By Roy Oksnevad
I usually do not comment on or post geopolitical material on COMMA. Our task is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to a people lost without Christ. I seek to encourage us with news about missions, methods, and information that will help us in ministry. However, people in our churches are struggling with all the media coverage of terrorists and conservative talk radio expounding on “true Islam,” which is having an impact on the body of Christ. Christians are struggling with fear and conflicting voices from supposed authorities on the subject.
On September 10, President Obama stated in his prime-time address to the nation that, “Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL* [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state.” Daniel Pipes immediately condemned this statement calling this a “preposterous claim.”
I believe that the interview with Officer Omar Ricci, former national chairman of Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), said it best,
1. ISIS adopted a cult like ideology of death and destruction.
2. ISIS leveraged the predominate faith of the region – Islam.
3. ISIS is born out of geopolitical ideology.
4. Muslims currently are in their dark ages. http://www.bondinfo.org/blog/interview-muslim
Two tendencies that are both faulty:
1. ISIS is not Islam: Naïve wishful thinkers who say that any violence done in the name of any religion can’t be a true follower of that faith or Muslims who desire to distance themselves from the violence and terror committed in the name of Islam.
2. ISIS represents true Islam: Naïve people who desire to villainize the “other,” often those with a strong nationalistic perspective or Christians who demonize people of other religions.
Here are things to keep in mind when you are in discussions about ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Hamas, or any other group bent on terror. First, using words like sect, orthodox, heterodox, or heretical to describe Islam is inappropriate. These are Christian terms that don’t apply to Islam. Bernard Lewis states it this way: “It has little or no relevance to the history of Islam, which has no synods, churches, or councils to define orthodoxy, and therefore none to define and condemn departures from orthodoxy, which we normally designate by such terms as ‘heterodoxy’ and ‘heresy.’” (Islam in the West, by B. Lewis, 1993, page 155) Second, a Muslim is defined as anyone “who believes in God, Glorified and Exalted be He, and His Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) and the pillars of faith, and acknowledges the five pillars of Islam, and does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of religion” http://ammanmessage.com/. The members, leaders and the self-appointed Caliph of ISIS believe this. What is more, these identified “terrorist groups” take a more literal, nuanced, and conscientious approach to the Qur’an, Sunna of Muhamad, and Shari’a law than the more secular Islamic states such as Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia.
How then should we understand IS, ISIS, or ISIL? ISIS self-identifies as Islamic, and who are we to say they are not? ISIS is the most well-funded Islamist group we have seen in modern times. ISIS has a political and religious agenda and is willing to impose its will mercilessly upon anyone they meet. They are identified as being a criminal gang, using smuggling, extortion, fencing, kidnappings, skimming, and shakedowns. Muslims are terrified of them and are trying to distance themselves from them. There are many such groups in the Muslim world, and defeating ISIS will not insure peace. Muslim majority countries have a long history of dealing with religious ideologues that are willing to impose their particular vision of seventh century utopian Islam upon the people.
What is God doing in this global crisis? In all the fear-mongering about ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaida, Hezbollah, and Mojahedin to name a few, God’s voice and perspective is missing. Most people I interact with are overwhelmed with negative information, and hear nothing about what God is doing. To date it is estimated that 14 million people have fled Iraq and Syria. They are seeking safety in refugee camps from a very religious movement. Many are now open and actually desiring to change their religion from Islam to Christianity. This gives us an open door to share God’s wonderful message of peace with God found through Jesus Christ. David Garrison’s book, A Wind in the House of Islam, identifies more than 60 new Muslim movements to Christ in the first 12 years of the 21st century. In the midst of all this terrorism in the name of Islam, Muslims are looking for a true religion of peace. We have an open door before us. It is not a time to cower in the safety of our homes, but the time to go forth with our “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).
How should we respond to the discussion about ISIS or terrorism? First, don’t get sucked into the polar extreme positions. This is far more complicated than the spin that the far left or right tries to propagate. Second, stop passing on alarmist or utopian positions you get in e-mails. Third, resist and confront the religious hate language wherever it may be found. Fourth, remember that we are citizens in God’s kingdom and our citizenship on earth is only temporary. Be careful that your nationalism doesn’t trump your faith. Fifth, now is the time to shine the light of Christ boldly in a world that has lost hope and its way.
ISIL means Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
ISIS means Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
IS means Islamic State
For a fuller discussion on the two terms and the political implication see, “‘ISIS’ vs. ‘ISIL’ vs.
‘Islamic State’: The political importance of a much-debated acronym,”
A former Muslim addresses the statement that ISIL is not Islamic:
Daniel Pipes sees no distinction between the two terms. See: http://www.danielpipes.org/14909/there-no-difference-between-isis-and-isil
Report on refugees: http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/briefing/refugees/