Are We Asking the Wrong Question About Violent Islam?

In his recent U.N. address, President Barack Obama boldly prophesied that the future would belong to those who do not insult the prophet Muhamad.  I both hope and suspect his is a false prophecy.  The problem with his approach is that it is impossible. Exploring the question of what insults the prophet Mohammed yields answers as varied as Teddy Bears and movie trailers. Consider just a few of the “offenses” to Islam which led to rioting, violence, and killing:

Miss World pageant(2002);

Down with Muslim Terror

Creative Commons

Newsweek (2005);

Cartoons (2006);

A Teddy bear (2007);

Facebook Photo (2012):

Speech from the Pope on how all religions should agree that Murder is wrong (led to worldwide murders);

And, finally, free speech itself offends some Muslims.

Honestly, it would be easier to state the one thing that apparently doesn’t offend violent Muslims: Perfectly enforced Sharia Law in a Muslim state.  Everything else (as noted above) is offensive to violent Islam.  Sadly, violent Islam speaks for the Muslim world. Non-violent Islam is unheard over the noise of terror.  And violent Islam is offended by anything and everything that is not complete submission to Islam.

Playing the shell game of which action will offend Muslim terrorists is about as liberating as deciding which handcuffs you want to wear, which color you want your prison jumpsuit to be, or which weapon you’d like used in your own execution. Such decisions might feel liberating in the moment, but they will never end well.

When it comes to appeasing Muslim violence, accommodations lead only further into fear; accommodations are by nature admissions of defeat.  It’s time to admit that non-Muslims aren’t the problem. America is not the problem. Christians are not the problem.

More News About Christians in Egypt

As feared, the revolution in Egypt appears to be escalating the violence against Christians in the home place of the pyramids.  According to this news report, Christians in the village of Soul (which is 30 kilometers from Cairo) were ambushed by a mob of 7,000 angry Muslims.  The Muslims stormed the Church of St. Mina and St. George, setting the facility ablaze.

The church and all of its contents were lost.  Included in the loss were a number of ancient relics which the church had preserved.  In addition, the whereabouts of the pastor and three deacons is unknown.  Some have said that they perished in the blaze; others claim they are being held captive by the Muslims.

Nina Shea, who has been covering this story for the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, reports that the churches in Egypt are now more vulnerable than ever because the guards who once were keeping watch over them now are engaged in other matters relating to the protests and demonstrations.  The churches in the provincial areas remain unguarded and have become easy targets for Muslim violence.

On February 23, there were heavy machine gun attacks by armed men against two monasteries in Egypt.  Allegedly, these attacks were in response to “zoning violations.”  In the Soul village attacks, the reason for Islamic ire was ostensibly a rumored relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.  Muslims apparently were outraged that a Muslim girl would be involved with a Christian man, on the one hand, and irate, on the other hand, because of the unwillingness of the girl’s father to kill her in order to restore honor to the village. (See more on honor killings).

According to International Christian Concern, a similar instance occurred in a separate village which ended with two people being killed and another church torched. And, in yet another attack against Christians,  Nina Shea also reports that members of the Muslim Brotherhood stormed a Christian school in downtown Asyut, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” while attempting to take over control of the school.  The school was built a century ago by Presbyterians.

Suffice it to say, the news does not look good for Christians in Egypt.  Of course, some may say that the Christians must learn to stop angering the Muslims.  Maybe the Christians should work harder to comply with local, arbitrary zoning laws so armed militants won’t be forced to storm their unarmed facilities and unload heavy machine gun fire on peaceful monks.  Or, Christians could possibly commit themselves to refusing any urges of affection toward Muslims of the opposite sex.  Yet, even then, I suspect that some other reason for outrage would emerge.  It almost seems like Muslims in the Middle East just want to kill Christians.

Burning Fears (Again)

I am posting below an e-mail I received from Barnabas Fund, a Christian organization based in the UK which supports and encourages persecuted Christians.  I post it because it makes a great follow-up point from my post yesterday.  I really only made the first part of an important point in yesterday’s post because I wanted to force people to think about what is happening.

As this post from Barnabas Fund indicates, there will likely be violence as a result of the burning of the Quran.  I agree with the conclusion of this post, that the action of Quran burning is “an unnecessary, offensive gesture” which will endanger the lives of brothers and sisters around the world.  I do believe that the Gainesville pastor has the right to do what he is doing, but having the right to do something does not make it the right thing to do.  He surely must recognize that he may be culpable for causing unnecessary conflict and, possibly, contributing to suffering.

Yet, to reiterate the point from yesterday’s post, I urge us also to reserve some ire for the Muslims who feel justified in killing as a response to free speech actions they don’t like.  I don’t mind if folks condemn Pastor Jones, but his actions are not the same as murder.  Murderers should be held to account, regardless of whether they were offended first by a book burning.  Burning the Quran does not justify Muslim murders.  I hope we will be clear enough to say that to Muslims.  I do believe that the pastor is unnecessarily provoking and offending Muslims, but I do not agree that they ought to kill innocent by-standers as a result of being offended.  There is something about this dynamic that is making the pastor’s point.  There is an irony in the Islamic ire.

Here’s the e-mail from Barnabas Fund:

Qur’an burning: “an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture”

Barnabas Aid statement on the proposed burning of Qur’ans in Florida

A church in Gainsville, Florida, USA, the Dove World Outreach Centre, has announced that it will burn copies of the Qur’an on Saturday September 11 to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The stated purpose of this action is to raise awareness of the ideology and teaching of Islam and to warn against its dangers.

Barnabas Aid condemns the proposed action, for the following reasons:

  1. Barnabas Aid is fully committed to making known the aspects of Islam that result in injustice and oppression of non-Muslims, not least the persecution of Christians. But we believe that the biblical and Christ-like way to do this is by speaking the truth in the power of God’s love, and by extending that love to Muslim people even when they are hostile to us. In that context it can never be justified to destroy a book that Muslims regard as sacred, however firmly and profoundly we may disagree with its contents.
  2. The effect of the proposed action on Christians in Muslim-majority contexts is likely to be extremely serious. Already Muslim militants in Indonesia have promised to kill Indonesian Christians if Qur’ans are burned in Florida, and the history of anti-Christian violence in the country suggests that this is not an idle threat. Barnabas partners in Iraq have expressed concern at the probable Muslim backlash against an already beleaguered Iraqi Church. And Christians in numerous other places who live in daily fear of potentially deadly attacks will at once be placed in much greater danger. It cannot be right to exercise our freedom to protest in a way that puts at risk the lives of our brothers and sisters, for whom Christ died.
  3. There is a further risk that Christian minorities may be divided among themselves as churches with links to the West come to be unfairly associated with the action taken in Florida and its destructive consequences. It is important for Christians under pressure to be united, as their division serves only to weaken the Church and increase its vulnerability to Muslim attacks. It is therefore wholly inappropriate to undermine that unity for the sake of an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture.

For these reasons Barnabas Aid urges the Dove World Outreach Centre and its supporters to refrain from burning Qur’ans on the anniversary of 9/11. It invites all Christians instead to join with us in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world, and that the hatred and violence that endanger them may be overcome by the grace and love of Christ.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director
Barnabas Aid
September 7, 2010

Contact us at or call 01672 564938 (from outside the UK phone +44 1672 564938).

What’s Wrong with Animal Rights?

My daughter told me of an ad she saw which encouraged dog owners to get their dogs a massage this Holiday season in order to help the dogs deal with the stress.  To say that we have gone too far in treating animals like humans is to say only what is obvious.  It could all be funny–conjuring up images of Marmaduke on a table in a towel.  Yet, Wesley Smith has chronicled just how serious the insanity has become.  His upcoming book covers the problem in detail, but this blog post will give you an idea of what we are up against.  Even more, Smith warns of how terror is growing in the animal rights movement, thereby causing important research to be left undone.

Clear as Mud

Our moral outlook is clear as mud, generally speaking.  The whole Ft. Hood terror attack (and that is what it was) is the latest evidence of our incompetence when speaking on moral issues.  Unbelievably, Major Hassan is being portrayed as a victim, when he is the guy who killed 14 innocent people (yes, 14. A baby was killed in the womb of one of the other victims). 

I heard a guy say that all religions are the same. All religions have always caused this kind of violence.  Is that true?  The Middle East Forum tackled the subject this week.  Read the article for a little clarity.

Another ‘Honor’ Killing

No one assumes that every Muslim is violent.  Few are asserting that the religion itself is inherently violent.  Nevertheless, the appearance to those of us outside of Islam is that it breeds violence.  The founder of the religion was himself sometimes violent, and the most vocal adherents of the religion are violent.  The tragedy at Ft. Hood is simply the latest installment of such violence, but the violence is not limited to isolated attacks on innocent, unarmed victims at military bases.  There are other examples here in the U.S. and around the world.  The fellow up in Seattle comes to mind; he shot people gathered at a Jewish center.  And, sadly, there is another honor killing in the newsThis story tells the grievous tale of a father who ran over his daughter because she had become too “western.”  His daughter is dead.

All of this says that we should let Muslims know what we are thinking.  We are not off our rockers in saying that we associate terrorism with their religion.  Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists appear to be Muslim.  We point this out not to denigrate their religion or castigate them as human beings; rather, we point this out so they will know what we are actually thinking.  Muslims have a duty to speak out more forcefully for the peace of their faith than the militants do who are speaking for the violence of it.  We ought to support and encourage those Muslims who protest and oppose the violence. They have quite a difficult work to accomplish; but it is their work to do.  We are not helping them when we pretend there is no relationship between Islam and violence.  In our experience, there is a relationship.  Whether it is a necessary or essential relationship, Muslims must make clear for us.

How Not to Take a Stand

GetReligion has a review of the news media’s coverage of Steve Anderson, the Arizona pastor who hopes (and prays for) Barack Obama to die.  Just to be clear, the pastor does not seek to kill the president, and he is not advocating violence against the president; rather, he is hoping God will cause the president to contract brain cancer like Ted Kennedy.  Tragically, this pastor serves a church with “Baptist” in its name.  I can say that Baptists are not historically a violent people.  Baptists have been persecuted by other Christians throughout history (Reformation, Roger Williams). 

I don’t think this pastor and his church are necessarily advocating violence, but their message is a lesson for all of us in how NOT to take a stand and serve as salt and light.  The salt here seems to far outweigh the light. And that is not good.  This obscuring of the light is evident in the way the writer lists this pastor as a conservative voice.  In this instance, I am glad that he is called a conservative voice rather than a Christian voice or a Baptist voice.  Still, it is not a good thing for those who are supposed to preach the gospel to be considered preachers of conservativism.