In a move eerily reminiscent of the Soviet “peace offensives”, 138 leading Muslim scholars have composed a letter to Christianity’s leaders, with Pope Benedict’s name heading the list, requesting a meeting to discuss the “common essentials of our two religions.” The authors warn that “the survival of the world” is at stake if the two religions do not make peace, which, the Muslim authors believe, is possible since the basis of Islam and Christianity is “the two commandments of love.”
While it is at least admirable that these learned representatives of Islam acknowledge that their religion is at war with Christianity (since much of the Christian world is in denial), the main sticking point, the letter makes clear, is the aggressive nature of Christianity. The Muslim scholars emphasize that: “As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them – so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.”
The problem with this theme, however, is that the religious believers being oppressed and driven out of their homes in the world today are Christians, and other non-Muslims, who find themselves trapped under Muslim rule. It is not surprising that the Muslim scholars’ “peace” letter nowhere mentions the murder of Palestinian Christian Rami Ayyad, who was recently abducted, tortured and murdered in Gaza City. Six months earlier, a bomb had destroyed his Christian bookstore, the Holy Bible Society. Ayyad’s murder and the bombing of his bookstore are consistent with the pattern of barbaric violence that is being carried out by Muslims against Christians in the Gaza strip today, particularly by a jihadist group that calls itself “The Righteous Swords of Islam.”
Christians living under the Palestinian Authority are habitually brutalized and must now practice their religion in secret. Hamas is planning to enforce the jizya, the special tax mandated by the Qur’an (9:29) for Jews and Christians. Christian women, meanwhile, must veil themselves or face dire consequences. A few years ago, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades shot dead two Christian women for not wearing the Islamic veil. The Muslim group explained: “We wanted to clean the Palestinian house of prostitutes.”
It is no wonder then that a mass exodus of Christians is occurring under the Palestinian Authority – just as has been the case almost everywhere where Christians have been trapped under Islamic rule. Bethlehem used to be 85 per cent Christian sixty years ago. Today, after decades of Muslim persecution, Christian believers in one of Christianity’s most holy sites comprise only 15 per cent of the population.
In Iraq, meanwhile, Christians are the victims of a reign of terror being waged by Muslims – a tragedy epitomized by the murder of Syrian Orthodox priest, Fr. Boulos Iskander, by Muslims in the Iraqi city of Mosul. To be sure, Rami Ayyad’s and Fr. Iskander’s tragic fates represent the victimization of all Christians, everywhere from Egypt to Pakistan and from Sudan to Nigeria, at the hands of Muslims. Christians in these Islamic settings suffer constant discrimination, harassment and persecution.
In the context of these ugly realities, the question must be asked: why did the Muslim authors of the “peace” letter not mention these ingredients of Muslim-Christian “relations”? Why did they not condemn the persecution of Christians by Muslims and denounce the teachings on which this persecution is based? Why did they not acknowledge that it is Muslims, not Christians, who are killing other Muslims and driving them out of their homes today? For instance, the United Nations calls Darfur the worst human rights situation in the world today. It is a place where Muslims have killed about 300,000 of their fellow Muslims. And the worst case of war being waged against Muslims on account of their religion exists between Shiites and Sunnis — who slaughter each other off in Islamic countries like Iraq and Pakistan in the thousands. Al Qaeda and its extremist allies are no slackers when it comes to killing Muslims, the Algerian civil war being a good example. Oppression and honor murders of Muslim women in both Islamic and western countries are also not committed by Christians and peoples of other faiths. It is Muslim men who oppress them, not just driving them out of their homes, but also throwing them to their deaths over the balconies of their domiciles. Why did the Muslim authors of the “peace” letter not mention these facts?
If the Muslim authors of the “peace” letter truly wanted to make peace with Christians, one would also think that their letter would have contained a categorical rejection of traditional Islamic law that mandates the death penalty for any Muslim who leaves Islam, in accordance with Muhammad’s command: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” Indeed, this is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Thus, Muslims who have converted to Christianity have suffered — and continue to suffer — vicious persecution all over the Islamic world. Christianity, meanwhile, has no equivalent of such a teaching and Christians are free all around the world to convert to the religion of their choosing — including to Islam without a fear for their lives.
It is also curious: why did the Muslim authors not include a condemnation of Sura 9:29 of the Qur’an, which commands Muslims to fight Jews and Christians until they “pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued”?
At the same time, why did they also not renounce the imperative in Islam to subjugate the world under the rule of Islamic law, which is deeply embedded within Islamic theology (see Qur’an 9:29, discussed above; Sahih Muslim 4294; and a host of other evidence from all the Sunni madhahib and Shi’ite sources as well). Indeed, all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that it is part of the responsibility of the umma to subjugate the non-Muslim world through jihad. Muslims waging jihad against the West perpetually justify their acts on the basis of what they read in the Qur’an. If Islam and Christianity are truly to exist peacefully, isn’t it vital that this reality be dealt with by Muslims who want true peace with Christianity?
If the Muslim authors of the letter truly wanted peace, one would also think that they would have mentioned and repudiated Qur’an 5:17, which says that those who believe in the divinity of Christ are unbelievers, or 4:171, which says that Jesus was not crucified, or 9:30, which says that those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are accursed. One would think they would know it is common sense that renouncing these teachings is a mandatory stepping stone to better relations with Christians.
Overall, the main issue ignored by this letter is that it is the Christian West that has shown its tolerance and respect for the Muslim religion by allowing millions of its adherents to immigrate here, to build their mosques and religious schools (sometimes with taxpayers’ money), proselytize and practice their faith unmolested, protected by scores of laws and human rights codes. Which begs the question: if Christianity was so aggressive and thought itself at war with Islam, why would it allow millions of the enemy’s followers to settle within its borders? Church leaders in Muslim countries would be overjoyed to enjoy just a slight percentage of the freedoms and legal protections granted to Islam in western countries. And what has the West received in return for its tolerance? The attacks of 9/11, the Paris riots, the Madrid and London bombings, and countless other thwarted terrorist attacks – not to mention “peace” letters accusing it of an exterminating aggression.
The Muslim “peace” letter and its calling of a Christian-Muslim peace conference reminds one of the old Soviet practices of always claiming victim status and talking peace while waging war around the world — and at home against its own people. And the Soviets always approached peace talks with the one-way street attitude: what’s ours is ours; what’s yours is negotiable. Even from the theological point of view, the Bishop of Rochester in England, Pakistani-born Dr. Nazir-Ali, says that the Muslim scholars’ letter “seems to verge” on dictating “the terms on which the dialogue must be conducted.” Again, that manipulative, one-way street approach.
Before any “peace talks” are held, it would be wise — and fair – for the Muslim scholars to prove their sincerity in desiring real peace and tolerance between the two religions. They must unequivocally condemn the terrorism committed in the name of Islam; they must renounce violent jihad and dhimmitude as obstacles to peace; they must renounce the more offensive parts of Sharia law, such as slavery and discriminatory laws against women and non-Muslims; and they must call for the end of all restrictions on minority religions in Islamic countries. If these Muslim scholars signed a letter supporting the building of Christian churches, even just one, in places such as Saudi Arabia, then one could believe their desire for peace was genuine.
But if these things are not done, then the peace “letter” of the Muslim scholars can be seen to be what it really is: a passive-aggressive, disingenuous, Soviet-style tactic to psychologically disarm the enemy in a larger war that these learned Muslims admit their religion is already waging.
Stephen Brown is a columnist for Frontpagemag.com. Jamie Glazov is the managing editor of Frontpagemag.com.