/ Friday, February 21, 2020
Recently I heard a Muslim scholar speak on the history and place of the Qur’an in Muslim life. Her view is that Muslims were cut off from authentic Islamic culture by European colonization of Muslim lands (including “all the lands around the Mediterranean”). Colonization, she says, robbed Muslim women of their significant roles in society and turned lively faith-based centres of higher learning and civic life into bureaucratic institutions. Asked what she considered to be Islam’s unique expressions in North America, she cited its adaptation to multiculturalism and that Muslims have embraced community responsibility to indigenous Canadians for implementing Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations. She added that indigenous Canadians and Muslims share the experience of being colonized.
Having just begun reading Efraim Karsh’s Islamic Imperialism: A History, I felt like I’d landed on another planet! How could she ignore 13 centuries of Islamic conquest and colonialism starting in 622 A.D. up until the dissolution of the Ottoman caliphate in 1922? What about the second-class rights women and non-Muslims endured under sharia law during that time period and even today? And wasn’t it indigenous Spaniards who wrested Spain from Muslim colonialists? She was seeing a vase and I was seeing two faces.
I won the copy of her book given as a door prize. It has value in documenting Islamic culture, but my sense of “right-ness” is offended by her blinkered view of history. I want to challenge her on it. Someone should! I’m also being challenged to examine blind spots in the way we Christians view our own history. For example, many Christians commemorate the Holocaust without the slightest inkling that the Church has been one of the most egregious persecutors of Jews ever since the 4th century when Constantine Romanized the church, made it an institution of the state and began stripping its Jewish heritage. As a result, much of the Church today believes God is finished with the Jews – actually denying His covenant-keeping faithfulness.
Historians and cultural anthropologists like Karsh invest their effort in challenging this Muslim scholar’s narrative. Where should I invest my intercession? I am to live by faith, not by what I see (2 Co 5:7). I suspect Paul’s advice to Titus also applies to me: “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” (3:9). It’s about my focus. If I focused on bringing truth to bear on this narrative, I’d miss my main purpose, which is to bear witness to the Truth. “…For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice” (Jesus addressing Pilate, Jn 18:37).
Lord Jesus, You embodied Truth for all to see. Please remove the veils from our blind spots so we see You with increasing clarity and embody You in our interactions with others. May we walk with You through the forest of distractions toward Your light.
We ask for mercy for those who lead others astray using lies they sincerely believe. Remove their veils and expose the deceptions so they can repent (turn), walk toward You and with You, and help others find the Way. Appoint and empower scholars to search out and publish truth. Build for Yourself a family who worship You in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:19-24).