It is shocking to hear, as we now do with increasing frequency, that millions of Middle-Eastern Muslims hate the West, and the USA in particular.

Political correctness says they hate us because they disapprove of democracy, capitalism, and “the American way of life.” That is a convenient answer that lets us say “tut, tut,” and go on feeling good, but it is also wrong. In fact, widespread Muslim animosity toward us is grounded in Islamic religious conviction. But do not Islam and Christianity share much in common?

Well, yes and no. They both teach that there is only one God (the word for “God” in Arabic is “Allah,” used by Moslems and many Christians alike), and that people should submit to him, but then their paths divide. Islam says that Jesus was a prophet of God, was virgin-born, and ascended to heaven, but it denies that he is God’s Son, that he died on the cross, or was raised from the dead. Muslims say that Jesus will come again — to convert the world to Islam. Islam teaches a heaven and hell, but it bases both destinies wholly on human merit. Still, these are not the reasons that so many Muslims hate the West.

Their hatred stems, first, from the presence of “infidel” (nonbelievers in Islam) military troops in Muslim countries, which Muslims see as gross sacrilege. Second, Muslims abhor the lewd and decadent lifestyle that characterizes Western television, movies, music and fashions — which Muslims see invading their own countries despite their efforts to keep these out. Third, Muslims consider any land ever inhabited by Muslims as the rightful inheritance of Muslims forever.

Since Muslims occupied the land known today as Israel and Palestine at various times from the eighth century after Christ until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1947, Muslim logic concludes that Israelis are unlawful occupiers of Muslim territory, and that the U.S.A. is an equally guilty co-conspirator. I totally and unequivocally reject Muslim logic in this regard, but no good is served by closing our eyes and wishing that it did not exist.
Several million Muslims in countries across the Middle East hate America. One of their complaints is that the American culture portrayed in movies and on television is corrupting the morals of their youths. Of course, millions of Americans bear no resemblance to the media version in question, but our world neighbors do not know that. In fact, the media stereotype of Americans as a people consumed with drugs, sex, and booze–or, equally misguided, with materialism, self-centeredness and entertainment–violates and contradicts Christ’s call to us as his disciples also. When I make a Muslim’s acquaintance, I think it good to point that out (while also listening respectfully as my acquaintance explains that not all Muslims are terrorists).

The chance that we will have a Muslim acquaintance is increasing steadily. Although Muslim activists claim to represent six million or more U.S. Muslims, experts say those numbers are grossly exaggerated. A 2009 Pew Report is likely close to reality in saying that 2.5 million Muslims lived in the U.S. at that time, or one person out of every 125. The ratio in the U.K. is greater by 350%. Are Muslims by definition dangerous terrorists? Absolutely not. The Qur’an calls for jihad (“struggle”), which to pious Muslims describes the ongoing struggle of each individual to do what is right and not the wrong. Terrorists who equate jihad with murder do violence to their own scriptures.
As a teenager I once observed a fundamentalist Baptist preacher leading the invocation for a large outdoor rally of the Ku Klux Klan. Scripture speaks of “our battle” and urges us to “fight the good fight,” but whatever wickedness is done by the KKK, armed militias, or hatemongering “preachers” cannot rightly be blamed on the Bible or on genuine Christianity. Nor is it fair to put upright, reverent Muslims in the same class with murderous zealots who misuse the Qur’an for their own purposes.

Muslims believe that Islam is the true religion revealed by God, that non-Muslims (“infidels” or “unbelievers”) will finally be wiped out and the whole world will serve Allah and acknowledge Mohammad as his final prophet. We Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and that, in the end, evildoers will be gone and we will reign with Christ. Clearly someone is wrong; there is a spiritual warfare here that is inevitable. But spiritual warfare is not the same as literal battles, massacres and slaughters. Historically, how do Muslims fare on that subject?
During the 6th and 7th centuries, Islam spread through “holy war” and by the edge of the sword, first throughout the Arabian peninsula, finally as far as Russia and Turkey and Spain. “Infidels” (including Christians) were given a choice: convert to Islam or die. That is a wretched record of behavior by our standards, and we certainly would never do anything like that. But Muslims remember a history we do not recall. They remember Charlemagne, in the 8th and 9th centuries, establishing the Holy Roman Empire by the edge of the sword, giving Muslims a choice: convert to Christianity or die. They remember, in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, other soldiers who claimed to speak and to act for Christ, in his name slaughtering “infidels” (including Muslims) in more than one Pope-blessed Crusade.

But that all was long ago and far away. What is Islam’s intent today? Do those Middle Eastern Muslims who hate us see the struggle as a spiritual battle only, or are they committed to pursue it by terrorism, war, and by any other means? And what about Muslims who live in our own towns? What is in their minds? I found one website listing pages of verses from the Qur’an, supposedly proving Islam’s murderous intent, and the religious duty of every Muslim to wipe out “infidels” and take their lands. As I read these verses in the Qur’an in their contexts, I found that many (but not all) were taken out of context. Even more often, the meaning of the verse was ambiguously stated. That is why peaceful Muslims and terrorists can both quote the Qur’an for their opposite points of view. (I wonder if some Muslim goes around saying, “You can prove anything from the Qur’an.”)

I read a Canadian Muslim website for young people, that opens with pretty pictures, ecology projects, and the like. For the children’s reading, it also includes a speech by Iman Shaheed Hasan Al-Banna, founder of the fanatical Muslim Brotherhood (the radical group that assassinated Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat), urging every young Muslim to join jihad and become a martyr as the fastest and surest way to heaven. And I read an American Muslim website that condemns terrorism. Instead it advocates that Muslims become involved in politics and advance their interests through democratic processes. Even that sounds threatening if someone already is fearful and suspicious. However, we need to remember that, while fear and suspicion can be useful if balanced with reality, they become dangerous time-bombs if out of control. But what about the American Muslim family who lives down the street?
For every thousand residents of America today, eight are Muslims. A few are radicals bent on terrorism, but every indication is that most are not. Even if the Qur’an teaches the violent spread of Islam, these enlightened Muslims interpret it in a peaceful way. Our Constitution guarantees them freedom of religion, just as it does us. Whatever else we might say about Muslim Americans, they, too, are our neighbors. That means, according to Jesus, that they are beneficiaries of the second greatest command, to love our neighbors just as we love ourselves. We are obligated to practice the Golden Rule — to treat others the way we would like to be treated. If you lived where Christians were outnumbered by Muslims 125/1, what would you wish from them? Is that too much to ask? Jesus thought not.
In America, we also have the freedom to share God’s grace with our Muslim neighbor, first by living graciously, then by telling the story of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ — whom Muslims already revere as a prophet but do not yet know as God incarnate. We must not think that a hopeless task: the teenage son of a founder of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas eventually became a disciple of Jesus because a tourist he did not know and who did not recognize him, invited him to a home Bible study one day in Israel.

Meantime, we pray “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” and we cooperate with God by placing ourselves and our daily lives at his disposal, to be transformed into living samples of what he has in mind for humankind. We certainly must not ever concede to despair. Instead, as Christians, we can cling to certainties that transcend politics, whether local, national or global. God–and only God–is totally trustworthy. His kingdom–and only his–will last forever. Whatever happens today or tomorrow, or the year after that, and whether we thrive or suffer, whether we live or die, we are safe in his hands.


For reactions from gracEmail readers to parts 1-3 of this four-part series, go to