Following last week’s attacks against Jews and journalists in France, Islam has received renewed scrutiny. Heads of state have been quick to denounce the acts of terror while simultaneously defending the faith of the attackers. In response to the carnage in Paris, French president Francios Hollande adamantly stated that, “those who carried out these attacks, the terrorists, the madmen, these fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.” His certainty is politically understandable but hardly convincing. Bill Maher, in his usual provocative manner, summed up the suspicion of many when he said, “when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.”
It has been widely reported that radical (i.e. hostile) Muslims are the minority; that most Muslims are peaceable, charitable individuals who make for good neighbors and good citizens. This is true, but that radical minority is nevertheless many. Indicators tell us that the radical segment consists of 16-25% of the worldwide Muslim population. Worse still, this segment is growing. Such percentages are alarming and raise questions about the content of this religion.
Well, is Islam inclined towards hostility? That depends on ones interpretive method. Fundamentalist Muslims read the command for jihad as literal mandates—they believe that the commands to wage war against the unbeliever are still binding. Not only do their sacred tests command such action, but the early history of Islam is characterized by military conquest and this gives the radicals reason to see themselves as the true disciples of Mohammed. Moderates read the same scriptures but dismiss the war passages, claiming that they were nullified by later revelations. This process, called abrogation, allows believers to use some texts to erase others. They believe that the time for war is long past. These differing interpretive methods result in two different expressions of the Muslim faith. One is peaceable and the other is not.
Both are dangerous.
When we consider the threat that Islam poses, we generally view its victims as those outside of their faith. But the greatest harm is inflicted on those within, and the danger they face exceeds the threat of physical harm. As Jesus said in Matt 10:28, “Do not fear those who can destroy the body”, the fate of the soul is far more urgent. Islam’s doctrine does not just set some of its believers against their neighbors; it sets all of them against Christ. Yes, Jesus is respected by Muslims as a prophet, but his divinity, his crucifixion, and his saving work are all denied. In brief, Muslims acknowledge Jesus but refuse to accept him as the Christ.
This distinction is no trifle. The apostle John doesn’t mince his words, “who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 John 2:22-23). Muslims, of every type, are seized by a lie that puts their souls in eternal jeopardy. The conflict between segments of Islam and the West pale in comparison to the conflict between all proponents of Islam and God himself.
As Christians we must not become so concerned with geopolitical troubles that we loose sight of spiritual ones. Rather than fixating on the threat that some Muslims pose, we must consider their precarious condition. Consider how Jesus responded to the threats against himself. There were those who sought to kill him and others who chose to dismiss him, but he loved them all. In the same way, let us love all Muslims. Let us be diligent in prayer, courageous in evangelism, and merciful in every circumstance. We can do this when we remember that they are in greater jeopardy than we.