Islam, Christianity and Violence

When he was US President, Barack Obama while giving a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast remarked, I quote, ‘“Unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.So it is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”

     President Obama is saying, ‘what ISIS and other militant Islamic organizations doing in today’s world are reprehensible. But not long ago, Christians did the same stuff. ‘This violence is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort truth’.

    This is the stereotypical thinking our culture brought into by politicians such as President Obama. There is not much difference between Christianity and Islam, followers of both religions did horrible things at some point in history. It is simply perversion and distortion of faith. Today in this lecture, I want to argue that President Barack Obama completely got it wrong. This is a vast difference between Christianity and Islam.

    First, let me give you a short introduction to the religion of Islam. The founder of Islam, Muhammad was born in 570 AD and orphaned at an early age. In his 20s, he started to work for a rich widow named Khadija. After falling in love, they got married. Muhammad was 25 years old and Khadija was 40 years old at the time of their wedding. Muhammad would meditate in the caves around Mecca. In 610 AD, during the the month of Ramadan his life changed completely. He was 40 years old at this time. According to Islamic tradition, he was visited by the Angel Gabriel. Over the next 22 years, Muhammad was given a series of revelations, in which he recited aloud in Arabic the words he received in dictation from Allah. These recitations were later organized into Quran, the scriptures for Muslims. The Quran comprises 114 chapters or suras, around 6000 verses, ordered from longest to shortest.

   The Quran is both theological and legal in its character. Beside its metaphysical proclamations about God, heaven, hell, angels, it provides legislation concerning every aspect of life; The Muslims developed its verses and the hadith (example of the prophet) into a system of law (Shariah) governing an Islamic state.

Now, let me tell you one important fact. In Islam, the Quran serves the role that Jesus does in Christianity. We know, in Christianity, Jesus is the God’s word made manifest. In Islam, Quran is the God’s word made manifest. Virgin Mary was the vehicle used by God to bring Jesus into this world, in Islam, Muhammad served the role of virgin Mary, he acted as the vehicle on which Allah brought his word to this world. Quran has many things to say about Jesus.

Recently I was in a flight from Washington DC to Dubai. An young lady sat beside me. We started a conversation. She told me, ‘I am from Sri Lanka, my dad is a Muslim, and my mother is a Christian. I believe in a mixture of the two. There is Jesus in both Islam and Christianity. Do you know Jesus is mentioned 80 times in Koran?’

   It is true there is Jesus in Quran. Quran says 4 unique things about Jesus that it does not accord to Muhammad. It says, 1. Jesus was virgin born 2. Jesus performed miracles 3. Jesus lived a sinless and holy life 4. Jesus is coming back at the end of the times. It would have been nice had Quran stopped with that description of Jesus. Then it commits historical blunders, the most egregious of which is, Jesus did not die on the cross.

Muhammad’s message is simple: there is only one God, Allah and Muhammad is the last and final prophet of Allah’. His mission is to convert everyone in this world to this faith.

Soon, Muhammad got many followers. On July 16 in the year 622, Muhammad fled from his hometown of Mecca to the neighboring town of Medina. This flight is called Hegira. This event marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. Muhammad also fought battles with people who did not accept his message or who did not yield to his rule. During Muhammad’s life, a powerful merchant tribe called Quraysh was controlling Mecca and surrounding regions. The people of this tribe did not yield to Muhammad’s message and mission. In 623, Muhammad ordered caravan raids against the Quraysh that ultimately ended in a battle against them, called Battle of Badr in March, 624 AD. Muhammad and his followers fought many other battles until his death.

Muhammad died in Medinah in the apartment of his youngest wife, Aishah on or around June 8, 632 at the age of 63. Who should succeed Muhammad? That question gave us the two branches of Islam, the Shia and the Sunni. Two companions and relatives of Muhammad contested for the successor of Muhammad: Abu Bakr, was was the father in law of Muhammad and Ali, who was the the son in law of Muhammad. Father-in-law or Son-in-law: Who should succeed Muhammad?

The Sunnis believe Abu Bakr, was elected as Muhammad’s successor, while Shia believe Muhammad appointed Ali as his successor. Yesterday morning, a bus full of shiites was bombed by Sunnis in the Pakistani city of Karachi and 57 people were killed. Where did this bloody war between Sunnis and Shiites start? right by the death bed of Muhammad.

              After the death of Muhammad, Islamic armies started a global war, their mission was to bring the whole world into the dominion of Allah. Islam means ‘submission’, a Muslim is someone who submits.

633: Islamic armies attacked Persia; the churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria lost to Christianity due to Islamic conquest.

636: At a river called Yarmouk close to the Golan Heights, the Muslims defeated the armies of Rome. Emperor Heraclius turned over all of Syria to the Muslim forces.

634-637: Syria, Egypt, Gaza were conquered

639: kingdom of Armenia was attacked and in 694, defeated

693: the Arab army defeated the Byzantines at Sebastopolis in Cilicia

716: Lisbon, Portugal was conquered by Muslim forces.

720: the Muslim army reached Narbonne, France

Remember that year AD 720, Crusades were called for in the year 1095. Here is what President Obama did not tell you. 370 years before crusades started, Muslim armies reached France.

732: Charles Martel, the leader of Franks and grandfather of Charlemagne, stopped the Muslim forces at the Battle of Tours (or Poitiers). That is the Battle that saved the Western Civilization. Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) wrote about this in his famous book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:   “In the decline of society and art, the deserted cities could supply a slender booty to the Saracens; their richest spoil was found in the churches and monasteries, which they stripped of their ornaments and delivered to the flames: and the tutelar saints, both Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours, forgot their miraculous powers in the defence of their own sepulchres. (29) A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.From such calamities was Christendom delivered by the genius and fortune of one man. Charles, the illegitimate son of the elder Pepin….”

   Had Charles Martel lost that battle, Europe would have been converted into an Islamic land in the next few decades. Instead of remembering these great heroes like Martel, who saved Western Civilization, we are demonizing them.

1071: the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire had collapsed under the Seljuk Turks, who were Muslims. Byzantine Empire served as a protective wall between the Muslim armies and the Europe. Imagine the Europe in 1071, which heard about the fall of Byzantine Empire. This is 24 years before beginning of Crusades.

1009: In 4th century, Emperor Constantine became a Christian and his mother Helena, then traveled to the Holy Land and built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site where she believed Jesus was crucified. In the 7th century, the Muslims conquered the Holy Land. In 1009, the Fatimite Khalif of Egypt Al-Hakim explicitly ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The destruction of this church was one of the major reasons for the calling of the First Crusade in 1095. Imagine the response from the Muslim world if a Christian army routs the city of Mecca, violates Islam’s holiest site Kaaba and destroys the Great Mosque? But that is exactly what Muslim armies did when they destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

While Al-Hakim was destroying the Churches in the Holy Land, Mahmud of Ghazni was destroying Hindu temples in the Indian Subcontinent. Mahmud attacked the famous Hindu temple at Somnath in 1025.

A world tour of Islam’s brutality

  Islam’s global war spread in every direction from Mecca. Even into the modern times, that global mission never stopped.

Islam is the second largest religion in the modern world. It has around 1.5 billion followers.

Islam became a rock hot news item these days. It is impacting all our lives. As we travel around we see unprecedented levels of security at places such as airports, government buildings, churches, synagogues etc. Hardly a day goes by without someone killing in the name of Islam, somewhere around the world.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians are under severe assault, their churches are being burnt, Christians are discriminated routinely in schools, marketplaces, and workplaces. President Hosni Mubarak, a dictator who ruled that country for over 30 years was overthrown in 2011, when Muslim Brotherhood came into power, then military leader Ali Sisti came into power. No matter who is in rule, the Christians in Egypt are seeing increase in violence against them.

Sudan: Sudan is a territory located south of Egypt, whose borders enclose most of the source waters of the Nile River. Islam dominates Northern Sudan whereas Christianity is more common in the south.  Sudan had been under Ottoman and Egyptian rule for decades before the British colonized the region in the late 1800s. Darfur, in western Sudan, was the site of Muslim violence against Christians in the early 2000s. As many as 500,000 people were killed in Darfur.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram which means ‘Against the Western Education’ waging a very bloody war against Christians. During the week of January 2015, when  Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were massacred in France, over 2000 people were massacred by this group. Think of that…2000 people in an entire town were brutally murdered.

Look at Libya, Muammar Gaddafi ruled that country for over 40 years.  Gaddafi once said ‘I have created a Utopia here in Libya. Not an imaginary one that people write about in books, but a concrete Utopia’. How is that utopia working now? Since the fall of Gaddafi, the country has been embroiled by Islamic terrorists. The Cathedral of Tripoli is converted into a mosque. Civil war is raging across that country, ISIS terrorists are massacring Christians.

Coming from Africa to Middle East,

In Syria,Saul of Tarsus converted to Christianity on the Road to Damascus, and as Apostle Paul he became the most noble servant of Christ the world had ever seen. He served from the Christian church at Antioch in ancient Syria. Before the advent of Islam, Syria was a major Christian nation. In June 626 AD, Muhammed invaded Syria through Dumatual Jandal. The country was under Muslim rule ever since. Since 2011, over 200,000 people were killed as President Bashar al-Assad, a Shiite trying to stay in power as various Sunni militia fighting with his armies to overthrow him and establish a Sunni regime in that nation. Over 450,000 Syrian Christians have fled their homes.

Last time I was in Israel, I went to West Bank and visited the grave of Yasser Arafat,Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This man waged a brutal war against the Jews. He was the only man whoever went before the United Nations in New York City to give a speech with a pistol in his hand.  In 1970, Arafat declared, ‘The Palestinian revolution’s basic concern is the uprooting of the Zionist entity from our land and liberating it’.  Next day, I was driving by the walls of Gaza. That area is under the control of Hamas, the Palestinian branch of Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas issued its Charter or Covenant in 1988. One of the statements in that Chartes says, I quote,  “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews [and kill them]; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!” The Charter adds that “renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion” of Islam. Think about that for a movement, renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion of Islam. How can you negotiate peace with such a group? No wonder, every year the Hamas militants from Gaza fire thousands of rockets into Jewish neighborhoods in Israel.

In Saudi Arabia, non-Muslims are prohibited from public worship. Death penalty is enforced for any converts from Islam to other religions.

A few weeks ago, Islamic State militants burnt a Jordanian pilot alive and broadcasted it over the internet and TV for the whole world to see.

In Iraq, interestingly Christians were relatively safe under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni dictator. In 2003, United States invaded Iraq, removed Saddam Hussein, and established a democratic state in that country. Iraq is 80% Shiite and 20% Sunni. There were 2% Christians. Now, ISIS and Al Qaeda are Sunni terrorist groups. They are waging war against Shiites. Along the way, they were attacking Christians, Kurds, Yazidis and Zoroastrians. The Christian minority who have been living in this country is vanishing right in front of our eyes. Christian girls are buried alive, Christian young ladies are sold as sex slaves, Churches are demolished.

In Iran, the Ayatollah and his military are trying to prepare a nuclear weapon aiming mostly on the tiny state of Israel .Last year I was in Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland,  and I was walking through a network of Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps. I visited the blocks where Joseph Mengele and his team performed medical experiments on Jewish babies and children. Then I walked over into another block where I saw a pile of broken spectacles all squished into a ball of wire, then I spent a few minutes in a room with shoes covering the length of the room on each side. Over one million people were massacred at Auschwitz. Of all the displays of human belongings, one exhibit that still lingers on my mind is what I saw on the second floor of Block IV. There I saw large piles of human hair in a row of large display cases. That was the hair of over 40,000 people.  As I was walking out of Auschwitz, there were many Jews gathered there, some of them who survived the camps when they were liberated on January 27, 1945 by soldiers of the Soviet Union. Just 60 years ago, the world has seen the brutality of Nazis when they massacred over 6 million in gas chambers and concentration camps. Some of the holocaust survivors are still living and today the Muslim world is replete with holocaust deniers. Now, over 6 million Jews in Israel, with memories of Holocaust so fresh in their minds, are fearing a nuclear holocaust from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The leaders of Iran are proclaiming that their aim is to achieve what Hitler could not accomplish: the complete annihilation of Jews.

Moving from Middle East to Asia,

In Pakistan, terrorist attacks became a daily news, but the most gruesome in recent times happened on December 16,2014 when  seven gunmen affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban carried out a terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar and killed 132 children. The Constitution of Pakistan has blasphemy laws, often targeting Christians who do not accept the prophethood of Muhammad. Churches are bombed routinely in Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are waging a war against Christians. Christian converts are given death penalty.

India: the British partitioned Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan. India is mostly Hindu while Pakistan is mostly Muslim. When the British divided and left India in 1947, millions of Hindus fled from Pakistan to India; and millions of Muslims fled from India to Pakistan. Over  half a million people were killed in the violence that erupted during those years. Islamic terrorists from Pakistan have carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks on India since 1947.

Going to China, they have a region called Xinjiang in the northwest of their country, where Uighur Muslims are waging a terrorist war against Chinese.

In Philippines, the militant Islamic group Abu Sayyaf is carrying out terrorist attacks on Christians.

Moving from Asia to the West, in the United States we have seen over 3000 people killed on September 11, 2001 when 19 Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked 4 planes and flew them into buildings. .

In Canada, a Muslim convert recently attacked their Parliament and killed a soldier in his path.

I can go on and on. But the point is, from Africa, through Middle East, through Asia, through Europe, through US and Canada, we are seeing an unprecedented brutality waged by individuals in the name of Islam

           Often the poor performance of Middle Eastern economies is blamed for the rise of Islamic terrorism in our time. The biggest economy in the Middle East – that of Saudi Arabia is equal in size to the economy of Boston metropolitan area. The economy of Egypt, the most populous country in the Middle East, is similar in size to the metropolitan area of San Diego, California. While it is true that the percentage of individuals who hails from poor neighborhoods make the bulk of terrorist recruits, we cannot blame their poverty as the main stimulant of their violent impulses. Their main source of inspiration comes directly from Quran and Hadith. The Quran contains at least 109 verses that instruct Muslims to wage war on infidels (Non-Muslims).

           ISIS is instructing through social media in our time: Kill the infidels, and it is a direct ticket to heaven. We might say, did not Pope Urban II teach the same thing to Christian masses in Europe to wage war on Muslims at the initiation of Crusades? Absolutely correct. Now listen to me carefully, because I am going to tell you very important difference between Bible and Quran here.

Kill the infidels and you go to heaven directly: that’s not in the Bible

Kill the infidels and you go to heaven directly: that’s in the Quran.

It is true that there many sections in the Bible where God instructs the leaders of His people, such as Moses or Joshua to go and kill the wicked. But these sections have specific objectives. For example, God specifically instructs Moses to kill certain groups of people such as Ammonites. God authorizes Joshua to extinguish all the inhabitants of Canaan as Israelites prepare to conquer the Holy Land. It is remarkable that Ariel Sharon, a commander in the Israeli Army from its creation in 1948, even during his fiercest military adventures never quoted any portion of the Old Testament scriptures because current day Jews and leader of Israel are cognizant of the fact that military adventurism in the Old Testament is not applicable to modern day conflicts.

     But Allah’s injunctions in Quran are open-ended. They were quoted incessantly throughout the history of Islamic warfare as the justification for war on infidels. Quran 2:244 says, ‘Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah heareth and knoweth all things’. Another exhortation from Quran 5:33 reads like this: ‘On the recompense for those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive in the earth spreading corruption is that they be killed or they be crucified or be cut off their hands and their feet of opposite sides or they be exiled from the land. That is for them disgrace in the world and for them in the Hereafter is a punishment great.

Boko Haram in Nigeria is kidnapping girls from their homes and making sex slaves out of them. Now listen to this from Quran 33:50

‘O prophet! we have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee’ According to this Quranic verse, it is lawful to take wives out of slaves (the right hand property).

Recently in Egypt, an atheist named Ahmed Hussein Al-Harqan (born 1982-) asked a very poignant question. Ahmed grew up as a salafist, a Muslim fundamentalist. In 2010, he left Islam and became an atheist. Recently on a popular Egyptian television talk show, he asked,

‘What has ISIS done that Muhammad did not do?’ The whole nation of Egypt was enraged by that simple question and there have been multiple assassination attempts on Ahmed.

What has ISIS done that Muhammad did not do?

This is the question President Obama

and other leaders should be asking.

ISIS is killing Christians, so did Muhammad

ISIS is beheading Jews, so did Muhammad

ISIS is taking slaves, so did Muhammad

ISIS is calling Muslims to plunder Non-Muslims, so did Muhammad

Muhammad is seen as the ideal person, the living expression of God’s will. He is sometimes called “The Living Qur’an,” as his life exemplifies what it is to be a true Muslim.

Apply this question to Crusades,

what did Crusaders do, that Jesus did not do?

Crusaders killed Jews, Jesus did not

Crusaders killed Muslims, Jesus did not

Crusaders raped women, Jesus did not.

Crusaders looted other people’s  properties, Jesus did not.

Jesus lived a sinless, holy, and nonviolent life. He offered salvation by grace. It is given as a gift of God, not something we achieve by fighting for God. Pope Urban II offered the crusaders, remission of all temporal penalties and punishment due to sin. They received plenary indulgences for fighting in the cause of God. This is clearly antithetical to the teachings of Christ.

Jesus lived a life of peace and offered salvation by grace, while Muhammad lived a life of war and offered salvation by works. Jesus emphasized the love of God for humanity: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. Not long ago, when on watching Palestinian woman eagerly sending their sons into suicide bombing missions over Israel, one American general noted, “Christianity is God sacrificing His Son for us;  Islam is, we sacrificing our sons for God’

Dear friend, come to Jesus, He is the Lord and Savior!