Author Topic: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)  (Read 5057 times)

scott3

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Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« on: August 26, 2006, 08:45:48 PM »
Before commenting on this thread, please read the entirety of this highly insightful and nuanced article by Khaled Abou El Fadl written after 9/11:

http://www.merip.org/mer/mer221/221_abu_el_fadl.html

In it, we find the following comments:

"The 'clash of civilizations' approach assumes, in deeply prejudiced fashion, that puritanism and terrorism are somehow authentic expressions of the predominant values of the Islamic tradition, and hence is a dangerous interpretation of the present moment. But the common responses to this interpretation, focusing on either the crisis of identity or acute social frustration in the Muslim world, do not adequately explain the theological positions adopted by radical Islamist groups, or how extreme violence can be legitimated in the modern age. Further, none of these perspectives engage the classical tradition in Islamic thought regarding the employment of political violence, and how contemporary Muslims reconstruct the classical tradition. How might the classical or contemporary doctrines of Islamic theology contribute to the use of terrorism by modern Islamic movements?"

And also:

"Significantly, the juristic class engaged as a rule in discussion and debate. On each point of law, there are ten different opinions and a considerable amount of debate among the various legal schools of thought. Various puritan theological movements in Islamic history resolutely rejected this juristic tradition, which reveled in indeterminacy. The hallmark of these puritan movements was an intolerant theology displaying extreme hostility not only to non-Muslims but also to Muslims who belonged to different schools of thought or even remained neutral. These movements considered opponents and indifferent Muslims to have exited the fold of Islam, and therefore legitimate targets of violence. These groups' preferred methods of violence were stealth attacks and the dissemination of terror in the general population. 

Muslim jurists reacted sharply to these groups, considering them enemies of humankind. They were designated as muharibs (literally, those who fight society). A muharib was defined as someone who attacks defenseless victims by stealth, and spreads terror in society. They were not to be given quarter or refuge by anyone or at any place. In fact, Muslim jurists argued that any Muslim or non-Muslim territory sheltering such a group is hostile territory that may be attacked by the mainstream Islamic forces. Although the classical jurists agreed on the definition of a muharib, they disagreed about which types of criminal acts should be considered crimes of terror. Many jurists classified rape, armed robbery, assassinations, arson and murder by poisoning as crimes of terror and argued that such crimes must be punished vigorously regardless of the motivations of the criminal. Most importantly, these doctrines were asserted as religious imperatives. Regardless of the desired goals or ideological justifications, the terrorizing of the defenseless was recognized as a moral wrong and an offense against society and God."


I would ask the following:

1) From a Christian perspective, is a "clash of civilizations" a good thing or a bad thing?  Why or why not?

2) What is the role of the rhetoric or casual commentary of a Christian pastor in relation to the question of Islam (either mainstream or the "Islamofascists") and such a "clash of civilizations"?

3) How should the Christian church in its official outlets react productively to the various political questions circulating today?

4) How should individual pastors and Christians react productively to the various political questions re: Islam circulating today?

5) What does a "productive" reaction entail?

I am really hoping for a continuation of the discussion of contemporary Islamic movements vis-a-vis Christian evangelistic efforts rather than a discussion of realpolitik, but let's see where the discussion leads.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2006, 12:40:15 PM »
Scott, a couple of points before I respond more fully later. I don't think it is helpful to apply terms with a specific meaning within Christendom to aspects of modern Islam. "Fundamentalists" and "Puritan" signify things in a Christian context that do not translate. It is usually liberal sociologists who confuse the terms across religions and use them in sense as a synonynms for zealot or fanatic. Chesterton pointed out in The Everlasting Man that the habit of comparing religions makes us assume false parallels, thus obscuring the absolute uniqueness of the Christian Church in the history of the world. He also considered Islam to be more of a militantly anti-Trinitarian Christian heresy than a new religion.

To begin on your question-- I don't know that a clash of civilizations is a good or bad thing, but it is something that it happening. It is particularly painful in the West because it exposes our own decadence. In other words, the "culture war" within the West gets exacerbated when the West meets Islam. T.S. Eliot said that a Christian culture could not be said to have become anything else until it becomes positively something else, not just a negation of Christendom. Muslims in Europe, particularly, I think can sense that Europe doesn't want to be "Christian Europe" anymore, but also knows that it can't be merely "post-Christian Europe". It is in danger of becoming Muslim Europe within a few generations. But it has to be something, not just a cultural free-agent. The best thing we can do as pastors in the U.S. (where we don't bump into many Muslims, at least not in Green Bay) is to ensure that we're living, and especially teaching, a robust, unapologetic Christianity to hand down to the next generation. That way, when Muslim civilzation does come into contact with us, it will at least be contacting something solid and not what it has been encountering lately, which is a half-hearted people who aren't sure what they believe and don't know whether to care.   

scott3

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2006, 11:04:46 AM »
Scott, a couple of points before I respond more fully later. I don't think it is helpful to apply terms with a specific meaning within Christendom to aspects of modern Islam. "Fundamentalists" and "Puritan" signify things in a Christian context that do not translate. It is usually liberal sociologists who confuse the terms across religions and use them in sense as a synonynms for zealot or fanatic. Chesterton pointed out in The Everlasting Man that the habit of comparing religions makes us assume false parallels, thus obscuring the absolute uniqueness of the Christian Church in the history of the world. He also considered Islam to be more of a militantly anti-Trinitarian Christian heresy than a new religion.

Thanks for the reply, Peter.  A couple of thoughts on your couple of thoughts...

I think that one cannot help but make comparisons between religions.  It's part of the communicative process in that in order to make something clear, you have to appeal from what is known to what is unknown.  In our case, that would be to appeal to Christian concepts in order to begin to explicate thoughts regarding another religion.  I believe that Khaled used the concepts of "puritanism" and "fundamentalism" simply as convenient, shorthand monikers to apply to a certain brand of Islam in such a way that an American, English-speaking audience could readily understand.  Some of my Muslim teachers spoke of "Islamiyyun Siyassiyyun" in relationship to the "fundamentalists" whose literal translation would be something along the lines of "Political Islamists".  This does carry meaning that "fundamentalist" and "puritan" does not, but it would certainly take more time to explain than simply appealing to known ideas.

Also, note that even in Chesterton's assertion of Islam as being a militantly anti-Trinitarian Christian heresy he is making comparisons and framing the whole argument in Christian terms and with Christian concepts.  The trick re: understanding Islam -- it seems to me -- is to be able to both understand Islam on its own terms with its own concepts and then be able to communicate it to others using terms and concepts that they understand.

To begin on your question-- I don't know that a clash of civilizations is a good or bad thing, but it is something that it happening. It is particularly painful in the West because it exposes our own decadence. In other words, the "culture war" within the West gets exacerbated when the West meets Islam. T.S. Eliot said that a Christian culture could not be said to have become anything else until it becomes positively something else, not just a negation of Christendom. Muslims in Europe, particularly, I think can sense that Europe doesn't want to be "Christian Europe" anymore, but also knows that it can't be merely "post-Christian Europe". It is in danger of becoming Muslim Europe within a few generations. But it has to be something, not just a cultural free-agent. The best thing we can do as pastors in the U.S. (where we don't bump into many Muslims, at least not in Green Bay) is to ensure that we're living, and especially teaching, a robust, unapologetic Christianity to hand down to the next generation. That way, when Muslim civilzation does come into contact with us, it will at least be contacting something solid and not what it has been encountering lately, which is a half-hearted people who aren't sure what they believe and don't know whether to care.   

I agree fully with being unapologetic re: Christianity and presenting a fully enfleshed, robust proclamation to anyone with whom we come into contact, be they secular humanists or Muslims.  This entails making the effort to understand the other as best we can, on their own terms and as necessary, arguing within their framework if that is what is required or reaching beyond their framework when (not if) that is required.

One of the things that I have said multiple times in other venues is that we have nothing to fear from fully engaging Islam fairly, even on its own terms.  Christian teaching is true teaching and the power of what God has done in Christ and the proclamation of that is far greater than the power of Islam's radical monotheistic message.  So we should try our best to both understand Islam on its own terms and individual Muslims within their own life situations even as we keep the proclamation of the Gospel our first priority in all our actions, public and private.  And part of proclaiming the Gospel entails the fair treatment of the beliefs of others (BTW: Many of these comments are not directed at you, Peter, as I do not believe you would advocate for the unfair treatment of anyone).

But getting back to the "clash of civilizations" thesis, though the question whether or not is actually occurring is an interesting one (Khaled would likely question whether the current "clash" is really between Islam as historically understood and the West), I am more interested in the value judgment that we put on it as Christian pastors and leaders.  Is this clash something that should be sought?  If not, why not?  If so, why so?  This would be one way to ferret out the relationship between church and state, and more specifically, our own role as individual Christian pastors and leaders in it with regards to our language, our rhetoric and our comportment.

It also helps to get at the question of the relationship between any political question (e.g., the "clash of civilizations") and our vocation as Christians to spread the message of the Gospel.  How do Christians, particularly those holding the public office of the ministry, navigate the Two Kingdom questions in a way most conducive to Christian outreach?

revjagow

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2006, 04:32:56 PM »

1) From a Christian perspective, is a "clash of civilizations" a good thing or a bad thing?  Why or why not?
2) What is the role of the rhetoric or casual commentary of a Christian pastor in relation to the question of Islam (either mainstream or the "Islamofascists") and such a "clash of civilizations"?
3) How should the Christian church in its official outlets react productively to the various political questions circulating today?
4) How should individual pastors and Christians react productively to the various political questions re: Islam circulating today?
5) What does a "productive" reaction entail?

I just had time over the weekend to read the article.  Thanks!  My thoughts are turning back to five years ago when my city burned and all the pastors here had to deal with human suffering on a level we were not used to.  Four years ago the Atlantic District hosted "Grace at Ground Zero" and had an open invitation to submit papers and present them - I did, and the result of how I wrestled with 9-11 was a paper titled "Religous Terrorism - A Lutheran Response."  After presenting the tensions in our faith between "loving our enemies" and "submiting to the governing authorities" I tried as best I could to unpack Luther's two kindom view and how it may influence the response of the church.  I also struggled a bit with how we engage our Muslim brothers and sisters after 9-11.  Here is the long quote from the paper:

TWO PERSPECTIVES OF  RELIGIOUS TERROR BY ISLAMIC GROUPS
Those Islamic groups that commit acts of terror believe they do so to advance their faith.  This is evident in what is perhaps the most damaging piece of evidence against Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda organization.  The evidence is an amateur video tape found at a house in Jalalabad.  While Bin Laden and associates gloat over the September 11 attacks, one of the sheiks present with Bin Laden said:
Everybody praises what you did, the great action you did, which was first and foremost by the grace of Allah.  This is the guidance of Allah and the blessed fruit of Jihad… I heard it on the Quran radio station.  It was transcribed word by word.  The brothers listened to it in detail.  I briefly heard it before the noon prayers.  He [Ulwan] said this was jihad and those people were not innocent people [World Trade Center and Pentagon victims].  He swore to Allah.
Quoted from a transcript that appeared in Newsweek; vol. 138, no. 26 (12/24/01) pp. 14-15

The statements made by Bin Laden and others on the videotape enforce what Bin Laden said in February of 1998: “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.”   These  words have inspired many Muslim extremists from all over the world who signed this statement titled, “Urging Jihad Against Americans.”
   The Koran, a text sacred to all Muslims, may seem to give some credibility to those who commit acts of terror in the name of Jihad (or ‘Holy War’).  In one chapter it states:
Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.  And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: the Messia is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!  They have taken their doctors of law and their monks for lords besides Allah, and (also) the Messiah son of Marium and they were enjoined that they should serve one God only, there is no god but He; far from His glory be what they set up (with Him).  They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, and Allah will not consent save to perfect His light, though the unbelievers are averse.  He it is who sent his Apostle with guidance and the religion of truth, that He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be averse . 
Surah 9:29-33; -The Qur’an translated by M.H. Shakir. Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, inc.; Elmhurst, NY; 1999

The chapter this is quoted from calls to followers of Islam to honor a declaration of immunity by those “idolators” with whom the Muslim armies make an agreement.  Without any instruction to this text sacred to Islam, I take the above quote and the description of subjugation to be the fate of all those who do not make a declaration of immunity.  I will leave myself open to those who are better instructed in the Koran to correct me if I am wrong, but the contempt aimed at the other (false) religions mentioned here may help to fuel some of the fire of those who wish to commit religious terrorism to advance their faith. 
   Christians who argue that terrorist acts may be supported by Muslim teaching are quick to point out the track record of Islamic states as indicative of what the religion stands for.  In particular, Christians have long criticized the poor human rights records in these countries.  Some challenging questions arose in a recent Christianity Today article:
Why is it that the government of Saudi Arabia welcomed Allied Forces to free Kuwait but forbids entry of non-Muslims to its country?  Western governments allow Muslims to talk freely about their faith.  Why can’t Christians do the same in many Muslim countries?  Muslims rightfully express concern about the denial of liberties to Palestinians.  But are the rights of Jews protected in Indonesia?  Are Hindus free in Pakistan?…
…Followers of Jesus in many Muslim countries can be put to death for sharing what they believe.  It would be wonderful to know that the Muslim leaders who joined President Bush in public to express solidarity against Osama bin Laden were already on record as condemning the persecution of these Christians in Afghanistan.  If not, why not?
James Beverly, “Is Islam a religion of peace?”  Christianity Today.  Jan. 7, 2002  pg.

While some feel that the justification for religious terror can be found in the teachings of Islam, there are other religious thinkers who make the opposite case.  Some claim the idea of Jihad (holy war), for example, is often misrepresented.  According to some Islamic teachers, jihad is not meant to be a militaristic crusade, but rather a personal struggle, or a battle in self-defense.  This is also reflected in the Koran:
Jihad may also reflect the war aspects in Islam (Submission). The fighting of a war in the name of justice or Islam, to deter an aggressor , for self defense, and/or to establish justice and freedom to practice religion , would also be considered a Jihad . "You shall strive for the cause of GOD as you should strive for His cause. " (22:78).
The previous Quranic verse incites man to strive , in the cause of God. The cause of God is justice and freedom for all, keeping the Quranic principle, "NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION" (2:256) on top of the list.  [/color]
  Copyright © 1997-2001 Submission.org

   It may seem that Islamic teachers do not all agree on how to interpret Jihad.  In my scant research for this paper,  I encountered what seemed like two voices.  A modernist voice that seeks to call Islamic people to live in peace with other people and other religions, and a more fundamentalist voice that seeks to fight a war against what they perceive as an increasing secularization of the world they live in.  While the modernist may view jihad as a personal struggle, perhaps the fundamentalist viewpoint can be understood better by a soundbite from a Muslim theologian of the Shiite branch of Islam, Ayatolah baqer al-Dadar:
The world as we know it today is how others shaped it. We have two choices: either to accept it with submission, which means letting Islam die, or to destroy it, so that we can construct a world as Islam requires.

Amid these seemingly different worldviews, Christians may again find parallels in our own history.  As one writer puts it:
Christian anti-Semitism has a long and terrible history, as does Christian aggression against Islam during the crusades and against fellow Christians during the Wars of Religion.  But after each outpouring of violence, the church has been forced to ask itself: Is this what Christianity is about?  Is this what Christ came for? Is this how we want to live in his name? 

In time the answers came, and, except for small, radical fringes, Christianity as a whole has repudiated war, coercion, and hate as ways to further the Christian message.


Islam stands at such a crossroads since September 11.  The tensions it has been facing for centuries have risen to the surface.  Is Islam a religion of peace?  Does it believe in human rights?  Can it find a way to be a part of the human community without violently insisting on its own way?
  Mark Galli “Now What? A Christian response to religious terrorism”.Christianity Today,  Sept. 17, 2001

   To summarize, Religious Terrorism can be understood as acts of violence to impose or advance a religious philosophy.  A Lutheran response to Religious Terrorism may challenge the worldview of some Muslims, while at the same time maintaining a humble rhetoric that recognizes how various Christian groups have also perpetrated acts of violence to advance their causes. 


Soli Deo Gloria!

scott3

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2006, 05:31:14 PM »
Just when I thought the thread was dead!  Thanks for the extended response from your paper!

To me also, I find that navigating the modernist / political Islamist divide is difficult as both claim to represent Islam.  As outsiders who have only scratched the surface of Islamic thought, it becomes very difficult for us to judge which one more accurately represents Islam.  Add to this our non-desire to teach Muslims better Islam but rather to preach Christ crucified, and the whole situation becomes a mire.

Let me, too, share part of a paper I wrote after 9/11 for a class at Concordia Seminary (St. Louis) on missionary practice.  It was eventually published in the Concordia Journal and can be found at the following link, if anyone is interested:


http://www.csl.edu/CJJuly02.pdf   (Note that it is from pages 270-290; the title is: "Bridging the Gap: Sharing the Gospel with Muslims")

But here is a long excerpt from that paper encapsulating the way I approached the topic at the time.  Some of my thinking has changed since the paper was published and I went to live in Africa, but I hope it may still hold some value.

Here is the excerpt (without the footnotes which add considerable documentation to my claims -- they can be found in the paper at the link above):



Trends in Islam
   A great debate rages in Islam over the proper stance to take in relation to the changing face of a world greatly influenced by the phenomenon of globalization with it concomitant pressures toward capitalism, modernity and pluralism.   There are many sides in this debate, and even within various camps there are disparate voices arguing in different ways.  However, the most prominent divide is between the Modernist Muslims who take a more liberal and progressive stance toward the changing times advocating a more spiritualized Islam and the Islamist (Fundamentalist) Muslims who reject most of modernity in favor of a repristinized Islam ostensibly along its original lines.  It would be too simplistic to say that only the Islamists seek a reformed Islam; rather, both seek to reform Islam but along different and often conflicting lines.

   Both camps have roots in Islamic history.  The particular phenomenon Modernist Muslims represent can be traced back to the mid-18th century, but the roots may go much deeper.  During the time of the Abbassid Empire  and even among the Ummayyids,  there was an adab culture that advocated the pursuit of the arts, medicine, philosophy, science and toleration.  The adabs helped to form one of the most advanced civilizations in the world at the time and oversaw great advances on many humanistic fronts.   

However, since the current debate takes place in the face of Muslim cultural weakness and Western dominance, a better place to locate the start of the Modernist Muslim ethos is during the 19th century with leaders like Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan of India (1817-1898) and Muhammad Abduh of Egypt (1849-1905).  Khan stressed that Islam is first of all a morality focused around taqwa – the proper attitude of a creature in the face of the awesome Creator.  He saw true religion’s essence as that explicated by natural law and, therefore, available to all people.  In practice, this meant that the West has something to teach.  Reason is superior to revelation.  Abduh taught along similar lines though emphasizing the primacy of revelation over reason while still claiming that morality is the most important aspect of human conduct.  He was also a great advocate of education, both moral and intellectual.  Like Khan, Abduh saw that the West had something to teach, but he thought that it should be evaluated critically and only the good aspects taken without the bad.  Both thinkers have many similarities to Western moral philosophers like Kant when they speak of the primarily ethical dimensions of Islam.  In Egypt, Abduh’s student, Rashid Rida (1865-1935), and he worked to eliminate the old conservatism that said the laws of Islam are unchangeable,  but they ultimately had little to show for their efforts.  Other important Modernist Muslims include Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1876-1938) and Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958), both from India.

Modernists have always had trouble making their presence felt in most of Muslim society because of their high intellectualism and difficulty packaging their message in an easily understandable form.  Further, they have rarely been in power or had the financial backing to propagate their ideals.  This is true even today as the petrodollars of Saudi Arabia and elsewhere flow to Islamist movements worldwide.  In addition, they have frequently been seen as agents of Western culture as many Modernists are educated either in the West or along Western lines; there is something “un-Islamic” about them to many ordinary Muslims.

Like the Modernists, the Islamists carry a long heritage.  Most obviously in this ideological line are the Kharijites  who surfaced even during the time of the Pious Caliphs, the first 30 years after Muhammad’s death.  The Wahhabi tradition in Saudi Arabia is also influential upon Islamists, and, oddly, Modernist Muslims like Abduh and Iqbal are also a part of the background of Islamist thinking.   The two most influential Islamist ideologues are Sayyid Qutb of Egypt (1906-1966) and Maulana Abul ala Mawdudi of India / Pakistan (1903-1979).  More than any others, these two thinkers have had profound effects on the mindset of many ordinary Muslims.  Both thinkers advocated a type of Islamic state where the Qur’an and Sharia reign supreme and the domination of man over man (read democracy) is abolished.  Both downplayed the role of reason in favor of revelation and advocated puritan ethics including the separation of sexes.

The concept of jihad allows a convenient entry point to understand the differences between the Modernist and Islamist approaches to Islam.  Technically meaning “struggle [in the way of God]” and not “Holy War,” jihad is interpreted vastly differently by the two groups.  Modernist Muslims see jihad as obligatory on both an individual and communal level, but they make a distinction between the “Greater Jihad” and the “Lesser Jihad.”   The Greater Jihad takes place during peacetime and can be an individual striving for ordering one’s entire life along the paths of God or it can be a communal striving for creating a good society.  Along these lines, Modernists speak of an educational jihad, an economic jihad for the poor, or a social jihad to abolish class differences.  As opposed to the Islamists, none of these “jihads” are explicitly connected with Sharia law as codified by the 13th century.  The Lesser Jihad, that of Holy War, is only permissible in defense and never in offense.

The Islamists do not distinguish between Greater and Lesser Jihad.  For them, all of life is striving in the way of God and can take place just as legitimately during wartime as during peacetime.  The communal jihad is primarily understood as war in the way of God to spread the rule of God.  It is incumbent on the Muslim to fight such a war if he is able and if there is a prospect of victory.  The goal of this war is true peace; a peace based upon the rule of God rather than on the tyranny of man.   Islamists see democracy with its founding principle that the people make the laws as being outright rebellion against God and the domination of man by his fellow man.  It is an awful situation to be caught in, and the only solution to end such tyranny is to implement God’s law – the Sharia understood as that which has been promulgated since the 13th century.   Wars must be fought even against so-called Muslim nations that are run based upon Western laws since the laws are tyrannical, and the leaders are apostate Muslims as evidenced by their refusal to implement Sharia law. 

As can be seen, Modernist Islam has imbibed much of the Enlightenment, liberal spirit of the times while Islamist Islam critiques this spirit and is a reaction against it.  Both ostensibly struggle to implement true peace, but what true peace looks like is conceived of quite differently.  Modernists justify their approach to governance based upon their human responsibility to act as God’s khalifas, God’s co-workers in creating a just society.  Islamists say that there is no justice in a society conceived along the lines of modernist Islam.

This divide helps to explain much of what happened following 9-11.  In the U.S., most pious Muslims tend toward the Modernist side and emphasize the peaceful, progressive aspects of Islam.  They were horrified and outraged at what happened to the World Trade Center and vigorously insist that what happened was un-Islamic and that Islam is a religion of peace.  Many nominal Muslims were shocked to think that Islam was in any way connected to such an act and, if Islam does teach people to fly planes into buildings, they want nothing to do with it.  From a Christian perspective, these Muslims would be receptive to the proclamation of the gospel of peace, but many probably went to Modernist Muslim leaders and were assured that Islam was not to blame for these attacks.  The end result is that many nominal Muslims have become pious Modernist Muslims.

Even Islamist Muslims worldwide were alarmed by the attacks because they were carried out against civilians including women and children without any warning.  Much of the anger at our attacks against Osama bin Laden is the result of the refusal of these Muslims to believe that such a “pious” Muslim as bin Laden is capable of such an attack since Islam forbids the killing of innocents and sneak attacks during times of peace.  For them, a pious Muslim by definition could not carry out such an attack; therefore, bin Laden, a pious Muslim, did not do it.

Further, many Muslims feel that the attacks on the U.S. are understandable in light of past American policies.  At the head of the list is the current American policy toward Israel where we give over $3 billion a year to the Israeli government.  In the words of Sheikh Abdul Majeed Atta, a Palestinian member of Hamas:

[9-11] was an awful thing, a tragedy, and since we live a continuous tragedy, we felt like this touched us… but when we see something like this in Israel or the US, we feel a contradiction.  We see it’s a tragedy, but we remember that these are the people behind our tragedy… Even small children know that Israel is nothing without America… and here America means F-16, M-16, Apache helicopters, the tools Israelis use to kill us and destroy our homes.

In addition, the pride of many Muslims has been absolutely crushed following centuries of colonialism and the general backwardness of Muslim societies.  War is rampant, Muslim governments dictatorial and repressive, and military defeat after military defeat is handed to Muslim countries by the West and Israel.  A poem written by a Saudi ambassador, a member of one of the richest families in the world, nicely summarizes Muslim sentiment:

Children are dying, but no one makes a move.
Houses are demolished, but no one makes a move.
Holy places are desecrated, but no one makes a move…
I am fed up with life in the world of mortals.
Find me a hole near you.  For a life of dignity is in those holes. 


This type of despair and wounded pride fuels anger and disenchantment with everything Western and a desire to do anything to restore lost dignity.

It is into such a context of despair, resurgent Islam and inter-Muslim conflicts that the gospel is preached.  It is a message tainted by long association with the West and its oppressive, arrogant stance towards the rest of the world.  This is particularly true of the lone superpower who bestrides the world as a colossus, unchallenged and seemingly invincible.  To speak of humility, sacrifice, love and forgiveness in the name of Christ seems to be the height of hypocrisy for a rich Western person to do.  Christian converts from Islam are seen as people who betray their culture, their religion, and their pride; each convert is one more slap in the face to people who already feel dominated and humiliated through no fault of their own.

If Muslims want to seek rapprochement with Western dominance and thought patterns, Modernist Islam provides a way to do so and remain Muslim.  For Muslims who want nothing to do with the West, Islamist Islam provides them an alternative and a vision for all aspects of society that relies solely upon seemingly “Islamic” resources such as the Sharia and classical interpretations of a puritanical Islam; it is the way of no compromise and the way of pride.

Paradoxically, 9-11 has served to increase the effectiveness of Islamic da’wah (mission)  for both Islamists and Modernists.  One Muslim cleric from New York said that he has seen the number of converts to Islam quadruple in the weeks following 9-11 as more and more people sought to learn more about the religion of the hijackers to understand their reasoning.   Modernist Muslims push their agendas of a liberal Islam that preaches peace and progressive ideas that look like much of contemporary American society – help for poor people, better education, building a better society.  Islamist Muslims reap in a harvest of disaffected Muslims worldwide who see Muslims asserting their power over against the supposedly invincible America.  The courage and vision of the 19 hijackers to destroy an icon of Americana, kill thousands and cause over $300 billion in damage to American infrastructure is seen as an example of what determined Muslims can do and a source of pride.  Both sides of Islam have benefited from 9-11.

Christians have also unwittingly contributed to the increase in conversions to Islam by their salutary attempts to portray Islam as seen by the Modernist Muslims – a religion of peace and justice – and ignoring that the Islamist Muslims also have a legitimate position in their interpretation of Islam.  Even the seminars that Christians have put on to help people understand Islam better are double-edged – they are needed to help Christians better witness to Muslims and to increase the safety of Muslims by reducing Christian fear of Muslims, but they also serve as platforms for the preaching of the message of Islam.  Any action undertaken by Christians to educate people about Islam needs to remember both the benefits and the dangers of such education.

All is not dark, though.  Acts of Christian charity and love have yielded fruit for Christ.  Christian action to protect and love Muslims even in the face of the 9-11 attacks has caused many Muslims to want to learn more about Christianity.  There is a story told by an ELCA Palestinian pastor who held a joint prayer service with Muslims and, after the service, was asked by the leader of the mosque to have a private Bible study because the imam could not understand why Christians reacted in love toward Muslims rather than anger.   While joint prayer services should be avoided (who, exactly, is being prayed to?), patient and long-suffering love can and does overcome the barriers Muslims put up against Christians.  Most crucial is that opportunities for Christians and Muslims to come into contact with one another are created in order to make it possible for the gospel to be proclaimed with love and tact.

Christians must affirm that God is at work in the world and uses all things to bring people to Himself through Christ.  The events of 9-11 must be seen in this light – as events that somehow God will turn to good, a good defined by the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, especially to Muslims.  We stand at a crossroads in Christian-Muslim relations; because of 9-11, there are many opportunities and many dangers.  We can either increase our outreach with the word of the gospel in love or we can watch Muslims become strengthened in their faith – whether that is the liberal faith of Modernist Islam or the strident faith of Islamist Islam.  More than ever it is clear that the time for Christian outreach to Muslims is now, and we dare not miss the opportunity for the alternative is too grim to consider.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2006, 05:47:23 PM by Scott Yakimow »

revjagow

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2006, 11:16:18 AM »
Actually, of all the threads here, this is the one that most interests me this week.  Of course, you keep giving us more stuff to read!!!  Ah, well.  I'm surprised I missed that particular journal.  The article you wrote looks great.  I appologize left and right in my paper, because if I had the time I would have spent more time researching.  I found it extremely difficult to convey the complex theology of Muslim thought, especially when because Islam is such a part of societies that have been hurt by the west, so the anti-western angst gets mixed in with the theological beliefs.  You seem keenly aware of that - most likely due to the time imersed in the people, liturature and passions of the Islamic world.

Our Muslim evangelist (for the Atlantic District Mission Society), James Roy, has given me the adivce of patience when witnessing to Muslim people.  He is from Bangledesh and his strategy involves talking the time to build up a great deal of trust before sharing his faith.  In your article excerpt, I think you mentioned the fact that most Christian inroads are made around help and relief efforts.  Unfortunately, the same is true of the Islamic groups.  Al Queda, Hamas and Hezbulla all are good about getting on the ground to distribute food, clothes and shelter to people.  While a good number of Muslim families in Lebannon may be more moderate than Islamist, one can understand why they would be sympathetic to the groups that shelter and feed them while Israeli bombs are destroying their livlihoods.  While I think that a military solution is sometimes necessary (and that Christians may have to fight in those battles), our leaders should definitely take public opinion into their cost projections.  Jesus said, what king going into battle, will not count the cost?  One cost of these military engagements is the Islamistist groups converting more young, frustrated, hungry people to their cause. 
Soli Deo Gloria!

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2006, 11:40:40 AM »
While joint prayer services should be avoided (who, exactly, is being prayed to?), patient and long-suffering love can and does overcome the barriers Muslims put up against Christians.  Most crucial is that opportunities for Christians and Muslims to come into contact with one another are created in order to make it possible for the gospel to be proclaimed with love and tact.

A question that was raised in another forum was whether or not our God hears the prayers addressed to Allah? Does the one, true God, hear prayers by adherants to other faiths and addressed to god or gods by other names?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2006, 01:15:27 PM »
While joint prayer services should be avoided (who, exactly, is being prayed to?), patient and long-suffering love can and does overcome the barriers Muslims put up against Christians.  Most crucial is that opportunities for Christians and Muslims to come into contact with one another are created in order to make it possible for the gospel to be proclaimed with love and tact.

A question that was raised in another forum was whether or not our God hears the prayers addressed to Allah? Does the one, true God, hear prayers by adherants to other faiths and addressed to god or gods by other names?
Sure He hears, in the sense of knowing what they said. But those who approach the throne of grace apart from faith in Christ have no access, no right to be there, so to speak. It is faith IN JESUS CHRIST that makes us a part of God's family. God heard and saw everything related to Aaron's Golden Calf-- it just didn't please Him because it was addressed (supposedly) to Him, but not via the Way He had revealed to Moses. Similarly, Jesus is the Way. Anyone can address prayers to God, but apart from Christ such people are every bit as much idolaters as those who chose the golden calf.

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2006, 04:51:30 PM »
Our Muslim evangelist (for the Atlantic District Mission Society), James Roy, has given me the adivce of patience when witnessing to Muslim people.  He is from Bangledesh and his strategy involves talking the time to build up a great deal of trust before sharing his faith.

This has been my experience as well, that patience is key as is the willingness to enter into simple friendships with people.  Not friendships for the sake of conversion -- that's just manipulation.  But friendships for the sake of friendships wherein you get to know one another and each other's religion "naturally", as it were.  From these normal, human friendships come lots of opportunities to witness.  Not to mention that as a friend, you have some credibility where none was there beforehand.  But, again, I want to stress the non-manipulative nature of these friendships.  If you just become someone's friend to convert them, that strikes me as manipulative and deceptive.  This is why I now like to talk of maintaining a "Christian presence" in Muslim countries wherein natural human relationships develop and witnessing happens as a part of who you are as a Christian.

A person who has really helped me understand Islam better and how Christians should relate to Muslims is Dr. Roland Miller (he was my MA thesis advisor at Luther where I got my Islamic Studies degree).  He has written 2 books on this topic: "Muslim Friends: Their Faith and Feeling" which is a good intro to Islam and "Muslims and the Gospel: Bridging the Gap" which was just recently published.  I only received my copy when I returned to the US in July and haven't yet read it.

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2006, 05:03:52 PM »
A question that was raised in another forum was whether or not our God hears the prayers addressed to Allah? Does the one, true God, hear prayers by adherants to other faiths and addressed to god or gods by other names?

I think Peter's response gets at some things that I would like to say, so I would just like to expand the question by asking: "Is Allah God?"

Immediately afterwards, I would like to point out that this popular question really isn't very good because it implies a previous question.  That is, "How do you identify God?"

On this line of thought, I wonder if the following points might help to see if the God Christianity refers to is similar to "Allah" conceived along Muslim lines.  These are just propositional ways of identifying God and could certainly be added to.  I am also not going to argue extensively or comprehensively flesh out what I mean for each one right now.

First, you can identify "God" as "that person's God".  This is common in the OT -- Yahweh is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, etc.  Islam more or less agrees with this identification.

Second, you can identify "God" as the one who does certain things, such as Creation, Preservation, etc.  Here again there is significant overlap between what Christians and Muslims say.

Third, you can identify "God" as having a certain character.  That is, God is both Just and Merciful as well as a number of other attributes or traits.  Here there is more disagreement between Christian conceptions and Muslim ones, but still there is significant overlap.

Fourth, you can identify "God" as having a certain nature.  Here there is simply full-out disagreement.  Christians say God is Triune while Muslims claim that is patently false because God is radically one.

Finally (this is not exhaustive), you can identify which "God" is being talked of by referring to how God wants to be approached.  In Christianity, we are brought to God through the blood of Christ by no merit of our own.  Is Islam, believers attempt to approach God by obeying the guidance from God given to them on how to live their lives.

In the end, one would have to admit that while there is some overlap in the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God, there is also basic divergence as well and that what each refers to is incompatible with the other.

Theres more to say, but I've gotta run right now...

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2006, 06:03:44 PM »
A question that was raised in another forum was whether or not our God hears the prayers addressed to Allah?
Since our God is called Allah by Arabic-speaking Christians, that particular question can be easily answered: Yes. 

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scott3

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2006, 07:09:44 PM »
Since our God is called Allah by Arabic-speaking Christians, that particular question can be easily answered: Yes. 

spt+

The problem with this line of thought is that it equivocates on the referent of "Allah".  In this usage, is "Allah" identified as the one who sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins and to be resurrected for our salvation?  Then of course the answer is "yes -- that Allah".

Or does "Allah" refer to the one who sent Jesus as one of His prophets with a book (the Injil) in order to give guidance to mankind only to have this book superceded by the Qur'an?  Then the answer is "no -- that's not what I meant by 'Allah'".

So while it sounds like a persuasive statement, because of the equivocation on the meaning of the referent of "Allah", it doesn't really get us any closer to a solution.

Now, if all your'e claiming is that the sounds made (the vocables) when Arab Christians refer to God and when Arab Muslims refer to God are the same, then of course you're right.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2006, 09:49:23 PM by Scott Yakimow »

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2006, 02:54:01 AM »
Brian asked 2 questions.  I answered only the first.  I do think it important to be clear that they are indeed 2 different questions, since it is all too easy for us to forget that there are indeed Arab Christians.

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scott3

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2006, 09:28:53 AM »
Does the one, true God, hear prayers by adherants to other faiths and addressed to god or gods by other names?

I thought that Peter already sufficiently responded to this second question, but the simple answer, once again, is "of course".  But the question isn't all that specific or enlightening because more is meant by it than what is on the surface.

This is because the question is actually 2 questions.  The first prima facie question is something like, "Does God know what they said in prayer or is He ignorant that they prayed?"  It is to this that the answer is "of course God 'hears' their prayer".

The second question is something like: "Do their prayers do them any good or somehow grant them access to the throne of grace through their prayers?"  To this the answer is: "No -- we have been given no assurance in Scripture that this would be the case".  If God wants to do something that He hasn't promised to do in Scripture, that is, of course, entirely up to Him.  But we have been told that God is only approached through the blood of Christ and that worshipping other gods and looking to them for succor is actually sinful and idolatry.

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Re: Clash of Civilizations! (or ?)
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2006, 09:12:11 AM »
Since our God is called Allah by Arabic-speaking Christians, that particular question can be easily answered: Yes. 

spt+

The problem with this line of thought is that it equivocates on the referent of "Allah".  In this usage, is "Allah" identified as the one who sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins and to be resurrected for our salvation?  Then of course the answer is "yes -- that Allah".

Or does "Allah" refer to the one who sent Jesus as one of His prophets with a book (the Injil) in order to give guidance to mankind only to have this book superceded by the Qur'an?  Then the answer is "no -- that's not what I meant by 'Allah'".

So while it sounds like a persuasive statement, because of the equivocation on the meaning of the referent of "Allah", it doesn't really get us any closer to a solution.

Now, if all your'e claiming is that the sounds made (the vocables) when Arab Christians refer to God and when Arab Muslims refer to God are the same, then of course you're right.

Perhaps the better response to the question "Does God hear/respond to prayers addressed to Allah?" is not "Yes" or "Depends on which 'Allah'," but to simply allow God to do what God wishes to do without our assigning human positions to His work.

To me, it is the same as asking "Are Hindus/Muslims/etc saved?"  My response: "As a Christian, I can only witness that salvation comes through Christ's death and resurrection.  As to others, that is God's concern, not mine."