As details of the terror attack on Pamela Geller’s AFDI’s (American Freedom Defense Initiative) free speech rally in Garland, Texas unfolded this week, pundits on both the left and right of the American political spectrum once again failed to recognize the political agenda of Islamic doctrine and its sharp contrast to other religions. Although Christians are often accused of “forcing” their beliefs on non-believers there is nothing within Christian doctrine requiring non-believers to conform to Christian beliefs. Islam, however, is more than a religion. It is a worldview that insists on controlling the behavior of not only believers but the behavior of non-believers as well, crossing the proverbial line between “church and state” that atheists and others often accuse Christians of crossing.
Many commentators argued that the AFDI should not have held the event because the images offended peaceful Muslims or even our allies in countries such as Egypt or Jordan. These images were not displayed in a public setting where Muslim sensibilities could be damaged, but rather at a private event attended by those that chose and paid to attend. If such portrayals are deemed so offensive by peaceful Muslims that Americans are not allowed to hold private events that portray the prophet, then Muslims such as Omid Safi, director of the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University should also be condemned since Safi admits that he keeps an image of the prophet in his home.
These Western apologists for Islam failed to mention that the ban on art depicting the prophet Muhammad is not universal in the Muslim world. For instance in 2008 the Iranian government commissioned a five-story mural depicting Muhammad on the wall of an apartment building in Tehran. Those criticizing Geller also failed to mention that a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad riding on a horse appeared during the Arab Spring uprisings as street art became part of the revolution in Egypt.
Museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, contain historical depictions of Muhammad. The Museum’s website explains, “These portrayals, while somewhat rare, are not unheard of, as there were (and still are) many different attitudes toward depicting the prophet – and humans in general – in the Islamic world.” In fact, “An image of the Prophet Muhammad at the beginning of a book endows the volume with the highest form of blessing and sanctity. Thus, illustration of him was a common practice, particularly in the eastern regions of the Islamic world.” (Emphasis mine.)
Illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad that did not illicit violent protests and terror attacks are numerous. These images include full depictions of Muhammad, faceless images of Muhammad, European Medieval and Renaissance images of Muhammad by non-Muslims, and modern satirical cartoons of Muhammad. The dangerous Islamist idea that violence is justified whenever they are deeply offended by cartoons or art depicting Muhammad is one that has recently gained momentum as Western journalists and Islamic apologists have voluntarily surrendered to pressure from Islamist groups.
For this reason, AFDI’s decision to display images of the prophet Muhammad should be defended not condemned. Many commentators suggested Pamela Geller provoked the violence since she should have known that there could be a violent reaction to the Draw Muhammad rally. This is the same worldview that blames Western rape victims for provoking Muslim men to violence simply because they are wearing western clothing. What is next? Will those condemning Geller stand in agreement with Islamist extremists such as Shahid Mehdi in Copenhagen who stated that women who did not wear a headscarf were asking to be raped?! How far do we carry such appeasement?
As Christians, we are to strive to show the goodness and grace of our God as opposed to the rigid conformity sharia law requires by Allah. Although we certainly do not appreciate art or cartoons that depict Jesus negatively, we should understand those who portray Him this way simply do not understand our love for our God nor could they possibly understand the relationship we have with Him. We also know their portrayal does not change the love or nature of our God, and despite their ridicule our God’s love for them is unchanged by their actions.
Ultimately our heart is to introduce those who are spiritually trapped in a false religion and destructive worldview to a new way of living, to a new worldview, one that esteems lives and loves all, regardless of faith. This cannot be accomplished unless we in the United States aggressively defend and resolutely guard our right to free speech. Should we surrender to this false narrative that somehow Pamela Geller’s exercise of her freedom of speech incited the two terrorists’ attempt to harm those at the free speech rally then we are truly surrendering to Islamic sharia law through appeasement. We are, in fact, speeding down the slippery slope to Dhimmitude (the second-class status of non-Muslims living in an Islamic state).
The question should not be whether Geller was right or wrong to hold the event. The question for all Americans is “Are we going to stand tall for our right to free speech – even when it is offensive or are we going to give in to the Qur’an’s demands for supremacy over all other religions and governmental systems?” Today Islamists claim drawing a picture is blasphemy. What will we do as Christians when these same Islamists demand that churches no longer declare that Jesus Christ is the Son of God since that too is blasphemy in Islam?
For the past thirty days, we have been “contending for the captives” of Islam – both Muslim and non-Muslims. We encouraged each of you to “contend with skill and commitment in opposing whatever is not of faith on behalf of those taken by the spear.”
It is primarily through the spear (violence) that Islam has spread, imprisoning hundreds of millions in its path. The website, Political Islam has compiled a rough estimate of the number of deaths of non-Muslims at the hands of jihadists. The total estimate is that approximately 270 million people (120 million Africans, 60 million Christians, 80 million Hindus, and 10 million Buddhists) have lost their lives to jihadists in the past 1400 years of Islam. Those left behind either became “dhimmis” (paying a high tax for not converting to Islam) or they converted to Islam. “Oddly enough there were not enough Jews killed in jihad to significantly affect the totals,” according Political Islam’s report. There were many Jews killed in jihad, however the numbers are in the thousands, not millions. Many Jews that remained in Arabia became second rate citizens as dhimmis without any political power.
We see the same pattern continuing with the terrorist group, the Islamic State (ISIS) that is currently forcing Christians from their homes in Syria and Iraq. Even as most Christians fled from Mosul, around 25 Christian families were trapped in Mosul with sick or elderly family members. Several of these families were taken to sharia courts where they were given the choice to convert to Islam or die. Five families are reported to have decided to convert to Islam.
Compare the spread of Islam throughout its history with Christianity. Although there have certainly been atrocities committed in the name of Christianity, these events were not condoned or encouraged by Christian teachings.
The book, The Advancing Kingdom gives some incredible statistics that help us see how Christianity has increased over the past 2,000 years. “At AD 100, 1/360th of the world population was Christian. By AD 1000, 1/220th of the world population was Christian. By 1500, the percentage of Christians rose to 1/69th of the world wide population. By 1900, with a world population of slightly over one billion, Christianity had risen to 1/27th of the population. By 1990, the percentage of Christians rose to 1/7th of the world wide population.” And amazingly, today 1/3 of the world population is Christian!
1 Corinthians 13 tells us that “love never fails” and it is through the love God gives us for others that Christianity has spread. Thank you for showing love to the captives of Islam throughout the past thirty days through your prayers. They are powerful and are making a great difference in lives of people around the world.
Ask God to continue to touch your heart and give you His love for the Muslim people in the nations. We are so blessed to live in freedom without fear of harassment and persecution but we need to be aware of the great needs of those who are still captives and continue to contend on their behalf.
We stand together for their victorious deliverance into God’s kingdom!
All Muslims consider themselves the spiritual descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son. In fact, Muhammad was a direct descendent of Ishmael through Ishmael’s second son, Kedar.
The Biblical account of Ishmael is found in Genesis 16-17. Ishmael, whose name means “God hears,” was the first person to ever be named by God before birth. The Bible tells us that Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born to Hagar, the servant of Abram’s wife. Thirteen years later, when Abram was 99, God appeared to him, changed his name to Abraham and promised to make him the father of many nations. God also told Abraham that His covenant would be established through His son Isaac, the son that Sarah his wife would have.
Abraham petitioned God regarding his son Ishmael, and God said, “as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation…”
Genesis 21 describes the fulfillment of the promise of the birth of Isaac. When Isaac was weaned Abraham had a feast. Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac, and insisted that Abraham send Ishmael and his mother away. At age 15, Ishmael was cast out of his father’s house. Abraham loved Ishmael so the thought of sending him away was quite distressing. God then said to Abraham, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed” (Genesis 21:12-13).
So at the age of 15, Ishmael was forced from his father’s house. After soon running out of water, he found himself dying in the wilderness. His mother, Hagar, could not bear to see her son die so she left him alone under a shrub to die. Imagine the pain of rejection and fatherlessness, Ishmael must have experienced – in an instant he went from being a son to a servant. The Bible says God heard the cry of Ishmael, and then He spoke to Hagar, “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 21:17-18). God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She gave Ishmael a drink saving him from death. He grew and lived in the wilderness.
Ishmael lost his identity when his father cast him out. Without a father, he also lost his inheritance. The religion of Islam reflects the lost identity and inheritance of Ishmael even today. Muslims see themselves as servants of God desperately working in order to please Allah and avoid judgment. Their deeds are weighed to determine if they are acceptable.
Pray that God will reveal the truth about the destiny of the Muslim people that is hidden in the name of Ishmael – He hears their cries and desires a relationship as their Father.
As Christians and Muslims gathered in a Baghdad church on Sunday afternoon, Manhal Younis cried and said, “I can’t feel my identity as an Iraqi Christian.” The woman next to her in the pew, a Muslim, reached out to her and whispered, “You are the true original people here, and we are sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.”
Approximately two hundred Muslims attended a rally in Baghdad to show their solidarity with the thousands of Christians who have been forced to flee from Mosul. Some of the Muslims marked themselves with the Arabic letter “N” for “Nazarene” or Christian. Both Muslims and Christians held up signs that read, “I am Iraqi, I am Christian.” The event had been organized through social media that day before, and following the rally an online video was posted on Facebook showing Christian and Muslim participants holding up their signs and singing the Iraqi national anthem.
A Muslim law professor, Mahmoud Al-Asali, lost his life for standing up against the abuse and murder of Christians in Mosul. ISIS militants in Mosul killed him.
As the grip of the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), also known as the Islamic State has tightened, the militants demanded that all Christians in the city convert to Islam, pay the jizya (a tax for non-Muslims), leave the city, or die. Ankawa.com reported the option to pay the jizya and stay in the city was taken away so Christians were forced to either leave their homes or convert to Islam.
ISIS used the Arabic letter, “N” to tag the homes of Christians. Those fleeing Mosul described how once the group tagged their homes, then later entered the homes taking whatever they wanted and using them as ISIS property. Some families leaving Mosul were harassed and robbed of money, jewelry and documents at checkpoints set up by ISIS, and there were reports that women had crucifixes torn from their necks as they left. One man attempting to escape with his elderly mother was forced to give the militants his car and her medicine, so he carried his mother on his back to safety.
The number of Christians in Mosul had dwindled from over 30,000 in 2003 to just a few thousand, however after the ISIS threat, it is believed that one of the oldest Christian communities in the world is now completely devoid of Christians.
Since the rally on Sunday, thousands have joined together on Twitter to express their solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iraq by using the hastag, “#WeAreN.” The Church of England and others around the world are showing their support by changing their pictures on their social media pages to the Arabic “N.”
Showing solidarity brings hope to Iraqi Christians who have been forced out of their homes. Pray that Muslims in Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations will stand up and resist the evil being done to Christians in their community; people they have worked with and who were neighbors and friends.
In addition to showing solidarity, pray for these Christians and all those who are being severely persecuted in Iraq – that God will overwhelm them with His grace, meet their daily needs and give them hope.
Pray the prayer of King David found in Psalm 55:9 over ISIS (radical Islamic group persecuting the Christians and making them convert to Islam or die). “Confuse them Lord, and frustrate their plans, for I see violence and strife in the city.”
The Night of Power ( in Arabic) is the holiest night of the year in Islam. It commemorates the night that Muslims believe Muhammad received the first revelations of the Qur’an, which are recorded in the first five verses of Sura 96. Sura 97:3 describes the Laylat Al Qadr as “better than a thousand months.”
Sahbir Ally, President of the Islamic Information Center in Toronto, Canada explains the significance, “The very fact that the Quran states that this night is better than a thousand months is an added incentive for Muslims to worship on this night because the traditions further expound on this to say that worshipping on this night is better than worshipping for a thousand months, and a thousand months as you know is translated to 83 years and four months, that’s a lifetime for many people. …So if a person worships on the Night of Power, then we believe that he or she gets the reward as worshipping for a whole lifetime.”
Tradition says that anyone that prays on the Night of Power out of sincere faith in hopes of attaining Allah’s rewards will have all of his past sins forgiven.
Muslims also believe angels and a special spirit descend from God on the Night of Power. The angels come down to grant requests and bring proclamations about the coming year.
The Night of Power is a time when Muslims are open to receiving dreams and visions as they seek guidance. Many will pray throughout the night believing that those who remain awake all night will be blessed with peace and the blessings of God.
Dr. Ally explains, “It is also narrated in some traditions that the angels tour the world looking for those people who are engaged in the worship of God on that night, and they, according to the tradition, shake hands with the person.. …Human beings do not actually experience the angels in their presence, but generally the idea that the angels do come down on this night inspires Muslims to worship.”
Worship for Muslims on the Night of Power becomes an obligation in order to receive a reward – how different from those of us who are honored to worship our God – not in order to receive a reward, but simply because He alone is worthy of all worship, honor and praise. Take time out today to worship God – lift His name on high and thank Him for His abundant blessings.
As we “Contend For the Captives” of Islam – pray that they will long for the true and living God, hunger for His truth, desire a deeper relation with Him and have visions and dreams in the days ahead of Jesus Christ as the living Son of God!
Muslims are taught that believing Jesus is the Son of God is blasphemy and will send a Muslim (and all others) to hell. Ask God to give a true revelation of Jesus to Muslims, giving them understanding and strength to push past false teaching and fear and have the courage to receive Christ as Lord.
May heaven be abundantly populated with the souls of “former Muslims” as a result of the prayers of God’s people on the Night of Power!
Tuesday marked the 100th day since the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped approximately 200 schoolgirls from their school in Nigeria. Deborah Sanya, an eighteen-year-old who managed to escape the kidnappers described her ordeal to the New Yorker magazine. She said the terrorists showed up on the night of the abduction dressed in Nigerian military uniforms and told the girls they were there to take them to safety. After the men took food and other supplies from the school, they set the building on fire. At first she and the other girls thought they were safe, however once the men started shooting and shouting, “Allahu Akbar”, she realized the men were not Nigerian soldiers. “I thought it was the end of my life. …There were many, many of them.”
She recounted how she begged God for help and watched as several girls jumped out of the truck they were in. Eventually they reached the terrorists’ camp. After a couple of hours she and a couple of her friends fled behind some trees. Despite the terrorists’ demands to return, the girls kept running until they reached the safety of a friendly stranger’s home. The next day they called their families.
Sanya’s father described the conflicting emotions he now has. Although grateful to have his daughter returned, he feels guilt for those who are still missing. “Every house in Chibok has been affected by the kidnapping.”
Boko Haram has continued their attacks throughout Nigeria and have ignored international cries for the girls to be released. Earlier in July, Boko Haram leader, Abubaker Shekau released a video that mocked the “#BringBackOurGirls” campaign. The social media campaign brought worldwide attention to the plight of the kidnapped girls. The Twitter accounts of celebrities quickly brought attention to the kidnapping. United States First Lady Michelle Obama received nearly 58,000 retweets of the “#BringBackOurGirls” hashtag. Sadly the social media campaign has waned, although at least one U.S. Representative, Frederica Wilson (D-FL) is still attempting to encourage U.S. celebrities to keep the Nigerian girls’ story in the news. She has promised to tweet until the girls are returned to their families.
The Associated Press reported today that eleven parents of the missing girls would never be reunited with their daughters. Boko Haram killed seven fathers of the girls in further attacks, and at least four more parents have died from illnesses that the community blames on the stress of losing their daughters – such as heart failure and high blood pressure. A community leader described the anguish of one father, “[he] just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him.”
Social media campaigns may be short-lived, but we serve a God who has not forgotten these kidnapped girls.
Jesus taught in Matthew that a sparrow could not fall to the ground without our Father knowing it. Our God knows exactly where each kidnapped girl is being hidden. Pray that He will reveal to the Nigerian army where each of these girls have been taken, and will give them wisdom to rescue them and bring them home to their families.
Pray for each of these young girls that God will surround them with His angels, comfort and heal them. Pray for their grief stricken families that they will be reunited with their daughters.
A massive assault by Boko Haram in the Nigerian town of Damboa displaced more than 15,000 people on Monday. Over 2,000 people were killed by the terrorist group in the past six months. Pray for the protection of the people of Nigeria – especially for the Christian communities that are often the target of the Islamist group.
There are two emerging Islamic religious figures from the West that have become especially popular with foreign fighters that have joined the rebel forces in the Syrian civil war. These two Westerners, American Ahmad Musa Jibril and Australian Musa Cerantonio, are popular with Western and European jihadists on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These foreign fighters look to these men for guidance and inspiration.
Yesterday we looked at Ahmad Musa Jibril, an American cleric from Dearborn, Michigan. Australian Musa Cerantonio was born into an Italian Catholic family as Robert Cerantonio. He claims he converted to Islam after a visit to the Vatican left him disillusioned with Catholicism. After his conversion he traveled to study Islam in Cairo. His status as a Western convert helped him to become popular on Islamic satellite television programs, which gave Cerantonio a global audience.
His most popular platform, other than his television programs, was Facebook. At times, he was critical of the terrorist group, ISIS, but he also referred to the group “as the best forces on the ground in Syria.” Cerantonio called for war against the United States. “If we see that Muslims are being killed by the tyrant leaders of the USA then we must first stop them with our hands (i.e. by force). This means that we should stop them by fighting them, by assassinating their oppressive leaders, by weakening their offensive capabilities etc. …This is not something that is beyond us at all.”
Cerantonio’s Facebook page was eventually taken down, but at the time it was removed he had about 12,000 subscribers. He used Twitter account earlier this month to announce that he was traveling to Syria. After he tweeted that he had arrived in the Middle East to join with the terror group, ISIS, he was actually discovered to have been living in the Philippines for about a year.
Australian authorities cancelled his Australian passport, which left him without proper travel documentation so he was arrested and is to be deported to Australia. There is now a Facebook page calling for his release that has more than 1,500 “likes.” There are no warrants for his arrest in Australia so he will probably be allowed to go free when he arrives.
Ahmad Musa Jibril and Musa Cerantonio have had much influence on the number of foreign fighters in the Syrian civil war. Their styles are different, but rather than competing for followers they have appealed to their audiences in different ways. This combination has encouraged their followers to consider fighting in Syria as honorable.
Ask God to give His wisdom and insight to counter-intelligence and counterterrorism organizations to enable them to have the information needed to stop or arrest those involved in recruiting others to becoming militant.
Social media has been used to encourage Westerners to join in the Syrian civil war. Pray that Western authorities will identify those who are inspiring others to jihad and terrorism and recognize legal ways to stop them from furthering their cause.
Jihadists are very successful in utilizing social media to spread a message of hate – pray the Holy Spirit will guide Christians and Christian ministries in ways to use this powerful tool to spread the message of the Kingdom of God. Declare His Lordship over all forms of social media!