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This article was published in the Jan. 2005 issue of EMQ. Copyright 2005 by Evangelical Missions Quarterly.

It is a
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Christian Response to Islam in America


By Warren Larson

John Esposito, probably the most influential Islamic scholar in the United States, almost sounds prophetic
in two of his many books, a decade apart. In The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (1992) he suggests
Islam is a threat to the West--particularly America--but not because Muslims are intrinsically violent.
Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam (2002) might have been entitled, “I told you so.” The clear
thesis of his latest book is that a war conducted militarily, rather than diplomatically and through social
change, will lead to increased anti-Americanism, greater global instability and much blood shed. He feels
it is primarily America’s foreign policy--not Islam that is behind the anger and agenda of militant Muslims.

The view that terrorism is not necessarily spawned by religion finds support from a study of 188 suicide
bombings (1980—2001), 75 of which were by Tamil Tigers, a Marxist-Leninist group in Sri Lanka. “Dying
to Kill Us” by Robert Pape was published in The New York Time, September 22, 2003. Nevertheless, there
is little in the teaching of Islam to prevent violence. An American convert to Islam, who became a gifted
debater of Christians before turning to Christ, put it this way: “Christianity teaches us to love our enemies.
With Islam it’s quite the opposite. You should be just, but you should hate the enemies of Islam. And if
they openly struggle against Islam, they should be eliminated” (Christianity Today, April 7, 1989).

So, Islamic terrorism can spring from a perception that Islam is under attack, and that perception is real and
spreading in the Islamic world today. Ayatollah Baqer al-Sader, Muslim Shi’ite: “The world as we know it
today is how others have shaped it so we have two choices: either to accept it with submission, which
means letting Islam die, or to destroy it, so that we can construct a world as Islam requires.” In general the
public is slowly beginning to understand that Islam does not always practice the tolerance it espouses in
America.

This article, however, will focus on how Islam threatens America spiritually and certainly this is connected
to peace in a physical sense, so it is where we need to start. Carl Ellis has been saying for at least a decade
that “Islam is the greatest threat to the church” (Christianity Today, April 3, 2000). Though not new, the
material below needs to be heard again. First, it demonstrates that the number of Muslims in America is
less than we thought. Second, it discusses some of the yet unsolved issues for why Islam holds such
appeal, particularly in African-American contexts. Third, it outlines a plan to face the challenge of Islam in
America.

HOW MANY MUSLIMS ARE THERE IN AMERICA?


In the World Christian Encyclopedia, David Barrett calculated in 1980 that are 1,883,000 Muslims in the
US represent 0.8 percent of the population, but that by the year 2000, 1.2 percent of Americans would be
Muslim. These figures include both immigrants and converts.

In 1988, ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) reported that there were 4.6 million Muslims and that
same year, in an April edition of Christianity Today, Steve Johnson, a former Muslim leader, concurred.
He went on to estimate that Islam in the US could be growing by 10 percent a year.

In the International Journal of Frontier Missions in 1994, Richard Bailey wrote a well-researched article
and outlined his reasons for believing that Islam was growing 6 percent a year, and he put the figure at 5
million in 1994. He suggests 6 percent annual growth and put the total figure at six million. Four years
later, CT reported that from 1989 to 1998 Islam in Europe had grown to 14 million or 100 percent and that
during that same time it had grown 25 percent in the United States, or 2.5 percent a year. Hence, it’s
obvious there are discrepancies.

The best estimates today appear to be that there are approximately six million Muslims, of whom 55
percent are immigrants and 40% are converts mostly from the Black community. Ellis stated in an
interview with CT, April 3, 2000, that there are 2.6 million African-American Muslims here, that one in 15
Blacks says, “I’m Muslim.”
This article was published in the Jan. 2005 issue of EMQ. Copyright 2005 by Evangelical Missions Quarterly. It is a
violation of US Copyright Law to reproduce this article, or any portion of it, in any form without the prior
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Yet some feel those figures are somewhat exaggerated. In The North American Resource Guide, Mohamed
Nimer, CAIR board chairman, admits that it difficult to estimate both immigrant and Black Muslims
because of policies about religion at the US census bureau. He says the 5 million figure is generous; it’s
more like 4.1 million, and that includes immigrants. By 2002 it may have reached 2.1 to 3.6 million.

This is certainly higher than CAIR (Council of American-Islamic Relations) has been stating all along. The
problem is that Nimer seems to base his estimates only high school students who take the SAT test but does
not take into consideration the great number of converts in prison and converts won in other places.
Presumably because famous people like Malcolm X converted in prison, this has appealed to A. A.

But they aren’t agreed. In responding to an article “Number of Muslims in the U.S. below estimates” in
The Washington Times, recently that puts the figure of Muslims at 1.6 million, rather than the 7 million
reported by Islamic groups, Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR insists the 7 million figure is correct because he says
the lower number only accounts for mosque attendance and many American Muslims don’t go to the
mosque.

When it comes to conversion, there is even more discrepancy. In Black Pilgrimage to Islam, Robert
Dannin draws on 15 years research and interview of hundreds of converts, some of the testimonies he
includes in his book. A startling point is sort of a taboo subject that since the end of the civil rights era, un-
churched A. A. “have been moving rapidly toward Islam.” Amazingly, he says this has taken place since
the end of the Civil Rights movement. Drawing on the Barna Research Group, he talks a bout 19 million
A. A. who identify themselves as born-again Christians, as compared to an estimated 1.5 million A.A.
Muslims—so not so much a demographic threat as some have thought. Most estimates put the conversion
rate to Islam in this country in the range of 25,000 each year, which would mean about 68 converts daily.

Jane Smith -30,000 converts yearly and a total of 300,000 prisoners are converts to Islam (p. 165). She
says there could be anywhere from 20,000-50,000 Whites, some of whom are Anglo women who have
married Muslim men (p. 65). Apparently, several thousand Anglo women each year marry Muslim men.
In her book, Daughters of Another Path: Experiences of American Women Choosing Islam, author Carol
Anway interviews over 50 American-born women converted to Islam. One report says that most converts
to Islam are women in the UK, according The Times, September, 2003: “Why British Women Are Turning
to Islam.”

Added to this, you have Hispanic American Muslims and an article, “Islam Luring More Latinos,” in the
Washington Post, January 29, 2001, suggested there are 25,000 of them. Though Smith does not give
estimates of Hispanic American converts, she says that Islam is more and more reaching into Latino
communities and some are turning to Sufism.

Again, this is far less than some of the figures thrown around. In the spring issue of the Occasional
Bulletin, quote from Tom Clegg and Warren Bird, Lost in America: How You and Your Church Can Impact
the Word Next Door,” p. 16: “a typical day in the US … 411 Americans convert to the Muslim faith, 872
will become Mormons, and 8 churches will close their doors for the last time.” For Muslims, this would
mean a total of about 150,000 converts each year, which seems to be exaggerated and far more than 68 per
day!

Islam is rapidly making inroads in America but it’s impossible to know for sure how many Muslims there
are. It may not matter whether there are 4 million or 8 million and whether Islam is growing 3 percent or 6
percent a year. The point is Christians need to understand why Islam has such appeal in the United States.

WHY ARE AMERICANS CONVERTING TO ISLAM?


In one sense, TIME’s September article, “Should Christians Convert Muslims?” was a fair analysis of
evangelical efforts to convert Muslims, yet it failed to mention Muslim attempts to convert Christians in all
over the world. For example, in the United States, Islam happily announces that about 2 million Blacks
have converted to Islam, but in countries like Saudi Arabia it is against the law to convert even one Muslim
This article was published in the Jan. 2005 issue of EMQ. Copyright 2005 by Evangelical Missions Quarterly. It is a
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to Christ. In Pakistan, newspapers print names of Christians who convert to Islam, but publishing that a
Muslim has converted to Christianity is not tolerated.

But Muslim converts prefer to say “reversion” for at least two reasons. First, it suggests Islam is as old as
Adam, the first Muslim, even though Islam officially began with the hijra (migration from Meccan to
Medina) in AD 622. In this way, Muslims claim legitimacy and superiority over Judaism and Christianity
since Islam came last. Second, Muslims say everyone is born in fitrah (natural state of innocence) and that
Islam is the “natural” religion. So people are Christians or Jews only because of parental teaching.

At any rate, reasons for converting/reverting to Islam may be summed up as follows:

1. Decadence of western society.


Christianity Today, October 2, 2003, tells of a medical doctor who had spent two months in Benin battling
disease. He was shocked on re-entry to American to discover anew that the only thing that seems to matter
is sexual intercourse is the only thing of importance, the only thing that satisfies and the only thing worth
living for. Immorality, breakdown of family values, drugs and alcohol have taken a heavy toll in American
society.

And it is deliverance from these things that is causing Blacks to convert to Islam. They have despaired of
their image of the black male behind bars and so, in an attempt to change things, blacks are converting to
Islam. They are looking for self respect, discipline, family values and moral standards. For various reasons
they haven’t found this in Christianity. Islam is apparently giving personal empowerment, a feeling of new
identity, that somehow it’s the natural heritage of African-Americans. So, by living according to Islam,
they are trying to change the stereotype of the young Black male on drugs, out of work and in jail. It’s now
a complete new way of life. A path, not only to God, but of self-respect and dignity.

Moreover, it is also true that since rape is now so common in our prison system, it is quite possible that
Black males choose Islam simply for their own protection because Muslims stick together and protect one
another. Christianity Today, October, 2003 reports that scholars have estimated that “as many as 400,000
inmates, the vast majority of them men, have been sexually assaulted at least once.” One inmate was raped
20-30 times and now has the AIDS virus.

This also seems to be true of black women. For them, it seems to mean gaining new power—in spite of the
fact that polygamy is allowed in Islam (Qur’an 4:3). Or, that the Qur’an gives permission to beat your
wife, and efforts in the west by Muslims to somehow explain that away as nothing more than a few light
taps (Qur’an 4:34). In Islam, there is an emphasis on modesty and chastity; there is a clarity of economic
rights in contrast to the abuse they have experienced in American society. They have been abandoned to
fend for themselves and provide for their children with no husband around because men have abandoned
their responsibilities amidst excessive freedoms.

They see a moral leadership in Muslim society as opposed to a laxity and freedom to do anything you want
to and get away with it. In other words, there is a deepening spiritual crisis in the west and Islam has
stepped in to fill it because people long to make sense of things in our post-modernism. In this sense, they
are saying that Islam is superior because it calls for purity and social reform.

It seems that western society is in the last stages of decomposition. There is a hunger for the authentic, the
genuine, the wholesome--not only African-Americans, but more and more Latinos and Whites will do the
same. West has suppressed heritage and evangelicals are evil if they attempt to convert Muslims. Many
reluctant to say that freedom, democracy, human rights, religious liberty is somehow connected to
Christianity. And that since Christianity has been marginalized Muslims feel they can sweep the west and
fill the vacuum.

2. Failure by the church


The failure to adequately address issues of racism, sexual morality and community continues to be a
hindrance. Often African-Americans who have converted say, “I was a born-again Baptist, but was
This article was published in the Jan. 2005 issue of EMQ. Copyright 2005 by Evangelical Missions Quarterly. It is a
violation of US Copyright Law to reproduce this article, or any portion of it, in any form without the prior
written permission of Evangelical Missions Quarterly. This includes saving it in an electronic format.

bothered by white pictures of Jesus and Mary. In Islam, there are no pictures, not even of the Prophet
Muhammad.” The issue of racism seems to haunt Blacks who are often disconnected and somehow
disenfranchised. Many have stories of their own experiences, or the experiences of family members, who
were discriminated against—by White Christians.

They see the position of vice-regent as somehow giving purpose and distinction and purpose. There is a
sense of personal empowerment that even the Civil Rights movement did not seem to accomplish because
it would seem that the real movement of Blacks to Islam picked up speed after the end of the Civil Rights
movement Danin claims this is a taboo subject but it’s true. This would seem to be why famous people like
Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Abdul Jabar and Rap Brown who converted in 1971 and is now on trial for
his life, converted—a way of empowerment.

It is unfortunate, as Bruce Fields in Introducing Black Theology: Three Crucial Questions for the
Evangelical Church, that “because the issue of racism still exists in our society, it still exists in the church”
(p. 53). He goes on to say that “if the world does not see true unity among those who claim allegiance to
Jesus Christ, the church should not be surprised when the world is unimpressed with our proclamation that
the Father has sent the Son (p. 64). A similar theme runs through, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion
and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith.

Moral laxity is one of the reasons British women give in the UK for converting to Islam. They sense a
laxity in the Church of England and are suspicious of Anglicans arguing over homosexuality. “Muslims,”
says, Huda Khattab, a 28-year old author of the Muslim Woman’s Handbook, says “Christianity changes,
like some have said Pre-marital sex is okay if its with the person you’re going to marry. It seems so wishy-
washy. Islam was constant about sex, about praying five times a day … “ Hence, it’s as if people opt for
Islam out of a post-Christian era.

Islam then becomes the only alternative to the intrinsic immorality and corruption, symptoms of an
unhealthy society. Islam provides answer to all of these problems. Islam comes in with a well-ordered
prayer ritual, specific guidelines on relationships, clear male leadership and family value—even giving a
new name. This is personal transformation. They say that with its separation of church and state,
Christianity is powerless to bring needed social change. Islam can establish laws, control moral behavior
and bring political and educational change. A local imam, whom I had invited to speak in one of my
classes, said: “Jesus paid it all is not what American Blacks need to hear!”

Now, converts from the Latino community are saying the same thing. In “Islam is Luring More Latinos, “
The Washington Post, 9-18-03, a young woman says that whey younger she was a devout Catholic, but that
as she got older finally found a faith where “I felt a strong sense of belonging.” Another says she
experienced a “sense of sisterhood … with others who wore hijab.” Many find the Catholic church large
and impersonal and defection of Hispanics is 100,000 a year; others say it could be 600,000 a year.

Moreover, this sense of bewilderment in the fog of moral degradation, In a brand new book, Islam Under
Seige, 2003, Akbar Ahmed says that many Muslims feel they are not only under siege politically and
militarily, but culturally as well. In this cloud when no one seems to have the answers, the message that
only Islam has an answer has a strong appeal. And militants are taking advantage of it. For though war is
evil (Qur’an 2:217), the destruction of Islam is a worse evil. Militant Muslims have gone on the defensive.
And, since Islam does not teach forgiveness of your enemies but rather to hate them, some are turning to
violent measures.

3. Failure to understand the political nature of Islam


Americans have heard that Islam is peaceful through the much-quoted verse “Let there be no compulsion in
religion” (Qur’an, 2:256); and, “… nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who
say, ‘We are Christians’” (Qur’an, 5:82). What they know little about are verses like “Fighting is
prescribed upon you …“(Qur’an, 2:216). “... Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them … “(Qur’an,
9:5). And, “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been
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forbidden by Allah and his Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, (even if they are) of the People
of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an, 9:29).

As in the above verses, Muslim theologians have appealed to their “Doctrine of Abrogation.” Thus, in this
case, the “Sword Verse” (Qur’an, 9:5) has abrogated other peaceful verses because it is chronologically
later. In Milestones, ideologue of fundamentalist Islam in Egypt, Syed Qutb argues strongly for jihad from
select Qur’anic verses (Qur’an 4:74-76; 8:38-40; 9:29-32). These passages alone, he states, suffice to
justify the universal and permanent dimensions of Jihad (pp. 53-76). See The Encyclopedia of Islam (2nd
edition) for a detailed explanation of this doctrine.

Hence, does Islam mean peace? Muslims want us to believe that Islam is a peaceful religion, claiming that
the Arabic word “Islam” means “peace.” The word for peace in Arabic is “Salaam,” not “Islam.” The
word “Islam” is a related word, but means “to surrender, or to make peace by laying down one’s arms in
submission” (military use), or “slave submission to one’s master—Allah (religious use). To claim that
“Islam” means “peace” is just one more attempt to mislead the public. The Islamic “peace” can only come
when all people submit to the rule of God and obey his Apostle.

Moreover, there are disturbing references in the Traditions about how the Jews will be finally exterminated:
“The Last Hour would not come til the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims will kill them until
the Jews hide themselves, and the stones and trees would speak up saying … ‘There is a Jew hiding behind
me, come and kill him’” (al-Muslim , Book 40, No. 6985). Of course this is not the only motivation for
suicide bombings by Palestinians, but Islamic teachings do not encourage Muslims, already under sever
pressure and stress, to seek peace and pursue it.

The Islamic Concept of Jihad is Muslim leaders are quick to explain that Jihad does not mean “Holy War,”
but rather to strive in the cause of Allah by study and personal devotion. This is true if only the literal
meaning of the Arabic word is considered. Muhammad’s exhortation to Jihad however is almost always in
the context of fighting infidels (pagans), Jews and Christians. It is this meaning that Jihad is given in the
commentaries and classical writings of Islam. Jews, Christians and munaffiqin (hypocrites), who do not
convert are allowed to live, but they must pay jizya, a protection tax levied on “People of the Book.”

Islamic sources frequently refer to fighting and holy war. In fact, nearly one-third of Volume 4, of the
nine-volume, canonized collection of Bukhari’s Hadith, deals with Jihad. The Qur’an says Jihad receives
the highest reward and is the surest way to paradise if the “fighter” dies: “Think not of those who are slain
in Allah’s way as dead … they live … in the presence of their Lord” (Qur’an, 3:169). “… To him who
fighteth in the cause of Allah … soon shall we [God] give him a reward” (Qur’an, 4:74). Ibn Ishaq, the
oldest biographer on the Arabian Prophet, says “… [when] the Arabs knew that they could not fight the
apostle … they entered into God’s religion ‘in batches’ as God said, coming to him from all directions” (p.
628).

As noted, Muslims particularly in the West, say that Islam proclaims freedom of religion. They quote
2:256 in the Qur’an: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” But does this exhaust Islam’s commentary
on the subject? No doubt Jews and Christians can remain in the religion they were born into, but a Muslim
is not free to abandon Islam and embrace another religion.

One of Islam’s most respected theologians and prolific writers in the last century, Pakistani Abu’l Ala
Maududi, insists that both Qur’an and Hadith demand an apostate’s execution. He quotes the Qur’an (9:11-
12) and the canonized Hadith: “Any person, i.e. Muslim, who has changed his religion, kill him” (Al-
Bukhari, Vol. 9, p. 45). The Islamic scholar, Majid Khadduri, agrees that Qur’anic commentaries say a
believer who turns back from his religion must be killed if he persists in disbelief (p. 150).

Whether Americans know it or not, Islam is not a religion in the same way religion is understood in the
West. Islam is much more than a religion. A leading expert on the history of Arabs and Islam was the late
Lebanese-American scholar, Philip Hitti, who taught at Princeton University for nearly fifty years. One of
his books has three parts: Islam as Religion, Islam as State, and Islam as Culture. Muslims are tied together
This article was published in the Jan. 2005 issue of EMQ. Copyright 2005 by Evangelical Missions Quarterly. It is a
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as a homogenous unit regardless of geographic or racial diversity. This makes Islam a socio-cultural and
relgio-economic political system.

Muhammad taught his followers that all religions before him, including Judaism and Christianity, were
good in their time, but that Islam is the final and universal religion. Where Islamic law has been instituted,
no other religion is tolerated, unless it agrees to submit to Islamic rule. Today nearly fifty nations have a
majority population of Muslims, and Muslim leaders have spoken of their goal to spread Islam in the West
until Islam becomes a dominant, global power.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

1. We need a good dose of biblical optimism

Just to look at how God orchestrates mission from Paul’s great prayer in the book of Ephesians is
encouraging. In Missions in the Third Millenia: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, Stan Guthrie does
admit that it’s slow going among Muslims, primarily because only two percent of the missionaries work
with Muslims and that we only have one convert a year per evangelical agencies in the Horn of Africa (p.
17). And that nine of ten worst offending countries of religious persecution are Islamic states (182)). But
he says that in Indonesia, the church may have grown to 20 million—far beyond an official estimate of 13-
15 million (p. xviii). And, the Jesus film has been seen by nearly 3 billion people in 57 languages. The
truth is that the Jesus film has been about the most effective tool in Muslim evangelism.

Similarly, in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity Philip Jenkins is right to wonder if
Islam and Christianity can peacefully co-exist (168, 179), or that the major threat of intolerance today in on
the Islam side (179), that the trend of Islamic revival and violence initiated by Muslims will probably not
change (170-171). In fact, he says, Muslim-Christian conflict seems to be on the horizon (188) And,
though he does not seem to consider the dangers of nominal Christianity in much of the world, his work is
nevertheless encouraging because it provides solid research shows from the secular world that the real
growth of the church is in the south--Africa, Asia and Latin America. “Christianity has shifted south-
ward,” says Andrew Wall, University of Edinburgh, Scotland (Newsweek, April 16, 2001).

And that in spite of the growth of Muslims through immigration in the US, probably a bout 4 million—
much less than the 8 million claimed (105) he says it will be exceeded by a larger influx of Christians from
Africa, Asia and above all Latin America (105). It is encouraging to look outside the American scene and
see the momentous global growth of Christianity.

Already we are seeing a greater emphasis to win Muslims in America. At the third (October 9-12, 2003)
COMMA (Consultation of Mission to Muslims in America) meetings about to take place at the Billy
Graham Center. Workers gather from all across Canada and the United States to share their vision and
strategies for ministry to Muslims in North America. This, too, is encouraging because it shows that
Christians are becoming more aware of Muslims around them.

In fact we should anticipate more Muslim receptivity in the days ahead, including Muslims in America.
Christians have been praying for centuries that Muslims would respond but often there has been little
lasting fruit. We have every reason to believe that, according to Ephesians 1, God has chosen many
Muslims to share in the blessings of Christ and that his delight is to make this happen; it is in line with his
purposes, that it might be to “praise of his glory.” In these very troubling days, research on Islamic
fundamentalism and Christian conversion indicates that when Muslims see the intolerance and the
harshness of radical Islam, they may reject Islam and embrace the One who said, “Come unto me all ye that
labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

2. We need a focused approach on theological and evangelical levels


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There is much emphasis in the Bible on knowledge but it is knowledge in the sense of knowing and doing
what is right. Muslims are actively engaged in taking their message to the ends of the earth but Americans
are not intellectually prepared for Muslim missionaries and often don’t care about them.

For example, the Tablighi Jama’at (Organization for the propagation of Islam) congregates every year in
Pakistan. However, when groups like the Tablighi Jama’at engage in da’wah (mission), they are only doing
what they’re called to do. “Call men to the path of your Lord” (Qur’an 16:125) and “Witness to the
nations” (Qur’an 2:143) are akin to the “Great Commission.” Traditionally, the group has been apolitical,
but recent articles in The New York Times reveals that the group is under FBI scrutiny for possible links to
Al-Qaeda.

Moreover, the Muslim World League spends vast amounts of money in their missionary efforts—building
mosques, sending missionaries, printing literature. Several years ago, it was reported that the world’s
largest printing press in Mecca prints out 28 million Qur’ans each year for distribution. Perhaps Muslims
have had their most success in the prisons where Malcolm X himself became a convert. And, Islam has
been successful in getting into certain schools. The leader of Arab World and Islamic Resources and
School Services in Berkeley, California, is quoted in Aramco World (January/February, 2002) as saying:
“A decade ago the average 7th to 12th grade social studies class spent three to four days on Islam and the
Middle East. Now it may spend up to 304 weeks or more.” These extensive workshops are “ … fully
funded by grants, donations, and corporations, among them Saudi Aramco.”

So Christians know how to answer Islam. For example it seems that often Blacks opt for Islam—just
because it’s not Christian, but one wonders if many of them know what they’re getting into. This
ignorance of Islam makes dialog unprofitable because not long ago, I visited an evangelical, African-
American church and saw the famous mural of a group of famous African-Americans sitting at the table
with Jesus in their midst. The thing that surprised me is that these modern-day “disciples” of Jesus
included a couple of well-known Muslims, including Malcolm X. It was almost like Black Christians
sometimes fail to see the difference and nor do they have a clear picture of the uniqueness and finality of
Jesus Christ.

For that matter, few Christians in America are familiar with what Islam really teaches. They need to
understand something about the debates going on at the time of Muhammad and that Muslims have been
led to believe that Christians are tri-theists as the Qur’an has led them to believe “Say not three (Qur’an
4:171). They do not understand that Muslims say Jesus is not God and that he did not die on the cross
(Qur’an 4:155). So Christians need to explain to Muslims that we do not think of Jesus as son of God in
the literal tense as Muslims have accused us of and in fact has a Qur’anic basis. So we need to tell Muslims
Islam is fighting another trinity—a false trinity consisting of God, Mary and Jesus (Qur’an 5:171) that we
do not believe in. We need to tell them that Jesus alone is sinless, as stated in both the Bible and the
Qur’an ( ) whereas Muhammad is not as the Qur’an testifies (Qur’an ). And that he
did miracles according the Qur’an.

And, how many of those who convert to Islam yearly in America understand that not even one of the 99
names of Allah in Islam say that he is not able but willing to save sinful humanity? In Islam God is willing
that some should perish for the Traditions say, “Some to heaven, some to hell, and I care not.” It would
seem that God has the power to save in Islam but not the will. The Bible teaches “God is not willing that
any should perish” (II Peter 2:15). How many would-be converts know that in Islam God loves the
righteous (Qur’an 3:76) but not the sinful (Qur’an 4:107) and those who love him (Qur’an 3:31).

In contrast, the Bible says God loved us “when we were still powerless“ (Romans 5:6), “while we were still
sinners” (Romans 5:8) and “when were God’s enemies” (Romans 5:10). During his talk at a recent
meeting for better understanding in Columbia, Muslim speaker stated that God draws near when you do
more than the prayer five times a day. Hence, on such a treadmill, Muslims can never really do enough to
please God.
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Another thing is that somehow Islam has spread the idea that for most Blacks Islam is the root of their
ancestors. Danin says it’s only 15 percent of slaves shipped to the North Americas came from Islamic
regions. Or, that in America that Christianity alone sanctioned slavery whereas Islam has always been
against. The truth is that though Christians in the United States somehow found a theological basis for
slavery, it was in fact the influence of evangelical Christianity that was instrumental in bringing about the
end of slavery. Americans need to know the history of Islam and the fact that Muhammad kept slaves and
for this reason some Muslim countries were the last to abolish slavery. People like John Wesley and
William Wilberforce fought against it with all their power.

3. We need to proclaim Jesus as the Prince of Peace


It is helpful to note that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all believe in the God of Abraham and that peace is
one of God’s characteristics, and that peace will only come through the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. Note
that in the Qur’an it is Jesus Christ who is the Messiah—not Muhammad (Qur’an 3:45).

He will exercise his awesome power by restraining evil and judging fairly: “He will judge between the
nations … they will beat their swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4) and “he will rule them with iron scepter
(Psalm 2:9). Or, as Micah describes the Messiah’s global reign, saying “He will stand … for then his
greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace (Micah 5:2, 4-5).

God is the one who can do this so rather than feeling that we must always defend Israel’s policy in the
Middle East, we need rather to pray for the “peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). I have been encouraged to
reflect on “God’s Road Map for Peace” in the Middle East as given to us in prophetic utterance and
culminating in the just reign of the Messiah at which time he will judge all nations—including the Jews for
injustice of the Palestinian aliens in their midst. In fact, the very last book of the OT says he “will come”
and “he will be like a “refiner’s fire” and put the Jews on trial their many sins, for example, that the State of
Israel has legalized abortion and homosexuality, but it includes depriving the aliens (Malachi 3).

But he will also be “very angry with those nations” who hate the Jews with a terrible and unreasonable
hatred (Zechariah 1:15). He will “gather all the nations” (Zechariah 14:2) and he will “fight against those
nations” (Zechariah 14:3). His judgment will be against the entire world. America is the world’s number
one advertiser of a life-style allowing adultery, homosexuality, pornography, and abortion. And far too
many professing Christians participate in these sins. As the church of Christ we need to repent and cry out
for God’s mercy.

However, the encouraging thing is that when all else fails people in Jerusalem will finally recognize that
they were guilty of crucifying their Messiah and they will finally grieve and repent for their sin (Zechariah
12:10). They had ignorantly and cruelly previously rejected him when he had wept over Jerusalem and
said “If only … you had known … what would bring you peace” (Luke 19:41). But according to Jesus’
own words, repentance will not just take place among the Jews, for he said that “all the nations of the earth
will mourn” (Matthew 24:30). This is echoed in the very last book of the Bible that the grieving and
repentance will take place by the Jews as “those who pierced him” but it says that “all the peoples of the
earth will mourn because of him” (Revelation 1:7). I take that to include the Muslims who have some
understanding of Jesus—great prophet and Messiah.

We need to go on to say that Jesus not only will be the bridge between people of all race and religion but he
is even the bridge between humankind and God. This is in fact the only way Muslims, Christians and Jews
can have peace among themselves. When Jesus forgave sin (Mark 2:10; Luke 7:48) as only God can do
(Isaiah 43:45; Mark 2:7; Qur’an 3:135) he also said, “Go in peace” (Luke 7:48-50). It is no coincidence
that at birth the Messiah was called “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew
1:18). The Bible says, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). It says,
“He [Christ] is our peace … destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility … thus making peace …
came and preached peace … “ (Ephesians 2:14-18).
This article was published in the Jan. 2005 issue of EMQ. Copyright 2005 by Evangelical Missions Quarterly. It is a
violation of US Copyright Law to reproduce this article, or any portion of it, in any form without the prior
written permission of Evangelical Missions Quarterly. This includes saving it in an electronic format.

We do not need to defame Islam and demean the Prophet of Islam as some evangelical leaders have done
post-September 11 and Muslims have reacted angrily. We need not create more cultural and social stumb
ling blocks than already exist before stumbling over the cross. To do so certainly goes against the biblical
injunction to “If it is possible … live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18) because this only stirs up
hatred, fosters more mistrust and suspicion, and hurts Muslim sentiments. This is what Christine Malouhi
meant when she gave her book about Muslim ministry, Waging Peace on Islam or what Fouad Accad was
attempting to do when he wrote the book, Building Bridges: Christianity and Islam.

And we can be people of peace even by our greeting to Muslims. Remember that when Jesus commanded
us to love our enemies and pray for them who persecute us, he went to say that our greeting could be one of
peace in the sense of blessing Muslims. Remember the greeting Jesus had in mind was “Shalom “
very similar to the Muslim greeting in Arabic of “Salaam Aleikum” (Peace to you). This is only a small
thing but it is faithfulness in that which is least.

In conclusion, we might end where we started that some Muslims have turned to hatred and violence today
because they perceive that Islam is under attack. The Qur’an says that sin is evil but the extinction of Islam
is a greater evil: “they ask thee concerning fighting … ‘Fighting therein is a grave offence; But grave is it
… To prevent access to the path of Allah …” (Qur’an 2:217).

The question is, how shall we respond? Since Islam does not teach to love enemies, but to hate them,
Muslims are tempted to fight America. As Pascal put it: “Muhammad shows the way of human success;
Jesus of human defeat. Muhammad of religious certitude and total uniformity—result is religious
imperialism. So the best way we as Christians can respond is to look to the cross as the bridge to
reconciliation. It is there that “righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:11). Most Muslims are
true seekers after God as indicated by their prayer several times a day that God would lead them in a
straight path (Qur’an 1:6). So now is the time; it is the day of salvation for Muslims and so far in this
country we have the freedom to witness to Muslims and there is a window of opportunity to reach them.
We need a dose of evangelical activism and for this we need equipment and we need courage.

References

Ahmed, Akbar S., Islam Under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World. Cambridge: Blackwell
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States and Canada. New York: Routledge, 2002.
This article was published in the Jan. 2005 issue of EMQ. Copyright 2005 by Evangelical Missions Quarterly. It is a
violation of US Copyright Law to reproduce this article, or any portion of it, in any form without the prior
written permission of Evangelical Missions Quarterly. This includes saving it in an electronic format.

Qutb, Syed, Milestones, Cedar Rapids, IA: Unity Publishing Company, 1964.
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Warren Larson is the Director of the Zwemer Center and Associate Professor of Muslim Studies at
Columbia International University. He served as a missionary in Pakistan for 23 year and has written
extensively on Islam, including: Islamic Ideology and Fundamentalism in Pakistan: Climate for
Conversion to Christianity? He and his wife live in Columbia, South Carolina.