I just finished a wonderful weekend teaching on the subject of homosexuality, marriage, and the Christian response to the current melt-down of Western culture on these issues at one of my favorite churches in the US, Covenant of Grace Church in St. Charles, Missouri. We had folks travel from all over to join with us, so it was a great time! I was, understandably, unable to really keep up with what was going on in social media for the past few days as a result. And when I started following up some notifications this afternoon as I began my journey home, I was simply outraged at the foolishness of what I encountered.
It seems that MuslimByChoice posted a video. Nothing new there—I have been documenting the incoherence of this particular YouTube account for quite some time. In fact, I have started to ignore the silliness flowing from this account as it at times is simply laughable. It lowers the level of discussion and dishonors serious Muslims. But a video was posted where my comments were edited to attempt to make it look like I was calling David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi liars. Now, anyone so immature and lacking in discernment so as to not see the painfully edited nature of the video should be ashamed of themselves. And anyone who then jumped into the following comment threads attacking me on the basis of the video who did not take the time to actually listen carefully to what I actually said in its fulness clearly lacks the slightest bit of care about the truth, let alone Christian charity.
Allow me to set the record straight for those who have not taken the time to actually listen carefully to what I have been saying of late (and that’s a lot of folks, sadly).
1) Fact: Islam is not a monolithic religion. There is not a “single” “true Islam.”
2) Fact: Not all Muslims are Salafi/Wahhabi Sunnis.
3) Fact: Not all Salafi Sunnis are militarized/radicalized.
4) Fact: There are different understandings of what constitutes Sharia.
5) Fact: The majority of the victims of the murderous violence of ISIS are MUSLIMS.
Let’s dispel the mythology being created by my critics.
First, ISIS draws from a stream of Islamic thought and jurisprudence that goes back to the earliest periods of Islam. Though the final very closed, radical, unreformable (note this!) form that is plaguing us today took time to develop (for example, the concept of the Qur’an as uncreated and eternal took generations to evolve), it is plainly ISLAMIC in its theology and its sources. It obviously isn’t Buddhist, or Christian, or Hindu, or Mormon! This is not only indisputable, it is likewise what I have been saying consistently, as the documentation plainly shows.
But it is just here that many of my critics jump the rails of rationality. If ISIS is Islamic, then is it the ONLY form of Islam? OF COURSE NOT. This would require us to hold to the absurd belief that there is a monolithic, consistent form of Islam worldwide. Not only does history prove this ridiculous, but it likewise would mean that the source documents (Qur’an and Hadith) are consistent enough to produce such a monolith. And it is painfully obvious that those sources are NOT consistent or coherent, an argument that again I have made over and over and over again.
So while ISIS is Islamic, it is not the ONLY stream of Islamic thought, doctrine, and practice. The stream that produced the narrow, destructive form of Islam we see today did not produce the high levels of culture that flourished in early centuries in the Islamic empire, a culture that produced high levels of scientific, philosophical and mathematical inquiry, for example. The streams of thought and belief that can be traced to that period have produced other forms of Islam today. Sadly, however, the narrow, destructive form of Islam destroyed that very civilization and, clearly, today, remains just as destructive and regressive as it has ever been.
So, what is the problem? To the serious student of Islam, history, theology, etc., this is not even a dispute. Islam is a multi-faceted movement. But the narrative that is predominating in many quarters of American media (and outside the US) is not willing to take the time to listen to the facts. Instead, this shallow, emotionally-laden mindset does not wish to do the work necessary to distinguish, honestly, between thoughtful and non-violent Muslims and violent jihadis. It is much easier to accept the narrative that all Muslims are jihadis who want to kill you and are simply looking for the opportunity to get around to it. It is much easier to foster hatred that way, and it sure sells, too! So ignore the facts, ignore history, ignore reality—throw all Muslims into a single big pile, make Anjem Choudhry their primary representative, and go to town with the wholesale promotion of—yes, are you ready?—Islamophobia! Because that is what that kind of emotional bigotry is.
Now, it is not helping MY bottom line to stand against this movement. But the fact of the matter is, as a Christian, I have no choice. I cannot sacrifice truthfulness and accuracy and depth of consideration and grace on the altar of what is popular today, EVEN WHEN MANY WHO CALL THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS ARE INVOLVED IN THE MOVEMENT. If you cannot control your emotions and insist upon broad-brushing every Muslim into the ISIS camp, that is your choice: you are dishonoring the gospel to do it. And when you are broad-brushed into being responsible for the crusades or Westboro Baptist or whatever else—don’t complain. You have no grounds to. Remember the Golden Rule?
Now, the video that Sam Shamoun posted and invited comment on specifically has the name of Yahya Snow on it. [Please note: I am writing this on an aircraft, and those of you who have used airborne wi-fi know you cannot stream video on it, so I cannot go back and quote time stamps, etc. I hope to play the video on the Dividing Line so I can address it more fully in that way]. Yahya Snow is infamous for being one of the unfair, unthinking, slash-and-burn style Muslims who think misrepresentation is the best form of dawa. I have rarely mentioned him for simply this reason. Like certain Roman Catholics, or KJV Onlyists, Snow has proven himself to hold a horribly deficient view of simple honesty and accuracy in his words and actions. To be honest, I have no idea why Sam Shamoun even posted his video, knowing full well how many times Snow has misrepresented him, and how he was, obviously, misrepresenting me as well. I am disappointed, to be honest. But that issue aside, the fact that so many jumped on the video *without checking its accuracy* is astoundingly disappointing—and telling, to be sure. I guess I should not expect those who refuse to do their homework about Muslims to do their homework about me, either!
Now Snow was attempting to sow discord amongst those of us who minister to Muslims (and with a little help he succeeded!). I am thankful for what others do in reaching out to Muslims, even when I may disagree with them on their methodology or on specific points of argument. Snow attempted to make it look like I was saying David Wood was lying. Yet, an honest examination of what I said, and what David said, would disabuse the clear thinking person of such a notion. I was saying anyone who says ISIS *exhausts* the spectrum of Islam is lying, just as anyone who says ISIS is nowhere to be found in that same spectrum would be lying as well. David was saying ISIS is Islamic and that its foundations are found firmly rooted in the Islamic sources. Now, David may well think ISIS is the most consistent form of modern Islam, I don’t know. Maybe David thinks the Qur’an and Hadith are far, far more coherent and consistent than I do. I know David has often done videos demonstrating that there are texts in the Qur’an and Hadith that can be interpreted (and are interpreted by various militant groups) to command violence and the murder of the kafir. But I have a feeling David well knows that there are Muslims who contextualize those texts and argue that they cannot be applied in every situation today, and in fact, some believe they could not be applied outside of those historic situations. I have never heard him say “And every single Muslim on the planet believes this.” What I have heard him say is basically, “Way, way, way too many Muslims DO believe this,” and with that I would agree wholeheartedly. I do not know if David knows Muslims who risk themselves by standing against ISIS or not—I assume he does, so unless I hear him denying their existence, I will assume we are not in conflict on this point.
Snow likewise attempted to take my comments about Nabeel’s video and use them as a weapon as well. I did express surprise at Nabeel’s words. I did so because I have come to have a good bit of respect for Ahmadiyya Muslims, and that was his background. Now, I know the Sunnis reject the Ahmadiyya. They are not Muslims from their perspective. OK. I will not quote Ahmadiyya sources as “Muslim” in a debate with a Sunni (despite the fact that my Sunni friends will NOT return the favor). And I get the argument: it is pretty hard to see how the Ahmadiyya can be truly Muslim when they reject one of the key, central tenets of historic Islam: the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad. I get it. But the fact is, the Ahmadiyya are peaceful people, often persecuted by the Sunni in foreign nations. You don’t have to worry about your Ahmadiyya neighbor tossing a pipe bomb at you as you pass by while walking your dog, to be sure. So I was, in fact, surprised at the video simply because I would expect at least a mention of the existence of non-militaristic Muslims in the discussion of Paris. I likewise found quite interesting the claim in a video I had not seen before that if Nabeel were still Muslim he would have to join ISIS in Syria. I am unaware of any Ahmadiyya in ISIS—in fact, doesn’t ISIS kill all Ahmadiyya in its lands as heretics? So is Nabeel saying he has seen the inconsistency of his own Islamic background and now believes that the *only* consistent interpretation of the materials leads to an ISIS like Islam? But wouldn’t this require him (and everyone else arguing that point) to be able to demonstrate a significantly greater level of consistency in those sources than our own apologetic arguments presuppose? Maybe Nabeel (or David) could find the time time join me on the DL to discuss just these things. That might be very useful.
I am going to be contacting some of the non-existent Muslims I have encountered over the past few years (you know, the non-ISIS like ones who must obviously NOT be real Muslims anyway, or, who are engaged in taqiyya or something) and seeking to arrange public discussions of these issues. Why? Well, it would surely be “better” for A&O to “lie low” or switch our emphasis to something else for a while. But A&O doesn’t exist to please men. We have always existed to speak the truth in love, and if that becomes unpopular, well—we are in the Lord’s hands. He can do with us as he will. But I will pursue this for a simple reason: Christians who buy into the “throw all Muslims into one pile, ignore their own words, force upon them your own narrative” movement will NOT be the ones who will lay down their lives to witness of Jesus Christ to the Muslim people. So I must be obedient to the command to preach the gospel to all people, including the Muslim people. I have been given the opportunity to learn about Islam so that I may speak to them. I know of precious men and women who today embrace Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation because we have stood firm in presenting the gospel to the Muslim people. I do hope that those of you who hear my heart, and likewise recognize the importance of consistency and truthfulness in apologetic ministry, will pray for us and support us at this time.
NOTE: Yes, I will surely be addressing this in the coming week on the Dividing Line. My time here is limited, and the pilot has indicated we are nearing time for descent into Phoenix, so I must get this posted. Thank you for taking the time to read it, and forgive its rushed nature.