How should Christians respond to Islamist violence?

Now that the immediate shock of the Manchester suicide bombing has subsided, people have begun to ask questions about how this could have happened. In a bid to be ‘tough on suicide bombing, tough on the causes of suicide bombing’, Jeremy Corbyn pointed out the link between UK foreign policy and the rise of such attacks. Theresa May immediately condemned the comments as ‘excusing’ the attack (which of course he wasn’t)—and it is hard to miss the links when the bomber came from Libya, a breeding ground of Islamist violence since what is universally regarded as the disastrous intervention by Western governments in toppling Gaddafi. From a very different part of the political spectrum, Melanie Phillips expressed disbelief as Western leaders incomprehension:

In the wake of the jihadi human bomb attack in Manchester, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but an opportunity for carnage.” Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “ It is unbelievable that somebody has used a joyful pop concert to kill or seriously injure so many people.” A headline in the Washington Post read: “In suburban Manchester, a search for what might have motivated the attacker”.

“Struggle to comprehend”? “Unbelievable”? “What might have motivated the attacker”? Really??

In 2006 I published my book Londonistan which analysed the supine response of the British political, legal and religious establishment to Islamic jihadi terrorism and the Islamisation of Britain. What follows below is the concluding chapter of that book. As the army patrols the streets of Britain to guard against further expected terrorist attacks, my warning about the deadly failure to face up to the true nature of the threat facing the west is surely even more urgent today.

I sense that church leaders (as well as politicians) have struggled to find a convincing as well as pastoral response to what as happened, and for two reasons. The first is the way the public discourse has been shaped, which has predominantly been in terms of ‘religious violence’ versus ‘secular solidarity’. When faced with such a choice, then clearly the ‘secular solidarity’ option is the only one to go for. But it leads to implausible statements, such as that by a Muslim leader in Manchester: ‘This violence has nothing to do with my religion—or with any religion’. The merest of glances at history will tell you that religious people have often been violent in the past, and that they have referred to their religion as the rationale for their violence.

But the second reason is that orthodox Christians actually find themselves in agreement with some Muslim criticisms of Western culture, even while they utterly reject anything close to violence responses to it. On Question Time last week, a member of the audience read from a leaflet distributed at Didsbury Mosque which criticised the immorality of Western culture. It was odd to hear denials that this was an authentic or authoritative expression of Muslim views, and at the same time find myself sympathetic to its perspective. Christian ambivalence about aspect of Western culture is why many of us are anxious about the requirement to sign up to ‘British values’ which are expressed in a way that is detached from the historic role Christian faith has played here. And many Christians will want to ask the question as to whether a concert where pop stars sing songs which sexualise their pre-teen female fans is really the best way to heal the wounds of Manchester.

Colin Chapman has written a very helpful exploration of how Christians might respond to Islamist violence and it is now available in full on the Fulcrum website. Chapman starts by urging us to understand the diversity of Islam, and in particular the difference between political Islam and popular Islam.

Political Islam is therefore different from what we might call ‘Traditionalist’ or ‘Orthodox Islam’ where Muslims want to conserve Islam as far as possible as it has been practised for centuries. They want to grant a minimum of concessions to modernity, and have little desire to change the political status quo in the countries where they are living.

Political Islam is different from the Folk Islam or Popular Islam which is practised all over the world. Paul Hiebert and Bill Musk have explained how Islam is often mixed up with primal religion which includes a great deal of magic and superstition. These Muslims are generally not so interested in politics, and their main concern is to find a source of power to deal with all the evil forces in spiritual world around us and with all the problems of daily life.

Political Islam also differs from Liberal or Modernist Islam. These Muslims believe that Islam can and must change as society changes. They want greater freedom in their interpretation of the Qur’an and Islamic tradition and greater flexibility in the way they interpret Islamic law in the modern world.

He goes on to undertake the kind of exploration of the contemporary political context which Jeremy Corbyn was pointing to as the essential context for understanding the influence of Islamist violence that we are facing.

In all these different expressions of political Islam there are two common factors: the desire to see the public sphere ordered by Islamic principles and the refusal to be ruled by foreigners. As we shall see shortly, context is all-important. In every case there has been something contextually specific—a perceived injustice—which has driven Muslim to take action and often to resort to violence.

So we could argue, for example, that if Israel in 1967 had complied with UN Security Resolution 242 and withdrawn from the territories it had occupied in the Six Day War, Hamas might never have come into existence. If Israel had not invaded Lebanon in 1982 and stayed on as an occupying power in the south for 28 years, there might have been no Hizbullah. And if the US and its allies had not invaded Iraq in 2003, there probably would be no ISIS.

He then tackles head-on the claim that ‘ISIS [and Islamist violence] has nothing to do with Islam’.

When the ideologues of ISIS spell out in great detail where in their scriptures, tradition and history they find the Islamic justification for what they are doing, it becomes untenable to assert that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. ISIS members believe their actions are closely related to Islam. It would be more accurate to say that ISIS has a lot to do with Islam, but is an extreme expression of one particular kind of Islamism. The rank and file of ISIS fighters from all over the world have joined the movement—and they have a variety of motives, related to idealism and the search for identity, meaning and adventure. It is also likely that many fighters have a minimal understanding of Islam. ISIS’ leadership, however, claims to be imitating some of the practices of the first generation of Muslims who fought alongside the Prophet and continued his struggle after his death. In interpreting the Qur’an, they use the principle of abrogation [which is a central principle in Quranic hermeneutics] which enables them to say that later verses calling Muslims to wage war on unbelievers abrogate, or cancel out, earlier verses which call for patient endurance of opposition…

At the other extreme there are many Christians—and especially evangelical Christians—who believe that ISIS is much nearer to the spirit and practice of early Islam than moderate Muslims of today. As evidence, they point to particular verses in the Qur’an (e.g. about beheading, crucifixion and slavery) and passages in Hadith literature, the biographies of Muhammad and legal texts to show the connections between the brutalities of ISIS and early Islamic texts.

I believe it is appropriate to draw attention to the precedents from the early years of Islam—especially since ISIS is using this precedent to justify their actions.  However, there are two serious weaknesses in the approach which sees ISIS as faithful practitioners of early Islam. Firstly, they hardly engage with the arguments of mainstream Muslim scholars who believe they can demonstrate why ISIS is a clear departure from Islamic tradition. The main argument of scholars like Tim Winter, current dean of The Cambridge Muslim College, is that Islamist interpretations generally ignore the consensus in the Islamic legal tradition which developed over many centuries.

Chapman here is putting his finger on both the differences within Islam, and the differences between Christian and Islam attitudes to violence. Both religious traditions have violence within their authoritative texts; both have interpretive traditions which reject violence. But the key difference is that, whilst in Islam the traditions that reject violence stand outside their holy text and are found in later approaches to interpretation, for Christianity the rejection of violence is within their holy text. As Chapman points out earlier in the piece (and agreeing with the great Christian commentator on Islam from an earlier generation, Kenneth Cragg) the difference lies in the approach to power of Jesus and Mohammed.

We would have to begin by pointing out one major difference between the lives of Jesus and Muhammad: Jesus died on a cross, while Muhammad in the Hijra moved from being the persecuted prophet in Mecca to become (using the title of Montgomery-Watt’s classic) both ‘prophet and statesman’. When Muhammad received the invitation from the Muslim converts in Medina to become the leader of the whole city, he probably saw it as an opportunity to establish a truly Islamic community living under the law of God. This is why one Muslim scholar can write: ‘The basic emphasis of Islamic salvation lies … in … the establishment of the ideal religio-political order with a worldwide membership of all those who believe in God and His revelation through Muhammad …’. 

By 732 AD, a hundred years after the death of the Prophet, a vast Islamic empire stretched from Morocco and Spain in the West to the borders of China and India in the East. Because of the example of the Prophet and centuries of Islamic history, and in spite of what has been said about the danger of generalisations, I believe Kenneth Cragg summed up a very fundamental conviction in the mind of most well-taught Muslims in this memorable sentence ‘Islam must rule’. A few thousand Muslim Arabs were ruling over a population which for about three centuries was largely Christian. The first 300 years of Islamic history stand in sharp contrast to the first 300 years of Christian history in which Christians were a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire.

Chapman concludes with some very clear and helpful suggestions of a way forward, both for the West in general:

  1. We need to have a better understanding of history and of recent international relations.
  2. We should not be surprised that Muslims are looking to their own Islamic roots to find new political solutions.
  3. We need to accept our share of responsibility for all that has happened.
  4. Muslim-majority countries need to accept their share of responsibility for all that has happened.
  5. We may need to be far more critical of the foreign policies of our governments.

and for Christians in particular:

  1. We ought to have some sympathy with what Islamists are trying to do.
  2. We need to recognise the weaknesses of some expressions of evangelical Christianity.
  3. We ought to be able to share with Muslims what we think we have learned from twenty centuries of Christian history.
  4. We need to engage with Muslims in personal testimony.
  5. Redouble our efforts in doing good.
  6. Demonstrate how Christians can contribute to nation-building and the creation of a just society.
  7. We need to be open to the new things that God is doing through the present turmoil.

He concludes:

It should be clear that the ideology and brutality of ISIS require condemnation in the strongest possible terms from people of all faiths and of none. I have argued that the creation of the so-called Islamic State needs to be understood in the wider context of the development of political Islam and what has happened in the Middle East in the last century. We should not be surprised when Islamists have political agendas of different kinds, and there are very understandable reasons why in recent decades – and recent centuries – Muslims have been politically engaged. History and politics are therefore just as important as Islamic scripture and dogma in understanding the motivation of Islamists. Moreover, there are many different kinds of Islamists, and while some resort to violence, others emphatically renounce violence.

As we watch events unfolding in the Middle East at the present time, therefore, Christians ought to be able to make a distinctive contribution to the public debates about how to respond to Islamism and violence in the name of Islam. I am well aware that in developing this kind of approach, I will be accused by some of ‘going soft on Islam.’ Even if readers disagree with my general approach, however, I hope I have at least asked some of the right questions.

You can read the full (10,000 word) article here.

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19 thoughts on “How should Christians respond to Islamist violence?”

  1. Thanks Ian, really good piece. I have often reflected on the ways in which Christians share many things in common with Islam which we do not share in common with secular society. It may well be that befriending Muslims could be a helpful way for many Christians, particularly younger Christians, to ensure that they are not being overly influenced by secular culture towards drunkenness, immorality and other dangerous beliefs or practices which are rampant within secular culture. Time and time again, the Christians I have seen drift towards such liberal beliefs and/or practices have done so in the absence of meaningful friendships with those from non-secular cultures, particularly Muslims.

  2. I certainly think it’s helpful to point out the connection of jihadism to Islam – though you would have thought it was obvious. The public denials sound to me more like diplomacy, public relations, and trying to set a standard and expectation to encourage as many Muslims as possible to believe it. When people say it has nothing to do with Islam or religion they surely mean true Islam (as they understand it) and true religion.

    To a large extent though it’s hard to know what else to do about it. Large Muslim populations and communities in Western societies are now a fact of life, and they will continue to harbour some poisonous elements because of the nature of Islam and its origins. Equality laws prevent us from trying to limit further Muslim immigration should we wish to (though there is massive popular support for such a policy) – as Trump discovered.

    I do struggle a lot with the idea that this is the right time or opportunity to reflect on Western approaches to foreign policy or sex and entertainment. Phrases like: We need to accept our share of responsibility for all that has happened; We may need to be far more critical of the foreign policies of our governments; Christians ought to have some sympathy with what Islamists are trying to do; We need to recognise the weaknesses of some expressions of evangelical Christianity. I find really unhelpful.

    What we think makes a good foreign policy (just, effective etc.) shouldn’t have anything at all to do with the slaughter of civilians, including children, by Islamic terrorists. How we decide to bring up our children, and what values we inculcate in them and allow to be expressed in public entertainment, shouldn’t have anything to do with massacres by religious radicals. Whether there are weaknesses in our own religious traditions which need addressing is neither here nor there when responding to atrocities. It really doesn’t seem appropriate or helpful on any level to bring these things up in response to a terror attack, or under the heading of ‘How should Christians respond to Islamist violence?’.

    Our response to Islamist violence should be simply: to condemn the attacks and the ideology which drives them; to show solidarity with the victims and offer support; to consider how the threat can be reduced by weakening the power of the ideology and foiling plots.

    Anything else – to do with foreign policy or cultural improvement, needs to be kept as an entirely separate matter. To say anything else is to suggest that we should change things because we are being attacked by our enemies, which is wrong.

  3. I am with Melanie Phillips in her expression of disbelief in the incomprehension of Western leaders.

    I would also agree with Chapman when he writes: ‘When the ideologues of ISIS spell out in great detail where in their scriptures, tradition and history they find the Islamic justification for what they are doing, it becomes untenable to assert that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. ISIS members believe their actions are closely related to Islam.

    Nevertheless, I’m not sure whether the key distinctions he holds between Political Islam and Orthodox or Popular Islam are particularly valid or useful. He wrote in the full article: ‘In all these different expressions of political Islam there are two common factors: the desire to see the public sphere ordered by Islamic principles and the refusal to be ruled by foreigners.

    Certainly, the grievances behind these expressions of political Islam are widely held among Muslims, for example, over Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestine and Western interests in the Middle East .

    The radicalization process simply exploits these perceived grievances, translating them into increasingly extreme ideas and readiness to participate in political action beyond the status quo.’

    Concerning ISIS, Graeme Wood has explained the movement’s rationale in an article that he researched and wrote for The Atlantic:

    There may be young jihadist fanatics who are unfamiliar with the Koran, but there is considerable evidence that the organisation’s beliefs are carefully considered from the standpoint of the Koran and Islamic history. The rhetoric is decided medieval, often drawing on ancient imagery of divine retribution.

    This is because they believe that they are adopting the Prophetic methodology of Mohammed himself. In particular, Wood relates what he learned from the Princeton scholar, Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology:

    ‘All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war.

    This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

    Perhaps, most critically, as the leader of ISIS since 2010, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is now viewed by followers as fulfilling the criteria for the new caliph (whom all Muslims are meant to owe allegiance) including his heredity (Qureshi), his moral and physical qualities and ‘amr, or authority, I.e. controlling the territory in which he can enforce Islamic law.

    Importantly, Wood explains how Political Islam finds its grounding in the Koran: And it is the fulfilment of these criteria that overcomes the counter-arguments of mainstream Muslims, the majority of whom the jihadists consider apostate and to be dealt with according to the Koran:

    ‘The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.’

    ‘Baghdadi spoke at length of the importance of the caliphate in his Mosul sermon. He said that to revive the institution of the caliphate—which had not functioned except in name for about 1,000 years—was a communal obligation. He and his loyalists had “hastened to declare the caliphate and place an imam” at its head, he said. “This is a duty upon the Muslims—a duty that has been lost for centuries … The Muslims sin by losing it, and they must always seek to establish it.’

    We underestimate the lure of religious fascism operating under the guise of heralding a final Day of Reckoning. Wood cited Orwell on the romanticised heady mix of war-mongering and sacrifice that Hitler encouraged. Orwell described fascism as: ‘psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.’

    This is why I most strenuously disagree with Chapman’s first suggestion that: We ought to have some sympathy with what Islamists are trying to do.

  4. The core statement of Islamic theology is “There is no God but God”. The concept of oneness is called Tawhid. This is a oneness of number, not of unity in being. Hence the idea of the Trinity is anathema to Islam. Its different from the shema in Deuteronomy “Here oh Israel, the Lord you God, the Lord is one” which has a broader scope than just an isolated “one”.

    This oneness means that there can only be one true form of Islam, so I have many terms heard Muslims say of another form of Islam “But thats not Islam”, whether that be of a Sufi group, a certain pracitse or belief. The theological impulse it to one true way. The there might be unity in diversity is not a significant part of Islamic practise. Its a push to uniformity (in dress, diet, law, governance etc.).

    This dynamic helps drive the idea that there is one way to do things. Before the internet and globalisation that was workable, because the local way was the one right way. However, with mass communication and movement the idea of oneness as uniformity is severely challenged. It can move in one of two directions. It can embrace the idea of oneness in diversity or it can try and work towards (and sometimes impose) oneness in uniformity. The latter has, I believe, the bigger islamic theological backing.

  5. As with sex education,
    as with the fate of hundreds or thousands of girls in south yorkshire etc.
    as with HIV/AIDS –
    so with this new pop concert

    – the proposed solution is ‘no change’; even often to intensify, replicate and affirm the thing that caused the problem in the first place.

    This is where the phrase ‘in denial’ comes from.

    • Hi Christopher. As you know I am largely in agreement with your views on the sexual revolution. However, I don’t understand what this has to do with a ‘Christian response to Islamist violence’? Surely you’re not suggesting that we use Islamist atrocities against young girls as an opportunity to press home our point about the poor state of our culture’s sexual mores? This hardly seems appropriate, or likely to be effective, and also seems to suggest that we should heed the message of their murderers.

      I really feel like we need to stop mixing up our own arguments about the defects of our culture with our response to terrorist atrocities, which should be entirely distinct matters.

      • The cleaning up of our own culture is something that has to be done anyway. When better than when it would bring extra benefits?

        Murderers like a stopped clock are going to be right some of the time by the law of averages. Consequently it is foolish to have a policy of always being chalk and cheese with them in every respect.That really would suggest that they were dictating to us.

        The matters are not distinct at all. Western culture is not going to be respected if it does not invite respect nor appear to respect itself. The Rochdale etc criminals left the women of their own culture (to whom they had more propinquity) alone because they invited respecthe

      • I read it closely enough – Chapman, whilst condemning the ideology & brutality of ISIS, at the same time exhorts us to have some sympathy with what Islamists are seeking to achieve.

        • Hi Simon. I think it’s a clumsy and unhelpful way of pointing out that Christians (like many people) happen to share some of the aims of political Islam, a bit like pointing out that governments who promote social solidarity and the building of motorways share some of the aims of the Nazis. It may be true, but it hardly seems helpful to point it out, and no one will thank you for it. Just because there is some incidental overlap in your goals, it doesn’t mean you should have any ‘sympathy’ with what some depraved organisation is trying to do – should we have sympathy with what Hitler was trying to do? I really think we need to stop speaking in this kind of way, or in any way which could even suggest it.

  6. Hi Simon,

    If you follow the link in the post to Chapman’s 10,000 word Fulcrum article, the first suggestion for Christians is explained in greater detail:
    ‘Lesslie Newbigin, in the years before his death, alerted Christians to the way Christianity in the West had become a privatised religion. In one of his last books, Faith and Power: Christianity and Islam in ‘Secular’ Britain (1998), co-authored with Jenny Taylor and Lamin Sanneh, he pointed out that both Christians and secular-minded people in Britain were finding it difficult to face the challenge of Muslims who really believe in the sovereignty of God and want him to be honoured in the public sphere.

    Perhaps Christians are in a unique position to be bridge-builders: if we think we understand the secular mind-set, we ought at the same time to be able to understand that many Muslims are trying to bring their faith to bear on society. As a result, Christians might be able to interpret each side to the other.

    The forseeable problem with this approach is that Christians will end up becoming one-sided apologists for Political Islam: a movement has no reciprocal interest in understanding the values which shape the secular West, which it considers to be beyond redemption.

    Instead,we would have to bet such efforts on the hope of an eventual trend towards the far less implacable ‘Post-Islamism’, which Chapman also describes.

    Chapman’s suggested responses contrast the privatised conversionist ethos of ‘some expressions of evangelical Christianity’ with the genuine belief among Muslims in the sovereignty of God and the desire to honour Him in the public sphere.

    What’s ironic is that he can present the growth of political Islam as so thoroughly variegated that it can escape similar criticism for promoting an ethos which imposes the effects of privatised radicalisation on the wider society through acts of terror.

    Instead, he focuses on the West and Muslim-majority countries shouldering responsibility for the current situation.

  7. Ian,

    As you wrote in your first article on Manchester, it is important to name our demons.

    You raise important questions:
    1. How could someone raised in Britain commit such a crime?
    2. How could a 22-year-old want to unleash such carnage and death on other young people?
    3. How could someone whose family received refuge in Britain hate the country that welcomed them?
    Commentators agree that the Muslim faith has something to do with it. But what is not clear. Muslim Faith leaders are almost uniformly quick to condemn the extremism – Islam is after all a religion of peace -everyone says so. The problem is an aberrant strain within Islam. (Q1)

    This aberrant strain is supported by young and seemly idealistic people of both sexes. In their actions they often go against the wishes of their families and the whole tenor of their childhood and schooling in the UK. Why do they do it? Without going into any other details, one thing that unites them is a belief that they are a sort of “chosen Conquistador”, noble conquerors in a righteous cause. Islam has a long history of successful conquest from below. The host country is not so much “hated” as “despised”. The citizens of the host country are seen as inferior, as the enemy, and the terror inflicted on them as a means to an end – Not “regrettable collateral damage”, but as a particular and clearly identified “means to an end”, and the end is “submission”. (Q2)

    The end in this case justifies the means. Unlike so-called “freedom fighters” in post-colonial times, these killers do not have any redeeming features. Their lure is power and wealth and a sort of glory, not freedom. They want to take over from the decadent Europeans. Their feeling of entitlement is an antidote to any qualms they may feel. (Q3)

    What of the wider Muslim community? They certainly are quick to disown the terrorism verbally. But their body-language is often not convincing. Terror is catching: it gives the Muslim a certain power. He knows that in the Western world, no one dare call his bluff. The Muslim community is here to stay in Europe: and they intend to “call the shots”.
    So identifying the one of the demons as the “desire of some for conquest and unbridled power” is a good start. They are not primarily motivated by “hate”, but they covet power.

    Hitler too had an unbridled lust for power.
    What should the Church’s response be to challenges like Nazism or ISISism? Should it oppose it, or should it like Colin Chapman, apologise for it. Not all Germany supported the Ideology of Nazism, nor worshipped Hitler, but they participated in his adventures willingly, and had to be fought as a whole. The same applies to ISIS and Islam – not all muslims support terrorism – but the majority seem to be along for the ride.

    It all seems to point to an unbroken cycle of violence and terror and war and submission. Dr. Lloyd-Jones testified in his book “The Church and the Last Things”, how reading and re-reading the book of Revelation had been a comfort to him in the dark days of WWII. He preached a message of hope, of endurance, and not of apology or submission like Chapman seems to do.

    Nor did he preach hate. Nor did Augustinus.

    • Rather than naming demons, you have indulged in demonising people. You claim that the majority of muslims seem to be along for the ride, and link their support of Isis as being equivalent to supporting Hitler.

      I live in Manchester. Muslims reported the terrorists to the authorities (family, imams). They banned one from the mosque after his extreme reaction to a sermon denouncing violence. On the night of the attack, Muslim taxi drivers offered free lifts and Muslim takeaway owners offered free food. After the event, imams and others denounced the attack, took part in multi-faith and civic vigils, and held their own vigils.

      Just what more precisely are they meant to have done? Oh, right, their ‘body language’ looks wrong to you.

      • Jonathan,

        I agree with you on this (for once!).

        There are numerous glaring non-sequiturs in Dick’s comment. For instance, he begins by attributing the violence to an aberrant strain within Islam, but then suggests that the wider Muslim community have not escaped infection by the lust for power which characterises this jihadi violence: ‘Terror is catching: it gives the Muslim a certain power. He knows that on the western world, no-one dare call his bluff’.

        Again, Dick makes the baseless claim that although ‘not all Muslims support terrorism – but the majority seem to be along for the ride’. Where’s the evidence?

        Yet, as if that wasn’t enough, Godwin’s law is proven again by Dick’s comparison of the Muslim response with German acquiescence towards Hitler and Nazism. The reality is that the SS and their atrocities, like the Night of the Long Knives, silenced opposition.

        In all of this, he doesn’t extend the slur of indirect culpability to the wider non-Muslim society because, unlike Muslims, he must consider it unthinkable for the UK, as host country, to be indirectly implicated in the perpetration of terrorism.

        This is Islamophobia with a Con-Evo veneer and it is more focused on demonising Muslims than naming our demons. It has no place in serious debate on this issue.

        • Jonathan and David,

          Thank you for your replies. I hope you are far more correct in your analysis than I

          I was writing about ISIS and its deliberate and terrifying use of terror.

          I see that my remarks about the wider Muslim community are not defensible and cheap. I apologise for any offence.

          • Dick,

            These are tense times and I’m sure that you did not intend to cause offence.

            I often think that the Psephizo blog technology should allow commmenters to amend their responses (and without recourse to a moderator) after posting them.

            It took considerable (and enviable) courage for you to respond to our remarks as you did. I can only hope to emulate your candour.

  8. Ian, thank you for asking the question.

    If Christians – or anyone else – are to respond morally and effectively to Islamic violence, the essential first step is to identify the phenomenon properly. Islamic violence is evil. Attacking unarmed civilians is evil. Beheading, crucifying, burning, or torturing captives is evil. Massacring Christians and burning down their church buildings is evil. Intimidation of non-Muslims and oppression of Muslim women are evil.

    So the question for Christians is how should we respond to evil in our midst and in our world. Prayer that the perpetrators and their supporters will repent and become followers of Christ comes first, but it is not all that is required. Love protects. So a large part of the Christian response to the evil of Islamic violence must be to take protective measures to prevent or weaken further attacks.

    In our fallen world, this means not only defensive measures around vulnerable targets, but also proactive intelligence and policing to identify and immobilize would-be attackers. Protection must extend to denying entry to our countries by people who would do us harm or who condone Islamic violence through incitement, material support, or sympathetic passivity. Christians are called to charity, but not to policies and practices that amount to suicide.


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