Another terrorist attack. Quickly, we see that the world is growing less shocked each time terrorists commit violence and mass murder. Terrorism in the headlines has become routine.
One Twitter comment sums it up well: “Je suis Paris (I am Paris), Je suis Belgium, Je suis Orlando, Je suis Ankara, Je suis Nice. Je suis sick and tired of this.”
And the list above only mentions a few of the past year’s attacks. It doesn’t even mention half the atrocities from the past two weeks.
The Terrorism Cycle
Fill in the blank below with the place of any of the recent attacks. The rest of the cycle looks the same:
- The terrorist act happens in __________. We are all shocked. Many are dead and wounded. Our televisions carry live coverage on nearly every channel.
- We mourn and express our condolences to the families who lost a loved one.
- We start asking who did it and why. Then it is revealed that the attacker(s) was an Islamic jihadi.
- Politically correct groups warn everyone that we must not connect these acts to Islam itself. They suggest we can call the perpetrators criminals, extremists, terrorists, and whatever other name we want to call them, but we are not in any way to connect them to the religion of Islam, even if they themselves announce that their motivation has been obedience to the teaching of Islam to jihad (fight) against infidels and kill them. Even if they shouted “Allahu akbar” when they were committing murders.
- President Obama condemns the act and makes his usual weak statement trying not to offend anybody, especially Muslims. He makes sure to avoid mentioning Islam in his comments. After the attack on July 14 in Nice, France, he said, “On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent citizens. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed, and we wish a full recovery for the many wounded.”
- Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement that the U.S. government is working to determine if any American citizens were injured in the event.
- We gradually forget and fall back to sleep until another terrorist event wakes us up again to restart the cycle that goes nowhere.
Breaking the Cycle
When are we going to break this cycle? When are we going to identify and address the root problem? We cannot solve the problem of terrorism if we refuse to identify its root. How can a doctor cure a disease if he does not dare identify the cause of the disease because the patient may be offended? When are we going to wake up from our slumber and look at the real issues in order to bring real solutions?
In the U.S., most of the media coverage is about WHAT the terrorist (jihadi) did with many details and pictures and footage. But they stop there and do not dare cover WHY he did this. They dare not talk about the motive of the terrorist even when he clearly states it in his writings and speech, even when he shouts “Allahu akbar” while he is killing.
I love Muslims. I am called to love Muslims and lovingly share the good news of Jesus with them. I have dedicated my life to loving Muslims. Nevertheless, the moment I mention that we need to look at the Islamic theology that motivates the terrorist, I am accused by emails and blog comments that I am a Muslim hater and that I am spreading hate!
Address the Problem, Love the People
Ronald Reagan was instrumental in bringing communism down because he addressed the problem of communism directly and boldly. He did not care about political correctness. It was the 1980s and the PC crowd had not yet risen to power.
This is what Reagan said about communism: “How do you tell a communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”
If the PC crowd had a voice then, they would have said, “President Reagan, by making this statement, you are offending many good communist citizens. You may alienate them and hurt their feelings. You are spreading hate.” My guess is that President Reagan would have answered, “I hate communism, but I love the people who live under communism.”
We Must Have Courage to Speak the Truth in Love
If Reagan were alive today, I imagine he would say something like this about Islam: “Who is a Muslim? Well, it’s someone who reads Quran. And who is an Ex-Muslim? It’s someone who understands Quran.”
If we do not face the reality of Islam and the belief and theology behind these terrorist acts, we will never be able to address the problem of terrorism accurately and give realistic and effective solutions. We will be stuck (as we are now) in the cycle I described above. Unfortunately, we gradually become desensitized to the news—something the psychologists call “terrorism fatigue.” It will shock us less and less and gradually become merely a reality of living on this earth. As time passes, we may become even less motivated to identify the problem accurately and solve it effectively.
We must wake up to the reality that these terrorists are, in fact, Islamic jihadis following the teaching of Quran and the lifestyle and example of Prophet Mohammad. We must love Muslims but hate the theology of violence and murder. We must have the courage to discuss Quranic verses in our media. (A reporter in American can be fired by just quoting—and not even interpreting—Quranic verses in his speech and writing!) We must find courage to expose and discuss the teachings of Quran publicly. We must get free from this self-deception that Islam is “just another religion” and face the fact that it is a political and militaristic movement. Muslims who commit themselves to obey the teachings of Quran and follow the example of Prophet Muhammad end up becoming terrorists.
We must have courage to speak the truth with love (Eph. 4:15). It is the only meaningful way forward.
My heart is heavy as once again a person professing allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has carried out an attack on Western soil in Orlando and now in Istanbul, Turkey. Toward the end of last year, I said I hoped that I was wrong, but that we would begin seeing an increase in terror events in Western cities (along with ongoing terror in nonwestern cities). I am greatly grieved by the horrendous mass shooting in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub and the mass killing in Istanbul’s international airport. That follows the Paris terror event and the San Bernardino terror event and the Belgian airport bombing, but I am not surprised. I wish I were.
God is moving in important ways in the Muslim world, but so is the enemy. How we respond to this event in coming days matters to God’s kingdom. For that reason, let me once again address the problem that we face.
Our Natural Instinct Is to Blame Outwardly and Move Inwardly
These gunmen are dead, and it is natural that people want answers that he can no longer give. We want to know who we can blame for his actions and what can we do to prevent the next random attack. We failed to prevent the loss of life in Orlando and Istanbul , and we desperately want to prevent terror in the future.
As a nation, the U.S. is lashing out in the dark right now at anything and everything that might contribute to the next attack. The news media and political figures have focused on several details of the attack: Orlando’s terrorist attack was the worst mass shooting in America, with 49 dead and 53 injured. The attack singled out gay men. The attacker used guns that he was licensed to own. The gunman was Muslim.
The nation and investigators will spend the week and month trying to determine what group has the greatest fault for allowing this senseless tragedy to happen. Some will follow the president in refusing to blame the attack on radical Islam and will fault the violence instead to a lingering anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. Some will blame our law enforcement for failing to sniff out this man’s intentions when they checked his background for his security job or when they investigated him for a Syrian connection in 2013. Some will be encouraged by current efforts in Congress to reign in gun ownership. And some will follow those who think that by banning every Muslim from the U.S., we will protect ourselves. None of these approaches will prevent the next attack.
When people are afraid, their natural instinct is to retreat to a “safe zone”—to a zone filled with people like themselves, like-minded, like-religioned, and like-skinned. After an event like this massacre, Christians and Muslims alike will move inward and allow suspicion and fear to grow stronger between them. But is this the best way for us to respond to acts of terror?
True Islam Requires Adherents to Hate Outwardly and Persecute Inwardly
Despite the many possible causes investigators and the media are blaming for the attack, the truth is that the gunman in Orlando revealed his motive. He called 911 to declare that the attack was an act of allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS). We do not know if the shooter was present three months earlier when an imam in Orlando preached death as the correct response to homosexuals. But we do know that the imam did preach what Islam teaches: that gays should be executed. And we do know that the shooter targeted the Pulse club because it caters to gay men.
I have said many times that despite many Muslims who live peacefully in the U.S. and who proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace, the holy book of Islam and the works of its prophet show a religion of violence. The teachings of the Quran and Muhammed call for violence against “infidels.” Americans Muslims are not so much radicalized by ISIS as they hear the teachings of the imams and discover that true Islam looks like ISIS, and they want to follow true Islam. And true Islam requires that its adherents hate infidels. What we call “Radical Muslims” are indeed just “Committed Muslims.”
Does this mean we should agree with those who wish to call all Muslims terrorists and ban them from our country or severely restrict their freedom here?
Christ Asks Us to Love Outwardly and Forgive Inwardly
Whether by a Muslim or someone else, terror attacks occur because of hate. The more we marginalize other human beings, the more we will contribute to a culture that explodes with hatred. Christ calls us to something radically different. Yes, we are to love and pray for those in office, even when they do not follow our agenda. Yes, Jesus tells us to radically love those who offend us, to pray for those who do not yet know him, to forgive those who hurt us and to share with them how we were also forgiven.
So what does this mean? How should we prepare for and avoid terror? If we are to follow Jesus, the way to prepare for and avoid terror is to love our enemy and to share the Good News with those who most want to do us harm.
Many Muslims do want a peaceful religion. They just do not know the right way to find it. We must show them. Muslims who wish to make Islam a peaceful religion find that they have to ignore much of what Islam teaches. If a Muslim wants to know a God of peace, they must find the God who became our peace—and that is Jesus. There is no other way.
We Must Be Ready to Share Peace
Muslims transformed by the God and by the love of transformed Christians do not shoot masses of people. It is true that we must wisely recognize the harmful intent of the Islamic agenda while at the same time see the vast numbers of Muslims ready to come to Christ in the West and even in the Middle East and Iran if only we are willing to share Christ’s love with them. These terror events force Muslims everywhere to look harder at their religion and see it for what it is. Many Muslims worldwide are coming to Christ even now, especially in Iran.
How should we live with the threat of terror? We can become an army of love like the underground church of Iran. We should refuse to allow suspicion and blame to divide us and paralyze us. We should move even faster, stronger, and bolder to love the one who hates us and even hates his own people and make Christ known among them. I pray that you will ask God how you can begin doing this even now.
To the Glory of God and the transforming of Iran.