A few days ago in Norway a car bomb exploded in front of a government building killing several people. This was followed by a shooting at a youth camp, where 92 people were killed. Immediate speculation was that the acts were those of an Islamic extremist.
As the facts began rolling in, it became clear that the acts were the result of one man, a 32 year old Norwegian named Anders Behring Breivik. It appears that Breivik was a “Fundamentalist Christian” who was disgusted by the liberalization of the protestant church. The killer released a manifesto in which he envisions this as the start of a holy/civil war against Muslims. He appears to have targeted the Labour Party because he saw them as allowing the “Islamification of Europe” through immigration policy.
This attack comes at a time where the world is no stranger to terrorism in the name of religion. When we in the west think of religious violence, we of course think of Islamic Terrorist, and understandably so. After 9-11, Fort. Hood, and U.S. embassy bombings, we have seen individuals or groups strike out at innocent people in the name of Islam. When those in the east think about religious violence, many may think of the Crusades, the Bosnian Genocide, the Sabra and Shatilia Massacre, attacks on Nigerian Muslims, or western wars and occupation of Muslim countries. Neither religion can deny that way too much violence has been done in the name of God.
The Typical Response:
As someone who is often seen as trying to ‘defend Muslims’ here in the west, the following are the typical responses I get.
The Quran commands violence.
There is no question that the Quran contains calls to violence. But a reading of the Old Testament is also full of some very brutal calls to massacre whole peoples (Amalekites, Canaanites). I, as most Christians, would be quick to point out that those commands were specific to the context of the time and do not apply today, and are in no way a call for modern day Christians to kill.
Although the Quran certainly has similar calls to violence, most Muslims would likewise dismiss these passages as pertaining only to the context of the time of writing, and not a call to modern day violence. One of the Muslim world’s most prominent clerics, Sheikh Habib Ali al-Jifri said the following in an interview contained in the book Allah(A Christian Response): “Violence in the Quran is always tied to a just cause. It is never indiscriminate and never directed against noncombatants, women, and children.”
Where are the condemnations by moderate Muslims?
My first thought is, have you looked? The answer is usually no.
I’m not sure what they expect, do they expect the one Muslim guy they run into in the checkout line to be saying over and over, ‘I condemn terrorism’ to each and every stranger they come across? Did you do that after the events in Norway?
If someone does look, they most likely look at the only ‘Muslim’ source they have heard of, Al Jazeera, and most likely find no reports on the front page regarding prominent Muslim leaders condemning the most recent violent act. But Al Jazzera is a news organization, not a be-all catch-all spokesman for the Muslim world. It would be like looking to Fox News or CNN for coverage of prominent Christian leaders condemning the most recent violence in Norway. Right now, if you go to Fox or CNN, you will not find any such condemnation.
Maybe you are a rare American who know the names of a few prominent Muslim leaders, maybe you check their websites for condemnation. It may be there, it may not be, but lets look at our culture as a measuring stick. If you go to the website of Pat Robertson, James Dobson, or Billy Graham, you will find no mention of the recent attack in Norway, let alone condemnation.
It is not as though Dobson, Graham or Robertson condone the acts, but they likely see no need to condemn it. The act is so far from mainstream Christian theology that it should be clear that this violence is in no way consistent with the teaching of Christ. Likewise, many Muslim leaders may feel little need to condemn each act of terrorism, because they see it as in no way consistent with modern mainstream Muslim teaching.
Where to Go from Here?
Just as you see the act of a madman in Norway as sickening, and in no way justified by the religion of Christianity that the actor associated himself with; know that nearly every Muslim sees terrorism as sickening and in no way justified with the religion of Islam. Islam has been around for 1400 years, and the acts of suicide bombing and terrorism is a relatively new phenomenon, showing up in the last 30 or so years, it could be argued that Islam is a religion of peace (just as much as any religion can be called peaceful), that has been hijacked by extremists. Do not perpetuate the idea that individual Muslims are people who are violent. It encourages hate and fear, both of which are greatly discouraged in the Bible and should not be the tools of Christians.
Regardless of religious identity, whether Christian whose namesake is Jesus, or Muslim who see Jesus as a great prophet, look to the teachings of Jesus. Not only can He be a bridge of commonality between the two faiths, following his revolutionary teachings can have a tremendous impact on the world. Imagine a world where those who claim to follow him, actually did.
Among the most well known and challenging commands from Jesus himself are: do not fear, turn the other cheek, pray for those who persecute you, and love your enemy. The great thing about the act of loving a perceived or even real life enemy…soon you don’t have any.
Lastly remember these words of Jesus (Matt 5:9) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”. Do not spread fear and hate, spread love… be a peacemaker.
Note: Cross posted from original post at Caffeinated Theology