Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Tuesday 17 April 2007
Why some Evangelicals can't understand the true nature of Islam
Some Christians seem to be bothered by Barnabas Aid exposing negative facts about Islam. These argue that we should not busy ourselves with trivial matters, but concentrate on the main issues of presenting Christ and loving all people.
We have received some criticism of our recent communique on Faye Turney, the British servicewoman held captive in Iran and recently released with the other fourteen captured servicemen. As we now know, she was not only forced to wear the oppressive hijab, but underwent intimidation, mental torture and cruel manipulation tactics: she was isolated and blindfolded; stripped down to her underwear and feared rape; was told her colleagues had been released and she was the only one left in captivity; was measured for what she thought was her coffin as she could hear the sound of sawing wood and nails being hammered outside her cell; and was threatened that she would face trial for spying if she did not co-operate with her captors' demands. This treatment was meted out by the Islamic Republic of Iran, that claims to believe in human rights, religious freedom and human dignity. We cannot understand why some Western Christians questioned our highlighting this story or even defended what was done to her. Can they justify inhumanity and injustice to a vulnerable woman?
Christians in the West face two converging threats: one from an increasingly secularised society, intolerant of public Christian expressions of their Biblical faith, and the other from an increasingly confident Islamic community bent on reshaping the West in its own image. These two naturally hostile forces have found a common agenda in ensuring that Christianity is diminished in its influence on Western society.
In the name of multiculturalism, tolerance and political correctness, this coalition is intent on eroding freedoms and liberties accepted as basic in Western societies, especially freedom of speech. Islam, as a religion antithetical to Christianity, is culturally accepted, while Christianity, especially evangelical Christianity, is maligned.
A variety of legislative and other measures, each apparently of small effect, are being introduced that have a progressive cumulative impact on long-cherished liberties and freedoms. This results in efforts to suppress any criticism of Islam, ignore unpleasant facts about it and institute what can only be called a censorship regime.
Christians must wake up to the fact that there is no such thing as a trivial matter in this process. The whole programme is planned as a piecemeal strategy that will gradually constrict the living space for Christianity while according more space to neo-pagan liberal humanism and Islam. The fact that these two ideologies are incompatible does not bother them at this time - once they have achieved their objectives there might be a fierce conflict between them for ultimate power in the emerging new order.
Barnabas Aid clearly differentiates between Muslims as individuals, whom we are called to love, serve and evangelise, and Islam as an ideology with negative connotations hostile to our Judeo-Christian heritage that needs to be exposed. Barnabas Aid recognises that there are many individual Muslims in the West who wish to co-exist happily with their neighbours and are not anxious to buy into any situation of conflict. Our concern is with Islam as an ideology and the uncompromising stance it takes toward Christianity and the democratic freedoms we take for granted in the West.
Barnabas Aid does not only criticise, but takes positive action in advocacy, lobbying and support of specific cases on behalf of the suffering Church and of individual persecuted Christians. This has resulted in real beneficial change to individuals and groups suffering persecution, harassment and limitations on their religious freedoms and human rights.
Barnabas Aid campaigned on behalf of Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee who was banned last September from displaying a small silver cross while Muslim workers were allowed to wear the hijab headscarf and Sikh workers turbans and bangles. Miss Eweida, a Christian from an Egyptian background, was not prepared to hide her faith and faced a number of internal disciplinary procedures over the issue. Many Barnabas Aid supporters and others contacted BA to protest about the unfair repercussions of their former uniform policy which was in effect biased against Christians. British Airways finally gave in to public pressure and announced a change in their uniform policy which will allow staff to visibly wear a "symbol of faith".
We also campaigned on behalf of Pastor Daniel Scot in Australia. Pastor Scot is a Pakistani Christian who was forced to flee Pakistan in 1986 under the threat of the notorious blasphemy law. He, along with Pastor Danny Nalliah and Catch the Fire Ministries, were convicted under Victoria State's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act (2001) by a judge at the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal in December 2004. The complaint concerned comments made by the two pastors at a seminar on Islam for Christians held in March 2002. The judge ruled that they were in breach of the Act which forbids incitement of "hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of" another person or class of persons on the ground of religious belief. The two pastors were found guilty even though they had quoted from the Islamic source texts of Qur'an and Hadith to back up their statements. In December 2006, the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria finally ruled in their favour and set aside the orders given by the Tribunal judge, ordering that the case be reheard at the original tribunal, with the same evidence as before, but with a different judge. This decision was a victory for free speech. While it is vital to protect people from physical injury or threat, this does not mean that beliefs and ideologies have to be protected from criticism.
Barnabas Aid also coordinated the successful campaign in Britain against the proposed Racial and Religious Hatred Bill which if passed in its originally proposed form would have severely restricted the right of Christians to express biblical views on a variety of relevant topics. The House of Commons in January 2006 voted to accept the amendments proposed by the House of Lords. These amendments make it considerably more difficult than the government had planned to obtain a conviction of inciting religious hatred. This means that it is possible to discuss and critique other religions, to preach the uniqueness of Christ, and to draw attention to the persecution of Christians in Muslim contexts.
Barnabas Aid believes in manifesting love towards Muslims as individuals - they are not our enemies. However, Christians must learn to understand the true nature of Islam and not naively accept the sanitised form offered by the media, politicians and Islamic apologists. Barnabas Aid believes that it is important to draw the attention of Christians to these issues which are of growing significance for us today. Islam is a totalitarian ideological system that cannot accept opposition and divergent views, and this has been exacerbated by the Islamic resurgence and the growth of Islamic extremism. This is evidenced daily by news of what is happening in most Muslim-majority countries as Christians and other minorities face growing restrictions on their freedom, harassment, persecution, violence and death. We find it strange that Western Christians who enjoy freedom, safety and security in their own countries critique our support for the suffering Church in Muslim countries. They seem to sympathise more with the oppressive persecuting totalitarian Islamic systems rather than with their suffering brothers and sisters who face persecution and death.
Those who argue that Islam is peaceful and tolerant are either being deliberately obtuse, or have been misled by propaganda and lies. How can they defend a system that is destroying their Christian brothers and sisters?
Let us remember the tragic history of large segments of the Church in Nazi Germany who long applauded Hitler as the saviour of Christian Germany (against Bolshevik atheism) and firmly shut their eyes to the evil within Nazi ideology. A similar blindness to the negative aspects of Islamic ideology might have similar disastrous results for the church in our times.