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Dr Mark Durie

Dr Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist and Anglican pastor. He has speaks and writes on Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom.

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Jakarta Riots Against its Christian GovernorIn Jakarta violence between protestors and police broke out Friday night, November 4, 2016 when an estimated 200,000 Muslims emerged from Friday prayers in mosques to rally outside the Indonesian President’s palace. Clashes with police led to tear gas being used on demonstrators, and Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, had to postpone his planned visit to Australia to deal with the crisis.Basuki Tjahaha Purname, 'Ahok', the Chinese Christian Governor of JakartaThe crowd was calling for the arrest of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, the Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta, which is Indonesia’s capital and the largest city in the world’s fourth most populous nation. A video had gone viral showing Ahok referring in a speech to chapter 5, verse 51 of the Qur’an. He warned his listeners not to give credence to those who might try to deceive them with this verse or others like it.Ahok has faced criticism before from hardline Muslims, who objected when he stood as Deputy Governor of Jakarta in 2012. Yet Ahok is very popular, and seems set to win the next gubernatorial election in February 2017. He previously took office as Governor in 2014 after Joko Widodo resigned his position as Jarkarta mayor to take up the Presidency of the nation.Muslims opposed to Ahok had been citing verse 5:51 from the Qur’an to try to delegitimize his candidacy. The verse reads:You who believe! Do not take the Jews and Christians as allies. They are allies of each other. Whoever of you takes them as allies is already one of them. Surely Allah does not guide the people who are evildoers. (5:51)The word translated here as allies (Arabic) awliya, is ambiguous. It can mean ‘allies’, but also ‘patrons’ or ‘guardians’. The rejection of dependence upon disbelievers is emphasized repeatedly in the Qur’an (e.g. in verses 3:28 and 4:141, 144). In Indonesian translations of the verse 5:51 is rendered ‘do not take Jews and Christians as your leaders (pemimpin-pemimpinmu)’. Ibn Kathir, an authoritative medieval commentator on the Qur’an, explained this verse as follows:Allah forbids his believing servants from having Jews and Christians as allies or patrons, because they are the enemies of Islam and its people, may Allah curse them.The immediately preceding verse, 5:50, urges Muslims not to seek the ‘judgment of the time of ignorance’. In explaining this, Ibn Kathir denounces anyone who follows man-made laws instead of laws revealed by Allah. Such a person:is a disbeliever who deserves to be fought against (i.e. to be killed), until he reverts to Allah’s and His Messenger’s decisions, so that no law, minor or major, is referred to except by His Law.Ibn Kathir is insisting that the only valid form of legislation is the Islamic sharia, that only Muslims can rule, and any Muslim who looks to non-Muslims for political or legal direction is an infidel. According to verse 5:51, such a person is already ‘one of them’: in other words, they have to be considered an infidel too, and have apostasized from Islam, for which the penalty is death.The admonition to Muslims not to take non-Muslims, and especially Christians or Jews, as allies or leaders is orthodox, mainstream Islamic teaching. In the light of this, it is disappointing that the Australian Age newspaper’s Indonesian correspondent, Jewel Topsfield, offers the following gloss:“some interpret [verse 5:51] as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. Others say the scripture should be understood in its context — a time of war — and not interpreted literally.”It may be true that a few contemporary moderate voices may say this verse should not be taken literally, but this is certainly not the mainstream view of centuries of Islamic jurisprudence. The Muslim aversion to non-Muslim political leadership has many outworkings around the world. In Egypt Christians make up around 10% of the population, but less than 1.5% of the parliament is Christian. For decades there had been no Christian governors for any of Egypt’s 27 governorates, until Mubarak appointed Major General Emad Mikhail as governor over Qena. However massive protests broke out after imams preached sermons in Qena mosques teaching that God does not permit Christians to have authority over Muslims. Demonstrators marched the streets crying, 'A Muslim governor in a Muslim country' and 'There is no god but Allah and Christians are the enemies of Allah' The protests led to the governor’s appointment being temporarily suspended in order to reestablish the order.Ahok’s position is difficult. Since his opponents were unable to discredit him politically for being a Christian, they are now upping the ante by accusing him of blasphemy instead, demanding that the state launch legal proceedings against him. In Ahok’s speech, he had brushed aside those who were citing 5:51 against him, saying they were telling lies. In fact he made no comment on the Qur’an itself, apart from implying that a particular interpretation was false. His offense was to criticize the misuse of the text by others for political purposes. Yet this gave enough leeway for a vast crowd to be inflamed against him.There is a famous hadith or tradition of Muhammad, which states:Whoever sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.This is interpreted by many to mean that a Muslim must use the highest level of force available to remove something evil. The protestors in Jakarta were exercising their religious duty by speaking out against a Christian being in political authority over a 95% Muslim city, using his alleged blasphemy as a trigger point. Some went further than just words, threatening action ‘with the hand’: former terrorist Nasir Abas, turned police consultant, carried a sign saying ‘Punish Ahok or our bullets will'.The phenomenon of Muslims taking political or legal processes into their own hands is widespread. An example was the offer made by Pakistani Imam Maulana Yusuf of a bounty of $6,000 to anyone who would murder Asia Bibi, a young Christian woman on death row for a trumped-up blasphemy offense. Recently Muslim activists have been conducting mass public protests across Pakistan calling for Bibi to be lynched. 'It will be a war if accursed Asia escapes', said Mukhtar, one of the protestors in Lahore. Another example comes from the UK in 2009, when Geert Wilders was invited to a private meeting at the House of Lords in London. In response Lord Nazir Ahmed, a Muslim peer, threatened to personally mobilize 10,000 Muslim protestors to physically prevent Wilders from entering the House. Muslims taking the law into their own hands to act against non-Muslims who rise to high political office is not a new phenomenon. Egypt’s only Christian Prime Minister was Boutros Ghali, who served from 1908. He was the grandfather of the former UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. He was assassinated in 1910 by a European-educated Egyptian Muslim, Ibrahim Nassif Boutros Ghali -Wardani.An example from further back in history was the crucifixion of Joseph Ibn Naghrela, vizier of Granada, by a Muslim mob in 1066, as well as a pogrom against the Jewish population. Although Joseph had been appointed to his high office by a Muslim king, Badis al-Muzaffar, local Muslims resented having a Jew in authority over them. The Muslim jurist Abu Ishaq wrote a diatribe to incite the violence, arguing that non-Muslims’ blood was no longer protected under the terms of their covenant (of surrender), since they had risen to a position of authority over Muslims:Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them — the breach would be to let them carry on. They have violated our covenant with them, so how can you be held guilty against the violators? How can they have any pact when we are obscure and they are prominent.Indonesia is often held up as a model of a moderate Muslim-majority nation. Its constitution is not Islamic and many Indonesian Muslims espouse moderate views. However the global Islamist movement has nevertheless made strong inroads in this the most populous Muslim nation. Undoubtedly it will be a landmark test for Indonesia’s tolerance whether Ahok is permitted to continue in office. Those Muslims who are raising both their voices and their hands to protest against him will not be easily silenced. This outbreak of intolerance bodes ill for Indonesia’s future. Governor Ahok is being supported by significant Muslim leaders. GP Ansor, the former chairman of the largest Indonesian Youth organization called the complaints a ‘hoax’, and politician Nusron Wahid stated that Ahok had said nothing to insult Islam. For his part, Governor Ahok has apologized to Muslims, saying, 'To Muslims who felt insulted, I apologize. I had no intention to insult Islam'. He stated that 'Religion is a very personal matter and should not be mixed up with public discourse'. However his Muslim opponents clearly hold a different view about the place of Islam in public life! Ahok is being questioned this week by the police, pending a possible charge of blasphemy. The thought that an Indonesian court might find Ahok guilty of such a charge is troubling. To do so would require proof that Ahok intended to incite hatred against Muslims, defame Islam or incite apostasy. The prosecution might argue that in pooh-poohing the legitimate and well-established Islamic prohibition against non-Muslims taking authority over Muslims, he was denigrating the religion. Even if no charges are laid, Ahok will certainly come under very great political pressure to withdraw his candidacy. In Indonesia today it is apparently unacceptable to some Muslims that a prominent Christian might express an opinion about what the Qur’an says. Yet the same Muslims claim the right to stridently disallow this Christian candidacy for political office, based on the very same Quranic passage. This is supremacist reasoning, which incites hatred while denying the object of hatred any voice in the matter. If this intolerance is given credence by the Indonesian police and courts, it bodes very ill indeed for the nation’s future. Yet the greater concern is a question for us all: Does the Islamic sharia permit non-Muslims to live alongside Muslims as equals in one world? This is a crucial question, not just for Indonesia, but for Europe, for America, indeed for every nation with more than a tiny minority of Muslim citizens. According to the hundreds of thousands protesting in the streets of Jakarta this week, the answer to this question is a resolute and loud 'No!'Dr. Mark Durie is an academic, human rights activist, Anglican pastor, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Adjunct Research Fellow of the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology. Follow @markdurie!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.jsbml=1&version=v2.6&appId=267027509988566"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

What to tell would-be jihadis
Friday, August 12, 2016
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Malcolm Turnbull has warned Australians fighting with the Islamic State that they face 'almost certain death'. He needn't encourage them. The Australian Prime Minister has apparently not yet learned that jihadis seek death and despise those who don't (Sura 2:94-96). Instead of inciting jihadis in their mission to attain paradise through martyrdom, Malcolm Turnbull might try discouraging them.They might be told that their leaders have deceived them, and the Islamic State has done great damage to the Muslim cause.They might be told that many Muslims who know more than they do consider their jihad to be null and void, so they risk being condemned as hypocrites and relegated to the lowest place in hell (Sura 4:145).They might be told that with so many jihadi groups fighting each other to attain paradise, they have no sure way of knowing which group is on Allah's side, and they are playing Russian roulette with their eternal destiny. Not Smart. They might be told that they can expect to be captured and banished to some desolate place for the rest of their long lives, without friend or family to comfort them.They might be told that they are dragging themselves down the path to failure and disgrace in the eyes of their own community. (To be fair Malcolm Turnbull did almost say something like this, if accidentally.)Whatever we say, let's not tell them they face certain death.Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom. Follow @markdurie!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.jsbml=1&version=v2.6&appId=267027509988566"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

Guess who's coming to Iftar?
Friday, July 1, 2016
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A widely-publicised Iftar dinner, intended to show that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gets what it means to be inclusive, ended badly after he was advised that one of his guests, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, had taught that Islam prescribes death for adulterers, and homosexuals spread diseases. No rogue maverick, Australian-born Sheikh Shady is the elected national president of the Australian National Imams Council.Although insisting that ‘mutual respect is absolutely critical’, Turnbull subjected this prominent Muslim leader to public humiliation. He regretted inviting him to dinner and counselled the sheikh ‘to reflect on what he has said and recant’. In the middle of an election, wanting to limit fallout from the dinner-gone-wrong, held only days after the Orlando massacre, Turnbull stated that his no-longer-welcome guest’s views are ‘wrong, unacceptable and I condemn them’. Well may Mr Turnbull deplore Sheikh Shady’s teachings, but the real challenge is that these were not merely his personal views. The sheikh’s teachings on homosexuality and adultery reflect the mainstream position of Islam, preached by many a Muslim scholar around the world today, and telling a sheikh to reject the sharia is like telling a pope to get over the virgin birth.Many Australian Muslims will be disappointed at the treatment meted out to Sheikh Shady. An event designed to honour the Muslim community ended up providing a platform to denigrate one of their most respected leaders for promoting Islamic doctrines. Several Australian Muslim leaders have since dug in their heels to affirm support for the sharia position on homosexuals. So much for recanting.While Turnbull refused to pass judgement on Islam itself, saying ‘there are different views of different issues, as there are in all religions’, he also sent a message that he is prepared to disparage Australian Muslims’ religious beliefs. It was a bitter pill for Muslims to swallow that this came in the form of a humiliating invite-to-disavow game of bait-and-switch, conducted during a pre-election media storm.The cognitive dissonance is startling.On the one hand Mr Turnbull has stated ‘I reject and condemn any comments which disparage any group of Australians, whether on the basis of their race, their religion, their sexuality, their gender’. On the other. he is willing to disparage one of Australia’s most prominent Muslim religious leaders on the basis of his religious teachings.Turnbull has also said ‘It is vital in our multicultural society that every part feels included and that each of us gives to the other the mutual respect that each of them gives us’. A video response posted on Sheikh Shady’s Facebook page, and viewed more than 40,000 times, asks,‘But that statement also includes respect for people’s religious beliefs, doesn’t it?’Turnbull appears to subscribe to the really bad idea that the same basic values are channeled by all religions. In 2011 on Q&A he praised Islam’s moderation in embodying ‘universal values’. This vacuous universalism has blinded him to the possibility that a religion might actually teach things which he would be duty-bound to disparage. No doubt the PM is also influenced by advice from ASIO not to alienate Muslims by criticising their religion. This policy is ultimately driven by fear of offending adherents of the one religion from which most terrorists are drawn; and why millions of dollars are directed to Muslim organisations, and not to Sikhs or Copts. Turnbull attempted to use a ‘shoot the messenger’ strategy to minimise the cognitive dissonance of his conflicted statements, directing attention away from the religion onto an individual.The fact remains that, whatever the sheikh’s personal attitudes to gays, his teachings on adultery and homosexuality are not personal. Given his extensive training in sharia law, Sheikh Shady’s views could only be called personal if they had diverged from the mainstream Islamic positions. But they did not.Turnbull’s staff might have googled the sheikh before they invited him to dinner. And as Sheiky Shady’s Facebook post put it, ‘the prime minister might have the same issue in future when inviting just about any other Muslim imam to any other function’. Rather than calling out the sheikh as a hater, what is needed is to challenge the religious doctrines which have determined his preaching.As long as our political leaders pretend that objectionable Islamic teachings are merely personal faults, while insisting that the religion of Islam is above reproach, we will stay stuck in this unhelpful place; where we tell a highly trained Muslim imam that we respect his religion, but denigrate his religious beliefs as bigotry. The conversation needs to be about Islamic sharia, not those who preach it.The post Guess who’s coming to Iftar? appeared first on The Spectator.Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom. Follow @markdurie!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.jsbml=1&version=v2.6&appId=267027509988566"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

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In his June 14 address to the nation, President Obama attributed Omar Mateen's attack on patrons of Orlando, Fla.'s, Pulse nightclub to "homegrown extremism," saying "we currently do not have any information to indicate that a foreign terrorist group directed the attack."It is a terrible thing to misunderstand one's enemy so deeply.While Obama acknowledged that the Islamic State has called for attacks around the world against "innocent civilians," he suggested these calls were incidental, emphasizing that Mateen was a "lone actor" and "an angry, disturbed, unstable young man" susceptible to being radicalized "over the Internet."It is a terrible thing to misunderstand one's enemy so deeply. The doctrine of jihad invoked by terrorist groups is an institution with a long history, grounded in legal precedent going back to the time of Muhammad.Militants who invoke the doctrine of jihad follow principles influenced by Islamic law. The point to be grasped is that the doctrinal basis of jihad generates conditions that can incite "bottom up" terrorism, which does not need to be directed by jihadi organizations.When the Ottoman Caliphate entered World War I in 1914, it issued an official fatwa calling upon Muslims everywhere to rise up and fight the "infidels." In 1915, a more detailed ruling was issued, entitled "A Universal Proclamation to All the People of Islam."This second fatwa gave advice on the methods of jihad, distinguishing three modes of warfare: "jihad by bands," which we would today call guerrilla warfare; "jihad by campaigns," which refers to warfare using armies; and "individual jihad."The fatwa cited approvingly as an example of individual jihad the 1910 assassination of Boutros Ghaly, a Christian prime minister of Egypt (and grandfather of former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghaly), at the hands of Ibrahim Nassif al-Wardani, a Muslim graduate in pharmacology who had been educated in Lausanne, Paris, and London.This Ottoman fatwa cited precedents from the life of Muhammad for each of the three modes of warfare. To support individual jihad, it referenced three instances when companions of Muhammad conducted assassinations of non-Muslims. Two of these involved attacks on Jews that were personally instigated by Muhammad.When the Islamic State issued a call for Muslims around the world to rise up and kill their neighbors, it was invoking the individual mode of jihad. This mode relies upon the teaching that when Muslim lands are attacked or occupied by infidel armies, jihad becomes farḍ al-'ayn, an "individual obligation," which a Muslim can act upon without needing to come under anyone else's command.This principle of individual obligation has been much emphasized by jihadi clerics. Abdullah Azzam wrote in his influential tract Join the Caravan, "There is agreement ... that when the enemy enters an Islamic land or a land that was once part of the Islamic lands, it is obligatory ... to go forth to face the enemy."It was undoubtedly in response to this dogma that Omar Mateen went forth to kill Americans. In line with this, Mateen reported to his victims that his attack was in retaliation for Americans bombing Afghanistan. By this understanding, it was America's military action against a Muslim country — the country of origin of Mateen's family — that justified an act of individual jihad.Preventing future "lone wolf" attacks requires the disruption of the Islamic doctrine that underpins these acts and legitimizes them in the eyes of many Muslims. Teachers and preachers in Islamic institutions across America must openly reject the dogma of farḍ al-‘ayn in relation to U.S. military action.They need to teach their congregants that this doctrine does not apply, that anyone who uses it to attempt to legitimize his or her personal jihad is acting against God's laws and that no martyr's paradise awaits them.At the same time, U.S. homeland security agencies need to closely watch and monitor any Muslim teacher who promotes this doctrine, which, once it is taken on board and applied against a nation, will lead to acts of jihadi terrorism as surely as night follows day. During his June 14 speech, Obama defended his refusal to use the phrase "radical Islam" in connection with terrorism, asking, "What exactly would using this label accomplish?"The answer is simple. It will be difficult to elicit the cooperation of Muslim religious leaders in discrediting the Islamic doctrine at the heart of America's homegrown terrorism epidemic when President Obama himself is reluctant to acknowledge that doctrine matters — they can simply point to him and decline.Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom. This article first appeared in the Washington Examiner.Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

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The recent suspension of Larycia Hawkins by Wheaton College is a symptom of a fault line among evangelicals about Islam. The question of whether the God of the Qur'an is the same as the God of the Bible is an important and complex one, but it is unhelpful to politicize inquiry into it by insisting that anyone who disagrees with one position or another is a bigot.This article below is appearing in the February 2016 edition of Eternity, which is distributed to local churches across Australia. It is more an engagement with Volf than an exploration of the evolving, escalated situation at Wheaton, which seems to be not just about the 'same God' issue, but also about the use and impact of social media in the context of an academic dispute. I would like to write more on this interesting topic of 'Do we worship the same God' and the situation at Wheaton but am very tied up with finishing a book project just at the moment. This article by Nabeel Qureshi is excellent: http://rzim.org/global-blog/do-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-godAlso readers may like to listen to a podcast debate between Miroslav Volf and Nabeel Qureshi: http://rzim.org/global-blog/do-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god-debate-with-nabeel-qureshi-and-dr-miroslav-volf Wheaton announced that one of their tenured professors, Larycia Hawkins, was put on paid leave while they ‘explore theological implications of her recent public statements concerning Christianity and Islam’. In particular Wheaton wanted to know whether Hawkins’ statement that Muslims and Christians worship the same God is compatible with the college’s Statement of Faith. Larycia Hawkins was asked to clarify her views. (Wheaton College Council has subsequently confirmed that the college has commenced a termination process for her position.)The decision led to protests on the Wheaton campus. Miroslav Volf, Professor of Theology at Yale, published an article in the Washington Post criticizing Wheaton. Volf suggests that Wheaton is motivated by hatred towards Muslims, dressed up in dogma. He argued that:Those who claim that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God base this upon Muslims’ denial of the Trinity and the incarnation.However Jews deny the Trinity and the incarnation, and Christians down the ages have not claimed that Jews worship a different God.Therefore those who do not accept the ‘same God’ thesis must be motivated by enmity, not reason.There are problems with this reasoning. One is the premise. Wheaton had not itself stated that it objects to the ‘same God’ thesis on the basis of Muslims’ beliefs about the Trinity and the incarnation. However Volf appears to impute this thinking to all Christians who do not accept his ‘same God’ thesis.Another is the leap from pointing out a supposed inconsistency in the reasoning of other Christians to making a severe value judgment about their motives.In reality the best and strongest reason for rejecting the ‘same God’ thesis is not Muslims’ disbelief in the Trinity or the incarnation. It is that the Qur’an projects a different understanding of God from the Bible. As Denny Burk of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville put it ‘our books are very different’.The theological differences involved are subtler and more fundamental than ticking or not ticking the Trinity box. Eminent Orthodox Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod observed that the Christian doctrine of the incarnation was grounded upon the fundamentally Biblical – and thoroughly Jewish – concept of the indwelling of God’s Shekinah presence with his people. Christian beliefs about the Trinity and the incarnation developed out of Jewish incarnational theologies.Unlike the Old Testament, the Qur’an completely lacks a theology of the presence of God. Although the Arabic term sakīnah – borrowed from Hebrew shekinah – appears six times in the Qur’an, it has been repurposed to mean ‘tranquility’, and the concept of the personal presence of God is not comprehended by Quranic theology. It is not just that Islam rejects the incarnation of Jesus: in complete contrast to Judaism its scripture offers no basis for an incarnational theology.Judaism differs from Islam in its organic relationship to Christianity in two key respects.First, Christians and Jews share scripture. Judaism bases its understanding of God on what was the Bible of Jesus, the Tanakh or Old Testament. This is not the case with Islam. Muslims do not base their theology on any part of the Bible. Indeed mainstream Islam rejects the authority of the Bible, for reasons clearly stated in the Qur’an.Second, Jesus was a practicing Jew, and so were his disciples, so it would be absurd to state that the God of the faith Jesus practiced is different from the Christian God. This same observation does not apply to Islam. Muhammad was never a practicing Jew nor a practicing Christian, and, according to Muslim tradition, the large majority of his companions came to Islam out of paganism. This has deeply influenced the Qur’an and its understanding of God.It is disappointing that Volf attributes fear-based enmity and loveless bigotry to Wheaton’s leaders. He implies that Christians who disagree with his 'same God' thesis must want to fight Muslims. Such rhetoric incites hatred and contempt over a theological difference of opinion.The question of whether the God of the Qur’an is the same as the God of the Bible is an important and complex one. Christians do need to consider carefully to what extent the God of the Bible and the God of the Qur’an are the same or different. This has far-reaching implications. However it is not helpful to paint those who disagree with one position or another as haters. It is a false step, in the name of love, to demand assent to the ‘same God’ thesis. Christians are commanded to love others whether they worship the same God or not. Our common human condition should be enough to motivate solidarity with others. After all, Jesus never said to only ‘love those who believe in the same God’. Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom. His book Which God? discusses differences between the understanding of God in the Bible and the Qur'an.Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

Minister for Islamic Apologetics
Monday, December 28, 2015
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Senator Concetta Fierravanti-WellsThis article was first published on Quadrant Online.Other than the need to discredit her party’s former leader and push what might be termed the Turnbull Doctrine of warm-and-cuddly relativism, what could have possessed the Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs to present Islamic dogma as incontrovertible fact? Writing in The Australian, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has attempted to throw light on the challenge of Islamic radicalism. She offers a ‘reality check’ by injecting what she asserts are ‘basic facts’ into the public debate. However she only succeeds in promoting misinformation and multiplying confusion.Why must the Australian assistant minister for multicultural affairs present Islamic dogma as incontrovertible fact? Fierravanti-Wells astonishingly declares the Koran to be ‘a collection of revelations from God to the Prophet Mohammed.’ Does she really accept it as a ‘basic fact’ – for the purpose of public debate – that Mohammed was God’s prophet, or that the Koran is a genuine revelation from God? Surely only a believing Muslim could make such a declaration and mean it?Why can Fierravanti-Wells not show more sensitivity to disbelievers in Islam – the majority of her audience – by adopting an objective stance, for example by saying ‘Muslims believe the Koran to be a collection of revelations from God,’ or ‘Muslims believe Mohammed to be a prophet’?Fierravanti-Wells also misrepresents other faiths. It is not true that all ‘world faiths’ apart from Islam have intermediaries between God and the individual. The majority of Protestants around the world do not recognise a hierarchy of clergy, and a great many Christians do not accept that there are intermediaries between themselves and God. To project supposed attributes of Catholic Christianity onto all Christians as part of an apology for Islam is not ‘basic fact’, but propaganda pure and simple.Why does Fierravanti-Wells not understand that many Christians will see her list of ‘basic facts’ as a crude distortion of what they believe? Does she really mean to imply that the Christians of the world have a single overarching authority to ‘establish or forbid’ religious practices or interpretation of the Bible? They do not. In this respect Muslims are no different from Christians. Of course some Christians do recognise an authority for their own denomination, but so do some Muslims sects.Many Christian groups do not recognise ‘priests’ and they believe that any Christian can fulfill a role of preaching or leading worship. Many would believe that any Christian can gather a flock, plant a church, or function as pastor to it. The fact that not all denominations allow such license is beside the point. All over this country Christian congregations are being started all the time by lay people. There is, moreover, no single overarching system for training Christian clergy in Australia, but a multiplicity of systems and training options.Equally misleading is the claim that there is no overarching authority in Islam. Many Islamic countries, such as Egypt, have a public official known as the mufti. The mufti’s function is to pass authoritative rulings at a national level on religious matters. Moreover the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – the UN of Islamic states – has established a peak religious body, the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, which is tasked with issuing authoritative rulings on religious matters. This academy draws upon the leading authorities on Islam from the nations of the world and is backed by the considerable political clout of the OIC. It has been influential in several important areas, such as the international system of Islamic finance. Of course its rulings are not accepted by, or binding on, all Muslims, but there is no global Christian body which has that kind of authority either, and certainly no Christian organization has a claim to global legitimacy comparable to that of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy.All these errors aside, the bottom line is that it is up to the Muslims of Australia who they choose to listen to and appoint as their religious leaders. If what Fierravanti-Wells implies is true, namely that the vast majority of Australian Muslims want a ‘moderate’ form of Islam preached in their mosques, then let them take steps to ensure this happens. If they are unhappy with their imams, let them replace them, or else vacate those mosques to frequent other mosques they like better, with imams whose teachings they find more congenial. This is how religious freedom works. It is precisely because Australian Muslims do have religious freedom that it is entirely reasonable for Australians to hold the Muslim community to account for the utterances of their leaders. Mark Durie is a theologian, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and founder of the Institute for Spiritual AwarenessSubscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

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Dear President Obama,in your recent statement on persecuted Christians at Christmas you stated:In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL. When you say that ‘church bells have rung for centuries’ you are not speaking the truth. Bells have rung in Syria and Iraq for not much more than a hundred years, at most.As determined by Islamic law, church bells did not sound throughout the middle East for more than a thousand years from the 7th century conquests until modern times (except under the Crusaders). This was due to the conditions set by the Pact of the Caliph Umar, by which Christians of Syria surrendered to Islamic conquest in the 7th century AD. In this pact the Christians agreed that “We will not sound the bells in our churches.” Churches in regions controlled by Muslims used semantrons (also called nakos) instead of the forbidden church bells. Examples of these are still visible in Jerusalem to this day, e.g. see here.The pact of Umar is an example of what is known as a dhimma pact. Christians living in regions conquered by Islam were known as dhimmis. As dhimmis they were not permitted to display their religion in public. The silence of the bells was just one of many restrictions imposed upon Christians by Islamic law.Nakos (gong) outside St James Church in JerusalemHamas, when it took control of Gaza, also re-implemented dhimma conditions over Christians, and ISIL has now done the same in regions it controls.The silence of church bells for more than a thousand years across the Middle East bears witness to the conquest and long-standing suppression of Christian societies under Islamic rule. Recent genocidal attacks on Christians by ISIL are sadly but the end-stage of a long series of abuses. They are the culmination of an historical process, not a departure from it.President Obama, it is good that you have desired to speak up for persecuted Christians, but when you do so, please speak the truth. Please do not whitewash history, because to do so partners with abuse.Sincerely,Dr Mark Durie, BA, BTh, DipTh, PhD, FAHA27 December 2015 Mark Durie is a theologian, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom. Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

Is Islam a Religion of Peace?
Thursday, December 17, 2015
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This article first appeared with Independent Journal. Originally published under the title “Anyone Using The Phrase ‘Islam Is A Religion Of Peace’ Needs To Read This”Days after the ISIS-inspired terrorist attack in San Bernardino, President Obama’s address to the nation concerning the threat of ISIS missed the mark. In fact, President Obama seemed at times to be more concerned with Americans ostracizing Muslim communities through “suspicion and hate,” than he was with protecting innocent American civilians from murder in the name of radical Islam.It is high time for western political leaders to stop responding to terrorism by naming Islam as ‘the religion of peace’. It is time to have a hard conversation about Islam.The West is in the throes of acute cognitive dissonance over Islam, whose brands are at war with each other. On the one hand we are told that Islam is the Religion of Peace. On the other hand we are confronted with an unending sequence of acts of terror committed in the name of the faith.There is a depressing connection between the two brands: the louder one brand becomes, the more the volume is turned up on the other.The slogan ‘Religion of Peace’ has been steadily promoted by western leaders in response to terrorism: George Bush Jr and Jacques Chirac after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7, David Cameron after drummer Lee Riby was beheaded and after British tourists were slaughtered in Tunisia, and François Hollande after the Charlie Hebdo killings. After the beheading of 21 Copts on a Libyan beach Barak Obama called upon the world to “continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam.”One may well ask how ‘the religion of peace’ became a brand of Islam, for the phrase cannot be found in the Qur’an, nor in the teachings of Muhammad.Islam was first called ‘the religion of peace’ as late as 1930, in the title of a book published in India by Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi. The phrase was slow to take off, but by the 1970s it was appearing more and more frequently in the writings of Muslims for western audiences.What does “religion of peace” actually mean?Words for ‘peace’ in European languages imply the absence of war, and freedom from disturbance. It is no coincidence that the German words Friede ‘peace’ and frei ‘free’ sound similar, because they come from the same root.While there is a link in Arabic between salam, a word often translated ‘peace’, and Islam, the real connection is found in the idea of safety.The word Islam is based upon a military metaphor. Derived from aslama ‘surrender’ its primary meaning is to make oneself safe (salama) through surrender. In its original meaning, a muslim was someone who surrendered in warfare.The start of the entry for s-l-m from Lane's Arabic-English LexiconThus Islam did not stand for the absence of war, but for one of its intended outcomes: surrender leading to the ‘safety’ of captivity. It was Muhammad himself who said to his non-Muslim neighbors aslim taslam ‘surrender (i.e. convert to Islam) and you will be safe’.The Religion of Peace slogan has not gone uncontested. It has been rejected by many, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Melanie Phillips writing for The Times, who called it ‘pure myth’.Even among Muslims the phrase has not only been challenged by radical clerics such as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, but also by mainstream Muslim leaders.Sheikh Ramadan Al-Buti of Syria was one of the most widely respected traditionalist Sunni scholars before he was killed in 2013 by a suicide bomber. The year before he had been listed as number 27 in the ‘The Muslim 500’, an annual inventory of the most influential Muslims in the world. According to Al-Buti, the claim that Islam is a peaceful religion was a ‘falsehood’ imposed upon Muslims by westerners to render Islam weak. He argued in The Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography that when non-Muslims fear Islamic jihad, their initial inclination is to accuse the religion of being violent. However they then change tack, and craftily feed to Muslims the idea that Islam is peaceful, in order to make it so. He laments the gullibility of ‘simple-minded Muslims’, who:“… readily accept this ‘defense’ as valid and begin bringing forth one piece of evidence after another to demonstrate that Islam is, indeed, a peaceable, conciliatory religion which has no reason to interfere in others’ affairs. … The aim … is to erase the notion of jihad from the minds of all Muslims.”There does seem to be something to Al-Buti’s theory, for it has invariably been after acts of violence done in the name of Islam that western leaders have seen fit to make theological pronouncements about Islam’s peacefulness. Who are they trying to convince?In the long run this cannot be a fruitful strategy. It invites mockery, such as Palestinian cleric Abu Qatada’s riposte to George Bush’s declaration that ‘Islam is peace’. Abu Qatada asked: ‘Is he some kind of Islamic scholar?’We do need to have a difficult conversation about Islam. This is only just beginning, and it will take a long time. The process will not be helped by the knee-jerk tendency of western leaders to pop up after every tragedy trying to have the last word on Islam. This strategy has failed, and it is time to go deeper.Mark Durie is a theologian, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom. Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

Turnbull’s Islamic Howlers
Thursday, December 10, 2015
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Agility and innovation? Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s version of history is all that and more. Leaping facts in a single bound, he ducks and weaves though a thicket of politically correct cliches to land effortlessly upon the desired conclusion: the West owes everything to Mohammad. Back in 2011, on 28 February, Malcolm Turnbull, now Australia’s Prime Minister, had this to say about Islam on Q&A (excerpted here): Islam is an ancient religion, of great scholarship. I mean — for heavens sake — much of our learning and culture came to us from the Muslims, just like, you know, our whole system of numbers and much of the learning of the ancient Greeks only survived because of the Arab scholars and the Islamic scholars. So, you know, the idea that Islam is antithetical to learning or culture or scholarship is absurd. Now, you know, it’s a great tradition. It is important for us that we promote and encourage Islam and Islamic traditions which are moderate, which support freedom, which support democracy and which support Australian values — not in the sense of “Aussie values” — but in the sense of democracy, rule of law, tolerance, freedom. That's what we’re talking about and they are universal values.Australian Prime Minister Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull made this statement in order to dismiss a suggestion he considered absurd, namely that Islamic schools in Australia promote extremism. He intended the argument he put forward to be evidence for the inherent moderation of Islam.The idea that Western people should feel indebted to Islam for keeping Greek and Hindu learning alive is common enough. But does it make any sense at all?Consider the case of the Hindu number system. Muslim conquests of the Indian subcontinent commenced in the 7th century and by the early 9th century Muslim scholars had learned about the Hindu numbering system and adopted it. Use of the system then spread rapidly across the Arab world, and by the early 10th century it had reached Spain.The Hindus were quite capable of preserving their intellectual achievements without the dubious benefits of Islamic conquest. Indeed Hindu societies have preserved the use of the number system they invented right down to the present day.The fact that this excellent system passed into Europe via Arab colonies stretching around the Mediterranean cannot justify a claim that the Hindu system of numbers ‘only survived’ because of Muslims or Islam. Nor does it imply that the Arabs who passed on this numbering system to the West were – to use Turnbull’s words — ‘moderate’ or supportive of freedom and democracy. It is not possible to work out whether a society is moderate from the numbering system it uses. Even the Islamic State uses the same numbering system as Malcolm Turnbull.Concerning Greek learning I had this to say in my book, The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom:A repeated theme in ... school texts is that the West should be grateful to Islamic civilization for preserving Greek philosophy. The narrative offered to justify this gratitude is that during the Dark Ages the Islamic world underwent a golden age of cultural and scientific development, preserving Greek learning, which then kick-started the Western Renaissance.Of course Greek civilization did not need ‘rescue-by-conquest’: in fact it continued in Constantinople all through the European (so-called) dark ages. It is true that when the Europeans translated Arabic texts into Latin, this did stimulate the development of Western philosophy and science. Many terms passed over from Arabic into European languages as a result, including sherbet, zero and zenith. However the fact that elements of Greek philosophy and science were transmitted to Europe via Arabic is not something for which Western children should be schooled to feel grateful. If Arab conquest had never happened, we can assume that Greek culture and philosophy would have continued to develop in Alexandria, Damascus and Constantinople to the present day.In reality, as Crombie pointed out in The History of Science from Augustine to Galileo, the conquest of the heart of the Greek-speaking world by Islam, and resulting Arab control of the Mediterranean, stunted scientific progress in Europe:… it was the eruption of the Mohammedan invaders into the Eastern Empire in the 7th century that gave the most serious blow to learning in Western Christendom. The conquest of much of the Eastern Empire by the Arabs meant that the main reservoir of Greek learning was cut off from Western scholars for centuries …Islam’s disruption of Mediterranean civilization ushered in the so-called European ‘Dark Ages’, as historian Henri Pirenne concluded in his classic study, Mohammed and Charlemagne:The cause of the break with the tradition of antiquity was the rapid and unexpected advance of Islam. The result of this advance was the final separation of East from West, and the end of the Mediterranean unity. … The Western Mediterranean, having become a Musulman lake, was no longer the thoroughfare of commerce and of thought which it had always been. The West was blockaded and forced to live upon its own resources.It is disappointing that today history books are teaching a dhimmified version of history, according to which children are schooled in feeling grateful to Islam for rescuing Western and Christian culture from Islam itself. This is exactly the dhimmi condition, and the essential meaning of the jizya payment ritual: to render gratitude to Islam for being rescued by conquest.Malcolm Turnbull’s comment on Q&A illustrates the hole the West is falling into. It risks being buried alive by the weight of bad ideas about its own identity and history.In the face of escalating Islamic terrorism, it is reasonable to inquire into the contribution schooling may or may not make to the ideological formation of jihadis. However the way to make that inquiry is by examining what people are saying and doing today, not by making grandiose appeals to a mythical history.To learn from history is wisdom. To abuse it is folly indeed.This article first appeared with Quadrant Online.Mark Durie is a Shillman-GinsburgWriting Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness.Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

John Eibner on the Future of Syria
Friday, November 27, 2015
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John Eibner, director of Christian Solidarity International and anti-slavery activist, shares his wisdom on the future of Syria on The Tablet blogs, including reflections on the collective desire of the West, Turkey and Gulf States to establish a Sunni Salafist state in Syria as a bulwark against Iranian power. This failed policy let the Sunni jihadi genie out of its bottle in Syria to create the ‘opposition’, which led to the creation of the Islamic State and disintegration of Syria and Iraq. The only rational solution, Eibner argues, is a return to a policy of supporting a secular state.However the more likely outcome is a long and cruel proxy war which only finishes when the fighting-age manpower of Syria is exhausted – i.e. when a generation of young men has been killed or fled the region.Along the way there are serious risks that tensions will escalate between the external powers whose proxy war this is. e.g. Iran vs the Gulf States, or Russian vs. Turkey (as we have seen this past week with the downing of a Russian Jet by Turkey).This is what the post-American Middle East looks like.Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

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This was published in the Australian Inquirer. It is a more general version of a longer article posted a few days previously on Lapido Media ‘Paris attacks were not nihilism’.As the expressions of shock and solidarity subside after the Paris killings, the challenge to understand will remain. Much commentary of the past week has situated these atrocities in opposition to values familiar to western people. Seen in this light the attacks appear senseless and even insane. US Secretary of State John Kerry called the killers ‘psychopathic monsters’. However the first step in understanding a cultural system alien to one’s own is to describe it in its own terms. We can and must love our neighbour, as Walid Aly urged this week on The Project, but this need not prevent us from understanding our enemy, and to do this we need to grasp that this latest slaughter was shaped by religious beliefs.In July a ISIS militant vowed on video to ‘fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies’, boasting that ISIS ‘loves death like you love life’. Yet for ISIS these attacks were not pointless nihilism. Nihilism is a belief that there are no values, nothing to be loyal to, and no purpose in living, but these killings were purposeful. They were designed to make infidels afraid, to weaken their will to resist, and to render them self-destructive through fear. This strategy is made explicit in an ISIS celebratory post put out after the carnage, which quoted the Koran: ‘Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the believers’ (Sura 59:2). The taunt that ISIS jihadis ‘love death like you love life’ is not simply a life-denying death wish. This references multiple passages in the Koran in which Jews (Sura 2:94-96, 62:6-8) and non-Muslims in general (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27) are condemned for desiring life. On this basis, ISIS considers Europeans to be morally corrupt, weak infidels who love this life too much to fight a battle to the death with stern Muslim soldiers whose hearts are set on paradise. The ISIS post also referred to the French victims as ‘pagans’, by which it made clear that the victims were killed for being non-Muslims. Many commentators have rightly lamented ‘civilian casualties’, but the point is that ISIS rejects the Geneva Convention and has no use for the modern western concept of a ‘civilian’. ISIS fighters are taught that non-Muslims, referred to as mushrikin ‘pagans’ or kuffar ‘infidels’, deserve death simply by virtue of their disbelief in Islam. For ISIS, killing disbelievers is a moral act, in accordance with Sura 9:5 of the Qur’an, ‘fight and kill the mushrikin wherever you find them’ and Sura 9:29, ‘fight (i.e. to kill) the People of the Book’.Some, like Australia’s Grand Mufti, have spoken in this past week of Muslim grievances. However ISIS needed no appeal to grievances to justify its genocidal killing and enslaving of the Yazidis, whom it targeted solely because they were ‘pagans’. It has the same fundamental objection to the people of France.ISIS objects to Europeans because they are not Muslims, and to European states because they do not implement sharia law. Its goal is to dominate Europeans as dhimmis under a caliphate. It claims to follow Muhammad’s instructions to offer three choices to infidels: conversion, surrender, or the sword, or, as Bin Ladin put it, ‘The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit [i.e. convert], or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.’
It may seem fanciful for ISIS to set its sights on the surrender or conversion of Europe, but, mindful of the history of Islamic imperialism, it thinks in time frames which extend to centuries. It believes Europe stands on the wrong side of history, and a final act of conquest can be preceded by decades, or even centuries, of military raids.To combat this ideology it is necessary to prove ISIS wrong on all counts. France – or any nation which believes in its own future – must show strength, not weakness. It must have confidence in its cultural and spiritual identity. It must be willing to fight for its survival. It must show that it believes in itself enough to fight for its future. It must defend its borders. It must act like someone who intends to win an interminably long war against an implacable foe.There is a great deal Europe could have done to avert this catastrophe, which ISIS has declared is ‘just the beginning’. It could, long ago, have demanded that Islam renounce its love affair with conquest and dominance. It could have encouraged Muslims to follow a path of self-criticism leading to peace. Instead the elites of Europe embarked on decades of religiously illiterate appeasement and denialism.There is still much that can be done. European armies could inflict catastrophic military failure upon ISIS as a counter-argument to its theology of success. This will not eradicate jihadism, nor bring peace in the Middle East, but it would make the supremacist claims of ISIS less credible and hurt its recruitment.Europe also needs to act to suppress incitement of jihadi ideology by its clients, including the jihadism of the Palestinian Authority. It must put more pressure on the militarily vulnerable Gulf states to stop funding radicalism throughout the Middle East and exporting jihad-revering versions of Islamic theology throughout the whole world.For Europe, the challenge within will be more enduring and intractable than the challenge without. A 2014 opinion poll found that among all French 18-24 year olds, the Islamic State had an approval rating of 27%. While many of the millions of war-weary Muslims now seeking asylum in the west will have had enough of jihad, it seems likely that Muslim communities already established in the west may be the last to challenge Islam’s supremacist take on history, because they have not had to suffer first-hand the harsh realities of life under Islamist dystopias such as ISIS and the Iranian Revolution.Nevertheless, European states could still do much in their own backyard. They could ban Saudi and other Middle Eastern funding to Islamic organisations, including mosques. They could stop appeasing Islamists in their midst. They could, even at this late hour, insist that the large and rapidly growing Muslim communities now well-established across Europe engage in constructive self-criticism of their religion, for the sake of peace. If this fails then according to ISIS’s jihadi mindset the alternatives are conversion, surrender, or death.Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-GinsburgWriting Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness.Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

Love alone is not enough
Friday, November 20, 2015
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Waleed Aly is a well-known Australian media commentator. This week on Channel Ten’s The Project he produced an impassioned and compelling speech about the Paris killings. This went viral, achieving 27 million views on social media within just a few days. That is more hits than there are people in Australia. According to Waleed Aly, ISIS is weak but it hides this because it wants us all to be afraid, very afraid. Its whole purpose is that our fear will turn to hate, and hate will ripen into ‘World War III’.All people of good will who would stand against ISIS, Muslim or non-Muslim alike, must therefore come together in unity. According to Waleed Aly, love, and less hate is what we need.Waleed Aly is absolutely right that we do need love. But like the air we breathe, love by itself is not enough. It is not all we need.We also need truth, and a whole lot more of it. John's gospel reports that Jesus came ‘full of grace and truth.’ Truth without grace becomes a police state. But grace without truth is every bit as dangerous. Waleed Aly himself rightly identified the Paris atrocity as an “Islamist terrorist attack”. It is not hatred to ask what this word ‘Islamist’ actually means.He was also right to point out that ISIS wants to set non-Muslims and Muslims against each other. But this is not all ISIS wants, and saying this does not explain why they want it. It is not enough to say “ISIS wants to cause World War III,” for war is but a means to an end. This tactic is a symptom of a problem, not its root cause. Asking hard questions is not evidence of lack of love. It is not victimizing Muslims to seek to understand the theology of the jihadis. Asking how and why ISIS makes use of the Qur’an or the model of Muhammad is not vilification.These points are important because the feeling of being unloved by itself is not enough to turn so many young people into killers. There are many communities in the world which experience hatred, but this is rarely enough on its own to give rise to virulent, violent global ideologies.No one could dispute that the tactic of intentionally using violence to incite fear and hatred is one of the weapons in the jihadis’ arsenal, but it is just that: a tactic. Hatred incited by violence is not the heart of the matter, nor the fundamental driver in this war. It is but a symptom of deeper things.Hatred can fuel this war, but love alone will not put it out.Furthermore, a danger with Waleed Aly's rhetoric is that it could work as a wedge to separate love from truth, treating the two as strangers. It could be used as a pretext to censor those who ask the hard questions, on the grounds that this is unloving. In this struggle it is wrong to privilege either love or truth, for we will need both.Truth without love can cause endless heartache. This is true. But love without truth can cause a naive blindness which meekly tolerates abuse and leads to suicidal submission.This is likely to be a very long war. Relationships will be strained. And yes, we will all need a lot of compassion. But without truth to strengthen it, love alone will not save us. This post also appeared in Lapido Media. Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness.Subscribe to markdurie.com blog by email.This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.


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