(Photo: International Christian Concern)
A controversial new book concludes that Muslims must change Islam or risk making it inseparable from violence and discrimination.
Islam Uncensored is written by Jeff King, who spent nine years as president of International Christian Concern, a persecution watchdog group. King argues that Americans shouldn't mince words when it comes to Islamic extremism. He maintains that radical Islamic persecution of other major faiths has placed it among the greatest threats to world peace.
In an interview with The Christian Post, King claims that only open dialogue about Islam's successes and failures will inspire the religion to change its dangerous elements. The problem with that approach, he posits, is that it will either get you labeled a bigot or blown up.
CP: Your new book Islam Uncensored attempts to take a no-holds-barred look at Islam. Did you conclude it was good, bad or both?
King: There's a lot of political correctness out there and I want people to discuss Islam openly without being cowed by charges of bigotry or fear. Islam needs a reformation. It needs to be worked into modernity. It was invented by a warlord and we need to openly debate that without hate and with respect, honesty and love instead.
CP: You interviewed everyone from radical Islamists to atheists for your book. What's the most shocking thing you discovered about Islam?
King: It was shocking hearing all these voices and where they align despite the fact they're from different politics and religions. What I was fascinated by is the commonality. I heard radical Muslims saying the same things as atheists.
I was also surprised hearing about the apostates that have left Islam for the U.S. and other non-Muslim nations. All of them – be they atheists or Christians – now have a bull's eye on their backs. They're exposed and in danger even here. A lot of their former brethren would like to see them done in.
CP: You seem unafraid of criticizing Islam. Do you ever worry radical Muslims will target you?
King: I've been outspoken for some time but I don't know where I stand in the bull's eye. The people I spoke with are literally in danger all the time. Some of them have been mentioned in Al-Qaida videos as people who should be killed.
What it comes down to is we have to stand up and speak the truth. Our days are numbered and they're in the Lord's hands. If people feel pushed to speak out about something like this, they should.
CP: On the other hand, some might call criticisms of Islam Islamophobic. How do you define an Islamophobe?
King: At best it's a ridiculous term. Phobias are irrational. It's not irrational to fear people with guns and bombs. Radical Muslims are quite willing to kill and destroy others. We should fear them. We need to stop playing games and discuss radical Islam.
I don't want to cause people to hate. Human beings are tribal to the core and they're prone to hate those different from them. The Lord tells us to love those that hate and persecute us. We can hate radical Islam but love the Muslim. It's the difference between criticizing the faith and the follower.
CP: What are positive points about Islam?
King: The rank-and-file Muslim has a respect for morality. They're God-fearing people and have an excellent sense of hospitality. I honor and respect that.
CP: Most Americans first encountered radical Islam on 9/11. What were you doing when 9/11 happened? What did you think at the time?
King: I was with Campus Crusade for Christ at the time. I was driving to work when the first tower was hit and saw the second one on TV. I remember feeling heartbreak. I had a lot of sadness about all the death and destruction of that day.
CP: Outside of writing you're the president of International Christian Concern, a watchdog group that monitors persecution of Christians overseas. What role does Islam play in that persecution?
King: The source and focus of persecution was shifting when I first came into this world nine years ago. In the old days, it was the Marxist world in Cuba, Africa and Asia persecuting Christians.
Now the leading focus of persecution towards Christians is Islam. Christians overseas face everything from discrimination to imprisonment, abduction and murder in Muslim communities. The Saudis in particular have been radicalizing the world's Muslim population for 30 years. They've been building mosques all around the world and putting radical clerics in them. It accounts for the rise of terrorism and 9/11 was part of that radicalization. It's dividing the Muslim world between radical and peaceful interpretations of Islam.
CP: What perception do Muslims have of Christianity?
King: That's a tricky one. In the broadest sense, they'd look at what they see on the moral cesspool that is American TV and assume that it's Christian. They generally look at our media as disgusting and we're in the soup so we're used to it.
The Quran says both good and bad things about Christians and Jesus. They don't consider him anything greater than a prophet, and even that view has gotten warped by fundamentalism.
Last but not least, some of them see as aggressors given we've invaded Muslim countries recently.
CP: Christmas is often a dangerous time for Christian communities in Muslim-majority countries. What do you hope Western Christians will remember about their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ during this time?
King: We should let them know we know that they’re suffering and thinking of them. It's a huge encouragement. They feel buoyed by the prayers of their brothers and sisters overseas.
Churches are often burned down and the hatred often comes out during that time. If Christians were more active and more righteously angry when these attacks happen, it would work wonders. It could be something as simple as calling an embassy. We have to shine a light on those who rape, torture and kill.
CP: What country or countries will you and ICC monitor in 2012?
King: We're going to focus on Egypt. From the beginning of the Arab Spring movement, we've said “lookout.” Mubarak wasn't the best guy, but what's coming is a nightmare. The Christians we've spoken to over there have said they feel a great crushing coming on. These people have lived under oppression for centuries yet the hatred is still rising.
CP: How can Christians and Muslims better get along in the future?
King: On the American end, the more we fight overseas the more we make enemies. It gives propaganda for the radicals.
Outside of that, lots of Christians and Muslim want a more righteous society. We're both offended by the immorality of our cultures and we also believe in general hospitality.
The best thing we can do is start talking honestly about Islam. Most people are not interested in following violent people. If we expose the violence of radical Islam that creates a wedge that isolates radicals from the culture.