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Archive for June, 2011

From time to time our readers make comments that may be shared by others so occasionally we consider it appropriate to respond on a larger platform. Below is a comment from a reader to Dr. Larson’s post, “The Danger: Violent Islam or Weak Christianity? This post reviews f Peter Hammond’s work, “Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat.” The reader’s comment (in italics) is followed by Dr. Larson’s response.

While I agree with Warren Larson that Muslims need the Lord, I am not particularly impressed by many of his comments. The Muslim hoards did not go into North African like crusaders to punish Christians because of the “laxity and sinfulness”, they went there, as they had done all over the Middle East, in order to invade, take over, and convert to Islam. In the process many thousands were decapitated by the sword, others reduced to a miserable third class status called dhimmitude. Further, the Persian Empire was not Christian and neither were Afghanistan or India, so lax Christianity alone was not the target of God’s wrath. In India about 91 million were murdered. Why? Because that were not Muslim. Further, Muslims who murder and plot to murder, are not simply those “misusing philosophies and religions”, we’ve heard that nonsense from Barack Obama, they are doing what the Qur’an instructs them to do to infidels who don’t convert Islam. I think that Peter Hammond’s book would be worth reading, even if critically. As a missionary he has travelled extensively across Africa taking Bibles, food and hope to thousands.

Thank you for your interest in the topic, and especially your statement that Muslims need the Lord. This should always be uppermost in our minds and inform our interactions with them. In a previous post I wrote: “Muslims wake up with no church, no Bible, and no one to tell them about the Way, the Truth and the Life. Five times a day from countless minarets in their midst they hear God is great but who will tell them God is love? In this post, I will respond directly to some of the reader’s comments.

First, I believe there are a variety of Muslims, but it seems the reader paints them all with the same brush. My observation on this issue has been in the making for more than 40 years through studying and teaching in the area of Islam, but more importantly, from living among Muslims in Pakistan, 1968- 1991. Some Asian Muslims still stay in touch with our family, but we have also gotten to know a few Muslims in America. An overwhelming majority of them in our world are not extremists. Like everyone else, they are trying to make ends meet, and trying to get their children through school.

Second, Muslims do not try to convert us any more than we try to convert them,  and not usually by force, but the reader’s comment suggests Muslims have consistently converted others through violence. My sense of history is that Islam spread by the sword for the first 100 years, but after that primarily grew through trade, immigration and by having large families. Moreover, I am baffled by the reader’s statement that 91 million were murdered in India because they were not Muslim (1). If the reference is to Partition in the Indian subcontinent over 50 years ago, the record is that there was little difference between how Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs reacted. In any event, estimates of people killed during that horrendous period, range from several hundred thousand to a million, but not tens of millions (2).

Third, contrary to the reader’s suggestion, Muslims do not have a monopoly on evil, although they have done their share of it. Previous posts deplore the mistreatment of non-Muslims and abuse of women in some contexts (3). But accounts of Constantine, Charlemagne, and the forced conversion of millions of Latin American Indians, not to mention the bloody religious wars in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries indicate that Christians have also engaged in violent acts. Most troubling of course is that 1000 years ago, crusaders slaughtered Muslims, Jews and others in the name of Christianity and under the banner of the cross.

Finally, as the reader suggests, President Obama selects peaceful parts in his Qur’anic quotations, but this is a common practice. Those who promote peace choose warm, fuzzy verses, whereas others bent on violence (such as the late Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda), find plenty in the sacred sources of Islam to support their destructive behavior (4). To put all this in perspective, when we critique Islam, we should be fair and accurate. When we make Muslim-Christian comparisons we should do so from a position of informed engagement, as those who have Muslim friends. When we discuss tensions between religious groups, we should apply a rigorous historical analysis. This is not being soft on Islam or misrepresenting history, but it is the right thing to do. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. are as relevant today as ever: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Dr. Warren Larson
Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies, Columbia International University

[1] Islam and Christianity are missionary religions and both faiths have a “Great Commission.”  For Christians: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28: 19-20); for Muslims: “Call men to the path of your Lord” (Qur’an 16:25).

[2]In Freedom at Midnight, authors Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, say that in riots leading up to and during the birth of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, Muslims killed in hot blood whereas Hindus killed in cold blood.

[3] The Arab Spring across North Africa and the Middle East is breaking many of the stereotypes of Arab women and their ability to stand up for themselves.  Women are not only participating, but in some cases, leading protests, without veils and courageously laying their lives on the line for freedom.

[4]The Qur’an sends out mixed singles as to how to treat non-Muslims.  On the one hand, it admonishes Muslims to ask “People of the Book” if they have questions (10:94; 21:7, 48) and condemns violence and killing (5:32).  On the other hand, the next verse says those who wage war against Allah should have their hands and feet cut off (5:33).  Down a few verses it says Muslims should not take Jews and Christians as friends (5:51).  Some traditions suggest Muslims should not even salute Christians (Dawood, 41, 5186; al-Muslim, Vol. 3, 5245, 1156).

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