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February 9, 2002
Column #1067

Is Islam A Religion of Peace?

     ''Islam is an aggressive proselytizer. It is the most aggressive force in prisons and it feeds on the disenchantment of prisoners by saying, `You can be one of the brothers.' It has been enormously successful. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, became a convert to Islam in prison, led by a radical imam.'' said Chuck Colson, the former aide to President Nixon who went to prison for Watergate crimes and emerged to create Prison Fellowship, 50,000 volunteers showing the love of Christ to prisoners.

     Speaking to leaders of Campus Crusade for Christ the day before the President's Prayer Breakfast, Colson dismissed those who assert, ''We all worship one God.'' 

     He argued that Muslims ''have a very different world view. While Christians worship a God who became flesh and is intimately knowable, to Muslims God is distant and unapproachable. Muslims believe that humans are born good but are corrupted by non-Islamic cultures. Christians believe we are fallen and thus in need of salvation. Christians believe in a loving God who sent Jesus to die for their sins, and is their savior, ''Muslims believe the only certain way to be saved is to die in a jihad.''

     These profound differences in world view have equally profound consequences for people of faith in both cultures. The 1.3 billion Muslims, particularly in the countries where they are the dominant culture, believe in the need to eliminate non-Muslim influence and to advance Islam by force if necessary. ''Fundamentalist Muslims are utopian,'' Colson asserted, who seek the perfect society by strictly enforcing Islamic law. By contrast, most Christians live peacefully with competing value systems and believe in winning people through love, not conquest.

     The result of these clashes? ''In 32 countries, Muslims are persecuting Christians, but in no country are Christians persecuting Muslims,'' said Colson whose daily radio commentaries, ''Breakpoint'' are aired on 1,000 radio stations.

     A recent issue of ''Christianity Today'' featured a cover story by James Beverley with the provocative title, ''Islam: A Religion of Peace?'' President Bush, in launching a war against terrorism, has gone out of his way to declare ''Islam is a religion of peace.'' Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) wrote to a British newspaper, ''Today I am aghast at the horror of recent events and feel it is a duty to speak out. Not only did terrorists hijack planes and destroy life; they also hijacked the beautiful religion of Islam.''

     No doubt millions of Muslims in America and in many other countries would agree. 

     However, there is a more militant face of Islam in many nations not in the spotlight. Paul Marshall of Freedom House in Washington notes that in Nigeria, 12 of its 36 states recently instituted Sharia law in which a woman found in adultery is stoned to death. ''This has sparked counter demonstrations by Christians and Muslim riots that left 6,000 Christians dead.'' 

     In the week before September 11, in the Christian state of Jos, rioting left seven people killed. On September 11, violence re-erupted with Muslims waving banners with Osama bin Laden killing 300 people in 48 hours.

     In Indonesia, a militant Muslim group called Laskar Jihad was ''wiping out Christian villages until the military, pressured by the U.S., intervened in the first week of December,'' Marshall reported. The toll was 10,000 dead and 500,000 refugees, 80 percent of whom are Christians.

     In Sudan, two million Christians and animists have been killed by their own Muslim-led government in a civil war over 16 years. Former Senator John Danforth has been sent by Bush to Sudan on a peace mission that has at least helped spark a truce in the Nuba Mountains so relief supplies can reach starving Christians.

     America's stunning success in Afghanistan seems to have had a sobering effect on Muslim militants. That impact is likely to be temporary. Hard core Muslim terrorist cells, such as Abu Sayyaf terrorists holding two American missionaries hostage in the Philippines, are being confronted by 600 U.S. troops helping the Philippine army.

      However, this clash of cultures can not be confronted only by the military. 

     We must help the economies of Muslim cultures to prosper so there are not so many unemployed hopeless young men. Hard core obscenity which is corrupting Western culture as well as that of the East - must be confronted and shut down. Muslims living in democracies must help make a case for tolerance within Islamic nations.

     Most important, as Colson puts it, ''Christians must defend winsomely and lovingly the great kingdom truths that offer love and hope to mankind.''

Copyright 2002 Michael J. McManus.

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