- Publisher: Christian Herald
- Editor: Fazal Karim Jr.
- Published: September 1, 2016
New York Times bestselling author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi is a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). Qureshi’s latest book (released March 8, 2016) Answering Jihad was written to address all the personal questions he’s been asked and sent by readers about Islam. Qureshi was in Toronto recently and answered a few questions about his new book.
In the preface to your book, you state that Answering Jihad was written as a response to the November 2015 terrorist attack on Paris and the reality of more than 4 million refugees fleeing Syria – many of them Muslims. What’s been the response to the book so far?
On Amazon people have written reviews thanking me for the book. At the same time, my speaking event at the University of Toronto [in March] was cancelled because they were afraid the topic would stir up security issues. We had to move across the street to a church.
I took a very careful approach to the book. I wonder if they even opened the first page. The book is one which actively counters islamophobia and counters fear and tells people to love Muslims. When they cancelled the event, they were saying that the topic was such that it would increase islamophobia and increase anti-Muslim sentiment. It’s a touchy time… Not terribly surprised but unfortunate.
Growing up in rural Canada, I never heard about radicalized Muslims and in the book you explore why this is a relatively recent reality. Christians in the West are still wrestling with how to respond. The answer you give is love (citing Matthew 22:37-38). Can you explain that?
Why do we hear about this now and not when we were growing up? The texts of Islam have always promoted violence and always taught Muslims to subjugate others. They’ve been understood that way for hundreds of years until the fall of the Muslim powers around the world culminating with the fall of the Ottoman Empire. In the 20thCentury, Muslims dialoging with the West starting using the slogan Islam is a religion of peace to reinvent the image of Islam. We were in an era of Islamic polemics and apologetics to establish the peace of Islam.
In the past 15 years or so the accessibility to the texts, the Quran and the life of Mohammed, has become more widespread. People can go online and read the Quran and the traditions of Mohammed’s life in whatever language they want. They see these violent commands themselves. ISIS is using this. Other radical groups are using this saying this is what your religion has always said. [The extremists are saying] Muslims have lost power around the world because we’re not following what the Quran says. That’s the diagnosis…
Our sole response should not be just love, we should also think of governmental matters, policy matters, but through the lens of love. That means that love should be the lens through which we come up with the solutions instead of fear. Which is what I’m sensing – a lot of fear. People are trying to preserve their lives and that’s not a Christian lens on this. That’s why I’m advocating changing lenses before coming up with solutions.
You compare modern radical Islam with the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century — a rejection of tradition and an emphasis on the authority of original texts. How do Muslims respond to this comparison?
Muslims come from a variety of stripes and so in the West where they tend to be more peaceful , they don’t agree. They tend to think Mohammed was a peaceful man — that jihad was all defensive, but they think that because they haven’t studied the texts themselves. Referring to my own story, I fervently believed Islam was peaceful. When I looked at the texts I realized there was no way I could conclude that Islam wasn’t violent. Up to that point I would have vehemently disagreed.
In the Middle East, we’re seeing people far more devoted to sharia and the punishment – the hudud laws (cutting off of hands and crucifying) and so they would be much more willing to be on board with the idea of an Islamic reformation. I cite PEW studies – a large number of Muslims would agree but not the majority.
A Syrian refugee, a Christian from Damascus, recently described jihadists to me as “not human”, having no soul or compassion. Perhaps there was nuance lost in translation, but some would argue that fear is a reasonable response.
When we read about people who commit terrible atrocities, generally speaking, something has happened within them, or within our perspective of them, that is very dehumanizing. Either they have dehumanized us or we have dehumanized them as we perceive them…
That’s part of the reason why I’m trying to explain why the radical Muslims are doing what they’re doing. Instead of relegating them to this dehumanizing sphere, let’s understand what they’re doing and respond to them as the people they are before they’re radicalized.
…One of the things that offends me the most about the Christian response is fear. I think this is entirely an unchristian response. The entire point of Christ winning our salvation for us was to live without fear which is why 2 Timothy says you have not been given a spirit of fear. Jesus never advocates responding in fear. The whole Christian faith has been given a bad name by those who react fearfully and hatefully and that reflects then on Christ. We’ve taken Christ’s name for ourselves and we reflect to the world who Christ is. If we respond in hate or fear or anxiety that gives an incorrect message.
Canada has historically differed from the United States in how immigrants and refugees are welcomed – the melting pot vs the mosaic, yet as you point out Canadian along with American and British youth have been radicalized. How can we help? What is the better way forward?
One thing I’ve always appreciated about Canada is just how welcoming everyone is. Seeing Justin Trudeau receiving refugees with open arms physically not just metaphorically was heartwarming. The vast majority of refugees coming to the West are peaceful people looking for a better life.
…Receive those who come with open arms. Love them and share with them what makes Canada – Canada. That might be more of an American idea, but I still think it’s valuable. What makes your nation great? As people are coming to the West they often don’t know about basic traditions like Canada Day and in the midst of that develop friendships with the refugees and love them for their own sake and for the sake of the gospel. Mark 12:31-32 doesn’t say do one or the other, it says do both. [Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself.]
I think this will stop the dehumanization in the eyes of someone who is being radicalized. He is seeing westerners and dehumanizing them. Reach out to them before that point. It’s a proactive way to address radicalization in the West.