not be carried out. This proved accurate as today the media is awash with news that the life of this former Muslim has been spared. For example, Christian Today reports “Rights group says Afghan convert facing execution has been freed.” Thank God for answered prayer and for all who weighed in on this issue, including President Obama, who may have voiced his concern with the government of Afghanistan. During my pilgrimage in Pakistan Christians were often threatened, particularly those brave souls who converted to Christianity, but for the most part converts were not killed. In any event, Muslims must stop threatening converts, and stop mistreating non-Muslims because they have the power to do so. Numerous cases are currently in the news (“Christian woman sentenced to hanging for blasphemy”  and “Another Pakistani Christian woman faces blasphemy Charges”). Last month’s blog, “Is there logic to support Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law?” cited The Dawn in Pakistan for calling it “an instrument of abuse.” I said other minorities, particularly Ahmadiyyas, have suffered under its brutality. The topic of how Islamic sources address “Apostates and Punishment” has been my concern for a number of years, as spelled out in a previous article: Muslims particularly in the West, say that Islam proclaims freedom of religion. They quote 2:256 in the Qur’an: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” But does this exhaust Islam’s commentary on the subject? No doubt Jews and Christians can remain in the religion they were born into, but a Muslim is not free to abandon Islam and embrace another religion. One of Islam’s most respected theologians and prolific writers in the last century, Pakistani Abul Ala Maududi, insists that both Qur’an and Hadith demand an apostate’s execution. He quotes the Qur’an (9:11-12) and the canonized Hadith: “Any person, i.e. Muslim, who has changed his religion, kill him” (Al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, p. 45). The Islamic scholar, Majid Khadduri, agrees that qur’anic commentaries say a believer who turns back from his religion must be killed if he persists in disbelief . Another section of the same article looked at “Persecution of Christians,” including details of believers in the vicinity of Pakistan where I lived and worked for nearly a quarter of a century: In the middle Ages, Islamic governments were usually more tolerant of Jews and Christians, than Christian governments were of Jews and Muslims. But today, in Muslim nations from Nigeria to Indonesia, many Christians are suffering persecution because of their faith. On Sunday, October 28th, Islamic militants brutally killed eighteen Pakistani Christians and wounded six others as they sang the last hymn in a worship service … Nearby in the city of Multan, Ayub Masih (Christian), who had previously been accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad under the “Blasphemy Law,” is being held in solitary confinement in a four-by-six foot cell. He faces the death penalty. In conclusion, we need to keep praying for broader changes in the laws that affect minorities in Muslim contexts. This is a very serious issue in Muslim-Christian relations and I intend to keep writing in defense of those who suffer for following Jesus.

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The recent cover story in Christianity Today about substituting the term “Son of God” with somethining like “beloved son” in Bible translations is certainly is food for thought but Brown advocates going farther than I feel comfortable doing.  I have always felt the meaning should be explained in footnotes and commentaries, not in altering the text itself.  Muslims and former Muslims, sooner or later, have to change their thinking about what Son of God means.  The article ends asking more questions so doesn’t claim to have the final answer.  Yet, I have no intention of starting a crusade over this as one of my friends is doing.

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Finding Hope in Egypt

I recently did a radio interview with Faith Radio on the situation in Egypt. Here is the link:

http://www.faithradionet.com/2011/finding-hope-in-egypt/

The situation in Egypt, with implications for the entire Middle East, is fluid and at this point it is not clear what the army will do.  This growing uncertainty and desperation reinforces the need for us to pray for peace in the region and to join evangelicals in Egypt who had called for three days of prayer and fasting. We must pray that God will intervene and that he will be glorified in the midst and aftermath of this chaos and turmoil.  At this point, we cannot say  that Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, will come to power as a result of this chaos.

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