Several days ago President Trump encouraged Muslim nations to “drive out the extremists. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land and…drive them out of this Earth.”
If only that were possible! But the problem is that terrorists cannot be identified in some obvious way so that they can be “driven out.” Yes, in the case of ISIS, such terrorist armies can be routed and hopefully killed. But many extremists simply emerge undetected out of a sincere commitment to the Islamic faith; their motivation stems from taking the Qur’an at face value when it repeatedly commands violence. From dozens of such verses, I choose only two:
“As to those who disbelieve, I will punish them with a severe torment in this world and in the Hereafter, and they will have no helpers” (Qur’an 3:56).
“So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah’s Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives)… if it had been Allah’s Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight), in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost” (Qur’an 47:4).
The gist of this last verse is simple: Those who reject Allah are to be killed in Jihad. The wounded are to be held captive for ransom. The only reason Allah doesn’t do the dirty work himself is to test the faithfulness of Muslims. Those who kill pass the test and will be especially rewarded.
Of course most Muslims do not support terrorism and would prefer to live in peace with their neighbors. But this is because they either ignore these texts or for some reason say that these commands do not apply to today. The common response is to say that these texts are “taken out of context” and therefore do not teach what they say.
I believe that context is very important. I would not want to be quoted out of context, nor would I want to be guilty of quoting someone else out of context. However, books have been written to show that these texts mean exactly what they say when studied within their context. (See the many scholarly, fair, and readable books by Robert Spencer).
Now we have Manchester, Indonesia, the Philippines…
The perpetrator of the Manchester attack, Salman Abedi, has been hailed by ISIS as “a soldier of the caliphate” and a hero to be admired. According to the text quoted above, he can expect rewards in paradise because he “died in the way of Allah.” However, he did not have to be inspired by ISIS to execute this ghastly deed. He just needed to take the Qur’an and the Hadith at their word.
I am waiting for the day when moderate Muslims, of whom there are many, explain in detail to the world why each of the texts that advocate violence should not be followed today. Perhaps, if these explanations were sound, this could dissuade many would-be terrorists who believe violent acts are needed in order to be true to the Muslim faith.
Some commentators are scrambling to once again absolve the religion of Islam from being the motivation for terrorism. We are being told that this despicable act had nothing to do with the religion to which men like Salman Abedi belong. But he was a British citizen, brought up with Western values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Only his religion can explain his motivation to do such unimaginable evil.
Meanwhile, we pray for all those who are affected by these acts of terrorism, and pray especially for the church, which can offer hope and help to those who are so devastated by these tragedies. Once again the people of God have the opportunity to care for those in need, to comfort the afflicted, and to give hope to those who ask ultimate questions.
Christ was crucified so that we “need not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). He died to redeem us, that we might not belong to some evil Caliphate, but rather forever belong to Him who “loves us and freed us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5b).
When the hands of men have done their worst, the hands of God relentlessly pursue His glorious triumph. We take comfort that God’s justice will ultimately prevail.