Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims
Muslims and Christians agree that we must fight and destroy ISIS and similar groups (Boko Haram, al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, etc.) So as I’ve written earlier, I’m glad that President Trump promised to use every means available to destroy these guys.
But while the President’s words are nice, today’s revised “Travel Ban” (the executive order is here) actually helps ISIS, and makes things more dangerous for Americans, not less. Lots of smiles in Raqqa today!
Before I get to the practical danger, however, Christians should note section 6b, “I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any entries in excess of that number until such time as I determine that additional entries would be in the national interest.” (The United States accepted 85,000 refugees in 2016). So the refugee cap is not just for potential terrorists, but for everyone trying to escape war and violence. From a biblical point of view, President Trump is wrong: it is in the best interests of the United States to help many, many more. God promises to bless and reward us when we obey his commands to help those in need. So I hope to see my fellow Christians pretesting loudly at the President’s decision to have us reject God’s call to help those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).
As to the travel ban: we need to keep in mind how ISIS operates, and what it tries to do. ISIS is trying to control a piece of territory in southwest Asia, near the Middle East. While we think of ISIS as a criminal organization, ISIS is trying to exist as a country – with borders, residents, an economy, and so on.
As a country, ISIS is in really bad shape. It is fighting a war against Syria and Iraq, and therefore needs to buy weapons and supplies for its soldiers (who also have to be replaced as they get killed in battle). To get money, its “government” used to just take what it wanted from its residents. But the residents have run out of things for ISIS to steal, and they have no reason to produce more than the minimum they need to survive (since it will get taken anyway). ISIS cannot make much of anything on its own, and doesn’t have the means to train people to maintain infrastructure and factories. So ISIS needs constant help from outside its borders. If it can’t get regular donations and volunteers, it will die.
The one thing that ISIS has going for it is its expertise in social media. This is its special strength: through the internet, it produces slick videos to convince people that it is doing God’s work by fighting His enemies. ISIS needs to recruit at least 1,000 young men per month just to keep its army functioning. Most recruits are under-educated, without good job prospects, and lack knowledge about Islam.
To build its army, ISIS needs to convince recruits of two things: (1) ISIS represents Islam; (2) Christianity is at war with Islam.
I’ve explained previously that a good way to convince people that ISIS does not represent Islam is for us to stop using terms like “radical Islam.” This should not be too hard; the people who actually define what Islam is, Muslims, insist that ISIS is not Islamic. Presidents Bush and Obama saw this logic, and so both called groups like ISIS “terrorists” or “extremists.” President Trump, unfortunately, regularly calls ISIS and the others “radical Muslims.” (We should keep in mind that many evangelicals think that the term “radical Christian” is a compliment.)
As far as the second idea goes, it gets hard to convince people that we are not at war with Islam when we single out Muslims and Muslim countries for special restrictions. Yes, the Trump administration now denies that his executive orders have anything to do with Islam, but take a look at this video (the relevant stuff begins around 2:58).
Here, Rudolph Giuliani proudly explains that President Trump put together a committee to craft a “Muslim ban.” The committee decided that a ban on Muslims wouldn’t fly, so they changed the focus to “danger.” This explanation makes it pretty obvious that the ban was in fact directed at Muslims, and that the language was changed just to make it “legal.”
If I could find this video, then ISIS can find it without much trouble, and others like it. This is exactly what ISIS needs to convince people that the United States is anti-Muslim.
It is very unlikely that ISIS is trying to smuggle in terrorists into the United States. The people who try to carry out terrorist attacks are already here. They did not sneak in as terrorists; instead, they are troubled young people who were persuaded to become terrorists through social media. ISIS tries to get people to move from the US to the Middle East, not the other way around. They just don’t have cash to spare to send people to the US with terrorist plots. A travel ban can’t stop the types of attacks we’ve had; but better support for our Muslim allies who are fighting the message of ISIS might help.
Americans want politicians today to “do something” to keep Americans safe. Donald Trump was elected president in part because he promised to get tough with ISIS and the other terrorist groups, so now he’s under pressure to take action. But as happens so often in life, “quick and easy” is not always wise, and can actually be harmful. Christians need to be smarter.
A Christian blog and podcast by Ray Burns.
Helping modern readers engage with ancient biblical texts