Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were all immigrants or refugees. They either chose, or were forced, to cross cultures. Eric Weiner notes this phenomenon in a Wall Street Journal article, “The Secret of Immigrant Genius.” So many immigrants excel that it has attracted the attention of social psychologists to ask “Why?”
Douglas Johnston is known as the “Father of Faith Based Diplomacy. Opening the conference on Religious Freedom and Islamophobia, Johnston said, “The greatest asset we have to fight militant Islam is the American Muslim community. Unfortunately, we have alienated many in this community.” Johnston also said, “As the Muslim community is marginalized, it plays into the hands of extremists.”
Many in evangelical circles are concerned with the impact of overgeneralized anti-Islamic rhetoric and how that impacts common goals that we all share for religious freedom and security. The polarization between the Muslim communities and the Christian communities is doing great harm to our nation and to our Christian witness.
March 4, 2015
The mob surrounded the house as the couple hid behind a locked door. It was not strong enough to protect them. The bolts broke and the young couple was beaten because they had burned some paper with Arabic words that some thought came from the Qur’an. They were barely alive when they were then dragged to a brick kiln, where they were burned to death. The angel from Daniel’s fiery furnace did not appear to those gazing in, they did not emerge unharmed, but the injustice of this vigilante execution touched the hearts of Muslim men in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Do you remember that couple that was killed in Pakistan last year?” Younathan, my Christian Pakistani friend asked,
The look on my face said, “No.”
“They were a Christian couple. They were accused of blasphemy and a mob surrounded their house and killed them.”
Younathan went on. “Two Pakistani men at the mosque here in Louisville contacted me and wanted to set up a scholarship for the four children that were left behind. They asked if I could help them.” Younathan took the request to his father.
As the world falls apart, sabers rattle and heads roll, an ancient prophecy about Jesus gives me hope. Written 700 hundred years before Jesus came to this earth, the prophet Isaiah said the messiah would bring justice and help the oppressed. God called him to “demonstrate my righteousness.” Jesus is a “light to guide the nations.”(v6) So, I look to Jesus as my example of righteousness and a pattern by which to model my life. Jesus himself quoted from this passage when he spoke in the synagogue in his hometown.(Lk4) The Prince of Peace then demonstrated to us how to live as he encountered the people of Israel.
42 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout
or raise his voice in public.
3 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
4 He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.[a]”
5 God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.
He created the earth and everything in it.
He gives breath to everyone,
life to everyone who walks the earth.
And it is he who says,
6 “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
I will take you by the hand and guard you,
and I will give you to my people, Israel,
as a symbol of my covenant with them.
And you will be a light to guide the nations.
7 You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.
8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to anyone else,
nor share my praise with carved idols.
9 Everything I prophesied has come true,
and now I will prophesy again.
I will tell you the future before it happens.”
One of the questions I have received asked me to address the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this video, Imam Wasif explains the taxes (Jizya) that are required of non-Muslims and contrasts Jizya with Zakat that is required of all Muslims. He also references letters written by Muhammad promising protection for non-Muslims. There is an interesting video on one of these letters here and a Wikipedia article here.
Is there a caliph leading ISIS? What does that mean?
As we sat in the mosque talking about the differences between the approach of Muhammad and ISIS, our conversation turned to this self-appointed caliph, Al-Baghdadi. The imam made it clear that Al-Baghdadi is acting from political motives and does not speak for Islam. He referenced hundreds, or possibly thousands, of Islamic scholars who have rejected the man. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) released a similar statement condemning ISIS and advocating rights of minorities in Muslim majority countries. You can see that statement at this link S2S statement on rlgs minorities. This four minute video is just part of an insightful conversation. For more videos click here.
Imam Wasif, with other Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders in Louisville, called a press conference on August 25, 2014 to condemn the actions of ISIS. Afterwards we sat in his mosque and I asked some clarifying questions. In this video Imam Wasif says that press statements are necessary because people are not sufficiently informed about Islam. He references respected Islamic scholars that oppose ISIS and explains how orthodox Islam opposes groups like ISIS. Dr. Muhammad Babar also wrote an editorial for the Courier-Journal on this same topic.
If you were to ask Muslims about the events in Iraq and Syria, you would get many different answers as to why these things are happening, which implies there is no single grand conspiracy that all Muslims have to “take over the world.” Sure, there are some who have grand designs to rule the world under a single caliphate, but most Muslims would never follow the radical leader of ISIS. The deeper question is, “Why would anyone follow a self-proclaimed spiritual and political leader who advocates such violence as God’s will?” Imam Wasif Iqbal asked the same question in a recent video interview that I did with him. According to the imam, this “caliph” has no appeal or legitimacy to most Muslims.
Many Muslims would like to see the world submitted to God. Christians would say the same thing. This world would be better off if we were submitted to God, but that should lead us to a neglected conversation between Muslims and Christians about what it means to submit to God and just how are we supposed to get to that point.
1 John 4:18 Perfect love casts out fear. As long as we are fearful, we are not loving perfectly.
With people’s heads getting sawed off with knives, it is easy to become fearful and/or angry. That is what the terrorists want. I’ve watched the news reports calling for war. Now, on this 13th anniversary of 9/11, the President vows to “destroy” the militants known as ISIS. Seems like we have been here before. Trying to bomb our way to peace seems misguided without a longer-range plan or asking ourselves, “How did we get here in the first place?”
Following the collective “we,” the masses, the majority, frequently get us into trouble. As Brian Zahnd recently wrote in his book, A Farewell to Mars, “the crowd is nearly always wrong,” or at least suspect. The crowd wanted to return to Egypt. The crowd wanted to crucify Jesus. The crowd has elected and followed some terrible leaders throughout history.
I wrote a letter to my representatives a few days ago. I don’t do so often. It honestly feels a little futile. Does anyone really listen? I considered just sending a one line letter, “Please support the Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act (H.R 3526).” I know Mitch McConnell receives way too many letters to read himself. I pictured some staff person quickly scanning hundreds of letters and making small tick marks on some chart of issues, “For” or “Against.” Maybe, if there is some vote coming up, Mitch will ask his staff, “What are people saying about this one?” One line might be sufficient and would probably be a relief to some staff person who did not want to wade through paragraphs of detail and passion.