Thinking Christian

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Islam in America: Are We Ready?

Posted on Aug 21, 2010 by Tom Gilson

We Christians have a bad habit of not paying attention. It has hurt us in the past, and it’s about to do it again.

Our big social concern in the 1990s was abortion. Another steamroller social issue was bearing down on us then, though: the homosexual attack on marriage, family, and sexual morality. If we had been paying attention we could have seen it coming. They gave us fair warning, after all: a 1987 article laying out their strategy for “The Overhauling of Straight America,” including these steps:

  • Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible
  • Portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers
  • Give “protectors” a just cause
  • Make gays look good
  • Make the victimizers look bad
  • Solicit funds
  • Getting on the air with advertisements, celebrity endorsements, and more

The authors followed up this short article with an influential book, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s. (One of the authors wrote under a different name when the book was published.) Springboarding off the article, the book lays out a brilliant strategic plan for social change. It wasn’t very honest. It was highly manipulative (read the linked article). But it worked. It worked partly because we weren’t paying attention. They handed us their strategy on a silver platter, and we could have countered it with truth against their rhetorical manipulations. But we didn’t even see it.

We’re making the same mistake again today. The big social issue for Christians in the 90s was abortion. That hasn’t gone away, but it was virtually eclipsed in the 2000s by homosexual rights activism. That’s not going away soon either, but it’s about to be overtaken in the 2010s, I believe, by Islam in America.

Islam in America means we’ll be facing more issues like the symbolism and/or reality of a proposed mosque near Ground Zero, or Rifqa Bary’s fate. It raises questions about alleged honor killings in Muslim families, or freedom to share the Christian message at an Arabfest in Dearborn. For all we know it could involve more Islamist violence.

How many of us reading this feel prepared to face those issues from a clear knowledge of Islam’s beliefs and the Islamic world’s intentions?

Not nearly enough of us. And it matters.

Let me illustrate. A pastor friend of mine told me he thinks the Ground Zero mosque issue is easy: it’s a simple matter of freedom of religion. If the government can start dictating where Muslims can build their places of worship, then it won’t be long before it will restrict Christian churches in the same way. If we want our freedoms, we have to allow them the same.

This is but one of many perspectives on the Ground Zero mosque. We could swap opinions on that mosque all day long and miss the far more important question: do we even know what we’re talking about? My pastor friend’s position illustrates the problem nicely. He views Islam as a religion that deserves the same rights and privileges as any other. That’s questionable, to say the least. The following quotes come from Islamic websites.

In general, one can see that Islam is a religion which not only governs the private religious life of an individual, but also mandates and regulates all aspects of public life. (Islam and Democracy)

Religion and politics are one and the same in Islam. They are intertwined. We already know that Islam is a complete system of life and politics is very much a part of our collective life. (Political System of Islam)

Since the Islamic conception of life is a co-ordination between the body and the soul, it was natural that a very close relationship should have been established between religion and politics, between the mosque and the citadel…. As we have just seen, the caliph inherited from the Prophet the exercise of the double power, spiritual-temporal, and he presided over the celebration of the service of worship in the mosque, and he was the head of the State in temporal affairs.  (The Political System of Islam)

The West makes a natural mistake in their understanding of Islamic tradition, assuming that religion means the same for Muslims as it has meant for most other religious adherents ever since the industrial revolution, and for some societies, even before that; that is: a section of life reserved for certain matters, and separate from other sections of life. This is not the Islamic world view. It never has been in the past, and modern attempts of making it so are seen as an aberration….

Islam is a “total way of life.” …

Throughout history, being a Muslim has meant not only belonging to a religious community of fellow believers but also living under the Islamic Law. For Islamic Law is believed to be an extension of God’s absolute sovereignty….

As we have mentioned, in Islam God is acknowledged the sole sovereign of human affairs, so there has never been a distinction between religious and state authority.   (The Basics of the Political System in Islam)

It’s not a simple matter of freedom of religion, is it? Islam, according to what we read here, is not simply a religion. It implies a political system of its own, one that historically has been very much at odds with freedom of religion.

There is an important lesson to be learned here about Islam, but first I’m more interested in the lessons we Christians need to learn about ourselves. We failed to do our homework on homosexual activism, and look where it got us. Islam is even less familiar, more foreign to our way of thinking, and the issues it will present to us are going to be more complex. Are we ready for them?

How shall we, for example, understand the relation of religion and politics in Islam? How accurately do the quotes above describe Islam? Do most Muslims think of Islam this way, or only a minority? If it is both religion and political system, how does the First Amendment apply to it? Shall we grant religious freedom to a system that historically has created Islamic states almost everywhere it went—states whose nature has been to deny religious freedom?

If you think the Ground Zero mosque comes down to a simple matter of symbolism, or of religious freedom, then you don’t understand the issues deeply enough. I don’t know them well enough myself. Karen Armstrong has made a very persuasive case in her book The Battle for God that much of the trouble the world is in today can be traced to not understanding Islam.

I asked a friend of mine in Josh McDowell Ministry for a good introductory guide, and he recommended Answering Islam: The Crescent In Light of the Cross by Geisler and Saleeb. Having read it now, I’m eager to pass along the same recommendation to you.

I was surprised at how little I knew of the Muslims’ faith, especially their view of Allah, the Qur’an, and Muhammad. Did you know Muhammad is not considered to be the founder of Islam—yet it is far more acceptable in Islam to blaspheme Allah than Muhammad? This sheds light on the riots following the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, doesn’t it? Is it confusing nevertheless? It certainly is—which should motivate us to study and to understand better than we do now.

Consider again: do you remember the uproar when copies of the Qur’an were reportedly mistreated at Guantanamo? Consider this from Professor Yusuf K. Ibish:

I have not yet come across a western man who understands what the Qur’an is. It is not a book in the ordinary sense, nor is it comparable to the Bible, either the Old or New Testaments…. If you want to compare it to anything in Christianity, you must compare it with Christ Himself.

None of us in the West understand, he says. If Islam is going to be as potent a force in our part of the world as I think it is, then we ought to begin understanding. (We need to respond spiritually, too; another topic for a later discussion.)

I’ve just acquired Kenneth Cragg’s The Call of the Minaret, a classic on the topic, so I’m told, and I’m beginning to look into it. I’ll be studying more and blogging more on this in weeks to come. But you’re not going to get what you need from me. I’m but a beginner—a beginner who is convinced we all need to study up on the next huge social/cultural/religious issue facing the Western world.

I don’t want us looking back twenty years from now and saying, “We had our chance, but we blew it off completely. They told us who they were and what we were doing, but we paid no more attention to it than we did to the homosexual activists before them. And now look where we are.”

Also posted at First Things: Evangel

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23 Responses to “ Islam in America: Are We Ready? ”

  1. Charlie says:

    Good heads up, Tom.
    The relevant point, civically speaking, is that Islam, like Communism, is a belief system as well as a political system. This is something even secularists, especially those who trumpet separation of church and state, need to face up to. So far, their response has been to attack Christianity as the safe target.

    I don’t think the government should interfere with the proposed Mosque location, but we should see it for what (I think) it is: a declaration of victory not over a religion but a way of life.

  2. It’s hard for Americans to accept, but Islam is the greatest enemy America will ever have, because its god Allah is an enemy of the U.S. Constitution. Every time a Muslim prays to Allah from American soil, he’s promising to obey his will to subvert the Constitution and erect Sharia as in other Muslim countries. The mistake was in allowing Muslims to immigrate direct from Muslim countries in the first place, after which Americans confuse toleration of the intolerant with submitting to Muslim demands for superiority as Allah demands. The Ground Zero Mosque was sited deliberately to proclaim Muslim superiority on the American continent, and the rest is misunderstanding by non-Muslims, sorry.

    Keep up on the daily world news of Islam’s war with America via free links supplied by the Historyscoper:
    http://tinyurl.com/islamwatch

  3. Mohammad says:

    Tom I have to give credits to you for mentioning many things about Islam as it is, and without adding BS on your own.

    Yes, if you want to run a country with Islamic view point, then yes, local, state, country need to be guided by Islamic views. However, take Pakistan, that is not fully run by Islamic views. Many people here just want to practice their religion and not really overtake any country.

    However, I can agree that the proposed location for \close to\ Ground Zero is not really a wise idea.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    Historyscoper, thank you for your perspective on this, but I cannot agree it was a mistake to allow Muslims to immigrate here.

    Your other contentions are quite credible, based on what I have read. Here’s what I hope readers will do with this, however: check it out. Study the context. Learn what’s at the heart of Islam. It is neither simple nor one-dimensional, and if we treat it as something simple, it will be very much to our detriment. We need to engage Islam with understanding, for two reasons: One, no matter how false Islam is (and it is), Muslims are our fellow human beings, and we owe our fellow human beings the respect of seeking to understand who they are and what makes them tick. Two, we should know by now that when it comes to socio-cultural disputes, waving slogans at the other side gets us nowhere. If we want to resist Islam’s encroachment, we are certain to do so more effectively by understanding Islam.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    Mohammad, thank you for your comments. The issues you raise here are the kinds of things we need to understand more than we do.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    Mohammad,

    You say Pakistan is “not fully run by Islamic views.” Can you help us understand that in light of what seems to be contrary information here and here? Thank you.

  7. Holopupenko says:

    Hi Tom:

    This is way off the subject, but you might find interesting (given earlier exchanges here on Buddhism) the following link on the chasm between Monotheism (Christianity in particular) and Buddhism/Shintoism in Japan. Interesting (and sobering) reading: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1344428?eng=y.

  8. Mike Bordon says:

    Hey Tom,
    I appreciate Mohammad saying that the building of the mosque near ground zero is not wise. He is right.
    It would be to all our benefits if Muslims would agree to move it to another location… while at the same time the Dove World Outreach Center people who are planning to burn the Qu’rans would also back off… and agree to “protest” Islam in another way that is less offensive.

  9. Mohammad says:

    Mike Bordon, Yes, I would like to have leaders of that Mosque move the Mosque too, this way they would get more respect and continue to do what they want to do (at long as its good for all people).

    Tom, Thank you for saying we need to understand Islam and what “normal” Muslims believe before anything. By normal, I mean most living in this country. You are correct, every neighborhood have at least dozens of Muslims living (regardless of country or their skin color). You may think Islam is false, and you do have right to think that way. However, I believe if many people understand basic concept of Islam (you don’t have to convert or go to Mosque), then people can at least understand what Muslims in U.S do and believe.

    Yes, some Muslims from Afghanistan who spoke louder (or with guns), and same type of people from other Islamic countries have changed how people view Islam. I am not going to list what I believe in Islam, because there is more value if people do some research on the topic on their own, and not from what other have to say about this.

    I can understand that people quote few verses from Quran and say, “look, Islam teaches to kill other non Muslims”. I know where this says in the Quran, but most of the Muslims also know that it was time sensitive wording and does not apply now. But yet, some evil leaders in some Islamic countries gather poor people around who can’t understand Qur’an by themselves, and tell them that Quran teaches us to do this. That is wrong, and I can totally understand why a non Muslim would think Quran teaches that.

    Muslims do read Quran, and most of the Muslims read it every day, including myself, but I would never hurt or kill anyone because they are not Muslims. And this is what most of the Muslims in U.S believe.

    I have this question, and not to you or visitors of this page, but for every one of us to research and understand for sake of our understanding. Why over 20,000 non Muslims in U.S convert to Islam every year after spending almost entire life in practicing another religion? And I am doing my own research on this too, but it would seem there is no one asking them to do this, but they convert anyways.

  10. Eagle Driver says:

    Tom, thank you very much for this honest and direct discussion along with a place where we can ask questions, disagree, and not be disagreeable. Thank you Mohammad for your contribution and your web site as a resource. Tom your comment earlier directly hits the mark:

    “Learn what’s at the heart of Islam. It is neither simple nor one-dimensional, and if we treat it as something simple, it will be very much to our detriment.”

    Bulls-eye! I have been reading the 3 volume classic “A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages” by Henry Charles Lea in an attempt to become informed of historical tragedies so as not to repeat the same mistakes. For Mohammad I have a question. What do you see is the problem with a religion-based government? I ask this based on the history of the Church which owned the governments of the Middle Ages and its inherit evils. According to Henry Charles Lea’s book in Vol. 1:

    “[A proclamation is issued] in the modern world against heresy. The Waldenses [a sect against the Church] and all other heretics anathematized by the Church are ordered, as public enemies, to quit his dominions by the day after All-Saints’. Any one who receives them on his lands, listens to their preaching, or gives them food shall incur the penalties of treason, with confiscation of all his goods and possessions. The decree is to be published by all pastors on Sundays, and all public officials are ordered to enforce it… The character of this legislation [from the Church] revels the spirit in which Church and State were prepared to deal with the intellectual and spiritual movement of the time.” (pg. 81-82)

    Having read the consequences of a religion that can legislate and prosecute a death sentence back then (Inquisition) and then reading the same horrific religion-based government (Afghan widow shot for adultery after flogging), I need to ask as my kids so often do, “What’s up with that?”

    Mohammad thank you for bring out what the evil Islam leaders currently do, however I must say I am concerned for my freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution being compromised by the invasion of 20,000 converts to Islam’s religion run government.

    Searching for Answers

  11. Mohammad says:

    Eagle Driver,

    I like your last paragraph. Not because we can agree or disagree, but because it shows misunderstanding, and not on your part, but for everyone in general, including for many Muslims.

    If we do not understand the 1.5 millions American who have converted to Islam, and if we do not understand their reasoning for converting to Islam and their level of understanding, then one can say our freedom is at risk. Not risk of losing our freedom, but risk of not knowing who is in the government and with what intentions.

    Yes many hundreds of years ago, people pick Islam if they had sword on their head, but that is not the case in this country or in U.K. I am not going to again say why people should convert to Islam, because this is not the right place. But what I would like to say is I have watched over hundred interviews of people who have converted to Islam, and for many it was a personal choice, not a social or required choice. But if we understand why did they choose Islam anyway, then and only then we can be sure if they will respect the US Constitution.

    I am aware of what Afghans do or what few verses in Quran says. But those who fully understand Quran and the level of respect the Quran teaches, and follow the guidelines know what some Afghans do (and some parts of Pakistan) is totally wrong.

    I want to keep the response short, but want to end this with two things. Can Islamic leaders be bad? Yes, if they lack the full knowledge of Quran. My point is if one is born in the religion Islam, let’s say he is 25 years of age and only knowledge he got is from those people who say western people are evil and bad, that person will become a really bad leader. However, if you take person Chris from USA who is also 25 but converts to Islam after studying another religion (even the religion of the book), he and other person holds different beliefs and see each situation differently. The key is level of understanding religion and ability to think rationally without getting angry. That is very hard for many people to do around the world. So if this guy Chris, a new Muslim wants to go to white house, will this be a problem? I would not worry.

    Second, Quran does not say to stone a person to death if they commit adultery. There are levels and levels of rules there. It takes a knowledgeable person to head that kind of court. And most preferred to God (God of Jesus, God of Adam, God of Moses, God of Muhammad, the one God) is, act of forgiveness. But we all overlook that.

  12. Mohammad says:

    If we can really use this as extension of the last comment. Many do believe Quran teaches to kill others and commit suicides. But what Quran has said is this. One who kills another person; it is as he killed entire mankind, and one who saves another, it is like he saves entire mankind. It is not exact English, but this is how Quran sees killing of another person.

    Yes, did part of Quran said to alarm the non believers that convert to Islam or be killed. Well, those wording are there, because no one is allowed to remove those wording. But one must understand when that was said, why that was said. And in what context that was said.

  13. Eagle Driver says:

    Ah context, so many religions are guilty of taking the intent out of context to accomplish their own agenda. For me a religion-run government is inherently evil as absolute power corrupts absolutely (i.e., the Inquisition, the Afghan woman beaten and murdered for adultery, etc.).

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129306237

    Principles of faith (along with principles of virtue, self-control, friendship, our Bill of Rights, etc.) should be incorporated into a society to make it civilized (see Aristotle’s book The Nicomachean Ethics). Help me to understand that the Quran and Islam is not purposed to totally run the government.

    Tom, thank you again for an excellent post that reflects the concerns of Americans for the US Constitution and our Declaration of Independence. Thank you for the Islamic websites that communicate a religious-based governmental agenda to tear down the principles we hold dear in America. I am a military warrior like my father before me and my son after me who served two tours in Iraq. Education is the key to liberty and freedom. Mohammad, respectfully my son tells me of a different Islam than you are presenting.

    Again, asking questions to become educated as I search for answers.

    Eagle Driver

  14. Nick (Matzke) says:

    This post is hilarious, it’s like a Stephen Colbert parody of conservatives. The Muslims are the next gays? Like, what??

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    There is parody to be found here, all right. Some liberal misses the entire point of the blog post, and thinks I wrote the Muslims are the next gays?

    I guess you thought it was funny, Nick. How sure are you of that?

  16. SteveK says:

    I’ll be charitable and say that Nick’s comment is evidence that he’s having a bad day, otherwise he wouldn’t think this is a laughing matter or a parody of reality.

    Islam, according to what we read here, is not simply a religion. It implies a political system of its own, one that historically has been very much at odds with freedom of religion.

  17. brgulker says:

    or freedom to share the Christian message at an Arabfest in Dearborn.

    Tom,

    Christians are free to do this. You have an open invitation to come to Michigan (I’m within an hour and a half of Dearborn) where you or anyone else is free to share their religion. I’d be willing to walk the streets with you while you evangelized. Sure, you/we may experience some social or peer pressure, and maybe you’d feel somewhat intimidated by the situation, but your safety would not be threatened.

    It pains me to see you’ve jumped on this bandwagon, actually. Acts 17 has made an enormous mountain out of a tiny molehole, and it’s doing nothing by fueling animosity.

    If they — or anyone else — does love Dearborn, I would challenge them to come live here in Michigan and actually spend extended time in Dearborn, as opposed to inflammatory drive-by preaching at the Arab fest. I think if you — or they — did that, it would change opinions.

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Don’t read too much into that, brgulker. The full quote is,

    It raises questions about alleged honor killings in Muslim families, or freedom to share the Christian message at an Arabfest in Dearborn

    I don’t think you’ll dispute that the questions have been raised. This post is about facing the questions and pursuing understanding.

    Here’s what I really think about Dearborn. I think you’ll find it more agreeable to your way of thinking.

  19. Very good article. I have posted it to my facebook page. Thank you.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you, Garry.

  21. […] It’s not a simple matter of freedom of religion, is it? Islam, according to what we read here, is not simply a religion. It implies a political system of its own, one that historically has been very much at odds with freedom of religion. There is an important lesson to be learned here about Islam, but first I’m more interested in the lessons we Christians need to learn about ourselves. We failed to do our homework on homosexual activism, and look where it got us. Islam is even less familiar, more foreign to our way of thinking, and the issues it will present to us are going to be more complex. Are we ready for them? How shall we, for example, understand the relation of religion and politics in Islam? How accurately do the quotes above describe Islam? Do most Muslims think of Islam this way, or only a minority? If it is both religion and political system, how does the First Amendment apply to it? Shall we grant religious freedom to a system that historically has created Islamic states almost everywhere it went—states whose nature has been to deny religious freedom? If you think the Ground Zero mosque comes down to a simple matter of symbolism, or of religious freedom, then you don’t understand the issues deeply enough. -Thinking Christian […]

  22. Ilikemohammad says:

    The punishment for adultery in Islam. Please read the rest of my comment for your benefit and so you do not make false judments against Islam. I have found a very good link so please go to the site it is http://www.islamicvoice.com/april.99/dialogue.htm

  23. Charlie says:

    Acquitted.
    Though the writer of this piece doesn’t seem to want very much to accept it.
    http://www.freep.com/article/20100925/NEWS02/9250493/4-missionaries-acquitted-of-inciting-crowd

  24.    
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