Abelhamid Abaaoud, the man they are calling the mastermind of the Paris terrorist attacks, was a citizen of Belgium of Moroccan origin from the Sous Berbers of Agadir, Morocco. He was killed just a couple of days ago by either a suicide vest or French police during a raid on a flat where he was hiding.
Ahmad Dahmani, another Moroccan who was born and raised in Belgium, was just arrested in Antalya, Turkey suspected of participating in the planning of the Paris attacks.
Salah Abdelslam, another Moroccan from Belgium escaped after the dropping the attackers off at the Bataclan theatre. He is the only known attacker still on the run.
I have received a lot of questions about these events so let me try to answer them here:
Isn’t Islam a religion of peace?
I got this question from my British travel companion on the plane just a couple of days ago. The word Islam is often misconstrued to come from the Arabic word “salam” (peace). However, it actually comes from the Arabic word “selem” (surrendered). A Muslim is someone surrendered to Allah. The god of Islam requires violent Jihad of those surrendered to him. If you do not fight in the Jihad then you are considered un-surrendered to Allah meaning you are a Murtad (one who has denied his religion). You can read all of this in Surah #9 of the Koran called Atawba.
Why are certain Muslims violent while the majority seem quite peaceful?
I sat at my son’s soccer practice with a local team last week talking to Mustafa, the dad of another player. He explained to me his great sadness at the terror attacks. He said he was embarrassed and disappointed that these men had hijacked Islam and were ruining it. I questioned this assumption as an outsider.
“Well, Mustafa,” I asked innocently, “ when I arrived in North Africa years ago I was encouraged by the Muslims to read the Koran. They were sure I would want to be a Muslim. So I did. When I read it I arrived to verses that say, ‘Kill those who do not believe in Allah or in his prophet and who do not forbid that which God forbids (pork, the Trinity, etc).’ It seems to me that these men are really following the Koran in its most literal and historic context, right?”
Mustafa laughed and said, “Well you know the Koran better than me. I just know that Islam is a religion of peace and love and that the prophet Mohammed lived at peace with his Jewish neighbors.”
Mustafa’s case is very common among Muslims around the world. He lives by his own God-given (though marred by the fall) conscience. He ascribes what he naturally knows to be right and wrong to Islam and the Koran without ever reading it. He has been raised in a moderate Islamic society that propagates false stories about how peaceful Mohammed was.
Ninety-nine percent of Muslims are peaceful because they are operating with their human conscience not according to the strict commands of their book and prophet. The peacefulness of the majority of Muslims springs from their humanity not their religion. This reminds us of the humanity of us all. They are not “Muslims”. They are humans, sons of Adam once created in the likeness of God raised in a false religion. In religious wars it is easy to develop an “us vs. them” mentality even as a believer. They need the pity, mercy, love, and grace that God poured out upon on humans when he sent His Son into the world. They need us to preach the cross to them that the Spirit of God might revive their conscience to testify that Christ is God and that He died for them.
Should we fear Syrian refugees?
The government will decide what refugees they allow in and how they do it. As Christians, though, we can draw on this Old Testament command for God’s children today: “But the stranger that dwelt with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:34)
MLK Jr. wasn’t the first to realize that “hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Jesus told us the same, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 5:44-45). Can your church find a way to love the refugees in your city during this critical time?
Why are European-raised Moroccan youth more radical than their counterparts in Morocco?
Three conditions in Europe and the US can contribute to an increased risk: (1) uncontrolled religious education, (2) violent street gangs, and (3) willful denial and ignorance of Islam on the part of the authorities.
- Morocco has a leader of all the “believers”: their king Mohammed VI. That is, in fact, his official title. All teaching in all the mosques comes from his minister of religion each week. In the last speech by the king he reminded the people that Islam is their religion and the form of Islam they follow is Malaki Islam, an spiritual interpretation of the koran that softens or denies the obvious commands for violence. Any other interpretation of the Koran is illegal. In fact, it is much more dangerous to be a deviant teacher of Islam than to be a Christian pastor. Moroccan prisons are full of saifist Islamic promoters. In Europe, however, there is freedom of speech and thought. Islamic fundamentalist teachers are allowed to operate, teach, and motivate young men toward violence and are not considered criminals until the actual violent act occurs.
- European cities have a strong presence of street gangs. Moroccan youth are typically on the streets growing up in these cities and gravitate toward the easy money and power they are offered in these gangs. Islam in its original, purest form was a desert gang offering easy money, women, and power. Their gang boss was a man who claimed to be a prophet. Read the real story of Islam and Mohammed. Read about the attacks on caravans, the harem of women promised to the fighters, the heroes like Khalid Benu Walid (called the Sword of God) and Oqba Benu Nafiaa (who killed 100,000 resistors in North Africa and shipped their women east). Sailfist Islamists draw their followers from the street gangs who have a Muslim background. They offer the same things but now on a grander scale with the rise of ISIS.
- The European authorities are sometimes ignorant and sometimes willfully negligent concerning real Islam. They persist in saying these terrorists have no link with real Islam. Abu Bakr el Baghdadi has a doctorate in Islam! This sort of ignorance or naiveté makes them vulnerable. Modern philosophy is irrational. It likes to claim that all religions are good and beliefs don’t have consequences. Moroccan authorities, on the other hand, are not at all ignorant of Islam or its literal application. They keep an extremely close eye on these things stopping their growth before it starts.
What are Moroccan Muslims saying about this attack?
There are two major responses among Moroccans: most are embarrassed. Men watch the news in of these attacks in cafes and then return to their checker’s games and tea with only one word being muttered in response: hashuma (shameful). They don’t like to talk about it because they know it is a reality that they have a hard time explaining. They hang their heads, mumble, and try to forget about it. Muslim countries offer very little condolences because that would be to somehow admit to their own guilt. So, instead, they try to ignore it and just say, “hashuma”.
Their are also other responses:
*Some blame these attacks on Europe because these people were raised in Europe.
*Some blame ISIS on the US government for radicalizing Iraqi Sunni’s by taking down their government and then exiting before leaving a strong security apparatus. (I explained to a local store owner last week that while the US government allowed the conditions for ISIS it did not create ISIS. ISIS is from the seed of Islam sowed into the ground of the Arab world.)
*Some blame terrorists on ignorance of real Islam by uneducated and economically oppressed youth.
*Some hope a republican will win and finish off ISIS with military force of boots on the ground.
*Some rejoice over the victory of Islam. (These are the hate filled men who are the hardest for me to love.)
What should our response be?
There must be Romans 13 response and an Acts 13 response. Romans 13 commands a governmental, military response to ISIS. Governmental powers are to carry the sword to punish the wicked. I don’t know exactly what that ought to be in this case. The executive branch has the responsibility to determine what that will be. The next president of the US will likely be left with this dilemma. The place for discussing that side of the response should be at political rallies, military offices, and the hall of congress. This is not my area of specialty though it is not biblically wrong for a Christian to be involved in this side of the response.
Acts 13 describes the church’s response to this evil. If you’ll remember that chapter describes the first intentional sending of missionaries from the multi-cultural church in Antioch, Syria. The church should respond by doing more than ever to get the message of the Gospel in front of all Muslims. Consider the following efforts:
- Support Arabic Bible Outreach www.arabicbible.com They are sending Bibles and other supplies to churches in Europe that are reaching out to refugees with the Gospel.
- Contact your missionaries in Europe and see how you can help them provide relief for the refugees and the Gospel, too.
- Preach from your pulpits the need to send missionaries from your congregation to the Muslims.
- Find ways to partner with special efforts going on right now to proclaim the Gospel and plant churches among Muslims.
I will be at churches in the US for the next 6 weeks. My message will be urgent. There is an Acts 13 response that must receive our priority.