Afraid of Muslims? How Christians Should, and Should Not, Be Viewing their Muslim Neighbours

Not a week goes by that I don’t end up in a conversation with Christians expressing some kind fear about Muslims.

Fear that they are coming here.

Fear that they are moving in.

Fear that they are taking over.

This fear is crazy. Why? Because the idea that Christians should be motivated by fear of others is antithetical to the Spirit of God in us and the mission into which Jesus commissioned us. We are not fearful–we are faithful. We go where Jesus sends us and we receive, with joy, anyone we come into contact with, in the name and grace of Jesus, even if (especially if!) they do not follow Jesus and hold a different belief system than we do. Swing open the door.

As I think about the fear I hear, 5 reflections come to my mind. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
  1. First of all, we’ve been sending missionaries into Islamic countries for decades, giving literally millions of dollars so that Christians can go where few others have gone and usually under the guise of something other than mission work. Now the very people we’ve been trying to reach, at incredible financial and personal cost, are coming to us. Muslims are living next door to us, working in the next cubicle, riding on the same bus, and playing on the same soccer team (and you definitely want them on your soccer team!).  Hello, world. Hello, missional opportunity.
  2. Secondly, and this is so important: Muslims are not a theoretical belief system. Muslims are people, just like every other human being out there. Muslims live and love and work and hurt and desire and sin and betray and fail, just like you and I do. Muslims are loved and lovely. Yes, there are some nasty Muslims out there. There are Islamic extremists who do evil things, which we all deplore, including most Muslims. And guess what?There are some nasty Hindus, nasty Buddhists, nasty Jews and–yes, you can be sure of that–nasty Christians out there, too. People can be nasty, and out of anyone, Christians should be the first to acknowledge that reality, starting with our own confession of personal nastiness. But there are also wonderful, caring, hospitable, interesting, amazing people out there, people of multiple different faiths, including Islam, people worthy of your love, people you can trust with your lives. Hello, friend.
  3. And thirdly, Muslims are coming to know Jesus in droves. In a sweeping move of God worldwide, more Muslims are coming to confess Jesus as Lord than any other time in history, more even within the last 25 years since the origin of Islam.  Want to know more? Read A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison and get a whole new perspective on what God is doing. Need to be inspired by a compelling personal story? Read Nabeel Qureshi’s book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.  Hello, Spirit of God moving over the world! Bring it on.
  4. And fourth: most, if not all, of the people from whom I hear fear have never met a Muslim, have never enjoyed a meal in a Muslim home or welcomed a Muslim family into theirs. And they have certainly never engaged in a vigorous conversation with a Muslim friend about faith, which is so much fun and so rewarding. Their fear of Muslims, then, is not based upon personal relationship, but upon news media, television preachers and fear-mongering tales of people “out there” coming “over here.” That whole vision is not sourced by the Jesus who went into Samaria to love the hated enemy, who forgave his violent enemies and died for us while we were yet sinners; it’s not sourced by the good news we believe and share and sacrifice for. Even more fundamentally, it’s not rooted in the fact that each and every human being has been created in God’s image and is worthy of love. As followers of Jesus, we do not stay home in fear; we move forward in relationship, with the good news in hand and heart. We open up our doors. Hello, neighbour.
  5. And fifth, embracing Muslims does not mean agreeing with Islam. What a silly idea. Every day we embrace and love people who think and believe differently than we do (or at least I hope we do). We do not make our love contingent upon shared belief! Where in the world did we get the idea that loving Muslims, caring for Muslims, standing against violence toward Muslims, laying down our lives for Muslims is somehow an endorsement of their belief system? Again, if you know a Muslim and have engaged in any kind of conversation with one about faith, you would know how foolish that idea is. No, in fact, we can embrace Muslims as friends and disagree on beliefs, the most important difference being our belief about the person of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, his work on the cross, his death and resurrection. Every other difference, without exception, pales to this central difference about Jesus’ identity (which, by the way, is the central difference between Mormonism and Christianity, The Watchtower Society and Christianity, Judaism and Christianity, Hinduism and Christianity, Buddhism and Christianity–you get the point.) What I love about Muslims is their willingness to engage the faith conversation, rigorously and without rancour. Coming from a worldview that does not separate religion, politics and life, Muslims are not shy to talk about faith, whereas us Westerners, having long lived in a compartmentalized world of privatized faith, quail at such confident conversation. Hello, conversation!

So why is there so much fear? And how can we overturn this fear and embrace the mission Jesus has charged us with, by the power of the Spirit given to us? Only by getting the gospel right, engaging the mission Jesus has given us, and loving the neighbours he sends us.

We’ve got to get this right. Fear has no place in the life of the Spirit-filled, missionary-sent church of Jesus Christ. Have some faith in the work of God, creating this mighty move of people in the world today. The lives of our Muslim neighbours depends upon our love for them. Come on. Let’s go. Oh wait, they are already here. Now we can invite them over.

15 thoughts on “Afraid of Muslims? How Christians Should, and Should Not, Be Viewing their Muslim Neighbours”

  1. Thank you, Tom, for this very timely article. I try, through the Grace of God, to love all who come across my path; exactly the way Jesus did.
    Having grown up with the idea that to show “love” to someone with different beliefs, or a different lifestyle choice, would mean you “agreed” with them. It reminds me of the story about the Good Samaritan. I for many years, “was NOT the “good Samaritan”, but those who passed by.
    There is no reason to fear, as you say, everyone is seeking love, joy, peace and we as Christians, have the One who is LOVE, JOY AND PRINCE OF PEACE!
    Thank you, Judith

  2. What I have heard and agree with from Peter Enns is that fear is the opposite of faith, not doubt. If we think of faith as trust then we should not be afraid of what happens if we open the door and love our “enemies” like God asks us to. We might have doubt about how things will turn out but we should not be fearful about what will happen. God is still able to use a bad situation and make something good out of it. In fact that is what God wants to do if we let him. The Muslims that want to come to Canada are in a bad situation and God wants to bring good out of the bad. Thanks for writing about this.

    1. Thanks, Jack. Any move toward relationship with the “other” entails risk, doesn’t it? I’m glad for those who have risked with me, with others, for the sake of the gospel. And inspired to keep doing so.

  3. Wow – I just love these God-sent “coincidences” !!

    In my prayers this morning, I asked God to give me guidance regarding this very fear. An hour later, I open my email and voila!

    A former colleague of mine, Farzaneh, is Muslim, from Iran. We became very good friends and our families spent a lot of time together. We had lots of conversations about politics, but few about religion since at the time the Bible was, to me, irrelevant. However, one thing she told me that really surprised me was that Allah taught that ALL religions should be embraced. And, as a result, the entire Christian Bible was included in the Quoran. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it was what she believed.

    Farzaneh grew up with Christians and Muslims alike, under the rule of the Shaw of Iran. He strove to ‘westernize’ Iran. Although he was no saint, during his time women were treated as equals, and non-Muslims were free to practice their religion. Of course, that all changed when the Shaw was ousted and the Ayahtolla (sp?) came to power.

    So thanks to Farzaneh and her relatives both here and in Iran, my experience with Muslims has been a very positive one. Despite that, however, fear creeps in from time to time. As their numbers and influence grow, I find myself worrying about the extremist Islamic element, and its potential to destroy everything we hold dear.

    Hence my prayer this morning.

    Yet again, you (and your buddy God) nailed it!!! Loved your message and super-loved the timing!

    God bless you for all you do.

    J

    1. You are welcome, Joan! I am happy for these God-timings! And thankful for your honesty here, both in naming the fear as well as your positive experiences.

  4. I agree with what you have said. At one time there were Muslim dominated countries that had no known Christians let alone a church. Conversion could mean death at the hands of the government or your family. That is changing and some are brave enough to declare their conversion despite the penalty that could ensue. The brutality of the Islamic fighters who can show they are following Islamic teaching is being said by some to have been the catalyst for their conversion. It’s amazing to see how the Lord works in the midst of chaos. What I am wondering, however, is what the Christians attitude and reaction to Sharia Law should be? There are literally millions of Muslims….definitely a minority of the 2.3 billion Muslims worldwide but still well represented among the migrants in Europe and the cornerstone for Islamic fighters….who believe all countries should be subject to Allah under Sharia Law. Sharia Law and western ideals are not compatible so how should we as citizens respond when it shows more and more signs of being accepted in the countries the migrants are entering. There are, of course,some who will just lump all together and tell Muslims to ‘ go home ‘ and that cannot and should not be the reaction of Christians. We are called to show the love of God to all the Lord brings to us. The question is, does that include standing back and saying nothing as more radical elements try to bring Sharia to the western world just as they have already done to many countries which were once secular not very long ago? It is Sharia Law that is scary, not all Muslims. Should Christians detach themselves from the issue for fear of offending or do we also have a responsibility as Canadian citizens? The whitewash that is being applied against those who are concerned looks very much like that which is, by some, being applied to Muslims. I am really not sure what the reaction of Jesus would be to Muslim religious leaders who are trying to subject more and more people to Sharia Law?

    1. Yes Arlene May, I agree. I have no fear of those God chose to create but my hand is apposed to forcing us to go against truth and freedom in our worship of Jesus. I don’t think it is fear of muslims in our country rather a healthy awareness of what their Quaran states about what and who infidels are and when push comes to shove , like it has in other countries, what will happen. We are to love justice as well as mercy. Fight the lies, those ideas apposed to Jesus and still love those who still do not know the truth of Jesus’ love for them.

      1. We speak with grace and truth, willing to lay down our own lives for the sake of others, for the sake of the gospel, in the name of Jesus. Loving others doesn’t mean ignoring difficulties within their specific worldviews or faith, but it does mean we never shrink back into fear — we move forward in love.

    2. Thanks, Arlene. Lots of great points. I think we do need to engage things, but not with the fearful rhetoric that is characterizing so much response. I also think we need to remember what is at the core of our message: that it is only through the work of the Spirit as people hear and respond to the good news of Jesus that any one will be changed. We need to preserve the rights of all people to live and worship in freedom, and not allow harmful or oppressive ways to exist without challenge in our society. And we must do that out of love for both the oppressed and the oppressor. I say that so easily, but it represents a very difficult call. So much of this is beyond my experience and wisdom–but what I am convinced of is that we cannot step away from relationship, away from love, away from Jesus’ call to go and to reach and to love and to sacrifice. We cannot stand at a distance and theorize. We must engage with love, with clarity, with truth, refusing to demonize and refusing to ignore reality. Thanks for responding. Let’s keep praying and loving.

      1. I appreciate your response and couldn’t agree more. It is difficult to know how to respond in such a super charged atmosphere but then again perhaps that is when we learn how to hear and obey.

  5. Hello Tom:

    Jesus tells us to love our neighbour and our enemy, and I can see that that is your intention here. Muslim refugees definitely need our help. Bringing Muslim refugees into Canada and helping them to settle in is the right thing to do.

    What is unfortunate is the idea that anyone who tries to speak the truth about Islam (not Muslims, but their beliefs) is thought to be fearful or racist, hence the term—Islamophobia. Grouping those that fear and those that would speak the truth about Islam is a tactic of Islam to shut people up.
    One definition of Islamophobia is as follows: a dislike or prejudice of Islam or Muslims. To tell the truth is not fear nor prejudice.

    The rise of ‘Islamophobia’ has brought about the creation of Petition e-411 and Motion – 103 which are tools to silence people. Unfortunately, the statements in Petition e-411 and Motion – 103 are made because of a misunderstanding of the cause of Islamophobia, and, a misunderstanding of Islam itself. So, the question is – why do some dislike Islam, and, what is Islam?

    The word Islam means submission, submission to the dictates of Muhammad found in the Qur’an. Muslims are instructed by the Qur’an to terrorize and kill non-Muslims if they don’t submit to Islam. What we in the West call radicals or terrorist are the Muslims who are actually in total obedience to the Qur’an.

    Your right, Christians should not fear Muslims, they are no different than anyone else, but their beliefs are a danger to people in this country. Those that don’t know Jesus are definitely going to be afraid and are right to speak out about the danger of Islam’s influence over Muslims.

    If Canada were to bring in refugees or immigrants who had a highly infectious disease they would be quarantined for a time until they were free of any disease. Bringing Muslims into the country who have been taught that they will have a great reward in heaven for killing non-Muslims should only happen after they have been deprogrammed. (Actually, I see this time of quarantine as a great way to deprogram—telling the truth about God.

    The purpose of Motion – 103 is to muzzle or silence those that would speak the truth about the nature of Islam. The term ‘Islamophobia’ is used as a weapon to turn the public against one another it is a diversionary tactic so that Islam will be not examined for what it is. Yes, there are those that fear Islam and Muslims, but to stop anybody from speaking out about the lies of Islam is wrong.

    You may have a good rapport with Muslim friends but never forget this word—taqiyya. Taqiyya is an Islamic term meaning a Muslim is allowed, under Sharia law, to lie to protect Islam.

    Those in the news media are not telling us what is happening in Europe. 80% of the rapes in Sweden are committed by Muslim immigrants. The cases of 1400 rapes of teenage girls in a city in England were untouched because the police were afraid of being labeled racists. England, Germany, Spain, Belgium, France, and others have no-go zones, areas where even the police won’t go because of fear of Muslim immigrants. The riots in these countries are caused by Muslim immigrants. The problem is growing daily.

    The only way to know the truth about what we are talking about, is to read the Qur’an and see for yourself. (Or read my book.)
    There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world; 15 to 25% are orthodox, meaning they actually follow the instructions of the Qur’an to the letter. That means that 180 million to 300 million Muslims are dedicated to the destruction of Western Society.
    83 percent of Palestinian Muslims, 62 percent of Jordanians and 61 percent of Egyptians approve of jihadist attacks on Americans. (World Public Opinion Poll 2009).
    1.5 Million British Muslims support the Islamic State, about half their total population. (ICM Mirror Poll 2015).
    Two-thirds of Palestinians support the stabbing of Israeli civilians. (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research 2015).
    45 percent of British Muslims agree that clerics preaching violence against the West represent “mainstream Islam.” (BBC Radio 2015).
    38 percent of Muslim-Americans say Islamic State (ISIS) beliefs are Islamic or correct. (The Polling Company CSP Poll 2015).
    One-third of British Muslim students support killing for Islam. (Center for Social Cohesion Wikileaks cable).
    78 percent of British Muslims support punishing the publishers of Muhammad cartoons. (NOP Research).
    80 percent of young Dutch Muslims see nothing wrong with holy war against non-believers. Most verbalized support for pro-Islamic State fighters. (Motivaction Survey 2014).
    68 percent of British Muslims support the arrest and prosecution of anyone who insults Islam. (NOP Research).
    81 percent of Muslim respondents support the Islamic State (ISIS). (Al-Jazeera poll 2015).

    Many Muslims in Canada express a desire to live under some form of Islam’s Sharia Law. Islam’s Sharia law comes from the actions and words of Muhammad, the one written about in Islam’s Qur’an. The following are some of the dictates of Sharia law:

    A man can beat his wife for insubordination.
    A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old.
    A non-Muslim who leads a Muslim away from Islam is punishable by death.
    A non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman is punishable by death.
    A Muslim who becomes a non-Muslim is punishable by death.
    A female heir inherits half of what a male heir inherits.
    A woman’s testimony in court carries half the weight of a man’s.
    A woman can have 1 husband, but a man can have up to 4 wives.
    A woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative.
    A woman who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist / rapists.
    Criticizing or denying any part of the Qur’an is punishable by death.
    Criticizing or denying Allah of Islam is punishable by death.
    Criticizing or denying Muhammad is a prophet is punishable by death.
    Muslims should engage in Taqiyya* and lie to non-Muslims to advance Islam.
    Theft is punishable by amputation of the hand.
    Testimonies of four male witnesses are required to prove rape against a woman.

    1. Thanks for responding, Jim. You’ve said so much here, it’s difficult to know how to respond. I think I’ll keep it simple, for now. The reality is, there is much going on worldwide, representing so many cultures, so many perspectives (even within Islam — David Garrison’s book is helpful in that). I will not dispute anything you’ve posted here. My main concern is missional – that we do not give into fear and hatred, but move boldly across the street and love, welcome, receive, and engage our Muslim neighbours–knowing that we will find new friends and that we will not agree on many things. Yes, there are many larger cultural things that are deeply concerning, about which we must tell the truth. But we must not do that divorced from real relationships with real people — it is so easy to see “them” as this or that or some other thing, and not know them as people loved by the Father, pursued by the Son and wooed by the Holy Spirit.

  6. Thankyou Tom for this. It is refreshing to see a perspective on the whole “Muslim” issue based in love rather than fear. Everything you have written rings true. I honestly couldn’t have said it better.

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