In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11th September 2001 and the ‘War on Terror,’ Islam and Muslims have been a constant focus in the media, in politics and in the public arena. Islam and its adherents have been routinely framed within the context of conflict, violence and terrorism. In more recent years, social media has become a critical space where, as articulated by one study, posts stoke deep hatred of Islam across the western world and influence politics in Australia, Canada, UK and USA by blending distorted news and total fabrication to paint Muslims as sharia-imposing terrorists .. whose existence poses a threat to white culture and western civilization. Given that Muslims are among the largest non-Christian religious groups in Australia, that over 60 percent of the world’s Muslim population resides in the South East Asian region, and that Islam is predicted to have more followers than any other religion within the next thirty years, a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in Australia is essential. In Australia, a number of factors have contributed to a perception that Islam and Muslims threaten peace and security, including:
- Australia’s National Terrorism Threat Level assessment that identifies the most likely perpetrators as Islamist extremists;
- Identification of over 150 Muslim Australians joining the ranks of ISIS in addition to many others whose passports were cancelled for attempting to do so;
- The conviction of dozens of Muslim Australians for terrorism offenses; and
- Countering violent extremism policy that officially reinforces many of the core stereotypes of Islam in the West: militancy, fanaticism, intolerance, fundamentalism, misogyny etc.
These factors highlight the need for a more informed understanding of Islam and Muslims in Australia in order to alleviate unwarranted fears and misconceptions, counter stereotypes and misinformation, and identify issues that require further attention and education. However, for some people, this education will reveal some foundational truths which lie at the heart of true Islam which force us to face some confronting facts about how truly devoted, Qur’an-following Muslims feel about the rest of us. I agree that there has been misinformation disseminated about Muslims in an attempt to turn us against them. I don’t support that at all and I am interested only in the facts but the truth is, many of the facts about Islam have been watered down or denied completely.
So in our multi-cultural nation we find there is a huge diversity of opinions about Islam and Muslims and terrorism and war and God and Government policies etc. On one extreme we have people who say we have allowed far too many Muslims to migrate to our great country without any thought to the incompatibility of their religion and their culture with what was, until quite recently, a Christian country which celebrates freedom in all aspects of our society and has been built on strong Judeo-Christian principles – which are incompatible with Islam. Most people holding this view are not bigoted against particular people, they are simply stating what many have known to be a fact: that whilst the majority of individual Muslims may be anything but a threat to our freedoms, Islam as an ideology is a different matter altogether and no serious student of the Qur’an or the actual teaching of Mohammed the Prophet could reach any other conclusion.
If any Muslim decides to follow Islam fully (and thankfully most of them don’t), then they will set themselves firmly against all Christians and the freedoms which Christianity has brought to western society over many centuries. One of the basic underlying tenants of the vast majority of world religions and the Christian faith, is that all men and women are created equal. That is NOT the teaching of Islam and that sets all committed Muslims against everyone else in a way that very few non-Muslims understand. In fact, a large number of Muslims don’t fully appreciate the foundation of their own religion – but they will, if their leaders call them to at some point in time. So on this end of the spectrum we have people who genuinely believe all Muslims in our nation are a potential threat us. So there is a lot of paralyzing fear up this end of the spectrum.
Then on the other end of the spectrum we have people who respond harshly to that view and call all those people ignorant bigots and that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in our country and in the USA and Great Britain are not jihadists, they are not against the west and longing to put all Christians to the sword. They actually chose to move to our country because of our way of life, our freedoms and our culture. So they stand with us, side by side as we oppose the extremists in their midst. There are many prominent Church leaders in this category and they believe God has given us a mission field right at our doorstep and that Christians need to not fear Muslims, but engage with them and become friends with them and lead them to Christ.
So those are the two ends of the spectrum as I see it. However, I believe the vast majority of people in the Church and in our nation are not at either end of that spectrum as I have just described them. I think the vast majority of people are stuck in the middle, not knowing what to think, how to feel or what the solution might be. They see some merit in both views. They see the need for caution and wisdom, but they also see the need for compassion, engagement and mission. Now being stuck in the middle is a bad thing because we need to know what we think about this. But being stuck in the middle is good thing too because we are more teachable and usable for God when we are not rusted on to a fixed point of view which can cause our minds to close off to an alternate position.
So what is God doing while we wrestle with these issues in a changing world? What is God’s solution to this new enemy of peace we face not just in the Middle East anymore, but across the world and in our own country? Well, as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, God’s strategies are often very different to man’s strategies and He knows that this new chapter of human history in which we find ourselves is very different to previous chapters. He knows that the enemies to freedom and peace today and their methods of war are very different to most of what we have seen in the past, and yet God also knows that the human condition has not changed in thousands of years and the root cause of all conflict, all war, all aggression, all violence, all brutality and all that threatens peace today is the same as it always was.
The root cause of all that is wrong with our world is the unenlightened human heart which is out sync with its Creator, out of harmony with our God, Who is love, our God Who is peace. The greatest need of the people who are committing these acts of unspeakable evil right now in the Middle East and other nations is the exact same need of those men who have been sent from our nation and 40 other countries over the years to stop them: they all need a revelation of God’s love for them and of the freedom and life He has secured for them in Jesus Christ.
The other thing that has not changed is Satan and his overall strategy. None of us are experts about spiritual warfare and the Devil. Some Christians don’t even believe there is an actual enemy of God who is active in the spiritual realm. That pleases Satan a great deal, I can assure you. But one thing we all know is this: God is love. Not only do we know that God is love, we also know that fear is the greatest enemy of love and the greatest hindrance to the mission of the Church. Fear is like a general anaesthetic to the Church. It just puts us into a coma-like state where we simply cannot function and the only thing that brings us out of that fear-induced, frozen state is God, Who is love. Perfect love casts our fear!
Of course there is cause for much concern. It would be irresponsible for us to not be concerned. But there is no place for fear. Unlike the last two great wars which were fought on specific fronts and were confined to those fronts, these extremists are using the same internet we use to spread the gospel, to recruit other extremists all around the world and so this battle will have multiple fronts across the world and most of them will not be visible until it’s too late. So what is God doing about that? When this evil is not contained to the Middle East, what is God’s strategy? Well I want to take you to the United States today – a western nation like ours with even deeper Christian roots but which now has a very large Muslim population and who now face the same potential threats to their freedoms as we do.
Many years ago, Islamic leaders sent a young man to that country to promote the cause of Islam, but he ended up doing the exact opposite, because God had different plans. I believe the man I am about to introduce you to will help answer the question, “What is God doing?” I believe he will give us an insight into how God plans to fight this battle which we now face. Please listen carefully to our guest today – his name is Kamal Saleem. (Follow the link below to view the video now)
So what is God doing about the spread of Islamic extremism? He is doing what He has always done – He is sending His true warriors into battle to bring His message of freedom and love and peace and life and as we will be reminded next week, He doesn’t just call a few of His people to be involved in this critically important mission, He calls us all. We all have a job to do. If you have the courage and the commitment to reconnect with us next week, then I believe God will begin to show us exactly what our role is in this global campaign of His which began over two thousand years ago when Jesus commissioned His first disciples to be salt in a world which has lost its flavour, light in a world gripped by darkness and a beacon of hope in a world which has lost its way.
So watch this space; expect God to speak to you; expect your life to change; expect your Church to change; expect the world to change around you. That all sounds rather over the top and dramatic, doesn’t it? Well, sadly that might be true. We live in an age when a simple reminder of why we are even here Sunday by Sunday; a simple reminder of God’s revealed purposes over many generations now; a few simple sentences about God’s desire to communicate directly to us and transform us and our environment, might sound ‘over the top’, if not unbelievable. Some might even say it’s outrageous. Well friends, God’s desire has always been to speak directly to you in this place.
God’s desire has always been to change your life every time you encounter Him.
God’s desire has always been to change this Church … every day since it was first formed.
God’s desire has always been to change the world and the only people He has to do that through is you and me and simple people of faith like us scattered across the globe.
So perhaps it only sounds ‘over the top’ because we lost sight a long time ago of why we are even here in this place today. Well friends, I have it on good authority that one of the things our God does best is restore sight to those who cannot see. But the real challenge to us today is to decide if we really want to see. Sometimes we have to be honest and admit that being blind to some things is better, because once our eyes are opened to the plan and purposes of God, we will never be the same again and we will not be able to go back without deliberately walking away from God’s revealed purposes for us. When God reveals something to you, it can never be ‘unrevealed’ and we then need to face the most important question for all believers today – the question we all should face every time we encounter God and His Word:
‘How then shall I live?’