Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the global community has been saturated with carefully nuanced descriptions that explain the Muslim faith to a world that had previously given little attention to this 7th century religion.
Unfamiliar words such as jihad and shari'a have become familiar concepts that are presented by world leaders and others to describe, and in many cases, defend Islam's restlessness with western culture and civilization.
Many Muslim leaders have become skilled operators at negating adverse information about Islam by presenting the Islamic faith as a peace-loving, peace-promoting way of living with nothing the western world needs to fear. Furthermore, in an attempt to appease Islam, which exerts an over-proportionate influence on foreign policy, global financial markets and the media, western governments have shaped their agendas to ensure, in some cases through legislation, that Islam and the prophet Mohammad are protected from any critique that might dishonor the Islamic faith. Thus, societies that were founded on a Judeo-Christian heritage have capitulated to Islam, giving the Muslim faith a platform to strategically influence the global community through the introduction of shari'a law.
In a surprising development, some leaders within the Christian community are now speaking in defense of Islam and promoting new faith relationships where Christians and Muslims promote understanding and reconciliation making the world a better place for all.
At a recent 'dialog' between Christianity and Islam at Washington's National Cathedral, senior Christian and Muslims leaders including Dr. Ahmad El Tayeb, president of Sunni Islam's foremost center of learning, Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, and Bishop John Chane, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, committed themselves and appealed to fellow believers to promote respect for all human life, religious freedom as an integral part of human rights and to confront issues of unjust treatment, violence and oppression of women and children.
While these are commendable goals, it is difficult to know exactly how these Christian leaders intend to make tangible and measurable progress in their 'dialog' while Islam has no intention to amend the draconian and medieval aspects of shari'a law.
In Islam, Jews and Christians are given second class status. There are restrictions placed upon them which are designed to reinforce their second class standing. Of serious concern is Islam's apostasy law which prescribes the death penalty of any Muslim male who leaves the faith and refuses to return to Islam. There are other penalties such as the loss of inheritance rights and the annulment of marriage - all to be reinstated or returned when the convert returns to Islam.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every individual has the right to change their religion or belief. However, some nations who were signatories to this declaration continue to openly permit the inexcusable suffering of converts from Islam. Recent fatwas [religious opinions issued by Islamic scholars] provide evidence that many leaders within Islam continue to see apostasy as a crime punishable by death.
In Islam, women are considered to be 'toys' who are to satisfy the desire of their husbands. Under some circumstances they are permitted to be beaten and their testimony is worth less than that of a Muslim man. The treatment of women according to shari'a law is graphically portrayed in the movie "The Stoning of Soraya M." This is an incredibly emotionally charged true story that depicts the modern day testimony of an Iranian village's persecution of an innocent woman, who in 1986 was buried to her waist in her hometown square and stoned to death by her husband and fellow villagers all in accordance with shari'a law.
There are many documented present day cases that provide evidence of the continuing brutality of shari'a law. A recent USA Today report stated that Muslim men had been accused of 6 'honor killings' in the United States over the past two years. In Islam, honor killings are permitted when someone [usually a woman] has brought shame on a Muslim family.
One of the most recent examples is that of 20-year-old, Noor Almaleki in Peoria, Arizona, who was killed in November 2009 when her father intentionally drove over her in a parking lot because she had brought shame on him and his family. Arizona prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in this case so that there is "no appearance that a Christian is seeking to execute a Muslim for racial, political, religious or cultural beliefs."
It is unclear how the participants of Washington Cathedral's dialog intend to promote respect for all human life and confront issues of oppression of women and children while Islam continues to promote and endorse the cruel and indefensible edicts of shari'a law. It is time for leaders in the global community to call Islam to account and to support the small minority within Islam who are calling for reform.
The Christian community has an urgent responsibility to declare the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Throughout history, the Church has been at the forefront of transforming society and challenging unjust structures with the liberating truth of the gospel.
Christians must once again believe with confidence that the gospel can change lives and change the world.