I am continually perplexed when I have heard Western political leaders defending Islam as a loving, peaceful and tolerant religion. It is as if they are saying, “Please, please, please be tolerant, peaceful and loving, because if you are not, and the true face of Islam is the jihadists, then we will be scared to death and will not be able to face it.” Such political leaders project their view that all religions are essentially the same and teach the same truths (or the same trivial non-realities)! However, the truth is that not one Islamic country embraces true religious freedom. True religious freedom of conscience does not exist and conversion from Islam results in the penalty of death. This is almost universal and foundational in the Muslim world.
For Messianic Jews the foundational issue is the Lordship of Yeshua. We know that no movement or religion that denies Yeshua’s Lordship can be wonderful. Indeed, those religions that were founded in the denial of biblical New Covenant truth present a danger to mankind even if there are good things in some of their teachings and practices. So we stand in the Middle East in a difficult situation and proclaim to Jews and Arabs alike that Yeshua is Lord. (We do partner with vibrant Arab evangelists!)
Is Violence Part of the Character of Islam: How can we know?
How can you know that Islam is not in essence loving, peaceful and tolerant? In my view, the most important books ever written to answer this question are by Andrew Bostom: Islamic Jihad and Islamic Anti-Semitism. These books emphasize prime source documents and include multiple authors. I encourage all our readers to own and read these volumes.
I list here the keys to know with certainty the character of Islam on this one question of violence. There are other issues like the place of women that we will not address, although there are violence issues in connection with that subject.
1. The Koran, especially in the later texts, calls for war as the means of extending Islam and calls for death for pagans that will not submit after they are conquered. It prophesies the violent end of the Jewish people.
2. The Hadith which recounts stories about Mohammed, presents many incidents of his violent treatment of peoples, multiple beheadings of those conquered and more. It is fully approved.
3. The great majority of Muslim scholars and commentators over the centuries argue that the later texts of the Koran supersede the more tolerant earlier texts. They affirm the importance of war in extending Islam when the chances of success seem good. They also affirm capital penalties as a means of maintaining loyalty to Islam.
4. There is no evidence that the majority of leading scholars today have eschewed and repudiated war and violence as a means of extending Islam. There are some groups of Muslims that have done so, but I believe that a survey would show the majority would not repudiate the example of Mohammed and the early leaders of the faith as a model for today.
Jihadism is a return to roots. Jihadists believe the reason for the decline of the Arab world is unfaithfulness. They teach that Muslims need to come to a place of unity and to go forth to conquer, to establish the worldwide caliphate. Again, everyone who wants to hold that Islam is tolerant is duty bound to examine the conditions of Christians in countries where Islam holds sway (some countries do not allow any Christians). There is not one Islamic country where Christians are not under duress and suffering persecution. Their governments, whether secular or religious, do not enforce protection. If Islam conquered Israel, the devastation for Jews and Arab Christians would be horrible. In addition, this would embolden jihadist Islam to further conquests everywhere. The West is largely blind to this and the world media stubbornly refuses to report even well-documented incidents of incitement, violence and persecution.
The majority of Muslims worldwide are not jihadists. However, this is not in accord with the consensus of the historic interpretive tradition and many are becoming radicalized. The more one submits to this tradition, the more one sees war as the legitimate way to extend Islam. The most telling question would be, “Is offensive war a legitimate means to extend Islam?” Perhaps we should have a poll to find out the percentages.
So why do Muslims become enraged when these very solid facts are pointed out. There are several reasons. First there are some moderate Muslims that are simply in denial and do not want to face the reality on the ground. (There are some Muslims that say many of the same things and are working for a foundational change in Islam.) Secondly, there are Muslims that are part of a stealth jihad, using immigration as a means for a future take-over of other countries that later could include violence. They want to keep the Western nations in deception. Those who reveal the reality are said to be Islam-o-phobic.
Sadly there are a number of Christians, including Evangelicals, that project and embrace of the legitimacy of Islam. Islam is embraced as good for Muslims and the need for the Gospel is diminished. This kind of wobbly (to quote Margaret Thatcher) Christianity is not biblical and will not extend the Kingdom in the Muslim world.
A Tikkun Response
What is the response to all of this in Tikkun? It is to support the courageous Arab Christians who are evangelizing their own people. These bold witnesses are in danger for their lives, but are bringing the truth of the Gospel to their people. Some have been threatened, some have established underground churches, and some (we recently hosted a couple involved in this dynamic ministry) are engaged in producing satellite broadcasts into the Islamic world. It is important for us to love the Arab people and other peoples under the bondage of Islam. God’s heart is to deliver these masses of people from bondage.
We believe that reconciliation and unity between Arab Christians and Messianic Jews is of great importance. Arab Christians have great potential as effective witnesses to the Jews. For a Jew, to find Arabs who genuinely love and care for them, who are forgiving in regard to their suffering, can be very impressive. We have not begun to see Arab Christians give themselves to a primary focus of Jewish outreach. If they are linked with Messianic Jewish communities, this could produce great gains.
We believe that the Lordship of Yeshua is the key to brotherhood in the Middle East. Nothing short of this will bring lasting peace and overcome the violence and prejudice prevalent in the region.