Christian Leaders Seek Dialogue with Muslim Leaders
Posted March 01, 2007 by Kamal Nawash
The Free Muslims Coalition was recently contacted by a Christian Pastor who wrote a letter that he and numerous other Christian leaders want delivered to prominent Muslim religious leaders. The Christian leaders want their letter to serve as a basis for genuine dialogue. The Pastor has made it clear that the Christian leaders are only interested in a serious dialogue rather than a superficial, politically correct, discussion.
The Free Muslims Coalition have agreed to a arrange meetings between Christian and Muslim leaders and to secure a response to the "Christian letter." We have reprinted the letter below.
In addition to securing a response from top Muslim religious leaders, the Free Muslims Coalition will formulate our own response after reading your comments.
Read the "Christian Letter" and Let the Debates Begin
Dear Fellow Religious Leaders,
I am a Christian pastor with the Assemblies of God and numerous leaders within the Christian community have approved the following letter.
It is to be recognized that both of our faiths have much in common. We both recognize the existence of one God Who created the universe. We acknowledge that God is holy and that all of His ways are just and perfect. We stress the importance of worshiping God above all else. We acknowledge the importance of loving one another, of caring for the poor, the elderly, the sick or injured and those who are wrongfully outcast. We have an inward desire for peace and acknowledge that it can only be attained by seeking this God of peace. Also, we eagerly await the ultimate return of Jesus Christ (Isa).
We also acknowledge that our own faiths have throughout history fallen short of these ideals on numerous occasions. One such extreme occasion would involve the horrible treatment of the Islamic people during the medieval crusades. Enough cannot be said about these atrocities. For these actions, committed by our ancestors we, the Church, are repentant and seek forgiveness not only from God but from the descendants of those who were persecuted.
That being said, there is another matter of extreme importance before us in the present day. It concerns terrorist acts being committed against people around the globe and the response of the Islamic leadership concerning it.
As you know, much of the secular press has labeled these actions as the result of "a religious war" being carried on in our midst. This fact we find unconscionable as we, the Christian leadership, have no recollection of having declared war on you. Nor has the Islamic leadership given us any formal declaration that they consider themselves at war with us. It is most unfortunate that the secular press often takes it upon itself to represent or misrepresent our positions.
With this fact in mind, we must place a number of questions before the Islamic leadership. There are a number of reasons why your response is so important. Foremost, as leaders within the faiths of Islam and Christianity, each of us have tremendous influence on those who are followers of such faith.
Since the division between Muslims and Jews seems far greater than that between Muslims and Christians, we have been hesitant to include Jews in our correspondence with you. Nonetheless the path toward peace could not ever be complete without dealing with the friction between Islam and Judaism so, at least for the present, we will not include Jews in our discussion but will attempt, when necessary, to fairly represent their position.
In the meantime however, there is much that the Muslim community can do to educate us. For example the Christian community, which, like Islam, has its roots in Judaism still cannot endorse the terrorist actions of radical Zionist groups such as the Irgun or the Stern Gang. Many within the Christian community are not even aware of their bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 (which killed 91 innocent men, women and children) or the brutal massacre of 260 Arab people at Deir Yassin that these groups committed on April 9, 1948 - incidents that no doubt fueled the fires of future hostilities. Christians do need to be aware of them though and thus we are offering a listening ear to the Muslim leadership.
Again, the point of this letter is to not to justify Israeli actions but rather to establish a peaceful dialogue between the Christian and Muslim communities and to, as much as possible, bring an end to hostility and to establish peace for future generations as we anticipate the return of Christ.
We would request a formal and public reply to the questions below.
1. Are we in fact at war? Has the Christian faith in some way alienated itself from Islam to the point that you advocate our destruction? Certainly we must acknowledge the existence of many Christian missionaries, evangelists and apologists from both within the clergy and the laity who seek to convert Muslims to the Christian faith through persuasion. However there is a vast difference between converting through persuasion and being forced to convert.
Recently two FOX News journalists verbally became converts to Islam when a knife was pressed against their throats and their lives were threatened if they did not do so. So again, this question: Are we in fact at war to the point that you advocate our murder?
2. There exists a story, whether historic or legendary, concerning the prophet Muhammad. It is said that, during the early days of his ministry, his teaching that there is only one God was strongly rejected by his own Quaraishi tribe as well as many other local tribes. Each day Muhammad would walk down a certain pathway past the house of a woman who greatly despised his teaching. One tradition at least says that the woman was Jewish. Anyway, the woman would openly ridicule him and pelt him with garbage. Muha mmad never retaliated. Instead he took the persecution in a humble manner and walked on. One day Muhammad walked down the same road but the woman was not there. He wondered what had happened to her and began to inquire. Learning that she had become ill, Muhammad went to visit her at her bedside. The woman was both stunned and humbled to see him. She inquired as to why he would have such compassion upon one who had so unjustly persecuted him and was told "If throwing garbage at me brings you happiness then you are welcome to do so every day." The woman was so overcome by this that she repented and became a follower of the true God.
Now the above story is accepted by many Islamic people as historic and it is rejected by many others as a fable; primarily because it runs contrary to the idea that Muhammad would have accepted terrorist attacks as an acceptable method of spreading Islam.
Whether the story is historical or fictional we do not know. However our main question is this: Does this story run contrary to the true nature of Muhammad? Or is it conceivable that he would have reacted in such a way? Our Bible records the words of Jesus as telling his own followers to "turn the other cheek" and to "carry the Roman soldier's bag a second mile" and literally to turn your enemy into a friend (Matthew chapter 5). Such actions, by our definition, reflect godly qualities and would be characteristic of a prophet.
So our question is this: Was the character of Muhammad of the nature that the above story would at least be feasible? And, if so, were not the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country worthy of being condemned by the Islamic leadership as blasphemy?
3. It has been widely reported that, in many Islamic countries; primarily Saudi Arabia, school children are taught to despise both Christians and Jews. In fact it is reported that the children are taught that Jews are actually apes who have been designed to look human and that Christians are actually pigs.
NPR author Vicki O'Hara reports the following.
"The Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House has studied some of the textbooks currently in use in Saudi public schools, from grades one through 12. Nina Shea, the center's director, says the texts do not comport with what Saudi officials have been saying. The textbooks "reflect an ideology of hatred against Christians, Jews . . . and others who do not subscribe to the Wahhabi doctrine," Shea says. The center's report cites numerous examples. It quotes a fourth-grade text as telling students to "love for the sake of God and to hate for the sake of God." The report says that textbooks instruct students that Christians and Jews are "apes and pigs" and warns students not to "greet," "befriend" or "respect" non-believers. Saudi officials have told Washington that their reformed curriculum encourages tolerance and understanding of other religions and cultures.
Shea says any changes in that direction are miniscule. "They have made some changes," she says. "Sometimes though, the changes aren't all they're cracked up to be. For example, they will say, 'You have to hate the unbeliever but to treat them justly.' That's supposed to be an improvement." In its defense, the Saudi embassy in Washington issued a statement saying that curriculum reform is a massive undertaking and that the process in Saudi Arabia is ongoing. Shea is ske ptical; she notes that the oil-rich Saudis began the reform process five years ago. "They certainly have the money to change all the textbooks for next semester," she says. Ã¢â¬ËOr, last semester for that matter.'"
Our question then is this: Does the Islamic leadership in fact advocate teaching this sort of hatred to children. Would it actually be acceptable to hate someone for the sake of God? If so then are we not endorsing blasphemy against a holy God? And finally, will the Islamic leadership openly rebuke school officials who print such material?
4. Within the pages of the Qur'an, Muhammad himself describes the Bible as a good book. Please consider the following quote:
"ALLAH is HE besides Whom there is none worthy of worship, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. HE has sent down to thee the Book containing the truth and fulfilling that which precedes it; and HE has sent down the Torah (Law of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guidance to the people; and HE has sent down the Discrimination (judgment between right and wrong)." - Surah 3:3-4"
Now it must be noted that some Moslems have claimed that the Bible was corrupted after the time of Muhammad. This is plainly false as we currently have copies of the Bible which date centuries prior to the birth of Muhammad with no such evidence of corruption. That being said, we are left to wonder why there was no report of outrage on May 15, 2002 when the Washington Times reported that "there was little outcry when Islamic terrorists holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity reportedly used the Bible as toilet paper. Catholic priest s in the church marking the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born said that during the five-week siege, Palestinians tore up some Bibles for toilet paper and removed many valuable sacramental objects."
Should we not then conclude that these Palestinians committed blasphemy by desecrating a book that Muhammad endorsed?
5. The following verse in the Qur'an seems to imply the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave:
"Thereupon she pointed to him. They said, 'How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?' Jesus said, 'I am a servant of ALLAH. HE has given me the Book, and has made me a Prophet; 'And HE has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me Prayer and almsgiving so long as I live; 'And HE has made me dutiful towards my mother, and has not made me arrogant and graceless; 'And peace was on me the day I was born, and peace will be on me the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised up to life again.' That was Jesus, son of Mary as quoted in Surah 19:30-35
Yet our understanding of Islam is that you teach that Jesus never went to the cross. We understand that this interpretation is derived from Surah 4:157:
"And for claiming that they killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of GOD. In fact, they never killed him - they were made to think that they did . . . for certain they never killed him."
Whereas the substitution theory could be derived from the previous verse by itself, Arabic linguists have informed us that the verse is actually a paraphrase of Jesus' statement "You would have no power over me if it were not given you from above" (John 19:11). This interpretation would seem logical since it complies with Sura 4:158 ("Instead God raised him to him") and avoids an apparent contradiction.
The above understanding seems logical to us. Would maintaining the substitution theory not then put you in contradiction to Muhammad?
6. It is our understanding that Muhammad taught men to treat women as their equals. Indeed Muhammad's wife Aisha and his daughters are said to have supplied spiritual leadership for the Islamic community after his death.
However today in many Muslim communities we see Islamic women with limited access to education, employment and equal rights in the family. Their own perspectives are seen as worthless and never sought.
Recently we have become concerned about a young Iranian woman by the name of Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi. This 18 year old woman stabbed one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16 year old niece. For that she has been sentenced to death. We are informed that such actions are common in several Islamic countries and we find the practice horrific.
One of the unique aspects of Jesus' ministry was that he counted women among his closest followers and was always respectful of them. Is it not contrary to the will of God for men to do otherwise?
7. A teaching which we understand to have originated from within the Wahabbi movement more than a millennium after the Qu'ran says that those who commit acts of terror and kill non-Moslems are guaranteed a place in heaven with 72 virgin women as their servants. (As we understand it, the original Arabic meaning was not "virgins" but "white raisins.")
Here then is a vital point: Does the leadership of the Islamic religion thus encourage the murder of those who subscribe to Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. and promise such eternal rewards or does it discourage such practice?
Firstly, does the Wahabbi teaching not contradict verses in the Qu'ran such as 5:32 and 25:68-69?
We have come across a quote from Osama Bin Laden in which he declares the United States government to be an enemy of Islam and then declares that anyone who pays taxes to the U. S. is therefore an enemy to be killed. Now please understand that our paying taxes does not constitute an endorsement of all that goes on in our government. For example we strongly oppose the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion and are seeking to have it abolished. We do however pay taxes in obedience to the words of Jesus. When asked about paying taxes to the corrupt Roman government, Jesus observed Caesar's image on a coin and stated "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21).
Secondly, please note another principle in our Bible from the following verses: Numbers 31:17 & 18, Deuteronomy 7 and I Samuel 15:3. It is here that the Hebrews are given instructions on how to deal with certain corrupt tribes; namely the Midianites, the Caananites and the Amalakites. These groups not only advocated the extermination of the Jews themselves but also the murder of their own first born child as a sacrifice to the pagan god Baal. That is to say that Baal-worshippers sacrificed their own children. Indeed ancient texts speak of the Caananites placing a new born baby on a hot iron and watching it die as a form of worship to Baal. The solution that God gives to the Hebrews concerning these tribes of people is to wipe them out - kill them - remove them from the face of the earth.
Now it pains us to say this but just recently an Islamic woman was apprehended at an airport in England together with her baby. It seems that the woman had stored an explosive in the baby's bottle and had plans of detonating it over a populous American city thus killing each passenger including her own baby as well as thousands on the ground. Now we have not heard any words of condemnation from the Islamic leadership in regards to this woman. We are asking you right now "Will you condemn this woman's actions as contrary to Islamic law?"
Still further we must ask if you will condemn the actions of extremists who recently shot Leonella Sgorbati, a Christian worker at a children's hospital in Mogadishu? This lady died from three gunshots to her chest.
Will you condemn the intentional killing of Ali Mustaf Maka'il, a 22 year old college student also in Mogadishu? He was shot in the back for having become a Christian.
Will you condemn the words of Sheikh Abubukar Hassn Malin, one of your own clergy who called for the murder of Pope Benedict XVI?
Will you condemn the beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Kim Sun II, Paul Johnson and others; each of which took place while the assassins shouted "Allah is great!"? And will you tell your people that imitating such actions are blasphemous and place them in danger of the wrath of God?
Additionally we must point out that the Biblical response toward the Midianites, Caananites and Amalakites was to destroy them. Please, we do not want our society to denigrate into such a state. As representatives of Jesus Christ we want to be envoys for peace and not destruction. Please also bear in mind that, unlike in most Moslem nations, the leadership of the Christian Church has only limited influence among our government's policy makers. And we have no authority to establish political or military policy at all.
8. Now we must also draw attention to recent words of Iranian leader Ahmadinejad: He stated that all tension could be brought to a halt if America would just convert to Islam. We would request an explanation as to just what this means. There are so many different versions of Islam throughout the world that we are not even able to interpret the statement. The only thing that we can think of in this regard is to break dow n the term "Islam" into its simplest form; that being "submission or surrender to God." The vast majority of the Christian community has made an effort to do just that - to submit and surrender our lives to God. It is for this reason that we see so much conflict between the Christian community and the secular world in America. We cannot approve of their endorsement of such things as abortion, pornography or the homosexual lifestyle and, as a result they both hate and ridicule us.
We therefore ask the question "Should those within the Christian community who have surrendered their lives to God then be considered Islamic? Would it for example be possible for someone to believe in the Deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace and yet still be a Muslim?
Either way, there would seem to be a tremendous opportunity for us to work together for world peace. Now we recognize the likelihood that there would be great disagreement over just how we could accomplish these goals. For example some might conclude that the best way to remove pornography from a society is to kill the pornographer. This would run contrary to Christian teachings as we would instead seek to change the pornographer's heart with the good news that God loves him. This may or may not run contrary to Muslim practice. Nonetheless we see an incredible opportunity
for both groups to come together as a force for good.
This is why your response to these questions is so important. Many throughout the world do not even believe in God and much of that disbelief stems from their having seen violence and terror committed in the name of God. To the contrary, despite our differences, both Islam and Christianity can be a force for good and for peace in the world and the clergy can lead the way.
Pastor Howard Gardner