To Islam--and Back Again
By: Chuck Colson|Published: May 14, 2008 11:33 AM
Muslim Influence in the West
After September 11, interest in Islam soared, and everyone, it seemed, looked for ways to appease it or put a smiley face on it. For example, the University of North Carolina introduced a course to help students better “understand” Islam as a “peaceful” religion. According to the New York Times, that led some coeds to “find parallels between [Islam] and Christianity.”
And my alma mater, Brown University, put together a program intended to be taught at 1,000 high schools, "Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy." Student readings emphasize that Islam "is a religion that values family and tolerance," and that "throughout much of history, Muslims have lived peacefully with followers of other religions." Of course, that “peaceful” living came only after they conquered the Middle East, North Africa, and much of Europe in holy wars.
And the trend toward whitewashing Islam and giving place to it is still in fashion today.
Williams’s fellow bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali begged to differ. His father had to leave Pakistan after converting to Christianity—he knows a few things, needless to say, about how Islam fails to mesh with Western ideas and law. Nazir-Ali told the UK Telegraph that sharia is “in tension” with “fundamental aspects” of Anglo-American law. That is because our “legal tradition” is “rooted in the quite different moral and spiritual vision deriving from the Bible.” He also recently spoke about “no-go zones” that Christians should avoid due to threat of violence. Now his own family requires police protection as a result of death threats.
As I said recently on “BreakPoint,” we fawningly respond to Islamic overtures for dialogue, even as we see Christians being persecuted in Muslim nations—and sharia law being imposed on others right in our own backyards. This is a sign of the Church’s weakness. We’re not involved in a mutual exercise of tolerance; we’re being hijacked.
There is no “both-and” situation when Islam enters the West, with its Christian roots. One displaces the other—their views of the world are wholly different. Christianity recognizes the dignity and independence of the individual; whereas, Islam rules with an iron fist, demanding all follow its law. And on the ground, that plays out in life-or-death situations: Remember, for example, the late Theo Van Gogh.
Van Gogh died violently in 2004 at the hand of fellow Dutch citizen of Moroccan descent, Mohammed Bouyeri. Bouyeri left a note on Van Gogh’s dead body explaining his action as a message against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali-born member of parliament who was radical Islam’s chief critic in the Netherlands. A former Muslim, Ali forthrightly said violence and oppression lie at the heart of Islam. Ali and Van Gogh had collaborated on a film, Submission, which graphically protested Islam’s mistreatment of women. At his trial, Bouyeri said his religion demanded he “cut off the heads of all those who insult Allah and his prophet.”
THE DISAPPEARING WEST
Meanwhile, Christian women are marrying Muslim men, as Rosemary Sookhdeo wrote in Why Christian Women Convert to Islam. Many of these women have strong evangelical backgrounds, but later become disillusioned with Christianity or their faith wanes. They meet Muslim men in college who convince them there is no real difference between Islam and Christianity, or they marry Muslim converts to Christianity—who later convert back to Islam, due to pressure from family. They feel pressured to convert to Islam too, or risk losing their marriage—and even their children. This is why teaching our youth the fundamentals of the faith—and its differences from Islam—is so critical today. We need to move beyond engaging them in a happy Jesus-and-me “worship experience.”
Orthodoxy does matter. My book The Faith is a great place to start in gauging the tenets of the Christian faith. Without it, the Church is left with no meaningful, effective way to counter Islam. And then we get suckered into not just tolerating, as we should, but embracing it as Archbishop Williams did.
THE GOOD NEWS
According to the website Islam Watch, in Russia, some two million ethnic Muslims converted to Christianity last year. Ten thousand French Muslims converted, as did 35,000 Turkish Muslims. In India, approximately 10,000 people abandoned Islam for Christianity. And in Sudan, as many as five million Muslims have accepted Christ. According to one Sudanese evangelical leader, “People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead.”
Islamic clerics have not missed the trend. Every day, one Saudi cleric said, “16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity . . . every year, that is six million Muslims becoming Christians . . . A tragedy has happened.” He may have inflated his numbers to incite a reaction; nevertheless, it is clear that something significant is happening among Muslims.
Then there is Italian journalist Magdi Cristiano Allam, a former Muslim recently baptized by Pope Benedict XVI. Allam has spoken strongly against Islam and giving place to it in Europe. He counters ideas like those proposed by Archbishop Williams, saying—even before his conversion to Christ—that the “moderate” Islam these leaders talk about, and which he supposedly represented, was a figment of their imagination. The “Islamic Reformation” they longed for could be found in convincing Muslims, Allam believed, to “cease being Muslims.” Although he lives a life “under guard” for his protests against Islam, Allam accepts it because “the miracle of the Resurrection of Christ has reverberated through [his] soul,” so he writes.
So what should Christians do in this age of sympathy for a radical and dangerous brand of Islam? Patrick Sookhdeo, a Muslim convert and now Anglican priest, encourages the Church to witness without compromise. Reach out to your Muslim neighbors, but do so with certain expectations of their reception toward you. While they will welcome you into their home, they will not enter yours—or they may give you a copy of the Koran, but not accept a copy of the Bible. This is due to certain rules they follow in relating to those outside Islam.
Nevertheless, reach out and seek opportunities to engage in conversation, while holding fast to the Christian faith. Two books that will prove invaluable toward your witness are Dr. Timothy George’s Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?, which explains the differences between Islam and Christianity, and Sookhdeo’s book Islam: The Challenge to the Church, available from the Barnabas Fund.
What is called the clash of civilizations should not be won, one prays, on the battlefield, but by our patient, loving witness of the Good News to Muslims.
Chuck Colson is the founder of PFM and author of many books, the latest of which include God and Government and The Faith (with Harold Fickett), recently published by Zondervan. His other books include The Good Life (with Harold Fickett), Being the Body (with Ellen Vaughn), How Now Shall We Live? (with Nancy Pearcey), and Born Again.