In conversation with Muslims

by Mike Reith on 2nd July 2014

It is fascinating meeting Muslims, great people. The blokes will talk about God at the drop of a hat; the women are open and friendly. And like Brits, it isn’t a great idea to make them fit into one category. They aren’t all sprouting beards and heading for Syria. Mostly they like it over here, and seem be settling in droves. And the younger ones speak Cockney better than I can (in a cute Asian-y way!) Many of them are cultural Muslims, rather than really keen ones.

And they make really good curries!

But I’ll tell you what will not compute – the fact that it seems every day there’s a new headline of yet another atrocity committed by practicing and committed Muslims… against fellow Muslims!

Earlier this year we read about Farzana Iqbal, who was killed by her family for marrying the person she loved, rather than a cousin she didn’t. It later came out that her sister had also been the victim of ‘honour killing’. There are roughly 900 of these in Pakistan each year. Her husband was heart-broken. He said he loved her so much… he’d murdered his previous wife to marry her!

I pointed out to a Muslim friend that women don’t do so well in Muslim culture. He helpfully sent me a link to a website that defends the Muslim track record against women. It claims women have a favoured place in society. [It didn’t occur to him that when a religion needs to launch a website to cope with the accusations of women-abuse…, that in itself, speaks volumes.]

But I personally don’t buy it. It’s useful to go from what’s claimed in PR, to what happens in practice.

Meriam Ibrahim, 27, was given the death sentence for being a Christian. A new Imam was sent to her prison every day to convert her. She gave birth to a girl in prison in shackles, and the child now has physical disabilities as a result. Fortunately her case received international attention and America had words with Sudan who quickly decided they were full of mercy (given the alternative was to be empty of American money!).

Then there’s Boko Haram in Nigeria who kidnapped 200 girls because they were sitting a Physics exam. Perish the thought! Who let them out of the kitchen?

This was followed by reports from Malasia of a 15 yr old who was raped by 38 men. Sisters in Islam say the frequent number of rape cases is ‘extremely worrying’ (3k in 2012 alone!). Then there’s the 1,400 women who were abused by Pakistani men in Bradford. High regard for women? Yeah, right!

Most recently ISIS has declared the areas it has captured in Iraq and Syria to be an Islamic state, or caliphate. It calls on Muslims throughout the world to swear allegiance to it. And they are persuasive… if you’ve read what happened to anyone who disagreed in Mosul!

This isn’t isolated Muslim violence in one place. Read through the list again and this is widespread across the world. ‘Extremist’ gets a bit threadbare when extremism becomes common. Extremists are just activists.

Now here’s the rub. Muslims will immediately tell us that this isn’t proper Islam. Read the Qu’ran and it is a different story. But the guys doing all the bad stuff mentioned ARE keen Muslims. They cite Qu’rannic verses even as they do what they do. Ah, say the good guys, they don’t interpret the verses correctly… and so it goes on.

The effect it has on us ‘logic heads’, is that it makes us wonder if the Qu’ran is a clearly written book, if it is possible to read it in so many contradictory ways. Surely, logic would tell us that any good communication wouldn’t lend itself to such murderous misunderstanding. Perhaps it’s because it is written in Arabic and doesn’t easily translate. But that worryingly implies there’s a god who only communicates clearly in one language – which is unknown (and pretty unknowable) to most of the world!

Now you have to be fair and realise that Christianity too has its black spots. Well two…. the crusades and the inquisition. But that wasn’t about misunderstanding the Bible. The Roman Catholic Church acted aggressively because frankly it didn’t read the Bible at all. It just listened to the popes and politicians. Those years are called the ‘dark ages’ with good reason. But the fact is you’ve got to go back a few hundred years to find Christians behaving badly (and in reality they weren’t Christians at all!). People say you can make the Bible say anything… but saying it proves they’ve never read it.

(There are also many who say the Bible is irrelevant, and confined to a by-gone culture. People may dismiss the Bible for these reasons; but no one says it isn’t clear!) I’ve read it a few times now, and have yet to find a single contradiction. And you have to admit that Christians get shoved about left, right and centre, simply because they are uniformly known for NOT being violent, they DON’T retaliate… and consistently prefer providing a food bank to a fight!

You don’t get some being kind while others kill… with both sides claiming to read the same book!

I also decided I’d read the Qu’ran….daily! It’s early days. And I’m finding it a plod to be honest. But already I’ve come across a bit where a prophet (Khidr) came across a child and killed it with an axe! Apparently Moses was with him at the time and disapproved. But it transpired that it had been revealed to Khidr that the child would grow up to be an unbeliever. So rather than cause grief to his parents, early death by butchering was ordered, and a new (and better) child was to be delivered to the parents instead. It’s all there in Surah 18.74 (explained in 18.80-81).

I asked a Muslim friend what he made of it. He sent me another link to an American Muslim preacher. It’s 30 minutes, but very revealing. Worth watching on (it starts with the reading of the relevant passage in Arabic, and then the explanation comes in a very Christian preacher-ish way, in English!) The bottom line we’re told is that any parent would be happy to have a future unbelieving child axed – because then they’d only have good memories of THAT child… and don’t forget there’ll be a new one who is better!

I think the replacement principle works perfectly well if you are dealing with old furniture. But not with children.

I asked my Muslim friend if he’d like Khidr to come and axe one of his children if Khidr felt that later s/he would stop believing? I told him I was hoping for a clear ‘no’, expecting this was a no-brainer. Instead he replied to the effect that ‘death happens’!

Now do the Maths. The Qu’ran feels death should be administered to stop unbelief. Might that explain why ‘honour killings’ abound?

Surely if a prophet axes children for what they might do in the future, there’s justification for murder when unbelief is judged to have taken place in the present! The good guys say ONLY PROPHETS are allowed to kill kids. [Terrific!] But shouldn’t prophets set an example for others to follow?

I’ve also heard that Sharia Law allows only parents to kill their children, no one else! So after ‘honour killings’, parents are immune from punishment. [And I wonder if once they get the ball rolling, others who then join in are also exempt – being extensions of the parents? It would explain why no one’s brought to justice.] Yes, there’s always a song and dance by the ruling authorities that perpetrators must pay. But after reporting the grizzly details, our press doesn’t stay around to follow up on what happened next. Yesterday’s headlines are replaced by something worse as we saw earlier.

The God of the Bible however describes himself as ‘slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’. Well he proved it, didn’t he, with Jesus? He healed and served a whole variety of human need. He taught his disciples to love their neighbours, and to pray for those who persecute them. When he died on the cross he practiced what he preached, and prayed God would forgive his killers. Rather than axe unbelievers, he saves them, and changes them into loving replicas of himself.

Yes, there will come a time when people will face him in panic-inducing judgement. Actually I’m glad about that. I wouldn’t want people to go around killing kids and getting away with it, saying it’s OK. I want God to fix a day when we realise that was WRONG. And I wouldn’t want to be in Khidr’s shoes when that day comes. A God who has one law for prophets, and another for the rank-and-file, is inconsistent at the very least!

Now the last thing I want to do is play ‘holier-than-thou’, where I point to others who get it wrong. I know this God well enough to know I deserve hell for the way I’ve disobeyed him in my life. But what makes the real God amazing, is that he takes low-life like me, and loves and forgives them, and fills them with the Spirit of his Son… so they start loving others who are unlovable. Being on the receiving end of God’s love has that effect.

I’ve seen it with ex-Muslims. Many Muslims have become Christians. Last Friday I listened to another one tell us how she was cast outside her family, but she positively glowed with love.

A while ago my wife and I had a young Muslim man to stay with us. He needed a bed over Christmas. He left 5 months later (someone else needed to stay)! In that time he told me he’d been in the country as a student for 2 yrs, stayed in 18 different Muslim homes. He described how he’d been financially exploited in each one. He said he felt safer with Christians. Yes, he was a pain at times, but we loved him – not just our household, but our whole church family. We didn’t force him to change his religion. When he left he was still a Muslim. But his dad in Bangladesh heard about the care his son had received and wrote to thank us afterwards.

Christians do love Muslims. We just wish they’d lay off hurting each other.

Interestingly, a number of Muslims in Muslim countries become Christians NOT because a missionary got to them. They just notice how their home team operates, and are repelled by the unloving harshness they see around them. They are attracted to the living and loving Lord Jesus, who is a very different King. The bitter consequences they often face aren’t pleasant. But that only proves they were right in their assessment of Islam in the first place, so they don’t change their minds. The ‘convert or die’ ultimatum has shown the world there in nothing attractive in Islam that makes people want to return to it – they’d rather die than return! [It also shows the chief motivator of Islam is threat, not love.]

There’s a little Christians song that starts like this…

The King of LOVE my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never. I nothing lack if I am his, and he is mine, forever.

[An interesting article that describes the experience of Muslims in Britain who don’t want to be Muslims any longer, can be found in this long but insightful article in The Guardian.]