Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Is it Racist to Criticize Islam?

Until I entered the arena of apologetics to Muslims, I could never have imagined that some people would consider criticism of ideas to be tantamount to racism. I quickly learned, however, that there are indeed some who see it as such.

One such individual, Paul Williams of BloggingTheology.net, is one of them. Recently, on Twitter, a discussion broke out between a friend of mine and Paul Williams on the identity of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. I suggested to Paul Williams that we engage in a moderated debate on whether Isaiah 53 is Messianic. Among his reasons for declining my invitation, he tweeted this:

Racial abuse of Muslims... Seriously? Since when was Islam considered a race? And since when was the criticism of ideas tantamount to racism? "Racial abuse" is a serious charge, implying either physical or verbal assault.

It is certainly true that Williams and I part ways on many issues, including the justifiability, from the Qur'an and other Islamic sources, of atrocities committed by the Islamic State and other groups. This, however, is an academic difference of opinion on how to best interpret those sources. I hold no ill-feeling whatsoever towards Muslim people. In fact, my heart is filled with compassion for them, and I long for them to be saved by the same grace that saved me.

I of course recognise that, while the Islamic State represent a valid expression of Islam, they are not normative for all Muslims. Muslims are a very diverse group of people, and I have long recognized the folly of branding or stereotyping all Muslims in any particular way.

In refutation of Williams' false and defamatory allegation, my friend, Gunter, helpfully linked to a post of mine on Facebook from early December of 2015, in which I repudiated in the strongest of terms Christians who agreed with the anti-Muslim immigration policy promoted by Donald Trump:

It truly saddens me that such defamatory tactics are exercised all too commonly among many of the internet Muslim polemicists.


ignatius said...

Jonathan, Your facebook entry is imprecise. I don't follow American politics so closely, but to my knowledge, Trump said nothing about banning Moslems from America. He's talking about immigration. He does not advocate deporting Moslems who already live here, at least not the peaceful ones. If there are really Christians who want to ban all Moslems from the US, as your post implies, then there is truly a reason to be disappointed. But as far as I can see, you have conflated two issues.

Jonathan Mclatchie said...

I meant Muslim immigration obviously.

Traeh said...

Jonathan Mclatchie, Do you anywhere state your whole argument for your immigration policy on Muslims? Would be grateful if you could provide a link to your argument.

I imagine you believe a nation should defend itself. Do you feel that the danger massive Islamic immigration poses to our non-Muslim children's future and freedom is too insubstantial to outweigh the hope that we can convert Muslims?

Do you believe that the Savior wanted us to focus on converting people, even to the extent of bringing significant risk of destroying our nation? What about the many nations that have succumbed to Islamic domination in the past? Why do you believe we should not resist that by resisting immigration of Muslims into non-Muslim nations? Even with a relatively small Muslim population, many public figures and public institutions have stated, according to news accounts, that they are afraid to speak about Islam because of death threats and violence from Muslims. See http://www.quotingislam.blogspot.com

Won't that self-censorship become worse and worse the more Muslims we allow in, given the intimidation that comes with them? Won't we be in effect blinding ourselves to the nature of Islam, by creating a situation where very few criticize it publicly under their own names and faces? Are not Arab Christians in the Middle East largely under the thumb of Islam, and are not their words about Islam generally the false words of someone under the gun who cannot say what he really thinks, or who has been brainwashed by a kind of Stockholm syndrome?

Traeh said...

A couple of additional questions for Jonathan. How many Muslim immigrants per year do you think is reasonable and manageable for a place like the U.S.? Right now, estimates I have seen of how many are getting in range between 100,000 and a quarter million per year. I'm sure you would set some sort of limits on it, but from your comments I guess you would set the exact same limits set on any other group. Do you believe there should be no defense against Islamization, apart from attempts at evangelizing and public criticism? Why shouldn't just war doctrine and rightful self-defense figure into immigration policy? Or never mind self-defense. What about defense of our children and their future?

Andrew said...

Sorry Jonathan, I enjoy your work but you have lost me here. Why shame on Christians who oppose muslim migration? Reading Brigette Gabriel's "because they hate" has made a big impression on me. How christian Lebanon committed suicide by taking in muslim "refugees" that no other arab muslim country would take in.

Foolster41 said...

I think it's wise to be concerned with Muslim immigration at least, and I'm a Chritian. so I guess you're disappointed in me too.

Of course not all Muslims are bad and want to follow and impose Sharia law, but it's hard to tell who is and who isn't, and just letting in Muslims from a nation that is known for having many Muslims who are pious enough in their faith to kill us, especially after the recent attacks in Paris and Germany is madness.

Shame on me indeed!


But nope! There's nothing to be concerned about at all!

ignatius said...

Jonathan, thanks for clearing that up. For me it wasn't obvious. I'm still a bit troubled by the remark, even with this clarification, but it would be hard to discuss it here. I live in Vienna and am seldom in the US. If by some wild chance we ever spend an evening together, we could talk about it in a relaxed atmosphere.

Ry said...

I hope there will be a debate on Isaiah 53! I do not follow Twitter, but was involved in a conversation with Paul Williams at a venue in London last Sunday. I do not think it is exaggerating to say that the place is flooded on Sundays with Muslims well trained in Dawa; and I try to be there myself if for no other reason than to create a balanced argument for unsuspecting Christians who wander by unprepared. (I believe I too am a ‘racist bigot’ as the re-interpretations I know of the Quranic verses cited to justify actions of ISIS, are in my view unconvincing. I hope these alternative interpretations are better understood by those who are joining ISIS and other radical organisations or, if not, that some improved re-interpretation can be found.)

The prophecies of Isaiah 53 came up when two young Christians, who were there completely by chance, got into conversation with Paul Williams. I do not remember the precise passage quoted by Paul, but it was along the lines of Jesus’ words on the road to Emmaus. “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Luke (24 v 25). Paul followed his quote with the statement that nowhere in the Old Testament are the death and resurrection of Jesus prophesied!

A statement expressed in this way can bamboozle anyone off their guard; so we turned the statement into a question by citing Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 as evidence for the prophecies. Psalm 22 was quoted by Jesus from the cross; and Paul chose not to address this passage on this occasion. Isaiah 53, he said, was not messianic and was considered by orthodox Jews to refer to the nation of Israel taken into Babylon. I recognise that both Muslims and orthodox Jews deny a suffering messiah and so they will agree on the need for a different interpretation of these passages. Neither Jews or Muslims seem to have attached great importance to these verses in the past, and Paul declined to discuss in detail how Isaiah 52/53 could credibly be applied to the nation of Israel. I am sure he is now formulating a response if it was not done before- but perhaps, as Jesus implied on the road to Emmaus, it is only when we are struck by the truth of the resurrection, that these words spring to life and become full of meaning!

Auke Feitsma said...

Trump said: Until we know what is going on with Muslims (they can kill, in name of their non excisting "deity".), he wants a ban on immigrating muslims, of whom a small percentage kill in the name of their non excisting "deity". I don't think that Jesus has a problem with that, because Trump would do that as a government and he has the right to protect his citizens. When you say that that's wrong, you cannot ban a "religion", give me the specifics, of the NT, were it is said that you cannot keep a fony religion, outside your people/country.

ignatius said...

Thanks Traeh, Andrew, Auke and Foolster41!

There is more to write on this topic, but what you have already written I could not have said better myself.

foofy said...

I know I'm late, but I hope it's okay if I give this one point on the refugee issue:
Personally, the Syrian immigration thing makes a bit of sense if you think about the "good Samaritan" issue. How else can we be "neighbour" to people in need?
I'm under the impression that they might be under the impression that "Christianity" (probably about the West, but many think of communities collectively and culturo-religiously) only is interested in worrying about other Christians and I suppose letting them in won't stop conservative Muslim people who confuse wars on dictatorships America doesn't like with perceived "crusades" against Muslims, but I imagine it would show Christ's mercy to others.

At the end of the day, I do understand foolster's concerns about not being able to know who specifically will be interested in jihad because they don't tell unsympathetic people; and traeh's concerns about threatening types of Muslims.

Christine Wright said...

As a former Muslim (now Christian), I must disagree with you. We here in America are at war with an ideology. Its not an ideology that any non-Muslim can fight because they don't understand the breadth and scope of the problems within the ideology. There are little to no outward signs of holding this ideology and it's very easy to hide especially when taught to do just that.

Muslims hide their beliefs from all whom they do not trust, this includes all outsiders. Extremism is growing; I spent years and years fighting the growing ideology and I can tell you that it is a loosing battle from an inside perspective - although I walked away from the Muslim community prior to the creation of ISIS.

As to the question why deny all immigration into the United States? First, you are at war with an ideology, its an ideology which has declared war upon you, its carriers have been taught hate of your culture from the cradle. Its an ideology that is whispered in the ear at birth, and spoken out-loud just prior to death and every moment in between is wrapped tightly in it. It's followers know no other way to think, and accept no other way of thinking. It is not a religion in the way westerners see religion as being, it is intrinsically and inseparably linked with the political.

You cannot kill an ideology through means of war, nor can any outsider fight it through any other means, not when they threaten to kill their own for refusing to accept their interpretation, to whom are a danger to any insider who speaks out against it. (note instances such as the London imam who joined the counter terrorism think tank Quilliam, and there are many many more instances identical to that, speaking out is rewarded with threats to life and limb, even while you are Muslim)

All you do when you accept Muslims in this country, is to raise the rate of how many extremists will live within your borders, because you will never be able to properly vet an extremist. I am a former Muslim who was married to a terrorist/extremist and I promise you that you cannot tell. (he is now out of this country and barred from reentry as I was American first, a thing most Muslims in this country are not, let alone Muslims who live outside of this country!)

You are at war, start acting like it or die being "nice".

In times of war, the peaceful majority is irrelevant. In Germany, the peaceful majority were not Nazi's nor did the heed the ideology, but in the face of the vocal and extreme minority, they became completely irrelevant. Only 850,000 out of 66 million Germans were card-carrying Nazis prior to Hitler seizing power. It will do you well to remember that.

If you let the extremists use the peaceful in which to hide, if you let them into your borders "for the children" if you let compassion rule instead of logic, you will loose the battle, not win it.

It is a governments first responsibility to its citizens, and now is the time to allow the government to do what it was created to do, protect its citizenry. This has the dual purpose of putting Muslims themselves in the position of having to fight extremism at the source.

God bless you.