A very un-Christian church

This article was published on ‘Times Online’ on 3rd September 2010.

I remember attending secondary school when at the end of one assembly, all pupils were presented with a copy of the New Testament. I also remember being horrified when on the bus home, many of the students, who were mostly atheist or agnostic, threw their copies out of the window, with others tearing the pages up. It upset me greatly.

How dare they treat the revealed words of God with such disrespect, I thought.

These were my feelings not as a Christian, but as a Muslim, brought up to revere the founders and scriptures of all faiths.

You will understand my outrage, then, when I learned about a group of American Christians urging people to burn a Qur’an on 9/11. The ironically named Dove World Outreach Center, which believes it is fulfilling God’s will, preaches that Islam “is of the devil”, “violent” and “oppressive”. If that wasn’t enough, it puts forward 10 reasons to set the Qur’an ablaze – among them being Islam’s alleged incompatibility with democracy, demand for apostates to be killed and affront to Jesus. All utter nonsense.

Of course some misconceptions regarding Islam are no particular fault of this church or indeed anyone in the West, as the twisted ideology and practices of certain Muslim groups are the real root of the problem. However there are times when a minority of evangelists and the media intentionally seek to mislead, as witnessed in this case.

The Qur’an, God’s direct revelation upon which the faith should really be judged, teaches that in matters of conscience, all human beings enjoy complete freedom. Indeed it was purely to safeguard this liberty that the Prophet Muhammad and his followers were permitted to fight, having been so brutally attacked for their beliefs. For 13 years, he and the first Muslims suffered torture, yet remained absolute pacifists. Only when hostilities against them reached an unbearable extreme – with their very survival at stake – were they justified in defending their lives. The conflict ceased once freedom of expression for all was restored.

When the Prophet became ruler of Arabia and faced his merciless persecutors, he had every right to exact revenge; instead, he granted a universal amnesty. So much for violence and oppression.

Had the Qur’an been derogatory about Christ, one may have excused the Dove World faithful. Again we find quite the opposite.

Examine the esteemed status afforded to not just the Messiah, but his blessed mother too. Jesus (or ‘Isa) is called a “blessed” and “virtuous” Prophet, “honoured in this world and in the next” and “granted nearness to God”. Similarly Mary (Maryam) is referred to as “truthful” and presented as a model of righteousness for believers, male and female; there is even a chapter named after her. Both are mentioned more times than even the Prophet Muhammad, and countless Muslims name their children after them.

Indeed, through their mutual love for history’s most famous mother and child, Christianity and Islam enjoy a special relationship.

When the Prophet Muhammad made his claim, some Christians visited him for a theological discussion. When it was time for them to pray they were about to leave, but the Prophet invited them to worship in his own mosque in whatever manner they wished, which they happily accepted.

Such compassion and courtesy are not limited to just the ‘People of the Book’. The Qur’an requires belief in all the Messengers and kind treatment of God’s creation without prejudice and discrimination. “Verily Allah enjoins justice and the doing of good to others” (Ch.16:V.91).

As an increasing number of converts from the West have also found, there is an abundance of beauty, not barbarism; enlightenment, not evil; truth, not terror, for those that read the Qur’an with an open mind.

And yet this is the text the Dove World congregation deems a threat and hence fit for burning.

What would be achieved by so provocative an act, which represents the very antithesis of Jesus’ own teachings and example? Would the world edge closer to the peace and harmony this church has been apparently commissioned to bring about? Or is it, as with The Satanic Verses, Danish cartoons and Geert Wilders movie, a deliberate attempt to offend and insult?

It is evident from the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet that Islam has the highest regard for Christ. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that is today leading a renaissance of Islam, also observed:

“Jesus, the Messiah, is a beloved of God, a chosen one, light for the world, a sun of guidance, a dear one to God, placed closed to His Throne.”

If the Dove World preachers seek to dishonour a book that inspires such sentiments about their faith, then even if they do not appreciate the true message of Islam, one wonders if they have understood the real essence of Christianity itself. If they had, then surely they would have a burning desire for peace, rather than fan the flames of hatred.

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7 thoughts on “A very un-Christian church

  1. >Or is it, as with The Satanic Verses … a deliberate attempt to offend and insult?

    The Satanic Verses was not ‘a deliberate attempt to offend’. Not sure how old you are but do you remember the fuss at all? Do you remember the sequence of events? Have you read the book?

    The real offenders of Islam, surely, are the Muslims who called for Rushdie to be murdered, and the Muslims who murdered and attempted to murder people associated with the book’s publication.

    Or perhaps you don’t think they were offending your religion?

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    1. I remember The Satanic Verses period very well, David. It was in my late teens that I was surrounded by Rushdie’s books at home, and therefore had the opportunity to read quite a lot of his work. How/why? Because my father was busy writing this: https://www.alislam.org/books/rushdie/RUSHDIE_Haunted_by_his_unholy_ghosts.pdf

      I’d recommend you take some time to read it and share your thoughts.

      As for not being a deliberate attempt to offend… I’m not sure how old you are, but it was only very recently that Rushdie said: “Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2900976/Salman-Rushdie-condemns-Charlie-Hebdo-attack-sign-deadly-mutation-heart-Islam.html

      Still think he didn’t set out to offend anyone?

      When The Satanic Verses was published, many non-Muslims themselves, including former US President Jimmy Carter, used the word “insult” for it (http://www.cartercenter.org/news/documents/doc1381.html)

      And yes, I’m extremely offended by Muslims who call for any writer or artist’s death – something my father addresses in the book, and which I also allude to here: https://waqarahmedi.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/defending-the-prophet-and-free-speech/

      Do understand that not all Muslims are the same, David.

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  2. Rushdie’s remarks after the Hebdo massacre are one thing: to use those in an anachronistic backward-reading to claim the intention of the ‘Verses’ was to deliberate offend Muslims is nonsense.

    Rushdie did send a copy, before publication to Edward Said for his opinion because he was aware that some of your co-religionists may be upset. To pretend, from that fact, that that was Rushdie’s purpose, that he deliberately set out in the book to offend, is a misrepresentation of the facts and a complete failure on your part to understand the nature of literary fiction.

    Rushdie doesn’t accept your absurd but common opinion that the Koran was dictated to an illiterate by an angel. That in itself is all I have to say to ‘upset’ some people, isn’t it?

    But your father’s weird defence against the central conceit, that in some way Rushdie was claiming his rhetorical device as a fact of history, is autistic in its literalism. The ‘no true Scotsman’ defence that of course Islam doesn’t condone book-burning, the whatabouttery reference to Christians, and your father wish that Rushdie could have been prosecuted for writing a novel:

    ‘One could hope that a similar verdict might have been adjudged
    on Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses’

    disgust me and they should you.

    I don’t blame you for your father’s pusillanimous book. But I do blame you for touting it here.

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    1. ‘Frankly I wish I’d written a more critical book’. That was Rushdie speaking about The Satanic Verses (The Washington Times, 15th February 1989). A leopard doesn’t change its spots.

      My father has often said that reading Rushdie’s books has been one of the most laborious, unpleasant and unenviable experiences of his life – you will not doubt have a jibe at this too – but he did what any genuine individual who wants to properly investigate a matter does: examine the primary sources. My father read all of Rushdie’s works, both prior to and post The Satanic Verses, and has drawn his conclusions. That they don’t agree with yours is something you will have to live with.

      You will need to also get used to the fact that not all Muslims are book-burning, ‘Allahu-Akbar!’ screaming zealots who wish to prevent free speech, as you seem to believe. Interesting that you wanted to deny even me this right, by objecting to my ‘touting’ of dad’s rebuttal on my own blog. Perhaps I should run everything I write and say by you, and confirm it satisfies your completely impartial standpoint?

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