The latest incident of Islamic terrorism is only unique in the location. San Bernardino California is not where you expect it to happen. Neither is Paris. But it should not come as a surprise that Islamic terrorism occurs wherever Muslims settle. This is a controversial statement coming from an average western white guy who isn’t a Muslim, I know, so how about a different perspective? How about a Middle Eastern born Muslim man? How about a man whose father is a highly respected Imam? How about a man who worked for Hamas? Hear him:
Islamic life is like a ladder, with prayer and praising Allah as the bottom rung. The higher rungs represent helping the poor and needy, establishing schools, and supporting charities. The highest rung is jihad. The ladder is tall. Few look up to see what is at the top. And progress is usually gradual, almost imperceptible- like a barn cat stalking a swallow. Traditional Muslims stand at the foot of the ladder, living in guilt for not really practicing Islam. At the top are fundamentalists, the ones you see in the news killing women and children for the glory of the god of the Qur’an. Moderates are somewhere in between. A moderate Muslim is actually more dangerous than a fundamentalist, however, because he appears to be harmless and you can never tell when he has taken that next step toward the top. Most suicide bombers began as moderates.
That quote is from the book Son of Hamas, by Mosab Hassan Yousef. He is the son of the leader of Hamas. The whole book is worth reading to gain a perspective few westerners could get on their own, and as Yousef himself is an insider of an organization associated with radical terror activities in the name of Islam, he is himself a radical. But something happened on the way to the jihad. Yousef climbed the ladder, but just as he got to the top, he got arrested and jailed by the Israeli Defense Force who tortured him and kept him confined without a trial. The end of this story would be easy to write, right? A radicalized Muslim arrested and tortured by the forces of the number one enemy of all Islamic people will become even more radical and even more determined to carry out jihad. But that isn’t what happened to Yousef. Imprisoned by his enemy and treated unjustly he soon became aware of the way one set of Muslims in prison treated other sets of Muslims and how the more religious Muslims treated the less religious Muslims. The less faithful were subject to beatings at the hands of the more faithful. The Muslim Brotherhood hated and distrusted Hamas. Yousef discovered as much injustice meted out by Muslims to Muslims as they were enduring at the hands of the IDF. Instead of more radical, prison made him more confused. Islam was supposed to be the way but it seemed to lead no where but more violence and unfairness.
But then Yousef did something really radical and much more dangerous than any of the things that got him arrested. Yousef met Jesus and became His follower. This destroyed his future with Hamas. He was no longer the Prince awaiting the day when his father would step down and he would reign over the organization. His family disowned him. His countrymen wanted him dead. But he couldn’t do anything about it. He couldn’t deny what he came to know: Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus is alive, and if those things are true the only way must be Jesus’s way. He found in Jesus a God who suffered injustice in order to restore justice. He found in Jesus a God who not only climbed the ladder to God and pleased God with every rung he climbed, but a God who accomplished the holy war at the cost of his own innocent life, not at the cost of of the lives of men, women and children who are victims of the one true enemy, Satan.
Mosab Yousef became a radicalized Christian. When Christians become radicalized it is the exact opposite of what happens when a Muslim does. The Christian may start out at the foot of a ladder thinking they are going to climb up and please God with their actions; they may pray and do good deeds and attend religious meetings and ceremonies. They may follow the customs of their land, their neighbors and their families. They may even see themselves at war with the things that are arrayed against the ways of Christ. But a Christian doesn’t become a Christian until somewhere on the ladder they run into the Jesus who climbed it first. Meeting Jesus isn’t just an encouragement to climb harder and faster, or an example to follow up the rungs. Meeting Jesus is at first discouraging. Christians realize just how hard it is to climb the ladder he climbed. Christians do look up and they come to understand the ladder is infinitely high and there is no hope of getting to the top. And right at the point where the Muslim sees the only way to the top as the violent overthrow of the forces of evil at the cost of their own lives and they grasp the ladder with the last of their living strength – right at that point – the Christian releases their grip on the ladder. Actually the Christian is not a Christian until this happens; the hopeless hopeful; the falling to grace from the height of self effort.
It is not useful for us to ignore or deny what Yousef tells us about Muslims. He knows what he is talking about. We will not know when any particular practicing Muslim reaches the rung of jihad. No fly lists and monitoring Muslims will not protect anyone. Islam is a way; it is a path that leads somewhere. Jesus said he is The way. These are not the same things at all and can never be reconciled. Either Jesus is telling us the truth or not. If Jesus is who he claimed to be and did what he said he would do in conquering death, then he has proven beyond doubt he is the way. The answer for our times is to be the people of Jesus who pray and work for the whole world to discover him as their Way. We will not win spiritual struggles with political weapons. We will not usher in otherworldly peace with weapons made for war in this world. Pray for Muslims to let go of the ladder to jihad. Pray for Muslims to meet Jesus personally and profoundly. Pray. This is the frontline of the war on terror and you can join it right now in your praying place.