How interfaith dialogue works

Dave Andrews, Julie Siddiqui
Julie Siddiqi and Dave Andrews

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Jihad of Jesus tour, and about why associating the Islamic concept of jihad with Jesus is to make a mockery of Him. Last Wednesday, I met with Dave Andrews and Julie Siddiqi on the London leg of the tour in London Central Mosque. There were around 20 people in attendance, one or two of whom were Muslims.

Dave Andrews is a charismatic, articulate man. He introduced the topic with the two most frequent responses he gets to his provocatively-titled tour. Muslims respond – what has Dave Andrews got to teach us about jihad? Evangelical Christians tell him- you’re obviously a total heretic. (I felt bad when I heard that one. Note to self: disagree without ranting.)

This was followed by about 45 minutes of dialogue between Dave and Julie covering various topics; the violent episodes in Christian history, the genocidal passages in the Old Testament, the need to create ‘safe spaces’ to discuss difficult topics, how Islam had helped Christians ‘reclaim’ the spiritual disciplines, how Jesus needed to be liberated from Christianity(?), how the bismillah was really the heart of mercy and grace within Islam, how Islam had given coffee to the world, and how you can never underestimate Muslims and Christians chatting over tea and samosas together. But despite the promising preamble, what there wasn’t much chat about was jihad, as defined by Islamic sources, the four schools of sharia and by implication, the vast majority of the Muslim world. For this I had to wait for the Q and A.

I brought up the commands to fight the unbeliever in the Quran (Sura 9:19, 9:29, 9:73, 8:39) – how do you deal with the fact these are there? Part of Allah’s eternal speech? Answer – these are contextual, meant only for the seventh century. So why aren’t there other verses that clarify this is contextual in the clear, detailed, well-explained Qur’an? Or in the ahadith, or the tafsirs? They don’t give any indication that these verses are time-constrained. When a devout Muslim reads a verse like Sura 8:39 – fight them until all religion is for Allah alone – and thinks to himself, I must continue what Muhammad started, the job isn’t done yet, how do you persuade him out of that conviction? I didn’t get much of an answer. Things didn’t improve when I brought up Muhammad:

Me: How do you deal with the fact Muhammad was the original jihadi? That he oversaw the slaughter of the Banu Qurayze tribe? That he assassinated his critics and had his enemies tortured? This is all in Islamic sources. And you compare this to Jesus, who died saying, “Father, forgive them?” Who told his followers to put their swords away?

Muslim speaker: Did you come here to teach me my religion? Have you noticed you’re in a mosque? I mean, no-one’s asked you to leave, and more power to you….but you are talking about our most beloved prophet here! Do you know any Muslims? Have you ever sat down and had dinner with them? (Yes. Many times.)

And then it was finished, time for the inestimable tea and samosas. Except it is not finished, it will never be finished until Muslims start to take these painful questions seriously, honestly asking themselves if a man like Muhammad is worthy of their allegiance. Last week marked the one year anniversary of the Westminster Bridge attacks. We owe it to all victims of Islamic terror to keep bringing them up.

3 thoughts on “How interfaith dialogue works

  1. Well done, Lizzie. Whatever about the supposed context that the Tafsir might give to Quranic passages, there is against that the historical context of how real life Muslims have acted upon these verses. Muslims never needed to wage a defensive battle outside the borders of Arabia, yet they found themselves (somehow?) in Spain fighting numerous battles until the people were subjugated and forced to pay the jizya (sounds so much better than “pay protection money”). There is also something inherently unpeaceful in asserting that one’s religion usurps earlier religions and something totalitarian that the holy book is a guide on everything. The millions of African men, who were captured, enslaved and castrated by Muslims for 13 centuries, what would they say about the claim that the violent verses were only meant for the seventh century? These poor men had everything stolen from them: their names, their bodily integrity, their freedom, their right to marry and procreate, their happiness and their dignity. And then the cases of FGM which still are carried out and which represent a brutal act of violence against women. Islam deserves the criticism it gets for the violence it inspires and the injustices it perpetuates against innocent people. That isn’t hate speech, that’s the truth.

  2. Lizzie: I always enjoy your writing. Your pen can be a rapier or a broadsword at the service of our Lord.

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