Here are two things I am passionate about:
- Having conversations about what is true about different religions (specifically Islam in recent conversations) without saying the (silly) notion that all religions are the same. I desire simple honesty about what a religion believes and when lies are thrown out there, to identify them as such. How else will we ever find what is true about God?
- Not marginalizing, stereotyping, or spreading injustice to people who are Muslim.
Here’s what I’ve observed:
- There are a whole bunch of Muslims who don’t know what the Qur’an commands about killing. This large group of Muslims do not know much about the Qur’an in general. They do not read it or study it regularly for themselves.
- Many of these Muslims will outright say they don’t believe in the Qur’an as God’s authoritative word. Many will say that Islam is like Christianity or any other religion that believes in the Golden Rule. They are more pluralist than orthodox Muslim.
- These Muslims are culturally Islamic, holding to Muslim traditions, culture, and identity, without being Islamic in the practice of the Qur’an or the full belief in the Qur’an. These are long held family beliefs that are sacred and core to their familial and ethnic identity.
- Even those who say they believe the Qur’an and who do read it and study it regularly will put their individual reason above the actual words in the Qur’an. (in other words, they can make the Qur’an say what they’d like to / what their leaders would like to).
- These Muslims make up almost all of the Muslims you and I know. These Muslims are great people. They have strong ethical values and make great American citizens.
- These Muslims speak out against the actions of ISIS, terrorists and the theocratic regimes of Middle Eastern countries who are killing their own people and sending them fleeing as refugees. These Muslims long for religious freedom and separation of Church and State.
- There is another group of Muslims that make up ISIS, terrorists, and the theocratic regimes of Islamic countries that the secular Muslims are trying to distance themselves from.
- These Muslims are trying to hold to the Qur’an word for word. If Muhammad says to do something, they do it. If it’s beheading, they behead. If it’s kill your old child if they convert to Christianity, they kill their child.
- This group of Muslims is generally called “radical Islam” by the media. They would identify themselves as orthodox Muslims, or even true Muslims. They also kill and torture the secular Muslims, who they’d call apostates (something the Qur’an commands them to do).
The challenge when talking about Islam is that these two incredibly different groups, who have almost nothing in common, use the word to describe themselves, Muslim, and identify as being a part of the same religion, Islam.
This makes it very challenging to achieve my goal #1 above without perpetuating the flipside of goal #2.
I’ve written some pretty strong (and true) things against orthodox (word-for-word Qur’an followers) Muslims.
The difficult thing is I know this reflects poorly on the cultural / secular Muslims and perpetuates stereotypes that they too are terrorists (what we’d call someone who is obeying all of the Qur’an).
While I think these cultural Muslims should leave Islam altogether, I understand why they don’t. I understand the strong bonds of heritage and I understand the real faith they have in their cultural expression of Allah, even if it’s different from the Allah of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an is dangerous.
Cultural Muslims are not.
I don’t have a great way of reconciling these two conversations.
I’m not backing down from the things I’ve pointed out about the Qur’an. They aren’t my words, they are the words of the Qur’an and are simply true. I’m not backing down from the key point that Muslims who do terrorist acts are obeying the Qur’an whereas Christians who do acts of terrorism are disobeying the Bible.
But the truth about two very distinct groups who use the label “Muslim” must be clearly shown so as to quell racism and racial profiling. The way racial profiling works is that we see extremist actions by orthodox Muslims and we assume all Arabs/Muslims are this way. Meanwhile, there is a huge percentage of Arabs and Muslims that are not this way that we are now filled with prejudice toward. Any friendly Muslim or Arab we meet in person is the exception to our prejudiced rule of who Arabs and Muslims are, rather than the other way around.
Morgan Spurlock, director of the award winning documentary Super Size Me, had a show out a few years ago called 30 Days, in which someone would live in an opposite culture of what they were used to within America for 30 days. In a 2005 episode, a white conservative Christian from Charleston, SC lived with a Muslim family in Dearborn, MI (Dearborn has the densest Muslim population in the USA) for 30 days and had to live, work and function as a Muslim. The show was fascinating. What struck me most was the Muslims he lived with talking about the racial profiling they endured and the assumptions people made about them, as if because they were Arab, they wanted to kill Christians and blow up buildings.
I have seen this in my own life and ministry as a family of kids in our church from Syria & Iraq get called “Osama” by other kids at the neighborhood park, which breaks my heart.
The irony of racial profiling is that we don’t treat our own group the same way. We see extremist acts of our own group (in my case, white people and/or white Christians) and we label those extremists as the exception, not the rule. White professing Christians blow up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and we don’t immediately assume all white Christians blow up buildings. Or we see Westboro Baptist Church holding “God Hates Fags” signs and we don’t assume all Christians are this way. If someone were to associate you with either Timothy McVeigh or with Westboro because you are white and a Christian, how would you respond?
So don’t do the same to Muslims and Arabs who adamantly disagree with militant groups like ISIS and Hamas.
I really want to push us to not have an “all or nothing” mentality here (i.e. “We don’t want to spread injustice so we’ll never say anything true about the Qur’an, we’ll just be politically-correct instead and say things that aren’t true.”). It’s going to take work, but if we are careful we can speak truth while also not spreading injustice.
The fact remains that Muslims who do terrorist acts are obeying the Qur’an whereas Christians who do acts of terrorism are disobeying the Bible. Because this is true, it’s not an apples to apples comparison. The fact remains that the Qur’an says what it says. But when it comes to Muslims in America (and possibly even overseas), which is the exception and which is the rule? Without a doubt, the rule is that cultural / secular Muslims are fantastic people who need to upheld and supported and not stereotyped, and those like ISIS are the exception.
So do you have to choose between being pro-Muslim or anti-Muslim? That question is a contradiction as there are two very different types of Muslims. Take off the politically-correct hat and pause long enough to identify these very important differentiators, then treat each group accordingly.
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