Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Frequency of Violence by Muslims

Post 10

I am a busy man and hence sometimes make silly mistakes. One of these is that the content of Post 9 should have come at least two posts after this one. Well, consider it a humorous break from the subject of violence. You deserve such a break.

Please refresh your memory re. the closing of post 8. There is this “but….” that needs to be cleared.

Let me be clear once again, that I am writing about violence and terrorism committed by individuals or groups, not by governments or nations. That would be a different story.

Before you read any further, note also that the title of this post is not “The Frequency of Muslim Violence,” but “The Frequency of Violence by Muslims.” I hope you catch the difference. I am not talking here of Muslim or Islamic violence, but of violence committed by individuals or groups who are Muslims. Herewith I am suggesting that this violence does not emerge from core Islam. As per our jurist Verkouteren in Post 3, I have no way of proving that this violence emerges from the bowels of Islam. In the case of violence committed by Christians, I know theirs does not come from core Christianity. On what logical basis would I determine otherwise for Muslims?

Nevertheless, my Muslim friends, that “but….” keeps tugging away at me. I wrote at the end of the last post that violence or threats of violence by Muslims are common these days. If we cannot blame it on their religion, then, what of their culture? Violent Muslims come from many different cultures, including Western cultures where they are in a minority. Unless we could agree that every culture is violent by nature, I would not go there either.

Well, then, what of social class? Can it be said that one social class is more violent than another? I don’t think I want to go there either. For some time, it was argued that terrorists and other violent folk must come from the underprivileged strata of society, but it soon became clear that terrorists are often well heeled and well educated. Another brick wall.

I want to turn elsewhere. First of all, there is the historical fact that the West has over the past centuries treated the Muslim world with disdain and a strong sense of superiority, all the time trying to control and exploit them for their own Western purposes. It is called “colonialism” and “imperialism.” During that period, serious attempts were made to pry Muslims loose from their religion, mostly by the inculcation of secularism through education and the legal system. It almost worked. Muslims did not turn from their religion, but the more they were subjected to secular education, the more secular they became in their thinking about the world of business, science, politics and government, while they often continued to practice the five pillars. The Muslim world went into a spiritual coma, a process that went largely unnoticed by the victim communities.

Then, suddenly Ayatollah Khomeini burst on to the scene with his angry and strident demands for a rejection of secularism and a revival of classical wholistic Islam. The Shah of Iran and all that represented the secular West had to be wiped off the face of the earth, especially from Muslim territories. Khomeini fired the imagination of the dormant Muslim community, stirred up the entire Muslim world and turned them into an indignant umma. I experienced it all in northern Nigeria and have described it in some detail in my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, especially in Volume 2. (You can find it by typing in the appropriate box in
< >.) Khomeini may have triggered a dynamic that went further than he could foresee or that I approve of, but as I observed it from my Nigerian perch, I could only applaud in principle this awakening of Nigerian Muslims from their stupor and breaking the secular chains that had bound them.

They became angrier than hell, millions of Muslims did. They realized they had been had. They had been tricked and sidelined. A virus had been inserted in the soul of the umma that now needed to be excised. They had swallowed the poison pill of secularism. They went back to their main source, the Qur’an, for renewed inspiration and a new beginning--and in their anger now took it in a very raw and literal sense, for that gave them an excuse to take revenge. Kill the bastards! A, yes, so many verses supported that kind of aggressive action. With joy, glee and enthusiasm they stirred up each other to this new liberating mission. With Allah on their side, history would be on their side as well. They were sure of victory.

And so they proceeded, millions of them. And who can deny that currently most non-governmental violence and terrorism comes from the Muslim side?

In many places it turned pretty ugly for Christians. Where Muslim majorities had at least tolerated Christians, they now became hostile and associated their local Christian neighbours with the hated West. One reads of so many situations where former friendly relations turned sour. Christians are accused of all kinds of crimes without proof in many countries, especially the “crimes” of apostasy and blasphemy. Stories are simply cooked up and the victims taken to court. Even when declared innocent, they feel so threatened by their accusers, they often escape to neighbouring countries. Some of them end up as refugees in the West. My archives are full of such stories. Simply beyond belief and reason. And even if these situations are not officially approved by governments or their agents, they often simply stand by and let it happen. Sometimes they connive with the perpetrators. Churches and Christian properties burnt. Families broken up. Careers cut short. Jobs lost., In Middle Eastern countries where some of the oldest Christian communities have lived in relative peace for centuries, their numbers are fast depleting by Christians escaping to neighbouring countries. They simply cannot take it anymore.

The West has done its thing. Whether Western colonialism was as bad as the Islamizing process of the Middle East and North Africa centuries earlier may be worth a debate. The Muslims are still there and now standing up for themselves. The same cannot be said of the earlier Christians supplanted by Muslims. They have largely vanished, while those remaining live under severe stress.

The time has come to put and end to this spiral of violence. Muslims know that Allah is the Compassionate and Merciful one. He forgives. Does Islam not promote forgiveness and reconciliation? Similarly, the Bible calls upon Christians to forgive. It is here that leaders of both religions must make their influence felt. People like Howitt and Cooper from the previous post are right in calling upon Muslim leaders to apologize. The non-governmental perpetrators of violence of today are mostly Muslims, even if they are not guided by a right understanding of the Qur’an. Their leaders must take a much stronger public stand against violence than they have. Arar seems to be either blind to the violence Muslims commit or he is trying to deny it. Given its widespread nature, that is rather foolish and makes him appear dishonest in my eyes. Arar and other Muslims should realize that the hesitation of the Muslim community at large to openly recognize and acknowledge the widespread violence among them constitutes a serious barrier to the Islamic da’wa or mission in God’s world.

One of these days I will give you a peek at the Nigerian situation where you have two equal majorities of 65 million plus of each of the two religions. That’s a dynamic that calls for a totally unique strategy for reconciliation and moving forward together from the rampant religious violence in that country. For those who are curious, check out the e-book version of my studies as I showed you above.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Humour" from the Left

Post 10--

I want to share with you some humorous attitudes of the so-called “left” in the US towards Muslims. First, the very interesting insights of Laurence Elder, a syndicated columnist, from a copyrighted article of his. That means I can describe the article, I can summarize it, I can interpret it, but I cannot reproduce it in this forum. But it’s so interesting and, really, sort of humorous, that I will take the trouble to describe/ summarize part of it for you. The title of the article is “Australian Muslim cleric calls for beheading -- who cares?”

He refers to two incidents: (1) an Australian Muslim cleric’s call for the head of Dutch alleged anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders and (2) the threat of the American pastor Terry Jones to burn the Qur’an. The first evoked hardly any reaction from anywhere, while the other provoked “an international outcry” from the highest authorities in the land, if not the world. Actually, these are three incidents, with the first being two in one—a Muslim cleric and a Dutch politician.

The Australian, Feiz Muhammad, was already infamous for other pranks. He allegedly called for the radicalization of young children and held rape victims responsible for their misfortune. As to Wilders, "(De Telegraaf, the Netherlands' largest newspaper) posted an English-language audio clip in which he [Muhammad]refers to Wilders as 'this Satan, this devil, this politician in Holland' and explains that anyone who talks about Islam like Wilders does should be executed by beheading....”

Elder reports that “civil libertarian groups vigorously defended Muhammad’s vile but protected speech,” while they were completely silent about events surrounding Wilders, who was attacked for his rather wild but also protected speeches against Muslims. He asks, “Where are the free-speech groups denouncing the prosecution of Wilders for making abrasive comments?” Put more clearly, how come those same libertarians do not defend Wilders’ right to free speech? Elder continues, “If a proposed Quran burning generates international news and condemnation, isn't the call by an Australian Muslim cleric for the beheading of a democratically elected European politician worthy of a few moments on the network nightly news?” Should that Muslim call for Wilders’ head not evoke similar indignation from those same libertarians?

Elder wonders why offensive acts by Muslims provoke calls for sensitivity and understanding” from the left without anyone defending Wilders’ right to free speech. Barbarous statements and acts by Muslims in the name of Islam generate indifference. Wilders can be attacked for his anti-Muslim statements with the same libertarians merely standing by with folded arms. And then, of course, the leftist uproar about Pastor Jones. His threat to burn the Qur’an evoked fearful and fierce antagonism from many quarters, including the highest authorities in the land right along with that from our libertarian goons. Elder wonders why the contradiction. Indeed, why? Why the double standard?

Humorous lob-sidedness on the part of these libertarians. Who has the liberty to do or say what? Within that community, why can some say what they want, no matter how vile, while others have their mouths sown shut or are attacked? Extremist Muslims must be protected and treated with sensitivity and understanding. A radically right Western politician, may be vilified and prosecuted for expressing his political beliefs, the job for which he was legitimately voted into office. As to that ludicrous call to burn the Qur’an, well, it goes without saying that, in view of the Muslim violence this would provoke and the added danger this would create for Americans abroad, this is scandalous. I am happy that libertarian leftists were so eager to protect the American establishment and its soldiers out on Asian adventures! Unusual, to be sure, but appreciated—and humorous! Or was there some other motive? Mmm.

The Elder article continues on to other things, but somewhere along the line he provides an explanation for this kind of leftist attitude. He comments, “Barbarity in the name of Islam is not even remotely condemned [by these leftists] to the degree that the West condemns insensitivity by cartoonists, politicians and anti-Islam clerics." Why? A denunciation of Muslim practices suggests a superiority of American values and culture, something the left finds a very objectionable notion.

Elder also refers to an article by Fred Gottheil from the University of Illinois, who in another context came to the same conclusion. He wrote, "If leftist 'progressives' really cared about women, gays and lesbians, then they would be fighting for their rights in places where such rights are really violated -- like under Hamas in Gaza and under the mullahs in Iran. But doing so would legitimize their own society and its values and therefore completely cripple their entire identity and life purpose, and so their purported concern for women, gays and lesbians has to go out the window."

It has not always been so. The US-based Egyptian Muslim Leila Ahmed, in her book A Border Passage (1999), expressed her absolute shock when she first entered the world of American university feminists. She remembers being openly besieged with “furious questions and declarations openly dismissive of Islam.” She would be attacked about the veil and clitoridectomy when these were far removed from the subject at hand. She encountered an atmosphere of outright hostility and sheer ignorance on the part of her fellow feminists who, by implication, demanded that she and others in similar situations abandon their culture because it was “intrinsically, essentially, and irredeemably misogynist and patriarchal.” They were expected to give up on their culture and adopt that of their American colleagues. While the entire enterprise of these feminists was to critique, destroy all their own cultural traditions and restructure their own society, suddenly, when it came to Muslims, the latter were expected to join and adopt the very culture they so vehemently vilified! Go figure.

Today, the attitude of these feminists would, of course, lean in quite different directions. Apart from the veil and clitoridectomy issues, they would likely mirror the image of the first crowd of libertines in this article—the very opposite of what they once advocated. Or would they now possibly defend the veil and clitoridectomy in the name of sensitivity and understanding?

I just wanted to draw your attention to “leftist” humour when it comes to Islam. But the humour does not stop here. I was kind of horrified when Ahmed referred to these American feminists as Christian and amazed that she expected them to have any knowledge of Christianity at all, apart from utter negativity. Now we run into the Muslim tendency to regard everything in the West as Christian. Ahmed was shocked at the ignorance of her colleagues about Islam; I am shocked at the ignorance of Ahmed about the West. Humour has no bounds, it appears!

I guess one of these days, in order to be "fair" and "balanced," I should write about rightist humour. Not sure there is such a thing, but if I dig deep and long enough.... Who knows.

(Note: Since I write about leftists and rightists, you may be wondering where I live. I use these terms only because those are the ones used in popular discussions. Though I have little choice in the use of this vocabulary, I do not identify with either. I am a Calvinist with different parameters. You can find me all over the place, then here, then there, not because I am a wavering person, but because Calvinism simply does not fit those categories.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Question of Violence and Apology

Post 8

This post being the 8th, this is a rather new blog. But already quite a few posts have been devoted to violence in a blog devoted to Christian-Muslim relations. I am in no way trying to convey that violence is the main characteristic of Christian-Muslim relations. I argued that no religion is violent by nature. Instead, violence inheres potentially in every human being. All we need is the right trigger and there we go, if not as individuals, then as groups, nations—or religions.

So, then, why do I keep writing about violence in this blog? Have I been carried away by the prevalence of discussions and reports on violence featured in the media? Probably. Who can resist the media's influence 100%? As Qamarul Huda of the US Institute of Peace wrote recently, "It is nearly impossible to speak about contemporary Islam without referring to the subject of violence." It is such a popular discussion and one so often derailed, that it is a good thing if you have something that helps diffuse the subject. Sometimes I think I have. I believe my idea of tracing the root of violence to human nature instead of religion should lead us to look in a different direction for the causes of violence and not blame any religion so automatically or quickly.

This brings me to the issue of apologies. Maher Arar, publisher of the online Canadian magazine Prism, criticizes Muslim leaders and organizations who seem so ready to apologize for all Muslims when some Muslims are arrested for alleged terrorist acts, even before they have been tried and judged guilty. Why should they? he asks. When Catholic priests are abusive, no one speaks of “Christian abuse” or “Catholic abuve,” for all know that both Christianity and its Catholic version vehemently reject abusive behaviour. But when some Muslims engage in terrorism, it immediately is touted as “Muslim terrorism.” What accounts for the difference? Arar suggests it is fear called up by sensational journalism that constantly interprets such acts as the natural product of core Islam, its logical outcome. Remember the statement by Verkouteren, that Dutch jurist in Post 3 of this blog, who insisted that you cannot blame the misbehaviour of an individual on his religion, unless you can prove it to be the natural result of that religion’s core beliefs. Arar’s argument is the same.

Of course, not all readers accept Arar’s argument. Bruce Howitt from Vancouver, referring to the readiness with which Germans today apologize for the Holocaust, asks rhetorically, “Is it too much to ask Maher Arar and other Muslim spokespeople to take a lesson from them [Germans] and apologize for the mayhem and destruction of lives and property caused by Muslims in the name of jihad and religion?” Alan Cooper, another Vancouverite, does not accept Arar’s critique of Muslim leaders. He finds that the Canadian Council of Imams is doing the right thing by their condemnations of Muslims involved in terrorism. Their statements tell us that being a “decent Muslim requires vocal condemnation of so-called radical Islam.” Herewith he urges Arar to get out there and apologize when Muslim leaders fail to prevent terrorism on the part of Muslims or “disgraceful treatment of women by others.”

So what gives? Who is right? The answer, I suggest, depends on the situation these writers either imply or assume. Arar’s argument seems to imply or assume that violence and terrorism by individual Muslims or by Muslim groups is a rarity. It seldom happens. That being the case, why blame their religion if some isolated group of extremist Muslims goes off the deep end? Howitt and Cooper imply or assume that such violence and terrorism occur frequently, so frequently in fact, that people have begun to think of it as common to Muslims and is a result of their religion.

I guess I need to give some direction here. A question: Is violence/terrorism by Muslims rare or frequent? I wish I could say “rare” and be done with the question. Unfortunately, the facts force me to admit it is a frequent occurrence.

I really would like to leave the issue of violence for a while, as if that were the only issue between Christians and Muslims. But there is this “but….” that still needs to be cleared away.

Violence in/and Religion (4)

Post 7

In 2009, before the long interruption in this blog, I wrote a few posts about violence and rejected the notion that religion, any religion, is violent by nature, even though religions do from time to time act violently and feed into it. Instead, I argued, violence is ingrained in human nature. In this post, I simply want to draw attention to various ideas and facts about violence, mainly to Western and Muslim violence, including war and other military exploits.

Today religion is still associated with violence, on a massive scale even. Though the governments involved in the Western efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan do not argue their case on basis of Christian tenets, many citizens, especially in the USA, support it for religious reasons. At the same time, many Christians are either doubtful about the legitimacy of these exploits or strongly oppose them, for religious as well as political reasons. Muslims the world over tend to interpret these exploits as expressions of Christianity, which many of them regard as inherently violent.

Westerners, both Christian and secularists, currently talk, write and publish furiously about Muslim violence. As Muslims see the entire colonial enterprise, including the Crusades, as a Christian violent onslaught on them, so do Westerners, especially Western Christians, remember how Islam has overrun the early Christian civilizations, mostly by violence. They point to the current prevalence of violent Muslim attacks on Western establishments both at home and abroad. They are aware of the violence evoked by Salmon Rushdie’s book, Satanic Verses, some decades ago. Then there was the violence in response to the Danish cartoons. They are fearful of Muslim terrorism that attacks both Western and Muslim targets. In fact, most Westerners, including Christians, regard Islam as a violent religion. And not only Westerners. 60 million plus Nigerian Christians have years of negative experiences with their 60 million plus Muslim compatriots and are convinced that Islam is violent in its very core. They are supported in that by former Muslim terrorists converted to Christ and who have told their stories of terrorism against Christians.

Even fear of potential violence against the West is common. At the time of writing, Muslims in various countries have already reacted violently to the announced but unrealized plan to burn the Qur’an and threaten more of it in various places if the planners proceed with it. Western governments at their highest levels are condemning the threat to burn the Qur’an because it has elicited threats of violence on the part of Muslims. Most Christian leaders have strongly condemned the plan, not only because of threats of violence, but also because it would seriously set back the gains achieved in Christian-Muslim dialogue and relations and because it would obscure the peace with which Christianity aims to and is designed to bless the world.

There is a feeling in the air that Muslims resort to violence or threats to violence all too often and all too easily. A Spanish discotheque recently adopted the name “Mecca” and decorated the place with Muslim features like “a minaret-like tower, a blue dome with a half-moon on top, which made the building look like a mosque, and verses of the Qur’an inside,” according to Sinikka Tarvainen of Deutsche Presse-Agentur. The name and style of the placed sparked an international “wave of protests on the Internet,” including a threat of “war between Spain and the people of Islam.” Even diplomats got involved in the issue. It does seem that violence or threats of violence that could be defused by negotiation come too easily

There is a difference between Western responses to perceived Muslim provocations and Muslim responses to perceived Western or Christian provocations. Western governments may react with military violence or war, but Western citizens seldom incite violence against Muslims. To the contrary, Muslim governments seldom react militarily against perceived Western violence—or perceived insults to Islam. They leave it to their citizens to organize seemingly spontaneous outbursts of emotional violence that the media delight in broadcasting. (If other writers have noticed this difference, I am not aware of it. It is, to the best of my knowledge, original with me. Readers, if you have reasons to disagree with me here, please leave your comments and correct/challenge me.)

Muslim governments do militarily and politically respond to Muslim terrorists like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban within their own borders, especially when these forces threaten those governments. Various North African governments have done so at different times as has Saudi Arabia. At this very time Mauritania and Mali are fighting terrorists within their borders. But they have seldom, if ever, actively helped defuse Muslim terrorist attacks on Western targets outside of their own countries, though they may have condemned them in stirring statements and impressive declarations. The Organization of Islamic Conferences is a good example of the latter practice.

All of this brings up the question of apologies. Should anyone apologize to anyone? Well, that’s for our next post to consider. In the meantime, chew on this one. Good night.

Christian Reformed Church (CRC) Laments Plan to Burn Quran

Post 6

Christian Reformed Church (CRC) Laments Plan to Burn Quran

First of all, a comment or two by myself. I republish the CRC statement below, because it is a good, simple and succinct. Secondly, because it is the church to which I belong and largely represents me. Sometimes the CRC aggrevates me; sometimes, it makes my proud. This statement is not of the quality to evoke pride, but it is sufficient and says what needs to be said. I have also recently republished a statement on the subject by Barnabas Foundation on the Companion Blog .

A footnote may be needed to prevent confusion. I have earlier identified myself as a Canadian, but this statement presents the church I belong to as American. In fact, it is an international denomination found in both Canada and the USA. This statement comes out of the American office, since it addresses an American development.

The document embraces also a statement by the much larger National Association of Evangelicals, of which the CRC is member.

And now, the two-in-one statement:

September 9, 2010—Rev. Jerry Dykstra, Executive Director of the Christian Reformed in North America (CRCNA) has joined with other Christian leaders to express sadness and concern about a Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Quran on September 11.

"At at time when Americans reflect with sadness and pain on the events of September 11, 2001, the Christian church is called to bring the shalom of Christ to a divided and broken world", Dykstra said. "The extreme actions of few in the burning of the Quran do not represent the church of Jesus Christ. As those who follow the Prince of Peace, we are called to be people of peace and reconciliation."

Dykstra strongly affirmed a statement made yesterday by the National Association of Evangelicals, of which the CRCNA is a member. That statement reads as follows:

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) asks Muslim neighbors to recognize that the plans announced by a Florida group to burn copies of the Qu’ran on September 11 do not represent the vast majority of Christians.

“To all followers of Islam: Please do not judge all Christians by the behavior of one extremist,” NAE President Leith Anderson said. “One person with 30 silent followers does not speak for 300 million Americans who will never burn a Qu’ran.”

Switching Gears after a Long Break

Post 5

In a way, part of this post is no longer helpful, since it announces a break that this new situation does not indicate. After all, these first few blogs--8 or so, I believe--have been transferred from that other blog on the same day and thus show the same date! Nevertheless, I have decided to retain it as is.

It's been a year and a quarter since my last post. That’s the sentence with which I recently revived or re-started the Companion Blog to this one, < Worldly Christianity >. I’m reviving this one with much the same language and info. Glad to be back and promise to stick with it this time. Here goes….

Things got too wild for me. Felt pressured to complete the last volume of my 8-volume series on Christian-Muslim relations. For details, go to my < >. I did get it completed after close to ten good years, a lot of dollars that I was surprised to be able to muster, several computers and printers and 2700+ pages. You can purchase them from me, from the publisher, from Amazon and their ilk. You can also access it free of charge as e-books from < >. Yes, free of charge! Just peck "janhboer" there and you will find them, all eight of them. The archives that emerged from this project are now lodged at Yale University.

After completion, I had to spend more time on getting the Nigerian side of the publication in place and I continue to be busy with that. Nigeria? you ask. Well, yes, my wife and I spent 30 years there. This series has ramifications for the entire world with its Christians and Muslims, but its primary focus is on Nigeria as a detailed case study of its 60 million plus of both Christians and Muslims. The place is a virtual laboratory of how these two religions can co-exist in relative peace.

Relative peace. I don't think you can expect more than that, if for no other reason than that they tend to have such opposite views about the functions of government. In addition to that, they have such different views on the nature and function of religion as well as on freedom of religion, that achieving anything more than relative peace may be asking for too much. But that is a whole lot better than what they have today, each with a knife at each other's throat. My series has a number of purposes, but the main one is to provide especially my fellow Christians there with more wholistic parameters so they can better understand the Muslim challenge and thus better respond to it.

OK, you got me going on the main subject of this blog already. Please remember it is the Companion Blog of < Worldly Christianity > where I already described myself as to my worldview and my locus in the world of perspectives. So, let me repeat that part as well under the title, “Calvinism by Any Other Name.” Once again, here goes….

In my previous blog, I introduced myself as a modern-day Calvinist. I did not define it but encouraged you to continue reading my blogs and so discover for yourself what's involved. So, you got yourself a job--you've become a detective!

But things are not quite as simple as I put it last time. Like every philosophy, school of thought, worldview or religion, so Calvinism has numerous variations. You've got orthodox, conservative, liberal, Swiss, Dutch, Scottish versions. Then there's the American scene in which you find all of them. Even within these schools you find variations.

OK, here comes a bit of a boring paragraph. So, either brace yourself or just skip it. If you are academically inclined, you may find it interesting. I am about to describe my life orientation with reference to schools of thought. Here goes:

Though I am a Canadian citizen and live in Vancouver, I am born in The Netherlands and hold dual citizenship. I have also spend around 15 years in Michigan, USA, and nearly 30 in Nigeria. My root Calvinism is of the Dutch variety, the most unique of which is known by names such as "Kuyperian" after its founder Abraham Kuyper(see Kuyperiana page on my website). I tend to lean towards the "Neo-Kuyperian" or "Neo-Calvinistic" branch of this one, which is also described as "Reformational. I am only giving you these names in case you decide to follow up on some of my blogs in the future. Then having these terms at hand will facilitate your research on the internet. Apart from that, forget these names.

You still there? Great! It is from that Reformational perspective that I am going to approach things. Of all Western Christian perspectives, it is the most world-affirming Christian tradition that I know of,that has not lost its classical orthodox orientation. World affirming! Now you can understand the title of this blog and where this comes from. If you're interested in knowing more about this school and its world affirmation more quickly, without waiting for my blogs, you can google any of the terms found in the above paragraphs and you'll find plenty to occupy yourself.

I promise that I am going to engage in discussions in terms of the world-affirming perspective promoted by Kuyper and his followers. You will probably find that I move around quite a bit between left and right, liberal and conservative, if those are your categories of thought. You may even wish I could make up my mind about where I belong. The reason for that is that Kuyperianism is beyond those categories. It is simply different. I was almost going to say that it is a third way, but that is a tired claim made by so many who reject those narrow cliches. So, let's just say I am beyond the conservative/liberal axis, while clearly within the orthodox camp. Like mainline Islam, I am wholistic. That is to say, I maintain that religion covers the whole of life.

I am going to respond in a Christian spirit to events or writers or to you, my readers, as they happen or write, without pretending to have the last Christian wisdom and I'm going to do this from a contemporary Calvinist point of view. If you stick with me, you will slowly discover what such an exotic perspective might look like. Yes, there is such a perspective and it is alive and well in Canada and many other countries. You might be surprised at the organizations and institutions it has fostered. It is active and working and making a difference, but often without flying the Calvinist flag, so that people do not recognize it even as they benefit from it.

If this post kind of gives you cold feet, relax, put your socks on—or your sandals. I promise from here on not to bore you with this kind of stuff and deal with more interesting topics about Christians and Muslims and, in a secondary way, Secularists.. If you have any suggestions as to topics, send it to me and l will try to accommodate you. But be careful: I just might engage you in a private discussion before I go public.

This, then, is my re-introduction of my good self. I hope that in time you will draw your friends to this blog and join me in conversation. Till next time--inshallah!

Violence in/and Religion (3)

Post 4
I want to offer a daring proposition that flies in the face of many if not most worldviews and religions. It does represent one of the deepest insights of both the Bible and the Calvinian branch of the Reformation, including its Kuyperian strand.
The Proposition: It is not religions that are inherently violent; it is the human race itself as a whole that is afflicted with a deep-seated streak of violence that is humanly impossible to eliminate and that is easily activated by that other (in)human(e) natural characteristic, lust for power, or provoked when under duress and threat.
I am not suggesting that every individual is inherently violent. There are millions of peace-loving individuals everywhere, espousing every religion and most worldviews. But the human race as whole has this streak, not as something superficial, but deep down in its very bowels. You cannot understand world, national or even more local history without acknowledging that fact.

That’s not the only thing to be said about the human race. Some great things can be said about us as well. The Bible uses very laudatory terms for us. Just one example: God has made every person a “little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour. You [God] made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet…” (Psalm 8:5-6). This is one important side of the coin of the human condition, but it does not eliminate its opposite, that deep-seated propensity for violence.

One of the roles of religion is to bring out that glory with which we have been created by chaining the brute within us. That has happened frequently and till today happens more commonly than most hostile or ignorant despisers of religion want to recognize or want us to believe. Like much of the modern media, those despisers prefer to cover up the positives by highlighting the negatives and then attribute them to religion. If love is blind, so is hate. The first nuclear bomb was not created or thrown out of religious fervor or out of love!

That being the case, we/I cannot avoid or cover up questions about religious wars and the involvement of religious folk in violence. I am going to pursue these questions in the next few posts, but I will insist that the basic problem does not reside in religion so much as it does in human nature.

I find it interesting and revealing that abuse in/by religion often evokes calls for the elimination of religion, but abuse in economics, politics, media, sports or art never leads to calls for eliminating those forces or sectors from human life. Then we call for better laws, improved morals or transformation of the structures, for we realize we simply cannot eliminate those sectors from human life. While I do not regard religion as simply another sector of human life—but that’s for a later discussion—, because religion seems more susceptible to emotion than other facets of life, abuse here easily provokes emotional calls for its abolition rather than reformation or revival. Responsible and rational people will lend their ear to and respect leaders of thought in economics, political science and other fields during times of crisis. These same people will often throw caution to the wind, totally disregard empirical research and facts, and with emotional and hateful fervor call for the abolition of religion. This reaction is usually the result of their instinctive pre-rational worldview rather than of rational and objective deliberation.

Violence in/and Religion (2)

Post 3

First, a note. You may notice that these first posts have the same date. The reason is that they have been transferred from another newish blog whose name was giving troubles. So, I opened this new blog and transferred the posts to this one. Originally written on different dates, they are being transferred on one date. Hence, the same date for the first blogs.

I want to pursue the violence issue a bit further. First of all, it is hardly a new question. Already a century ago, a Dutch jurist Verkouteren, discussing the same issue, acknowledged that Christians have all too often been involved in violence of one kind or another. But he argued that such violence can be attributed to religion—in this case, Christianity—only if you can prove that the violence in question has its origin in the teaching of the religion. You would have to prove that this violence logically flows out of the religion, that it is a natural consequence of its principles and that it necessarily had to happen. It was Verkouteren’s strong opinion that “Christians” involved in violence in fact did not apply their religion but denied it. They did not adhere to the laws of Christianity but trampled upon them. None of it derived naturally from the religion itself. It happened in spite of the religion.

The question is once again at the top of the agenda, especially with respect to Islam. Westerners, both Christians and secularists, are all too ready to point an accusing finger at Islam anytime some Muslim (group) has perpetrated an act of violence. All of Islam is blamed for it. True, often lip service will be paid via a quickie acknowledgement that the perpetrator was Islamist or terrorist, but from there on the discussion tends to ignore that distinction and leaves us with the impression that the violence was the direct result of Islam.

That Islamist terrorists are Muslims and claim to be guided by the Qur’an is not the issue. That these are dangerous people and need to be stopped in their tracks is the need of the hour. But are they truly Muslim? They may call themselves “Islamist,” but are they Islamic? There are any number of Muslim scholars who deny them that status. In my book Christians and Muslims: Parameters for Living Together I discuss this issue and quote many Muslim scholars, both from the 2/3W and from the West, who convincingly demonstrate that the violence we are witnessing today is a false application of the Qur’an. Its perpetrators are ignorant of the Islamic rules for interpreting the Qur’an. Though they may be called Fundamentalists, they have wandered far from the Islamic fundamentals. It would be similar to Christians basing their violence on the Old Testament. Both religions have certain established rules by which they interpret their holy books. Ignoring these rules leads to misinterpretation and heresy—and often to violence.

So, here, too, we may have an occasion for applying Verkouteren’s test. Joseph Lumbard, an American Muslim, edited a collection of essays written mainly by Western Muslims under the title Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition. In his introduction, Lumbard writes that the fundamentalist militants “represent a complete break with traditional Islamic teachings—not a conscious development from them or of them. Of all the possible ‘Islams’ one could choose from, these are the least representative of its traditional teachings and classical heritage, for they have no scriptural, historical, or intellectual foundations.”

Violence in/and Religion

Post 2

The question of violence in/and religion is an uppermost question these days. There are any number of people, most of them really quite ignorant of history, especially religious history and its nuances, who love to pile up accusation after accusation of violence against specific religions or religion in general. Most of these people have never bothered to consider or study seriously all the positive contributions religions often have made to their various societies. They dislike religion and are not ready to listen to any defence. Religion is equated with violence throughout history. Punkt. There is no religion without violence.

Of course, I realize that there are also genuine scholars who make the same accusation. They can hardly be accused of ignorance. But it usually does not take a lot of pumping to discover that if they are not driven by ignorance, they are driven by what is called their worldview. That is to say, they, like every one else including yours truly, have committed themselves to a specific set of paradigms through which they regard the entire world and on basis of which they judge and analyze everything. This is, I realize, a huge statement that needs more than simple affirmation, but that will have to wait for a later post. For now I just affirm it and use it as an interpretive tool of what people, including scholars, do with and because of their worldview.

Then there are those who equate violence with a specific religion. In the Western world, many consider Islam the source and perpetrator of violence. Many citizens of the Two-Thirds World, from here on referred to as “2/3W,” in turn accuse the West of violence, usually implicating the West’s traditional religion, Christianity. Muslims, countering the Western charge, often air this accusation.

It would be foolish to deny that religious people have frequently engaged in violence. This is true of Christianity, of Islam, of Sikhs, of Hindus as well as of people who regard themselves as non-religious, the secularists, including Humanists and Marxists. As a Christian, I am shamefully aware of how much violence Christians have inflicted upon each other and on the rest of the world.

Without explaining this terrible reality away, in the next post or two I hope to shed some light on this history. There are some responsible Christian and Muslim perspectives that can help us understand. I hope to have you curious enough to return to the next post.
For an introduction regarding my good self, please turn to the “About” page on my website www.SocialTheology. Amongst other things, you will learn there that, though I am a Caucasian, I spent 30 years in Nigeria’s Middle Belt in various capacities. You will also learn there that I hold a doctorate from the Free University of Amsterdam, where I specialized in mission studies and wrote a hefty dissertation on missions and colonialism under the title Missionary Messengers Of Liberation In A Colonial Context (1979). For info about other publications of mine, please turn to two other pages on that same website: the “Boeriana” page for a more or less complete list of my publications and to the “Islamica” page for my publications on Christian-Muslim affairs. The more you peruse the various pages on that website, the more you will find out about me. That may be helpful in understanding where I come from in my posts, that is to say, my worldview.

In addition to this blog, I have also started one with the name “” That one will further develop issues of Christian worldview, a favourite topic of many people these days. It is the same worldview that will underlie this blog. So, these two blogs will be supporting each other.

This blog will concentrate on Christian-Muslim relations and other issues related to these two religions. I do not claim final or complete expertise on that subject, but I definitely claim to know a thing or two about it. After all, 30 years of mature living in a Nigeria with a cleft population of over 60 million adherents of both religions has provided a rich mine of experiences. So have my doctoral studies equipped me with considerable qualifications. On top of all that, from the Islamic page on the website you may have learned that I have written 8 volumes on the subject of Christian-Muslim relations in Nigeria. That took me about 10 years of concentrated research and writing. So, come along, read me and challenge me as we go. I love challenges, for they often sharpen our mind and improve our understanding. I especially invite my Muslim friends to join the “party.”

The entries will sometimes be slightly edited materials from my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, a series of 8 volumes, plus the COMPANION CD that counts as Volume 9. For more information about its layout, see my website That series is a Nigerian case study of Christian-Muslim relations—often about how not to do “it.” Nigeria is a unique case in that you find some 65 million plus Christians facing 65 million plus Muslims. There is no constellation like this anywhere else in the world. No country has two such huge and equal blocks of both religions within its borders. Another part of the dynamic is that though both are on the increase in Nigeria, Christians appear to be increasing faster and are poised to outnumber Muslims. At the moment, both insist they constitute the majority along with the rights they claim with that status. However, neither the 2007 census nor earlier ones included religious statistics, so that it is anyone’s guess as to which religion can boast the larger following. But, as always, perception and propaganda outstrip the facts in power and significance.
Though I concentrate on Nigeria, it is Nigeria as a case study with global implications from several points of view:
• What dynamics develop when you have two large blocks of these religions living together?
• What happens when you have these two aggressive missionary religions competing for a place in the sun?
• What happens when a once almost supreme Muslim community is confronted with an emerging Christian community that has woken up to a growing sense of political awareness and power?
• What happens when you have a confrontation between a Muslim community that vehemently rejects secularism in favour of sharia and a Christian community that insists on a form of secularism?
• What happens when both communities are fearful, mistrusting of and angry with each other so that they can no longer hear each other out?
The flow of events in Nigeria is a powerful example of how things are NOT to be done from either side. I expect that Nigerians who read these monographs will feel deeply ashamed of the violence they unleash on each other in the name of their respective religions.
But these studies are not written primarily to embarrass Nigerians. Their purpose is to arrive at some parameters within which we can develop more positive relations with each other, relations of respect and tolerance, that will allow both religions to flourish within the one nation.
These relations have been bedeviled by untold blood shed and destruction ever since 1980. The series describes and explains the riots themselves and the issues of confrontation. Most of the study concentrates on the opinions of Nigerian Muslims and Christians themselves by providing extensive quotations and appendices, especially from the media. Each volume deals with a separate aspect of the relationship.
These studies do away with taboos, now politely dubbed “political correctness” and as well as with religious wishful thinking. We are encouraged to get real. The fatal influence and role of secularism in these relationships in Nigeria come across very pointedly. The weak inheritance of a dualistic gospel transmitted by Christian missions also is explained and constitutes a major reason for confusion in Nigeria.