Barnabas Fund reacts to the Islamic scholars’ “Common Word” letter

posted at 10:46 am on November 30, 2007 by Bryan

Earlier in the week, I castigated dozens of Christian leaders for their response to 138 Islamic scholars who wrote an open letter to Christian leaders worldwide. You can read the post to catch all the ins and outs, but for me the basic problem with the Christian leaders’ response is in the area of discernment. It looks to me like the Christian leaders, many of whom are very influential in mainline and evangelical churches and denominations, just didn’t do their homework on the Islamic scholars’ letter and therefore assumed nothing but good intentions were built into it. The fact is, as I showed in that post, the Islamic scholars quoted Koranic verse that condemned Christians as deserving Allah’s wrath, so the Common Word letter amounted to a call to embrace Islam. Furthermore, by apologizing to Muslims for events long in the past such as the Crusades and by asking for mercy from God using Islamic phrasing, the Christian leaders were, perhaps unwittingly, doing much more harm than good.

Well, just as the Christian church isn’t a monolithic entity (a fact entirely lost on the likes of Iran’s president, who thinks the Catholic pope is his ace in the hole against Methodist President Bush), there are Christian leaders and groups who get it when it comes to Islamic practice, the use of language and in particular that Common Word letter from the 138 Islamic scholars. One of those is the Barnabas Fund. On November 28th, they published their own reaction to the Common Word letter, and it bears no resemblance at all to the letter signed by the group that I criticized.

The Barnabas Fund’s letter is here. The Fund does what Rick Warren and the other Christian leaders should have done, first examining the backgrounds of the 138 Islamic scholars (many of whom have radical links and opinions) and then goes almost line by line in examining the Common Word letter’s contents. Here’s a sample.

On the surface the letter looks like a well intentioned and urgent plea for a better understanding between Muslims and Christians, so as to avert an apocalyptic war between the two largest religious blocs in the world.

If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace . . . the very survival of the world itself is at stake . . . So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us.

However, the letter goes on to lay the blame for all wars in which Muslims and Christians are involved on the actions of Christians.

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. [emphasis added]

This implies that the war against Islamist terrorism is a global war of Christianity against Islam, and that Christianity is the aggressor against Islam (which is the radical Islamist view). There is no sense of sorrow or remorse for the wrongs inflicted by Muslims on Christians historically, or indeed currently in many Muslim lands. There is no recognition that in many places things may be the opposite, with Muslims oppressing Christians and driving them from their homes (e.g. in Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan). There is no mention of the Christian communities in Muslim lands suffering other kinds of persecution and discrimination. There is no admission that Muslim actions could have played any part in the alienation between Muslims and Christians.

The liberal Muslim leaders who signed the letter seem to have agreed with the Islamist argument which accuses all Christians of a tendency to animosity, hatred and aggressiveness towards Muslims. So an apparently moderate appeal for reconciliation actually contains a subtext of warning and threat: “Do as we say, and you can have peace on our terms.” This in fact is the normal meaning of peace in Islam – peace for those who submit to Islamic rule (and war for those who do not).

Classical Islam teaches that the world is divided into two parts: Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) where political power is in the hands of Muslims, and Dar al-Harb (the House of War) which is the rest of the world. With this in mind, the “Open Letter and Call” is seen to be reminiscent of the traditional Islamic approach to non-Muslims outside the House of Islam. This approach consisted of a “call to Islam” (i.e. a call to convert to Islam) including the threat that if the non-Muslims do not convert they will be subject to a destructive military attack (jihad) aimed at subjugating Jews and Christians, and annihilating other non-Muslims. Hence the name “House of War” for non-Islamic territory. Only if the non-Muslims embrace Islam or submit to Islamic political power can they avert the attack. In the light of this tradition, the 2007 Muslim warning to non-Muslims about how to avoid war can be read in a very different way. Do some of the Muslim signatories see it as the traditional call and warning before an imminent attack on non-Muslims, an attack intended to win Islamic supremacy? The very word “call” in the title of the document drops a large hint in this direction, at least to Muslim readers.

For the Christian leaders who signed the apology letter, the above is how discernment is practiced.

When you have a few minutes and if the topic interests you, read the Barnabas Fund’s critique of the Common Word letter. It’s well done and very revealing.


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Warren et al. should have said, in the most Biblical way possible, to pound sand.

Frozen Tex on November 30, 2007 at 10:53 AM

Bryan – thanks for following up on this.

nailinmyeye on November 30, 2007 at 10:54 AM

Warren et al. should have said, in the most Biblical way possible, to pound sand.

And, lo, the Lord said onto thee, “Go poundeth sand!” And there was much rejoicing.

JasonG on November 30, 2007 at 11:01 AM

I wasn’t born to walk on water
I wasn’t born to sack and slaughter
But on my soul, I wasn’t born
To stoop and knuckle under
A man can learn to steal some thunder
A man can learn to work some wonder
And when the guantlet’s down,
It’s time to rise and climb the sky
And soon the moon will smoulder
And the winds will drive
Yes, a man grows older but his soul remains alive
All those tremulous stars still glitter
And I will survive!
Let my heart grow colder and as bitter as a falcon in the dive
There was a dream, a dying ember
There was a dream, I don’t remember
But I will resurrect that dream
Though rivers stream and hills grow steeper
For here in hell where life gets cheaper
Oh, here in hell the blood runs deeper
And when the final duel is near
I’ll lift my spear and fly
Piercing into the sky and higher
And the strong will thrive
Yes, the weak will cower while the fittest will survive
If we wait for the darkest hour
Till we spring alive
Then with claws of fire, we devour like a falcon in the dive
- Percy

MB4 on November 30, 2007 at 11:09 AM

JasonG on November 30, 2007 at 11:01 AM

Yes, like that.

Frozen Tex on November 30, 2007 at 11:15 AM

The liberal Muslim leaders who signed the letter seem to have agreed with the Islamist argument which accuses all Christians of a tendency to animosity, hatred and aggressiveness towards Muslims.

The liberal Nazi leaders who signed the letter seem to have agreed with the Nazi argument which accuses all Americans and British of a tendency to animosity, hatred and aggressiveness towards Nazis.

MB4 on November 30, 2007 at 11:18 AM

Those Christian leaders should have ordered up 138 teddy bears, dressed them in robes and turbans, and sent them to the “Islamic scholars”.

flipflop on November 30, 2007 at 11:24 AM

The first group of pastors should have also read Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”, too:

“The best lack all conviction
While the worst are full
of passionate intensity.”

And stop apologizing to those who have driven tens of millions to their graves and destroyed thousands of churches, synagogues and temples, from Fez to Jakarta, on their march toward Islamic imperialism’s Caliphate nightmare.

They might as well have said:

Jeez, we’re sorry, Mr. Stalin/Hilter/Mao, that you skinned a knuckle as your smashed our faces in.”

The Baranabas Fund got it right.

Kudos to their scholars, who at least know how to read.

profitsbeard on November 30, 2007 at 11:28 AM

Great post Bryan, to bad the likes of Rick Warren have never done a comparative study between Islam and Christianity. If they have and still signed that letter than all I can say is that I am reminded of something Jesus Christ said…

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

doriangrey on November 30, 2007 at 11:28 AM

Barnabas Fund (no extra “a” needed, although they deserve an A+).

profitsbeard on November 30, 2007 at 11:31 AM

Good post Bryan. Thanks for bringing this to our attention so that we can know that at least some Christian leaders aren’t completely clueless about the Islamic threat to their Faith.

ThackerAgency on November 30, 2007 at 11:43 AM

I love how the Islamic scholars seem to think that modern Christians are responsible for events that happened 1000 years ago, but they won’t accept responsibility for things that happened six years ago.

corbettw on November 30, 2007 at 11:54 AM

Who is The Barnabas Fund and how large are they?

bnelson44 on November 30, 2007 at 11:55 AM

I’m a Christian and resented the response to those so-called Islamic scholars.

My first impression of that letter when read in full was that it was a threat. I have yet to change my mind.

Shame on all these intellectually lazy leaders – they will be held to more account than those islamic scholars.

Mommynator on November 30, 2007 at 12:04 PM

And, lo, the Lord said onto thee, “Go poundeth sand!” And there was much rejoicing.

JasonG on November 30, 2007 at 11:01 AM

One’a my favorite verses!

Ex-tex on November 30, 2007 at 12:06 PM

The “leaders” that signed the letter are more interested in how they are perceived than actually being spiritual. Surprising in some of the ones who signed. Here in Ohio we have a move of inter-faith orgs. who align with Islam and the such to show some kind of unity to others. (Hey look all Christians are not intolerant and do try to understand others in an effort to get along, so there will be peace and love for all.) Yet they will attack a pastor because he supports repubs. and try to get the IRS involved. A close look will show that some actually are not Christians at all and some are so liberal its hard to distinguish them from secular. Glad a group took the time and looked at this letter before speaking, did a good job also. Thank you Bryan as always.

mjkazee on November 30, 2007 at 12:23 PM

As far as I am concerned they have two options;
Live in Peace or rest in pieces.

jdkchem on November 30, 2007 at 12:25 PM

And, lo, the Lord said onto thee, “Go poundeth sand!” And there was much rejoicing.

JasonG on November 30, 2007 at 11:01 AM
One’a my favorite verses!

Ex-tex on November 30, 2007 at 12:06 PM

I believe it’s from the Book of Armaments.

Frozen Tex on November 30, 2007 at 12:30 PM

One word response required.

Nuts.

dogsoldier on November 30, 2007 at 12:42 PM

The Barnabas letter is great. It’s good to see someone is doing some research before simply accepting these disingenuous Islamic overatures.

As for the other leaders who bought this crap, they are just intellectually lazy like the Mommynator said. It’s really not that hard to look things up such as the not-so-veiled insult and threat that is the Fatiha.

forest on November 30, 2007 at 12:49 PM

These “overtures” from muslims require only one answer…”Yes we will be muslims”

Any other answer to Islam is proof to Islam that we need destruction delivered to us by any means. It will then be considered “fighting in the way of Allah” and all participants are eligible martyrs for the sky brothel.

Just preliminary paperwork the mullahs do in advance of every murder spree.

Had the “Christian leaders” called the muslims spades, it would make no difference. Thats not the point of these missives from Islam. It’s dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s” in Allahs contract with his slaves.

BL@KBIRD on November 30, 2007 at 1:16 PM

Had the “Christian leaders” called the muslims spades

No reason to get racial here.

peacenprosperity on November 30, 2007 at 1:38 PM

And, lo, the Lord said onto thee, “Go poundeth sand!” And there was much rejoicing.

JasonG on November 30, 2007 at 11:01 AM

A little off. This is how Catholics run it:

“Thus said the LORD, who is God, revealed in the Truth of Christ Jesus, that those who hate you and persecute you because of me shall henceforth be condemned to poundeth sand in the land of Israel, for I the LORD your God shall stiffen your defenses and pave the way for your enemy’s destruction.”

OK, maybe a little overdone.

BKennedy on November 30, 2007 at 2:17 PM

MB4 on November 30, 2007 at 11:09 AM

btw. MB4… Where do you get all those quotes?

BKennedy on November 30, 2007 at 2:37 PM

Heh

should have said “call a spade a spade.”

BL@KBIRD on November 30, 2007 at 2:55 PM

I believe it’s from the Book of Armaments.

Frozen Tex on November 30, 2007 at 12:30 PM

Another favorite passage!

And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, “O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.” And the Lord did grin.

CurtZHP on November 30, 2007 at 6:30 PM

Thank you for this.

I’m pretty sure this:

“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.”

refers to a verse in the Koran (or one of the other Islamic texts) which provides justification for going to war against us.

I’ve read that some Muslims (even those in non-Muslim countries) use involvement in the Iraq war or Afghanistan, support of Israel, or agreement with George W. Bush, etc., as proof that we are committing the above “crimes” against their Muslim “brothers and sisters” and therefore deserve any acts of Islamic terrorism committed against us.

Josephine on November 30, 2007 at 8:04 PM

Bryan, I just want to say kudos to you, AP, and Michelle. You guys have rounded up a good team, and AP may be an atheist, but he’s not hostile toward Christianity, he has clarity regarding what we face with Islam. You provide the Christian knowledge. You guys are appreciated.

bikermailman on December 1, 2007 at 7:46 AM

I believe it’s from the Book of Armaments.

Frozen Tex on November 30, 2007 at 12:30 PM

Armaments 9:11

infidel4life on December 1, 2007 at 11:50 AM