THE UNFORGETTABLE SEPTEMBER 11TH
Ten years ago this month, whatever innocence and isolation
remained in America crumbled with New York City's Twin Towers.
Compared to the decade since, our pre-9/11 world seems like a
After the Berlin Wall fell (1989) and the USSR imploded, the
world felt strangely safe for democracy again. With the Cold War
over and Saddam Hussein's seizure of Kuwait reversed by the first
Gulf War, the US was touted as the lone world superpower. Our
State Department calmed, our stock market bulled ahead. In the
rearview mirror, 1991 through 2000 look like an economic and
foreign affairs golden era for Americans.
Then came the horror of September I1th, 2001.
Two days of infamy
Not quite sixty years after the first day to live in infamy,
Pearl Harbor, the second such day descended on us from the skies.
Not from Japanese bombers this time but from our own domestic
airliners, hijacked by Middle East terrorists. Not on a remote
Pacific isle now, but on the largest commercial and military hubs
of our nation's most important cities, the fire fell.
In 1941 we lost about three thousand sailors, several warships,
and dozens of smaller military aircraft. In 2001 we lost two
World Trade Center skyscrapers, much of the mammoth Pentagon,
three full-size airliners, and around three thousand citizens.
In 1941 the enemy's identity was clearly emblazoned on the
many warplanes that flew low across the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
This time, the enemy was much more difficult to identify, even if
the hijackers were not.
Less than forty-eight hours after that dreadful day, US
intelligence had released their names, their nations of origin
(mostly Saudi Arabian), and the common loyalty that drove their
dastardly deed - AI Qaeda. This, we soon learned, was a group
composed of the most militant followers of the prophet Mohammed
and members of the faith of Islam.
This identity of the 9/11 perpetrators has expanded the enemy for
some Americans, who consider all Muslims our foes. For others,
the enemy was a smaller subset of Islam: Bin Laden, AI Qaeda, and
the extremists who do not represent the majority of a more
peaceful Muslim faith. In the days after 9/11, President Bush
often insisted that we were not fighting Islam itself but only
terrorists who happened to be Islamic fanatics.
In ten years since 9/11, we've learned more geography (Iraq,
Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan) and more religion: Islam with its
mosques, imams, Sharia law, Sufi and Shiite factions, along with
more radical Muslim groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the
Hamas, and Hezbollah in Gaza and Lebanon, the PLO in Israel, the
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and AI Qaeda.
Because Saddam Hussein, Iraq's now ousted and executed dictator,
was a nominal Muslim who tolerated Christians and Jews well, the
first Gulf War raised few issues about Islam. Osama Bin Laden, on
the other hand, was a wealthy and iconic leader among fanatical
and fringe Muslims who champion the cause of violence against
Christian and Jewish infidels. Though Bin Laden was not
mainstream, his words and actions brought mainstream Islam into
the public crosshairs, for better or for worse.
So who was the real enemy on 9/11, and how do we "defeat" them?
Since all nineteen terrorists that day were Muslims, does it
follow that all Islam is freedom's foe? Or was it only radical
Muslims, like Al Qaedaand the Taliban, who waged war on America
ten years ago?
Whatever Islam's true nature, it took only a day, September 11,
2001, for that faith to leapfrog a dozen other issues to the top
of most Christians' lists of most worrisome world problems. There
it remains for many to this today.
Islam in our culture is, for many, like the elephant in the room:
We don't talk much about it, but we know it's there.
The recent bombing and mass shooting in Norway re-raises our
fears. It's time to talk about Muslims in America, but how do
Christians address the issue? Do we begin with assumptions that
Mohammed is the false prophet of Scripture, that Islam is the
Devil's religion with plans to kill us all if we don't convert?
Or might another approach better reflect the grace and truth of
our Lord, not to mention the main currents of Islam?
The terrorist-gunman in Oslo was not a Muslim but a rightwing nut
who contends he is waging a Christian crusade against cultural
diversity and what he sees as the Islamisation of Europe. He
seems to be, to put it bluntly, an Islamaphobe - a hater of
Muslims in general.
Conviction and actions
None of us will defend the insane act of that "Christian"
terrorist in Norway. Nor are we likely to push for immigration
from Saudi Arabia or Iran, for more Islamic faith in America.
Somewhere between these extremes, what should be our conviction -
and our actions? Should we forward e-mails that misrepresent or
ridicule Islamic faith and practice? Should we oppose and speak
insultingly about mosques being built in our cities?
Should our reflexive thoughts applaud the apprehension and death
of militant Muslims, with little thought for their families or
Should we see Muslims as enemies whose advance is to be opposed
and stopped by any means, or as neighbors to be engaged and loved
by all means, according to Christ's command and in His name?
What are the lessons for Christians from the unforgettable
September 11 ?
The author-editor invites responses to this topic, pro and con,
and will publish several in a future issue.
What Would Jesus Do?
When Christ was here, Islamic faith was more than six hundred
years future; no Muslims existed. We may note, however, Jesus'
response to the Samaritans, an ethno-religious group whose
relation to the Jews of His day reflects much of Islam's relation
to Christianity in our day:
* As Samaritans were related to Jews by natural birth, so Muslims
trace their lineage to Abraham through Ishmael.
* As Samaritans shared much of the Hebrew faith (with
differences), so Muslims hold to many elements of biblical faith
* As centuries of deep resentment poisoned relations between
Samaritans and Jews, so it is between Muslims and Christians.
Since the Samaritans of Jesus' day occupied a religious position
similar to the Muslims of our day, we may profit by investigating
Jesus' approach to the deep Jewish-Samaritan divide. Rather than
stoking the fires of separation and hostility between those
groups, we read that Jesus ...
* traveled through Samaria, not detouring around it as most Jews
of His day did;
* initiated conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria,
resulting in her conversion to Christ and evangelism of other
* showed His compassion for Samaritans by healing ten Samaritan
lepers at once;
* told the story of a Samaritan who dared provide traveler's aid
to a wounded Jew, when the most religious of the traveler's
Jewish countrymen wouldn't help. Thus did the Samaritan become a
"good" hero in one of Jesus' mostloved parables.
We can hardly escape the conclusion that Jesus, if He were on
earth today, would look for ways to bridge the deep and
distressing Christian-Muslim divide. And He would not place all
the responsibility on Muslims to bridge it.
Jesus would likely speak plain words of gentle correction to
Muslims, as He did to the Samaritan woman in John 4:22 - a
correction that was also aimed at Jewish pride and arrogance (vv.
20-24). Christ's most unrelenting religious rebukes, however,
were aimed at the hypocrites among His own people: Jewish elders,
Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes.
Surely Jesus Christ would reject the knee-jerk religious hatred,
hostility, and suspicion to which this generation has fallen
What Did Jesus Say
Radical Islam is, indeed, a serious threat to the safety and
welfare of Christians in several places. Our hearts and hands are
extended to our brethren in Pakistan, Indonesia, northern
Nigeria, and other nations with a dominant presence of militant
Muslims. God help them!
The political and military strategy that any city or country
should employ to restrain fanatical Muslims within its borders is
both unknown to us and beyond our present scope. Our purpose here
is primarily to echo the biblical counsel on how Jesus' disciples
are to personally relate to their enemies, be they political or
religious. We find it in Matthew 5:44-48; Luke 6:27-37; and
Romans 12:17-21, adapted here:
Christians should Love individual Muslims, bless them, salute
them, forgive them, pray for them, do good to them, reach out to
them, give to meet their needs, and extend the love of Christ
toward them. We should not judge individual Muslims, return evil
for their evil, or celebrate their downfall.
On this much, the words of Jesus and the apostles are clear. They
may not be the whole truth about relating to Muslim "enemies,"
but they are true. Such counsel may need special application in
2011, but it must not be rejected.
by Calvin Burrell
THE MUSLIM AMONG US
It was a nondescript, typically humid day in Asia. Neena and I
were discussing cultures, a fan nearby pushing the hot air in
circles around us. Suddenly Neena asked, "If I moved to America,
would people hate me because I wear a head covering?"
I sat stunned for a moment. What could I say? I wanted to say no,
to reassure her. But the truth was, I really didn't know.
After I returned to America, Neena's question continued to haunt
me. How do Americans react to the Muslims around them? I decided
to find out.
I unpacked the black head covering I'd bought overseas, put it
on, and looked at myself in the mirror. I felt nervous. Really
nervous. How would people respond if I went out in public like
this? Would they be hostile? Suspicious? Angry? None of the
My biggest question - the real reason I decided to put myself
through this - was to find out if God's people would respond
better, or worse, than the world.
I set out with trepidation. I started with a few stores, where
most people treated me with polite, politically correct
indifference, as if seeing someone in a head covering was totally
normal. At a restaurant and a couple other places, the people
waiting on me were extra nice. I could tell they were trying on
purpose to make me feel comfortable and accepted. Good for them.
After a few hours, I almost forgot I was wearing a head covering.
It was rather anti-climatic after all that nervous energy I'd
expended dreading the whole experience.
Now it was time to test the Christians
I went to a church across town, where no one would know I was not
really a Muslim. I was petrified. It took me weeks to work up the
In the end, it wasn't so bad. The people made a genuine effort.
They came and shook my hand during greeting time. One woman said
she hoped I'd come back again. I was truly impressed.
No one sat next to me or asked any friendly, curious questions. I
think they didn't quite know what to do with me, so out of
context. Maybe they were afraid. Afraid of offending. Or afraid
of me, perhaps? An honest Christian friend told me that she feels
she should be nice to Muslims because she's afraid of what they
might do to her.
Was that it? Was fear the basis for both the politeness and the
I had wanted to know if God's people did any better or worse at
responding to Muslims than the world did. Christians did well;
they were nice. But they didn't reach out as I had hoped they
would. Overall, between God's people and the world, I didn't find
much of a difference, which was disappointing.
When I talked with people about my experiment, the words I kept
hearing were fear, suspicion, and a desire to not offend. I think
for many, deep down, all three of these feelings mix into a
strong tendency to avoid.
So we often act polite and tolerant, but distant. If we dissect
our motives, we may find political correctness is an excuse, a
veil that covers our fear or anger or ... even hate?
Hiding behind veils: I thought Jesus set us free from that.
Here's the biggest lesson I think I learned from my experiment:
People who are full of God's love are going to show it. And
people who are full of fear or anger or the desire for
self-protection are going to show that too. Sometimes by their
response. Sometimes by their lack of it.
Which one are you?
Even if a Muslim is seeking truth about Christ, there are many
barriers. For one, most Muslim nations are group-oriented, and
seeking as an individual is usually frowned upon - or worse. For
another, many Muslims see America as a Christian nation.
Therefore, what is portrayed in movies is what a Christian acts
I cannot imagine a Muslim ever just walking into your church, not
even if he wanted to. It's logical, then, to conclude that the
only way most Muslims in the world will ever truly see the love
of God is if they meet Christians who live it. Christians like
If you are willing, here are some ideas on how to start a
friendship with a Muslim:
* Next time you see a Muslim, instead of looking away, make eye
contact and give a real smile.
* If the response is positive, walk up and say hi. Ask where the
person is from or another question of genuine interest. Remember,
this is a person, not just a Muslim.
* Lead into spiritual conversations by talking about things
Muslims already believe - things you agree on (see sidebar).
* If the person expresses a personal problem, ask if you can pray
for him in Jesus' name. Pray aloud for that person. This is
* In time, and with the Holy Spirit's help, try to ask questions
that will tell what that person feels is missing in her life.
From that, you can give biblical truths that offer hope, peace,
forgiveness, and other spiritual help.
Somewhere out there is a Muslim, or two, or a thousand who truly
want to know God. You probably won't see any of them at church
this weekend. But one of them may walk into your workplace, your
shopping mall, or your children's classroom one day.
When that happens, you may be the only representation of Jesus
Christ the person will ever meet.
BY Kimberly Rae from Lenoir, NC.
Some true Muslim beliefs - a great place to start!
* There is only one God.
* God created everything and is to be worshipped.
* God is merciful and forgiving.
* Jesus was born of a virgin.
* Adam, Job, Noah, Joseph, Abraham, and Moses are Bible stories
to be believed.
* Jesus lived a perfect life and never sinned.
* Jesus was a good teacher and healed the sick.
Muslim beliefs that are untrue:
* God overlooks your sins if you had good intentions.
* Jesus did not die on a cross. God would never let His prophet
die, so He took Jesus up to heaven and switched Judas to die in
* There's no way to really know if you will "go to heaven" when
* No one can truly know God.
From the September-October 2011 "The Bible Advocate" - a
publication of the Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO. USA
Christians need to know and remember that most Muslims living in the West,
are peaceful people. They want freedom to have their religion, as Christians
do living in any nation on earth. Muslims appreciate the good life that
the West can give them in a material way. Christians need to remember it is
only the fanatical and relative few Muslims who are for war and killing.
And the Christian religion has had many of those fanatics over the past
centuries who have gone to war and happily killed others. The true Christian
needs to keep in mind that the Muslims are spiritually deceived just like
the unconverted of the world and the many false Christian religions of the
world. Hence you treat the average Muslim as you treat the average Jack and
Jill who are your neighbor, and/or co-worker - with love, kindness, help-
fulness, friendliness, a smile and everything that Jesus taught us in loving