A Muslim Reformer

6 04 2017

In my last post I urged for Muslim voices to speak out for reformation and justice. Today I want to give you an example of one such reformer.

Mustafa Akyol is currently a senior fellow at the Freedom Project at Wellesley College. His new book The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims follows some of the traditional Muslim views of Jesus, but shows a refreshing open-mindedness to learn from the Messiah.

(As a side note, this has been one of my biggest frustrations with Muslim teachers–most of them are so busy talking about what Jesus isn’t that they have no room in their hearts for acknowledging what he is. Akyol takes a more generous approach.)

I’m not endorsing Akyol’s beliefs as my own. But I’m thrilled to see a Muslim scholar trying to honestly interact with Jesus and see what he has to contribute to Muslims. Efforts like this reflect Akyol’s rejection of Qur’anic literalistic interpretations, Salafi extremist interpretations, and all forms of intolerance and violence within Islam; rather, he calls his own religion to embrace that the “Caliphate” is within them, much as Jesus argued the Kingdom of God is within us.  He both argues and backs it up with his life, that “A renaissance of Islam will take place only when we become more open-minded.”

I’ve often argued that instead of criticizing extremist Muslims, we’ll make more progress by befriending and supporting moderate, open-minded Muslims who can be a voice to their own people. And let us not forget to learn from them too, and be a voice to the extremists within our own religion as well.

I’d love for you to read this fascinating interview with Akyol and tell me what you think!

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ISIS–Coming to a City Near You

23 01 2016

Jkt bombing   This week I finished the rewrites to my sequel to SOMEONE HAS TO DIE. In this new thriller, ISIS attacks Indonesia, and one of the heroes from the first novel, the ex-terrorist Abdullah, accepts the challenge to take down the ISIS cell—non-violently. The working title for this book is A WAY OUT OF HELL, and I hope to have it published by this summer. Watch this site!

My writing couldn’t have been more prescient. Last week a group claiming affiliation with ISIS launched an attack on central Jakarta, using guns, grenades and bombs, starting with a suicide bombing in a Starbucks and ending with a gun battle in the streets. At least seven were killed, including all five attackers.

This attack mirrors exactly the modus operandi I present in my book. In the Middle East, ISIS is focused on territory. To have a world-leader caliph, he must have territory to govern. But in Paris, Jakarta, and perhaps other cities around the world, ISIS-sympathetic groups can’t realistically be looking to take over territory—so what are they up to?

Such groups believe that producing chaos and fear can lead to destabilized governments, opening the door for dramatic governmental shifts that can be used to their advantage. Indonesia is a prime target for such an approach. For years there have been several organizations and even political parties promoting an Islamic government, though the general populace supports pluralism. But with a traditionally weak central government, were enough instability and fear to rock the country, people might turn to a strong leader from the Muslim radicals who could negotiate an end to the conflict by giving in to demands for a stricter application of Syariah Law (such as has already happened in the province of Aceh). This in turn could pave the way for the nation’s leaders to pledge allegiance to the caliph.

Stopping ISIS in the Middle East is extremely complicated; but stopping ISIS from destabilizing nations with strong pluralistic majorities is less complicated and very possible. As I mentioned in my last post, I disagree with the president of France’s “merciless” approach. If we put all suspected terrorists in jail, what happens? At least one report from Jakarta stated that all five attackers had spent time in jail. Prison is the #1 recruiting post for new radicals or “rededicated” radicals. And for each “martyr” killed in jihad, ten more are inspired to rise up in their place.

There is a better way, a non-violent way to stop the cycle of violence and death. Keep reading this blog and I’ll explain more in the weeks to come.

I welcome your comments on how to deal with ISIS as well. Let’s continually pray for peace.