Is It Okay For Christians To Burn The Qu’ran?
I’m borderline computer illiterate so I couldn’t figure out how to shoot you a question on Ask Roger. Hope this reaches you. Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies and do good to those who spitefully use us. He also taught that we shouldn’t resist evil, but overcome evil w/good. I feel that I need to speak out against the ground zero mosque but that’s resisting. I love Muslims but I’m not happy about the mosque as it is intended to symbolize conquest over America and particularly, it implies that 9/11 was in fact a victory in jihadist’s war against America. The psychological impact of that is very destructive and intentionally so. Our founding fathers didn’t overcome evil w/good. They didn’t stay in England and endure the persecution, affecting change by their example of Christ like love. They resisted the King of England and when that didn’t work, they left Europe for America. What’s the balance supposed to be like Roger? This antagonism of America is very painful. I want to do the right thing but I’m somewhat at a loss to understand what that is. I know the right thing doesn’t involve violence. I’m very clear on that. But what are Christians supposed to do?
You always ask me the most difficult questions. I enjoy them; especially because they almost never allow for a simple “black or white” answer. You always ask about the “gray areas” of life where thinking Christians have to make wise decisions about how to behave in complex situations. Frankly, the issues we face are usually in the “gray” areas of life. Deciding how to behave and respond takes much godly wisdom—especially because Paul’s teachings regarding the conscience mean that what is the right behavior for one may be sinful for another.
So, let’s start with the two extremes. Terry Jones’ behavior is on the dark side. Remember that he is the pastor of a small church in Florida who recently declared that he would publicly burn a copy of the Quran on 9/11. News of his derogatory behavior circled the globe. I read one headline that said, “Christian Pastor To Burn Quran On 9-11.” As I read those lines I thought to myself, “That headline is an unfair slam against millions of loving, accepting and kind-hearted Christians and pastors all over the world.” A much fairer headline might have read, “Mean, Unloving, Thoughtless, Radical, Arrogant, Un-Christian Jackass To Burn Quran On 9-11.” Please excuse my using a term like, “jackass”. However, it just seems appropriate, when according to the following article from Newsweek Magazine (“As Death Toll Rises, Media Should Look at Role in Quran-Burning Flap-Newsweek Sept 13”), he might be an accomplice to the persecutions and murder of Christians in other parts of the world that resulted from his un-Christian attitudes and behaviors.
In the end, Pastor Terry Jones bowed to all the pressure, and perhaps his conscience, but it was too late. At least 16 people have been killed in Indian-controlled Kashmir and Afghanistan through today, as riots sparked by Jones’s planned—and then scrapped—burning of the Quran spread across the region.
The violence started the day after 9/11, when the world should still have been recoiling from confronting the dangers of religious extremism. The terrible deed wrought by religious zealots nine years ago had the power to help prompt two nearly decade-long wars in which hundreds of thousands have perished. All that horror – and many would say, folly—was ignited by the fundamentalist passions of a small number of lunatics.
This time a single man—the leader of a tiny, obscure church in Gainesville, Fla., sparked the bloodshed. By Saturday, Jones had told NBC that he would not burn a Quran, “not today, not ever.” But the rage that he seemed so bent on tapping into had already exploded. Ultimately, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was marked by more religiously-inspired violence and pointless loss of life.
But the news media may have to examine their role in this episode. News organizations may well need to ask what public good was served by giving minute-by-minute updates of the antics of a little-known preacher. Jones’s decision to burn holy books near his sparsely attended church became global news because, well, it was disseminated globally. By making it big news, the media had a hand in prompting the subsequent violence. The question is what happens next time a crackpot decides he wants his 15 minutes of notoriety and chooses to do so by insulting Islam or baiting some other group.”
OK, Ed, I know we agree that a blatant attack on the most sacred text of Islam is not only nasty behavior, it can lead to bloodshed. By the way, so can the irresponsible behaviors of a thoughtless media whose primary concern is to make money at nearly any cost.
Now let’s go to the other extreme and consider the “white” side. This extreme is just as “dark” as the previous one; however, in our “black and white” analogy, we may call this the “white” side. But, it is really not that white after all. This extreme proposes that Islam is no threat to our national security nor to our current way of life.
Islam is a security threat in the sense that extremists use sections from the Quran to justify both terrorism and jihad—not only on America but on other Western nations as well. Acts of murderous behavior perpetrated by Muslim extremists against Christians in Allah’s name occur in places like Thailand, New Guinea and other Indonesian nations.
In many ways Islam is a threat to our current American way of life because it is a cultural phenomenon that slowly changes cultural dynamics wherever Muslims congregate and ultimately proliferate. Historically, much of North Africa was Christian until the Muslims slowly began to move into those areas, and today, Christianity is not welcomed in any North African nation. Several hundred years ago the peaceful Muslim infiltration into Spain was arrested when Islamic extremists attempted to overcome the Moors who lived there by force. In the ensuing battles he Moors were victorious and the Muslim advance into Europe was stopped—for a while. The current immigration of Muslims into France and England guarantee that the centuries-old lifestyle of those two nations will be (and already are being) irreversibly altered.
One of the strategies used by Muslims to permeate and transform a community is to build large Islamic centers or Mosques that will, by their size and activities, draw in people from the surrounding area and see them convert to Islam. If the trend continues there will no longer be a church on every corner as we have exclaimed in the past. In a generation or two we will find a mosque on every corner. Nevertheless, their goal to spread Islam through such a center is not foreign to history.
We Christians have done the same thing, many times, to spread the message of Christ. Without a doubt, like the Muslims, we will keep on doing it.
All right Ed, as you ask in your letter, allow me to answer your specific questions more directly. Let’s maneuver into the “gray area” as we seek a balanced approach as we sort out our feelings and actions regarding Muslims and the teachings of the Quran.
When Jesus taught that we are to “love our enemies and do good to those who spitefully use us,” He in no way expected that we must muzzle ourselves so as not to offend or hurt the feelings of our enemies. I don’t look at our Muslim friends as being our enemies anyway. They are people just like we are who want to experience a peaceful existence, raise healthy, well-adjusted children, have loving friends, enjoy a measure of material success, find meaning and purpose in life and to enjoy the benefits of religious freedom.
We must remember that many of our Muslim friends are appalled at the behavior of Islamic terrorists. Time and time again Muslim leaders have tried to separate themselves from any association or approval of the terrorists and their activities. Maybe it is time we listened.
Hesham A. Hassaballa recently addressed this issue when he quoted the declaration made at the second most influential school in the Islamic world, the Darul Uloom at Deoband: “[At] this All India Anti-Terrorism Conference attended by the representatives of all Muslim schools of thought organized by Rabta Madaris Islamiah Arabia (Islamic Madrassa Association), Darul Uloom Deoband condemns all kinds of violence and terrorism in the strongest possible terms.”
Maulana Marghoobur Rahmad of Darul Uloom said, “There is no place for terrorism in Islam. Terrorism, killing of the innocent, is against Islam.”
Hassaballa observed: “Although I am not a scholar, all my reading of Islamic scripture and teachings have informed me that violence against the innocent is totally abhorrent in Islam. One does not need to be a scholar to fully grasp this understanding; it virtually screams out of Islamic teachings–if anyone is willing to listen.”
With this understanding, may we solve conflicts with our friends in a functional way as Jesus recommend in Matthew 18 and in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul encouraged us throughout his epistles to handle conflicts openly, honestly, and functionally.
I conclude that it is quite all right to express displeasure with our Muslim friend’s behaviors without doing it in a mean or offensive way. Our loving behavior may be a marvelously attractive expression when contrasted with the name-calling and criticism so angrily expressed by some in our culture. Just because we don’t appreciate our friends’ behaviors in no way means that we can’t express our displeasure with a Mosque being erected at Park 51. Speaking out against the ground zero mosque is not necessarily “resisting”—it is our freedom to express our views. But, remember, in a country built on the concept of religious freedom, both Christians and Muslims have every right to express their religion without being persecuted, ostracized or ridiculed by others—and vice versa!
By the way, I personally feel that it is quite all right to be absolutely incensed at the erection of a mosque so near to what is becoming a sacred place of its own in America. Very few would argue against your idea that the mosque is intended to be anything other than a symbol of conquest over America and that as you say, “it implies that 9/11 was in fact a victory in Jihadist’s war against America. The psychological impact of that is very destructive and intentionally so.”
Your parallel question regarding the seeking of religious freedom by our founding forefathers is intriguing. I think of Paul in the Book of Acts about to be murdered by terrorist Judaic leaders. He was persuaded by his friends not to stay and fight the unwinnable. They lowered him over the wall at night and Paul ran away to live and fight another day. There is time to get stoned to death by the citizens of Lystra. There are also times to sneak out in a basket to live to fight another day. When every attempt to reconcile with the English monarchy was stymied, and no more amount of Christ-like-love would change matters, it was time to get in the boat and sail to America.
Let me suggest a practical answer to your question, “Just what are Christians supposed to do?”
Cherie Grey is a Casas’ member who has done an outstanding job helping Middle Eastern families locate successfully to Arizona. She has a number of people organized to provide food, clothes, housing, jobs and support for these transplants. Cherie wrote an article several years ago entitled “Ministering to Muslims.” I think she has answered your question better than I ever could.
We can build walls or we can build bridges. We can start with all the reasons why our religions are different and why we have different god’s and why what they believe is wrong and what we believe is right.
Or… We could find the redeeming truths that they already have in their culture and use those as BRIDGES to share Truth with them. Here are some bridges to start with:
1. Allah- this is the Arabic word for God and is used by all Arabic Christians when referring to God, and is written in Arabic Bibles as well.
2. Isa- this is the Muslim word for Jesus, no matter what country they are from or what language they speak; most often our Arabic Muslim friends refer to Jesus as “Isa al-masih” which means “Jesus the Messiah” although they don’t understand what Messiah means.
3. Prophet- Muslims honor great men of God and will give them the title of Prophet when they speak of them, for example “Prophet Moses” or “Prophet Abraham”; Muslims have great reverence for God while we practice a more casual faith in America.
4. Four Holy Books- every good Muslim who has been educated at all knows that there are 4 holy books and they should read them all—
•Torah (they say Taoorat)- the law of Moses
•Psalms (they say Zaboor)- of Prophet David
•New Testament (they say Injeel)- story of Jesus life
5. Injeel- this is the Muslim word for Bible (as well as the word for the N.T.); if you call it a “Bible” then your Muslim friend will assume that it is the Christian book that has been corrupted, but if you call it an “Injeel” they will be drawn to read it, especially if you can find one in their language; treat it like a holy book and don’t put it on the floor or show irreverence.
6. Prayer- take every opportunity to pray with your Muslim friends; remind them that Jesus is the only Prophet in the Quran who can heal people and raise people from the dead and so you want to pray in Jesus name because it has power; all 4 holy books suggest that we pray with our hands raised and our eyes toward heaven and this is how our Muslim friends will recognize our reverence for God.
7. Christian- most Muslims have very wrong definitions of “Christian” just as we have many misconceptions about them; because of the influence of Hollywood in so many countries most of the world thinks that Christians are immoral, polytheistic, wine-drinking, pig-eating, loose-dressing, materialistic, corrupt, unclean Westerners. It is wise to identify yourself as a “follower of Jesus” rather than a Christian, and this usually opens up wonderful conversations.
8. Dress- Muslims measure godliness by what they see on the outside; when visiting with Muslim friends you want them to know that you honor God and what you are wearing says a lot about your faith even before you open your mouth; it is wise for us to err on the conservative side (cover shoulders and knees) if you feel comfortable doing so.
9. Friendship- above all else our Muslim friends value relationships and their “love language” is hospitality and generosity; as believers our friendship needs to be faithful and consistent with them as we establish trust and offer our hospitality and love them as Jesus loved them.
Jesus taught that we “shouldn’t resist evil, but overcome evil w/good.” In other words, the love, support and kindness, we demonstrate to our Muslim neighbors should be so attractive that they are irresistibly drawn to Christ and soon surrender their hearts to Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Well, Ed, I hope you some help and guidance in my answer. Thanks again for asking.
By the way, thanks to the efforts of some of our Casas missionaries, we have the entire audio New Testament in Arabic on our site.