The Journey of a Little Girl Rescued from an Islamic Training CenterBy Corey Bailey
Shantona looked at me with a deep sadness in her eyes. Only 10 years old, she should be full of life and joy, but instead she looked down to the ground as tears threatened to fall.
In February 2012, Shantona’s father sent her off to, what he thought was, a Christian Hostel to go to school. A poor family in the hills, education is the only hope of a future, so this opportunity seemed like an answer to prayer.
But Shantona’s father was lied to. Dreams of a bright future became a horrible nightmare.
Once Shantona was taken from her father’s house, she was sold to an Islamic training center, known as a madrassas, where she was imprisoned and forced to learn Arabic, study the Quran and pray to Allah five times a day. Shantona quickly realized that something was wrong. They were not learning the usual subjects you study in school, and as a Christian she did not want to be forced to practice Islam. So Shantona refused to pray or learn Arabic. As a result, however she was disciplined. Not only was food withheld from her, but her hands, now scarred from numerous beatings by a cane, also bear witness to punishment for refusing to comply.
Shantona’s father only learned of her whereabouts months later when another girl, imprisoned at the same madrassa, escaped and told of her own harrowing experience. When Shantona’s father realized had been tricked and his daughter was being harmed, he frantically began searching for her. He called on an ICC ministry partner to help find his daughter. Months later, when Shantona was finally located, he personally went to pick her up. When the leader of the madrassa realized he intended to take his daughter away, he began verbally berating them. Shantona’s father stood strong as he the leader yelled, “The Bible of the Christians is full of lies and evil things and only Islam and [the] Quran can guide people to right path to heaven!” The teacher continued to criticize Christianity, but finally let Shantona and her father leave.
Since her rescue, Shantona’s father was scared the Imam or other leaders would search for her at home, since they knew where she lived. ICC’s partner intervened and placed Shantona in a Christian hostel where she could live and receive a quality education. They are attempting to help her work through the persecution and trauma she experienced; however, Bangladesh lacks counselors to help with these types of things.
While listening to her story, it was clear to me that Shantona, from a different tribe than the other girls at the hostel, feels alone and sad. I In fact, the only time she smiled was during the children’s sermon I gave where I said, “Jesus is our friend and never leaves us alone. We can tell Him when we feel happy or when we feel sad. Even if we feel alone, we can tell Him and He will remind us that we are never alone because He is always with us. He is a good friend who loves us and wants to know how we feel.” This was the only time I saw Shantona smile; her lips could not help themselves as she heard about a Savior who comforts the lonely. She smiled the entire time, with a tiny flicker of hope in her eyes.
“Let Allah be avenged on the polytheist apostate!”
“Allah: empower your religion, make it victorious against the polytheists!”
“Allah, defeat the infidels at the hands of the Muslims!”
Those were the prayers just before the beheading of a Christian convert from Islam in a video released on June 4. The calls to “avenge Allah” that preceded the execution—which reportedly took place in Tunisia—have become commonplace for many Middle Eastern Christians. Radical Islam has quickly spread throughout the region following the ousting of long-standing dictators in the Muslim world’s so-called ‘Arab Spring.’
In Egypt, for example, a leaflet titled, “An Urgent and Important Notice,” was distributed by jihadist organizations on August 14 calling for Muslims to “kill or physically attack the enemies of the religion of Allah—the Christians in all of Egypt’s provinces, the slaves of the Cross, Allah’s curse upon them…” The letter went on to promise a reward to anyone who helps “achieve Allah’s rights against his enemies.”
Not surprising, attacks on the Christian community followed soon after. In the Upper Egypt town of Sohag, four Christian shops were set ablaze and dozens of Christians were severely beaten just days after the leaflets were distributed.
Similar threats are now surfacing in Syria where entire cities have been emptied of Christians while Sunni jihadists, who were fighting alongside al-Qaeda against U.S. forces in Iraq, are returning to fight the regime at home.
“We have experience now fighting the Americans, and more experience now with the Syrian revolution,” said Abu Thuha, an al-Qaeda operative. “Our big hope is to form a Syrian-Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims, and then announce our war against Iran and Israel, and free Palestine.”
In a recently released video on YouTube, masked men that claim to belong to the Free Syrian Army hold AK-47s in front of two al-Qaeda flags. “We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of Allah,” said a speaker in the video. The video is the latest bit of evidence suggesting that al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are hijacking the Syrian revolution and quickly gaining control of the country.
According to Agenzia Fides, the official Vatican news agency, Syria’s Salafis—who follow the radical Wahhabi interpretation of Islam found in Saudi Arabia—is another group carrying out “brief executions” against Christian “infidels” while initiating a “sectarian war.” These Christians are given a choice to either join the opposition or face “harassment, discrimination, [and] violence.
The surmounting threats and routine killings of Christians have persuaded hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee the region. Christians in Syria and Egypt often express their fears by referencing the decline of Christianity in Iraq, where about 50 percent of Iraq’s 1.4 million Christians have fled the country amidst nearly a decade of church bombings, kidnappings, and sectarian murder. Will the faithful in other Middle Eastern countries join Iraq’s mass exodus of Christians? Now, more than ever before, Christians in the Middle East are seeking the prayers and support of the international church during this period of great suffering and uncertainty.
While families slept soundly, men of the village patrolled the perimeters of Ta-Kwok, safeguarding their loved ones and neighbors from intruders. On this particular November night in 2011, a section of this Nigerian Christian village had gone unguarded, and a group of strangers entered the village, intent on leaving with blood on their swords.
The Muslim attackers, fueled by a notion that Christians are enemies to Islam, raided the village, shouting “Allah Akbar!” and “Jihad!” as they ran through the village. Twenty-nine Christians were killed that night because of their faith. Many were wounded beyond repair, like Kajyng John, pictured below, whose left hand was cut off during the violence.
If losing her hand was not devastating enough, Kajyng also lost her husband and one of her children that night.
A year later, Kajyang is still not able to work due to the damage she suffered. As a farmer, she needs her hands to work. She lives off the kindness and generosity of her community. Although thankful for their support, she worries about her future and her five remaining children whom she is responsible for.
The attack on her village took her loving husband, her child, and her hand; but the radicals also stole from Kajyng her livelihood and peace of mind. Attacks against Christians do end with the loss of loved ones—believers continue to suffer consequences of violence; the terror has a lasting impact.
As you pray for the persecuted, please pray for strength to rely on the Lord, and to not lose faith. Pray for a burst of reassurance that our Heavenly Father has not forgotten them. Pray for daily reminders of God’s promise to take care of us, that as He provides the needs of the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea, so he provides the needs of his most treasured creation.
Returning from a recent visit to Iraq, Regional Manager to the Middle East Aiden Clay explores the work Christ is doing in the Church.
The truth of I Peter 5:10 is evident in the Middle East today: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace…will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” Despite war in Syria, Islamists rising to power in Egypt, and ongoing tension with the Islamic state of Iran (just to name a few), God is strengthening and establishing His church. And He is doing it the same way He has promised in Scripture—through suffering. God has not forgotten His Church. In the midst of grave persecution and uncertain times, the hands of God will keep and bless His Church, and a remnant will always, always remain.
The Middle East is undergoing a period of great turmoil and transition. We read reports weekly of Christians fleeing their ancient homelands throughout the Middle East for a safe-haven in the West. However, we must remind ourselves that the Church will persevere. The Church’s fate is sealed—not by war and revolution ignited by man—but by the will of Christ.
Having met with the faithful routinely in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the region, ICC has seen men, women, youth, and children put their trust in Christ and minister to their countrymen in war-torn regions, no matter the cost. Through their suffering, they are coming to understand the true meaning, to “take up their cross” (Luke 9:23), a decision to follow Christ and to suffer, as He has suffered, even until death for the sake of the Gospel.
“As a Christian, a part of my faith—a very sensitive part—is hope,” an Iraqi pastor who survived two bomb attacks on his congregation in 2011 and lost many of his flock to brutal persecution, recently told ICC when asked why he has chosen to stay in his homeland. “If we don’t have hope in our Christianity then whatever we preach, whatever we teach, is nothing. The church here in this land has faced many troubles, many hard times, but survived. And, it still exists. And, I believe it will exist until Jesus returns back.”
The church does not merely exist, but is being welded into a precious jewel, refined by fire. Moreover, the Gospel is spreading. Muslims throughout the region are turning to Christ in significant numbers. For example, ICC ministry partners in the region reported that 461 people have turned to Christ this year as a result of Christian radio and satellite television broadcasts. Many of these salvations occurred in Middle East countries considered “closed” to the Gospel. These new believers are connected to underground fellowships and are learning to boldly share the Good News with their families and friends.
Though we often only hear of the church’s suffering in persecuted lands, God is faithful in establishing His church beyond our expectations or understanding. Persecution has followed Christianity throughout the ages; it is nothing new. In fact, it is a promise which comes with great blessing and results. Suffering builds character and establishes the truth of the Word in our lives. So, have hope and take courage. While the Lord’s servant may only see hardship around him and say, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing…” remember that justice is “with the Lord, and My reward with My God” (Isaiah 49:3-4). Our persecuted brothers and sisters need our prayers as they carry on, not in vain, but that God may be glorified through the suffering church.
To increase our awareness and effectiveness overseas, ICC routinely sends Regional Managers into the field to collect data and make contacts. Our Regional Manager to Africa recently returned from Nigeria.
By now, many of you know about the unspeakable level of violence against Christians in Nigeria. But I warn you: do not be fooled by what the media tells us. The truth is, you cannot fully grasp the plight of the persecuted Christians in Nigeria until you actually visit them. That is why I decided to fly to Nigeria to see to myself what is really happening to the persecuted church there. Nothing prepared me to what I saw.
I experienced the pain of the Christians in northern Nigeria in less than an hour after I landed in the country. My host Rev. Samuel Ayoba (name changed for security reasons) picked me up from the airport and we started driving to the city of Kaduna. As we drove, my mind started to wonder to the different stories I have read about attacks on Christians. Hoping that it was just me, I asked Rev. Ayoba, “How safe is this road? Are we going to be stopped by the Islamic radicals and get killed?” Instead of reassuring me of our safety, the reverend looked into my eyes and said, “Anything could happen. All we could do is to entrust ourselves to God.” As soon as I heard those words, I felt the pain of living in constant fear. I noticed that we were the only car on the road, and my mind became clouded with suspicion and questions: It’s getting late. Where are the other cars? When will we get there? But I told myself not to be shaken and focus on trusting the Lord.
As we drove towards Kaduna, I saw several mosques. A friend told me that Muslims receive funds from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Muslim countries to build the mosques. Some of those mosques are then used for teaching hatred against Christians.
When we finally arrived in Kaduna, it was obvious to see evidence of violence in the city. There were check points every few miles. Shortly before I arrived, Islamists carried out a suicide bomb attack targeting a church. They missed their target, but the attacker killed over 40, mainly Muslims who happened to be near the church.
I stayed in Nigeria for 10 days. During my time there, I spoke with dozens of victims of persecution. I visited villages decimated by Islamic violence. One of the saddest days of the trip was when I was asked to speak at the funeral of a Christian who was killed. The man was killed after he visited his father, an evangelist who is living among Muslims.
I came face to face with what it means to go through persecution. I was also reminded of how important it is to stand with the body of Christ that undergoes persecution. I came back from Nigeria with the passion to work more to help the oppressed. One of the victims that ICC helped said to me, “You make us feel that somebody cares for us.” Let us continue making them feel that they are loved!
Imam Ahmed (name changed for security) is a fanatic Muslim known for spreading hatred against Christians. He believed in using money, deception, violence or any means necessary to bring Christians to Islam. As a radical Muslim, he believed it was his right to abuse Christians. That is why he forcefully married a Christian woman whose father was a priest. He forced his wife to change her faith and her name. When the girl’s father attempted to take the case to court, he threatened to kill his father-in law for trying to defend his daughter.
Passionate to learn about Islam, Imam Ahmed traveled to Saudi Arabia to expand and cultivate his knowledge of the religion. In Saudi Arabia, he made connections with people that give him money that he could use for his missions to convert non-Muslims to Islam. He was a devout Muslim through and through.
Ahmed’s story radically changed on May 3, 2011 when he organized a conference to speak about the “inaccuracies of the Bible” to 4000 Muslims. His plan was to educate the Muslims in challenging Christians on the authenticity of the Bible and converting them to Islam. Little did he know that the Lord had another plan for his life. As the Imam stood to speak to the crowd, he had a vision of Jesus. He described his vision by saying, “He (Jesus) looks like just a human being fully dressed up with a very bright white cloth and His face shining like a morning star. I was so confused and unable to speak anything. Immediately, Jesus touched my lips and my message was changed. Instantly, I started to preach the correctness of the Bible and birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for all humanity.”
The crowd started shouting at the imam, but he was bold because of the glory of God that he saw. The crowd then started to assault him. As they were beating him, the imam said that the Lord Jesus told him, “Nobody can kill you. Right now, follow me.” After the Lord led him safely out of the crowd, Jesus’ final words were a warning. He said, “Don’t look back.”
After Jesus disappeared from Ahmed’s vision, the Imam found himself in front of a police station. Not fully understanding how he arrived there, Ahmed rushed into the station to ask for protection. Though Ahmed was protected from being surrendered to the Muslims who had chased him to the police station, he was sentenced to prison after the Muslims accused him of being out of his mind and of preaching Jesus in a mosque. On September 12, he was released after serving 5 months.
The former persecutor is now the persecuted. Ahmed and his wife have been forced out of their home and have lost everything for the sake of his testimony of Jesus. Please continue to pray for this brother as he strives to honor Jesus’ warning not to look back. He has enrolled in a two-year Bible school with the intent of becoming a minister of the gospel, declaring that his sole purpose in life is “to preach the gospel to more than 30 million Muslims (who live in Ethiopia).”
Here at International Christian Concern, we at times find ourselves working tirelessly to defend fellow brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have never met living in countries we have never been to. We remember Jesus’ promise to those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and the persecuted: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:41). We find joy in helping fellow believers and come to the realization, as I shared with a house fellowship of Indian immigrants in Qatar last week, that we are all equal and co-heirs with Christ in God’s kingdom (Rom 8:17). “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Our shared oneness in the body of Christ compels us to bear one another’s burdens regardless of the trials or tribulations that may follow.
This foundational teaching is sometimes forgotten by God’s children, even among those sent by churches in the West to represent Christ in the lands of the persecuted. One brother in Christ, Said Musa, was imprisoned nine months in Afghanistan before being released. The news of his circumstance was kept secret for five of those months until a courageous few – despite the disapproval of persuasive Christian expatriates in the country – decided to publicize his plight. Once public, the international community took notice and pushed their governments to act. The international pressure eventually led to Musa’s release last February. Meanwhile, Musa had been abused, raped, sleep deprived, mocked, and spat upon as he waited patiently in his prison cell for help.
Our Security in Heaven
While some Christian aid workers in Afghanistan wrote private letters appealing to the U.S. embassy in Kabul and other government agencies to assist Musa, they determined not to draw attention to the case and demanded that others follow their lead. They neither spoke to the public about Musa’s imprisonment nor visited him in prison, afraid that any connection to the case could jeopardize their work. Meanwhile, Musa and other Afghan believers both in Kabul and in the refugee community of New Delhi, India, pleaded with foreigners to raise awareness and advocate on their behalf. The Afghan church sought the prayers of the international church and wanted their sufferings to be known. Yet only a few heeded their words.
“Our security is in heaven, yet many trusted more in human security than what the Lord promised us,” a Christian couple in Kabul, who were the only foreigners to visit Musa in prison, told ICC. “When Musa was arrested, people were afraid. When we tried to get help, one organization said, ‘We are not going to let our project be jeopardized, or our presence for forty years in Afghanistan, for one person.’ It broke our hearts completely to hear that from a Christian. Musa is not a nobody; he’s our brother in Christ. He’s an Afghan brother, like you and me. For us, we had no choice. Of course our NGO is in danger. Of course our life is in danger. Of course we may get in very much trouble. Of course! But we felt we had no other choice.”
“When we visited [Musa] in prison, I was trembling,” the couple continued. “I can tell you, my heart was beating and I put on a veil – I’ve never put a veil on in Kabul – but I put on a veil because I was very, very scared. But when we saw him, all the people were shouting [obscenities at Musa for his apostasy] and it broke my heart. But even though I was very afraid, I would go again. It’s our duty. We thought we just cannot let him rot and be killed in prison.”
The couple approached many human rights agencies, including Musa’s fifteen year employer, the Red Cross, but were told time and again that a Muslim conversion to Christianity is a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan and they would not intervene.
Regardless of fear and inaction, God carried out His perfect plan by keeping Musa in prison so that other Afghans may also know Him. During his imprisonment, Musa shared the Gospel with and witnessed the salvation of at least four fellow inmates.
“Two guys were addicted to opium,” Musa said of two prisoners chained next to him. “Their hands were in the chain. The commander tied them beside me in the corridor. He told me, Musa you are a true man, you are a right man, don’t let them smoke opium or hashish. I said, ‘I’m not a good man, God is good, but I will advise them.’ [The prisoners] spoke to me little by little. ‘Musa, I did many right things in Islam. I read the Quran, I prayed, but my life has become a bad thing. Despite everything I did, everything bad happened to my life.’ I told them, ‘If you want eternal life, if you want to become good, then you believe in Jesus, the Son of God.’ And I spoke to them little by little, and both of them believed in Jesus.
“For me it was amazing. We spoke about the Holy Bible and I prayed for them. And they became really good men. When they left the jail, we hugged each other and they said, ‘Musa, I will become really sad about you. You are a good friend to me. A good advisor. You are now my brother.’”
Though some foreigners in Afghanistan were afraid to publicly condemn Musa’s arrest or defend his religious rights, Musa on the other hand was openly sharing the Gospel to Muslims in a Kabul prison! He was not afraid of death but considered it his duty and joy to preach the Good News.
“We should suffer for our faith, because our Lord has suffered,” Musa said. “To speak the truth is better because the light is always over the shadow. I told my brothers and sisters in Afghanistan that they should be encouraged because the Holy Spirit is always with them. Jesus is always with them. If they kill me or others it doesn’t matter because it’s for our faith in Jesus.”
While Christian humanitarian organizations working in countries ‘closed’ to the Gospel hope that their actions, love, and words will lead nationals to Christ, they must also consider how they plan to respond when a national who comes to faith is arrested or in danger. Will they visit their brother or sister in prison, or hide to protect their humanitarian aid projects or their own neck? Is one brother’s life worth more than aid work that may save hundreds? And, if it was a western expatriate rather than a national who was arrested, would the organization react any differently? Some argue that the Bible does not grant us the liberty to decide whether or not we should attend to the needs of our brethren, but simply commands us to “do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Gal 6:10).”
ICC is often confronted by this dilemma as well – whether to speak out on behalf of injustice against national believers or remain quiet to protect the work of Christian aid organizations or missionaries inside the country. We have at times honored the requests of missionaries on the ground, but we have also been the ones to take a stand for the persecuted when they are begging us to assist them against the wishes of missionary organizations. We seek to serve both communities, but ultimately we know that every situation is different and we strive to seek and follow the counsel of the Lord in each instance.
Nonetheless, all of us must ask ourselves whether we will stand boldly for the name of Christ by defending our persecuted brethren even until death, or if we will cower in the face of oppression and injustice and persecution. Musa has made his choice.
“What great rewards for me if I am crucified on my cross… Please do not be afraid for the Lord is with us,” he wrote from prison on December 1, 2010.
ICC’s President, Jeff King, has just completed his first book: Islam Uncensored. The book is a collection of 14 interviews with experts on Islam from across the spectrum, including: liberals, conservatives, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, feminists, and more. Last month, we introduced you to each of these 14 experts. This month, we want to highlight snippets from our interviews with two of the men we approached for their understanding of the role Saudi Arabia plays in the spread of radical Islam.
The CIA Director
James Woolsey has served five times in the federal government, holding presidential appointments in two Democratic and two Republican administrations including serving as the 16th director of Central Intelligence under President Bill Clinton (1993-1995). Having received degrees from Stanford University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School, Mr. Woolsey has coauthored many articles and argues that the West is in the middle of fighting a “Long War” against radical Islam.
In our interview with Mr. Woolsey, he discussed the role of Saudi Arabia in advancing radical Islam and what must be done in order to defeat it.
On Saudi Arabia and Radical Islam:
“The Saudi’s and Al-Qaeda’s underlying beliefs are for all practical purposes identical. … They both believe in an extreme form of Sharia, they both believe apostates and homosexuals should be killed, they both believe in stoning women who are convicted of adultery. When they stone a man, they bury him only up to his waist and he is able to scrape the dirt away, often extricate himself before he’s hurt too badly, and if he can get out and get away from where he’s being stoned, he’s let go. The woman is buried up to her neck and tied in such a way that she can’t escape.”
On the Advancement of Islam in the West:
We asked Mr. Woolsey about a recent call he made to support Oklahoma’s voters’ call to ban any application of Sharia law by the state courts:
“The problem tends to come up in the West with respect to women’s rights, particularly the beating of wives and the killing of daughters—so called honor killings. It’s come up a lot in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. What happens is a husband will beat his wife and she’ll bring charges against him, but he’ll say it is his right under his religion. One of these cases went all the way up to the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation and the beater was upheld.
“We’ve only had one case I know of in the US where that kind of a defense was offered when a man beat and raped his wife and was upheld at the trial level in New Jersey. This was a year or so ago, and then he lost at the appellate level. When they asked me to make this robo-call, they said, “We haven’t had any cases like this in Oklahoma,” and I said, “I don’t know that you have to have one woman per state beaten, and a beater exonerated, before you pass a Constitutional amendment.”
On Fighting Radical Islam:
“The first thing we’ve got to do is stop talking in euphemisms and dancing around the issue. This business of the government filing a report of Major Hassan’s killing of his 13 fellow soldiers and never mentioning the word Muslim or Islam, or anything. He’s just a random violent extremist. That’s nuts.”
“Sometimes I feel like they’ll go to the extreme in thinking up euphemisms. Instead of calling terrorists ‘violent extremists,’ maybe they will call them ‘Anger Management Challenged Candidates for Therapy.’”
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz is an American journalist who converted to Islam (Sufi) in 1997. He is a vociferous critic of Islamic fundamentalism and especially targets Wahhabi Islam. As the executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, he is an expert on Islamist extremism and has appeared in many periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, The Spectator and the Weekly Standard.
Mr. Schwartz also discussed the critical role that Saudi Arabia plays in radicalizing the world’s Muslims.
On Saudi Arabia and Radical (Wahhabi) Islam:
“There was a powerful clan in Nejd, headed by Muhammad Ibn Saud (the House of Saud), and they formed a partnership with the house of Muhammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism. The agreement was that the House of Saud would control political, financial, and governance practices while the house of the descendants of Ibn abdul-Wahhab would control religious life. The two families married and they continue to marry among themselves. This created the situation of a joint Wahhabi/House of Saud plan for control of Arabia. They took over for the second and last time in Mecca and Medina in 1924 and the Saudi kingdom was established in 1932.”
On the Advancement of Radical Islam in the West:
“[Authentic] Islam did not really emerge as a significant religion in the United States until after the 1980s. When it began to emerge in numbers it had no hierarchy, no apparatus, and no organizations. Suddenly, Saudi-financed Wahhabi organizations emerged, like The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society in North America and some Pakistani jihadist organizations like The Islamic Circle in North America. They essentially set up a social, political and religious apparatus for the Muslims in America. All of a sudden the Muslims in America had organizations that claimed to speak for them. They ended up creating a structure in the United States with Saudi money, South Asian functionaries, and [Muslim] Brotherhood literature.”
On Fighting Radical Islam:
“Very simple solution. King Abdullah should cut off all money going to foreign Wahhabis. He should say Wahhabism is no longer a State religion in this country, and we’ll no longer allow any money to go to finance international radicalism by Wahhabi. That will be it. It will be just like it was when the Soviet Union stopped being Communist. With an end to the flow of money, the phenomenon will end.”
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Have you noticed how divided people are about the issue of Islam? Some people speak of the struggle between Christians and Jews on one side, and Muslims on the other as a “war of civilizations.” Critics of Islam point to September 11 and other acts of terrorism to say that Islam is violent, while Muslims and their defenders call Islam a “religion of peace.”
Over the past eight years as the president of ICC, I have had the opportunity to study Islam on a theoretical and historical level (understanding Muhammad, the Quran, and Hadith), as well as on a practical level (dealing with the victims of radical Islam). I wanted to give people the same insights into Islam that I’ve received in my role as president of an organization that deals daily with its consequences.
As I set out to write my book, I came to the humbling realization that, in the end, it didn’t matter what I had say. The issue has become so politicized and polarized that readers that are aligned with me in terms of politics, religion, or worldview would accept my views, while those on the other side of the fence would reject my views, seeing them as being hopelessly biased from whatever factors make me different from them.
It was at that point that I set out to create a book about Islam that didn’t exist. I would interview a broad cross spectrum of experts on Islam that reflected our fractured and discordant culture: leftists, right wingers, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, feminists, etc. I would interview experts from all ends of the spectrum(s) to discuss Islam and discover any common threads of truth.
I started by interviewing a radical Islamist that is known for his candor. From there, I interviewed a popular, established author and critic of Islam. I went on to interview four ex-Muslims whose views span the political spectrum; two are atheists and two are converts to Christianity. One of them was the son of one of the founders of the terrorist group Hamas. I then interviewed two Muslim reformers, a historian who grew up as a Muslim, an expert on Islam and Western culture, an expert on dhimmitude (Islam’s laws on dealing with sub-cultures within Islamic nations), and finally an ex-director of the CIA.
Though I’m certain war would break out of if these experts were ever locked in a room together and told to define Islam, the aspects of Islam on which they agree are stunning. Out of their incredible diversity of worldview, political orientation, and views about religion, what you find in common among all these disparate voices is extraordinary.
What I have found is that Western governments and media consistently fail to tell the truth about Islam. They censor information so as not to offend or upset you. After reading this book, you will understand Islam as you never have before. Obviously, I won’t give away the lessons you will learn, and ultimately they are yours to discern, but I will simply remind you that title of this book is Islam: Uncensored.
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Every year, our ministry puts together a report on the top persecutors of Christians around the world. While North Korea always tops the list, almost every other country (with a few exceptions) is Muslim-dominated. If you delve further into the report, you’ll discover that the Muslims in these countries also commit some of the most horrendous acts of violence against Christians. While this can be a frightening reality, as believers we cannot allow fear or hatred to enter our hearts. So how can we guard our hearts?
ICC’s president recently posed this question to one of our partners in the Middle East who is a former Muslim and a leading figure in reaching out to the underground church in Iran via Satellite TV. He re-directed the question perfectly, telling us that when he became a Christian he asked, “God, what is Your heart?”
Ultimately, it is only the grace of God and being able to see people through His eyes that will enable us to put away our human instincts to fear and hate what we don’t understand.
The Father has clearly shared His heart for Muslims with our brother over the years, giving him a passion for and a perspective of the Muslim people that we think is invaluable. Below, we’ve pulled some excerpts from our interview to help us answer this important question.
Getting God’s Perspective
“God’s heart is that all should be saved. We’re talking about 1.5 billion people that Jesus loves. … When you look at the news, it’s very easy to think that Muslims are all evil. But I’m telling you that even some of those who die as suicide bombers are sincerely searching for God. They want to reach the unknowable God. They desire so much to know God that they think that if they die in jihad, at least then they will be with Him. In Islam, there’s no assurance of salvation aside from giving your life.”
“I’ve been in that place. It is like bondage. How would you feel if you saw people being bound as slaves in chains? How would you feel if you saw the slave master beating people who wanted to step out of that chain, but knew if they did, they would be killed? Many Muslims want to escape Islam, but they fear death. … It is by fear and by lies that our enemy, which is Satan, has billions of these precious souls in bondage. He is beating them, controlling them, and sending them to die.”
“This is what most people don’t know. There are millions of Muslims crying out to God like slaves in Egypt. They’re crying, “We want to know You, but we are in bondage. …We were born into this religion and there’s no way we can get rid of it without losing our life.”
“Jesus came to set the captives free. We have to see Muslims as captives, have compassion for them, and believe they are precious in His eyes. What I pray is that Christians will not fear or hate, but have compassion. The greatest power against Islam is our love. That’s why our broadcasts are powerful. The love that they share breaks through the lies of the enemy and the power of fear.”