The Divine Imperative
An Apologia for Facing Islam
Ralph Zosimas Sidway
A major triad of the presentation in my book, Facing Islam - What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad, is how as Orthodox Christians we are called to love our Muslim neighbors and reach out to them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With this always in mind, I am extremely careful in my writing and my talks to distinguish between our response to Islam, and our approach towards Muslims we meet in our day to day lives. Fr. Tom Soroka emphasizes this same evangelical imperative in his Foreword to the book. I think it is due in large part to this essential theme that the book has been endorsed by several Orthodox priests (including Fr Daniel Byantoro of the Indonesian Orthodox Christian Mission, himself a convert from Islam) for both its content and its tone, and that I have been invited to speak by several churches, and already invited to return to some of them. It also bears mentioning that although the target audience of the book is particularly Orthodox Christians, there are enough bridges built (especially the Preface) to reach out to those seeking authentic Christianity; there is a definite missionary, evangelical aspect to Facing Islam.
For some, however, the central thesis of Facing Islam — a direct and unflinching theological demolition of the Religion of Muhammad from a Traditional Christian vantage point— seems to be too provocative, too incendiary. Therefore, for my lead posting on this new blog, I would like to offer some thoughts as to why it is essential for Christians first and foremost to lead the chorus of denunciation and repudiation of the false-religion of Islam, and what that really means for us Christians:
Prohibitions Against Discussing Islam
Islamic law concerning non-Muslims, implemented in a consistent and nearly identical manner for over a thousand years in every region where Islam conquered, explicitly prohibits non-Muslims under Islamic rule from not only criticizing Islam and Muhammad, but from even teaching their children or communities about Islam. This is one of the most serious terms of the dhimma contract, the contract of 'protection' offered to Christians and Jews who submit to totalitarian Muslim rule as humiliated, second-class peoples, with minimal rights, and forced annually to pay a crippling jizya tax.(1)
To zealous Muslims, therefore, the modern translation of Islamic sacred texts and writings of Islamic jurisprudence into English, and the explosion of commentary and criticism of the same by non-Muslims, is nothing short of blasphemous, and they feel it must be stopped at all costs.
In the modern landscape, Islamic supremacists — both the strident ones overseas and the (somewhat more) stealthy ones here in America — work hard to enforce such traditional sharia prohibitions, effectively seeking to muzzle any discussion of Islam by unbelievers in the West. (Hence the draconian blasphemy law in Pakistan, and the attempts by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to pass through the UN a measure outlawing the defamation of religion—meaning, of course, Islam.) One of the methods they all use in order to silence critics is intimidation. In the United States and Europe, any attempt to discuss or question Islam's inherently supremacist nature and its violent, hate-filled commands in the Koran (taken to be the literal, pre-eternal words of Allah) for Muslims to extend the rule of Allah across the entire globe, is met with accusations of bigotry, Islamophobia, and even racism. (What race exactly is Islam? — one is forced to ask.) In the Islamic world, any provocation, even cartoon drawings of Muhammad, are used as excuses by Islamic clerics to whip up Muslims after Friday prayers into frenzied outrage, erupting into murderous protests. The goal of both kinds of Islamist reactions are the same: the intimidation and bullying of non-Muslims into acquiescence and silence before Islam, Muhammad, the Koran, etc., resulting in ever greater submission to the Islamic narrative.
Submitting to Islamic Intimidation
= Modern Day Dhimmitude
Sadly, whenever a group — Christian or otherwise — caves in to such intimidation tactics, voluntarily censoring itself from speaking about Islam, they are in effect 'submitting' (the very meaning of the word 'Islam') to the dictates of Islam's codified subjugation of infidels — 'kuffar' in the arabic Koran, which has strong connotations of uncleanness and sub-humanness. The infidels are berated throughout the Koran, the hadiths (traditions and sayings of Muhammad), the Sira (the Life of Muhammad) and the teachings of all major schools of Islamic jurisprudence as being not only deceived, led astray, and under Allah's curse, but inferior, the worst of all created beings, and — in the case of Jews — descended from apes and swine. The Opening Sura of the Koran — prayed seventeen times a day by an observant Muslim, over 5000 times a year — specifically reinforces the condemnation against Christians and Jews as ‘led astray’ and ‘cursed’.
Voluntarily self-censoring and inhibiting Christian teaching about Islam, particularly where there is a vibrant tradition of repudiating heresy as has shone forth in the Orthodox Church for two thousand years, is to allow free reign to Islam's totalitarian claims to both theological and temporal superiority and dominance. It is to 'submit' to Islamic rule over our lives as well as Islam’s definitions and judgments against Christians and other non-Muslims. Self-censorship in the face of Islam is to voluntarily enter into a defeatist, dysfunctional, psycho-spiritual inferiority condition, what the great scholar of Islam Bat Ye'or has termed dhimmitude:
"The totality of the characteristics developed in the long term by collectives subjected, on their own homeland, to the laws and ideology imported through jihad."
With sorrow and frustration we see the defective culture of dhimmitude afflicting us here in America today, whenever we shy away from speaking or writing openly and truthfully of how the Truth of the Gospel fully exposes the falseness of Islam, its opposition to Christianity, its mistreatment of non-Muslims and women, its brutal laws, its violent supremacism, its incompatibility with our culture, government and jurisprudence, and its genocidal eschatology.(2)
Even a brief sampling of Koranic commands and hadith traditions make clear the nature of Islam:
Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [i.e. Islam] among the people of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Sura 9:29)
Kill the mushrikun [unbelievers] wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. (Sura 9:5)
I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes. (Sura 8:12)
Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the enemies of Allah and your enemies. (Sura 8:60)
So, when you meet those who disbelieve, smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly on them... Thus you are ordered by Allah to continue in carrying out jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam. (Sura 47:4)
If we shrink back from writing, speaking or publishing about Islam, whether out of fear of being labeled 'bigots', 'racists' or 'Islamophobes' here, or out of fear of provoking Muslims to violence and slaughter 'over there', we are in effect surrendering, and acquiescing into the role of dhimmi hostages silenced under the brutal threats of sharia reprisals.
A ‘Theological Trojan Horse’
Significantly, Islam claims to predate all religions, to be the 'Religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad', and it claims to venerate Jesus and to properly understand him. It also claims that Christians (and Jews) have deliberately distorted their scriptures, and that Muhammad was sent by God to set things right and proclaim the true religion, as seen in this quote from a modern Muslim apologist:
Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were all prophets of Islam. Islam is the common heritage of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim community of America, and establishing the kingdom of God on earth is the joint responsibility of all three Abrahamic faiths. Islam was the din (faith, way of life) of both Jews and Christians, who later lost it through human innovations. Now the Muslims want to remind their Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters of their original din. These are the facts of history.(3)
Dr. Mark Durie deconstructs the above statement as follows:
This historical negationism—appearing to affirm Christianity and Judaism whilst in fact rejecting and supplanting them—is a lynchpin of Muslim apologetics. What is being affirmed is in fact neither Christianity nor Judaism, but Jesus as a prophet of Islam, Abraham as a Muslim, Moses as a Muslim, etc. This is intended to lead to ‘reversion’ of Christians and Jews to Islam.(4)
This is why we cannot remain quiet in the face of Islam's muscular ascendency throughout the world. Islam denies the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection, denying that Jesus is the Word of God Incarnate, the Son of God, and strongly denies the Holy Trinity. Islam presents a different Jesus (the Muslim prophet Isa), presenting also a different Gospel, and a radically different Spirit. St Paul forcefully condemns and warns against such false teachings in Gal 1:8-9, 2 Cor 11:3-4 and 1 Tim 4:1-2. The Apostle and Evangelist John warns even more forcefully:
Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23
In ‘Facing Islam’ I assert in the strongest possible terms that the Islamic claim to worship the same God as Christians and Jews is an attempt to co-opt our faith, and is actually a Theological Trojan Horse, seeking to nullify and destroy orthodox Christianity from within, even as it seeks to assert itself worldwide through jihad.
Thus, it is bad enough when Christians allow themselves to be cowed into silence regarding Islam. Indeed, St Gregory the Theologian warned ominously that "By your silence, you can betray God." But even worse, when Christians seek to mollify Muslims by assenting to their claims that Allah is the same as the God of Abraham and the Father Almighty, they are in serious error, and if left unchecked and unrepentant, are in grave danger of committing total apostasy. When Christian writers, scholars, priests and hierarchs commit such errors (and there have been many over recent decades), they are guilty of confusing the faithful and leading them astray. Thus a strong corrective in Christian catechism regarding Islam is an urgent necessity.
The Divine Imperative
Now, I am not suggesting that we "pile on" Islam just because it is timely or merely for political reasons, or whatever. Rather, I would assert that there exists a divine imperative for Christians to publicly and relentlessly refute and reject Islam. Christians simply must be 100% confident in and growing ever deeper in their faith and equally bold in their defense of it, tirelessly demonstrating in the public square the falsehood of Islam.(5)
We — here and now — must reject and unlearn the false narrative of Islam as ‘The Religion of Peace™’, an ‘Abrahamic Faith’ with the ‘Same God’ as the One True God, and we must rigorously set ourselves free from the deplorable diminution of humanity (dhimmitude) which is already poisoning us into paralysis. And in doing so, we must be clear and grounded in our Faith. That is, we must not be repudiating Islam merely to defend our Faith against the assault of Islamic teaching. But rather, this divine imperative to rebut Islam is forced upon us at this critical point in time, for it is only through the fervent living of the Orthodox Gospel of Jesus Christ that we can abide in Christ, acquire the Holy Spirit, and hold out the Word of Life to this weary world.
Islam’s abusive bullying of non-Muslims is anti-Christian, anti-human, and indeed, anti-God, for in the beginning, God created man after His own image. And even after the primordial sin and fall from paradise, God so loved mankind, that He sent His only-begotten Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem all mankind. And not only to redeem us, but to raise us up with Himself, to make us partakers of His divine nature. This is why Christ commands us to love our neighbor, and especially our enemies, for they too are created in the image of God. This is the reason — even as I dare say the divine imperative — for Orthodoxy to boldly proclaim not merely the truth about Islam, but the Living Truth of the Gospel!
Our Orthodox anthropology shames the misogynist, apartheid, genocidal monstrosity of Islam, just as our Orthodox theology decimates the false, distorted, debased image of God and apostleship put forth by Muhammad. Truly, we have never had such an opportunity to present the Holy Orthodox Gospel in opposition to false teaching as we have now. Now is the time. If not now, when? When freedom of speech is wholly lost to us, and we are publishing samizdats underground as the Catacomb Church did under the Soviet beast? But perhaps that is what will happen. As one Russian elder prophesied about the devastation of Russia just before the Revolution, "The ship of the Russian Church will be shattered, yet all is not lost, and people can be saved on splinters and fragments."
As Christians, we know what True Life is and means. We know the Way, the Truth and the Life — Jesus Christ, the Son of God and True God — and that no one comes to the Father but through Him. In holding out the Word of Life, we seek to save as many as the Lord calls from eternal death. This is the purpose of Facing Islam. This is my apologia. This is our divine imperative as right-believing Christians, which is unchanged from the first century.
“Now one cannot be a half-hearted Christian, but only entirely or not at all.”
~ Hieromonk Seraphim Rose
1. Based in large part on the Koran 9:29: “Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [i.e. Islam] among the people of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” For a convincing, and very readable analysis of the dhimma and its impact on our situation today, read Dr Mark Durie’s fine book, The Third Choice.
2. In Islamic end-times prophecies, the Jews will be slaughtered, and the Muslim Jesus will return to earth to destroy Christianity, “break the crosses, and kill the swine, and abolish the jizya.”
3. Shamim A. Siddiqi, Letter to the Editor, Daniel Pipes, February 2002, http://www.danielpipes.org/117/letters-to-the-editor-the-danger-within-militant-islam-in
4. Mark Durie, Revelation - Do We Worship the Same God?, City Harvest, Australia, 2006, pp 50-51.
5. As well as of the ills of post-modern secular society, seen in the abortion of over fifty million babies over the last forty years, physician-assisted suicide, crass materialism, the hyper-sexualization of youth culture, etc.