Going back nearly two years ago, I posted an article in my blog titled: “Meet your Muslim Neigbour” when I reflected on the positive and cordial relations I have enjoyed with members of my local mosque over the years and in it I plugged their event aimed at friendly engaging with their neighbours. I am happy to do so again.
Speaking personally, my relationships with Muslims, which began when I was at university, have been usually good and arguably, compared with those of non-Muslims, have overall been better. I am ever struck by the many examples of community minded, good neighborliness shown by my Muslim friends. Yet in recent years a whole host of events have portrayed Muslims in a bad light, whether it is a plethora of Muslim terror attacks, the bad way non Muslims are treated in Muslim countries, a push for Sharia law, the failure of new Muslims coming into the country to assimilate, crimes committed on minors by sex grooming gangs in English cities and attacks on women by Muslims in European cities, the change for the worse in British culture and rejection of its Christian heritage partly due to the demands of Islam, resistance in certain countries to the spread of Islam fearing what would might happen if they didn’t, numerous texts in the Koran, picked up by “extremists”, suggesting Islam is NOT a religion of peace and the realization by some that Islam is more than merely a religion but a full blown political system requiring all to fully submit to, if need by waging holy jihad, which includes violent means but is not exclusive to that.
When one visits one of these open days, it is likely one would be presented with the message that Islam is a religion of peace, epitomized by its traditional greeting: “Salaam-Alaikum”, meaning “Peace be unto you”, to which one might respond “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam“, meaning “And unto you peace”. This is something picked up by leaders of our country keen to promote community cohesion, taking the view that “bad” Muslims are exceptions and not true Muslims, and to the extent that those who challenge what has become the official narrative are being silenced, evidenced by them allowing Muslims of a more extreme ilk into the UK and keeping out those who criticize Islam, arguably more in order to be seen as politically correct rather than doing what is right. The term “Islamophobia” (and there is much debate what that means) now vies with that of “racism” as things people get figuratively “beaten up” over and are things we should NOT practice.
One of my undertakings as I embark on a one month study leave is to read more about Islam, including the Koran, and understand more of the concerns of the critics of Islam, so at least should my Muslim friends take me up on my offer to discuss some of the concerns raised above, I can hold my own. I do so in the spirit of a peace maker, a libertarian, a seeker after the truth as well as being an earnest Christian. Despite knowing a lot more than most, I am no expert on Islam, but I recoil when I listen to ignorant leftie, liberals say how good Islam is, one of the crazy aspects of contemporary culture. This may be contrasted with my knowledge of Christianity. Yet I daren’t claim to be able to speak for all Christians (although I do understand more than most what constitutes authentic Christianity). When challenging the “Islam, religion of peace” narrative, this is something this Christian may identify with, as it is often claimed Christianity is a religion of love. I would argue that while God’s Son dying on a cross for our sins is mighty evidence of divine love, Christianity is also a religion of the holiness of God and before love there needs to be righteousness. I also recognize there are difficult passages in the Bible, e.g. God calling the likes of Joshua and Saul to slay whole cities, and these have been used by some who in the name of God have down the ages done outrageous things. The meme I present here illustrates two sides of the coin that need to be recognized in honest discourse. In doing so, I acknowledge due to repercussions my Muslim friends may feel less free to criticize members of their own religion than I would of mine.
If I have a mild criticism of my friends from my local mosque, there appears to be a reluctance to discuss these concerns, not helped by the dismissive attitudes of our ruling elite when it comes to dealing with genuine concerns. I feel this is a lost opportunity and by ignoring genuine concerns, albeit by a few that are awake to these and who wish to befriend their Muslim neighbours, it can only lead to further tensions in the longer run. As an example of an approach I was impressed by what I saw and heard in a You Tube video that is titled: “Imam Mohamad Tawhidi and Candace Owens discuss the Muslim community, Christianity and whether Islam can be reformed”. Honest concerns were raised and honest responses made. A number of interesting points emerged: the nigh impossibility of finding an authority one can turn when it comes to establishing what is true Islam, the problems established Muslims have with Muslims newly entering (in this case the USA), the fact that Islam is more complex than it being primarily a religion of peace and while individuals can be reformed the impossibility that Islam can be, citing what happened to Husayn ibn Ali (Mohammed’s grandson) when he attempted to do so.
Watching this one hour exchange only confirmed my impression we can and should try to live in peace with our Muslim neighbours while recognizing there are problems that may be unresolvable, and areas of disagreement, for such are the days we are living in. It also means that we need to be realistic concerning the ramifications of the ever expanding Islamic presence in our own country, and the ensuant consequences, whether or not intended, of Islamification. Islam and Christianity are missionary religions, each with a mission to convert others to their faith. Inevitably, that will bring conflict. But that is no reason why we should not try to understand and respect each other and for those responsible for governing us not to respond appropriately to issues raised concerning these matters.