Senait Habta, a 28-year-old university student, was held for two years in a metal shipping container, which was sweltering hot during the day and bitterly cold at night. Senait became seriously ill and was reportedly offered medical care and freedom if she would deny Christ. She refused, and eventually died on 23 April 2010. She had been arrested with 15 other students simply for attending a Bible study group. Eritrea is one of the world's worst persecutors of Christians. The government sees them as a threat to national unity because they give their ultimate allegiance to God and not to the state.
Patrick Sookhdeo, Heroes of Our Faith: Inspiration and strength for daily living, p. 51, Isaac Publishing 2012. (My assessment, after reading a story a day for the last couple of months: I reckon it's the best summary of what's been going on in terms of persecution of Christians through the centuries since Foxe's Book of Martyrs).
There are Christians and 'Christians', Muslims and 'Muslims'... I've just been driving and listening to Waleed Ali on ABC Radio National (Australia). Waleed is the best-known Muslim media person in our country. His lawyerly objectivity is impressive. And I enjoyed reading his book... (However, see http://rcroucher.wordpress.com/ and jmm.org.au/articles/16222.htm).
Now consider: 'Hamid Ali, [then] spiritual leader of Al-Madina Masjid, a mosque in Beeston, W. Yorkshire, UK, publicly condemned the London bombings of July 7, 2005. But in a secretly taped conversation with a Bangladeshi-origin undercover reporter from The Sunday Times he said the 7/7 bombings were a "good" act and praised the bombers...' (Sunday Times Feb. 12, 2006).
And this: Dr. Taj Hargey, Chairman of the Muslim Education Centre, Oxford, explained on British television: 'We have one vocabulary in private and we have another vocabulary for the public domain and that's why you don't hear it because you're the public domain' (speaking on "A Question of Leadership", Panorama BBC 1, August 21, 2005).
The Challenge of Islam
Both were cited in Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, The Challenge of Islam (2009, p. 37). Sookdheo, born a Muslim but who converted to Christianity, writes: 'Protective deceit and dissimulation are an intrinsic part of Islam, permitted in certain specific situations, one of which is war, i.e. the defense of Islam. Some Muslims also hold that it is permissible to break agreements with non-Muslims, believing such contracts to be valid only as long as they serve the cause of Islam' (ibid.)
I listened to Sookhdeo for a couple of hours last year in Melbourne, and I cannot question either his scholarship or integrity in all this. I disagree with some aspects of his very conservative theological stance, but the questions here have to do with the veracity of his research and his judgements about Islam. And some of those judgements are quite alarming.
Christians who are theologically conservative (like the Sookhdeos, Australian scholar Dr. Mark Durie, et al...) tend to focus on the 'bad news': when Muslims migrate to the West they don't integrate very well; in Muslim-majority countries Christians and others are severely persecuted, or at best (best?) reduced to dhimmi status; Muslims have a sometimes-open, sometimes-hidden agenda to take over the nations where they're in a minority and impose more and more Shari'a law. etc. etc. The more mainline/softer/liberal Christian approach emphasises patience, love, acceptance: certainly friendship. Humiliating/criticising is not the Christian way... 'Now that's all well and good' the conservatives respond, 'but do you remember the Chamberlain "appeasement" saga? The call then was to face the reality of who Hitler / what Nazism really was... Hiding your head in the sand, ostrich-like, won't make facts go away.'
Now, I have some sympathy with both approaches... How to balance/reconcile them is the challenge...
Salient points Sookhdeo makes in his The Challenge of Islam:
'Peace and harmony in British society are fast disappearing, for which the main cause seems to be the egregious behaviour of a radical minority within one particular faith, Islam' (p.2). 'The UK's 2000 or so mosques are basically "a cover for a political movement" ie., British Islam has become "a political movement masquerading as a religion"' (quoting Iranian liberal Muslim writer, Amir Taheri) (3).
'In Islam there is no separation between sacred and secular, or between spiritual and material. Islam encompasses the social, legal, cultural, political and even military aspects of life' (8).
'Islam will pose a much greater challenge to Christianity in the 21st century than Gnosticism did to the early church' (quoting Prof. Johan Bouman) (13).
'Muhammad is considered infallible, free from sin... Many Muslims, especially in the Indian subcontinent, hold that he was created from an eternal heavenly substance... and must be protected from any criticism or slight' (19). The original Qur'an is believed to be inscribed in Arabic on a tablet in heaven (20). Muslims believe Jesus will return as a Muslim and convert everyone to Islam (22). 'In the eyes of most Muslims there is no potential for any change to the shari'a regulations formulated in the 8th and 9th centuries AD' – with its 'discriminatory [stance] against women and non-Muslims' (25,26).
'The submission of non-Muslims is done primarily through fear. The West is now at a crossroads in its relationship with Islam. Threats and intimidation have resulted in pusillanimous governments, compliant media and an insipid Church... Christians are increasingly unwilling or unable to critique Islam. Either they embrace dialogue and interfaith relations and acquiesce, in the name of tolerance, to Muslim demands or they retreat into a ghetto-like mentality born of fear... But in our day more Muslims are coming to Christ – more than ever before in history'... [a significant number due to] Muslim men marrying Western women' (114-115).
'Although superficially similar. Islam and Christianity are very far from being sibling religions... Christianity emphasises the premise that God is love... In Islam duty and works are the way to heaven although Muslims can never be sure of their eternal destiny. If love is the meaning of reality for Christians, then power is the meaning of reality for Muslims' (116).
See Rowland Croucher's website: jmm.org.au
Rosie Timmins in a journalism graduate from Bond and is based in Melbourne ministering with OAC as an Intern.
Rosie Timmins previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/rosie-timmins.html