Maurice.Thank you, Achmed, for agreeing to discuss your faith with me. There are many Muslims living in Europe now and it is good for the three great monotheistic faiths to understand one another. Have you heard much about my faith, Christianity?
Achmed. Of course! We venerate Jesus as a prophet and honour his virgin mother and, like the Jews, we see you as a ‘People of the Book’. We give great authority to Moses and the other prophets and to the gospel, which we call the Injil.
Maurice. Does that mean that you share our faith in the Lord Jesus as God and Saviour?
Achmed. No, it does not. We believe that what you accept as the gospel is, in fact, a doctored version of the true message of Jesus. For instance, we do not accept the account given of the crucifixion and the resurrection.
We accept that Jesus will be involved in the final judgement, but his role is that of the penultimate prophet, the one who came before God’s final prophet, Mohammed.
Maurice. Would you say, then, that you see Islam as one faith among many, with other religions having an equal status with your own?
Achmed. No, I would not. There is only one God, Allah, and all other deities are false. God is one and all idols and other false deities are abhorrent to us. And although we honour Jesus as a prophet we reject the doctrine of the Trinity as false, because we feel it divides the absolute unity of God.
When we say Mohammed is God’s prophet, we mean his teaching in the Koran is God’s final and authoritative Word to mankind, and all men are called to submit to it.
Maurice. But does that means that all of us non-Muslims, including myself, must submit to Islam?
Achmed. Yes it does. You are no doubt familiar with the Muslim symbol of the Crescent. This is often shown with the Crescent embracing a star. This star represents the Earth and the Muslim Crescent is shown as getting ready to enclose and absorb the whole earth. Your country Britain, for instance, is in great need of the truth and discipline that Islam could provide, for family life as for social and national life.
Maurice. Do you think, then, that the forces of Islam should conquer the non-Muslim nations and establish a Muslim hegemony in the world?
Achmed. Yes we do. This is why we call the Muslim community in the world Dar Islam, the House of Islam. And we call the rest of the world Dar Al Harb – the House of the Sword. There was a time, after the rise of Islam in the seventh century, when Muslim rule stretched across the world from China to Spain.
Much of the learning of medieval Europe was derived from Muslim scholarship and much of the learning of ancient Greece was mediated to medieval scholars through the Arabic translation. In astronomy and science generally, and especially in mathematics, Arabs led the way. Your numbers are derived from the Arabic numerals and your word Algebra is an Arabic word.
Maurice. But surely the Muslim world seeks to be at peace in these more civilised times?
Achmed. Those who are weak are forced to be at peace, until they become strong enough to conquer their enemies.
Maurice. Does this mean that you would endorse the actions of the terrorists under bin Laden, and those who are fighting the Russians in Chechnya?
Achmed. As I am sure you realise, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. We may not agree with all the methods they use, but they only do what the Resistance fighters did in the war against Hitler. As one of your religious teachers said, ‘The end justifies the means’.
Pillars of Islam
Maurice. But true Christians reject that saying of Alphonsus Ligouri.
Achmed. But still you refer to him as a saint, and what you reject is the means but not the end, the triumph of the Church, which you accept as legitimate. Your desired end is the victory of your faith throughout the world and you have come near to it over the centuries, as we once did. You feel this would be for the good of mankind. Similarly, we feel the triumph of Islam throughout the world, through Jihad or Holy War, would be for the good of the world.
If all men were able to recite the creed ‘There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet’, surely this would be better than the multitude of sects that divide the world today? And the other pillars of Islam, fasting in the holy month of Ramadan, the giving of alms and the pilgrimage to Mecca – these things would elevate the depraved standards of the West.
Also, abstention from alcohol, pork and gambling would enhance the social condition of modern Europe. And polygamy, as allowed in Islam, would solve many of the marital problems of modern Western society.
Maurice. I am reminded of a Yiddish saying, ‘If it is so good, why is it so bad?’ The rosy picture you paint of Islam and its programme for a new and better world has not worked out very well, has it?
There is violence, poverty and oppression in the countries that embrace Islam, and the plight of women in Muslim countries leaves much to be desired. And your endorsement of coercion, the use of the sword as you put it, is no way to spread the truth.
We have a saying: ‘A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still’. Also, we see from the newspapers that many people leave Muslim countries to come to live in Britain, France and Germany. But very few people leave those countries to go to live in Muslim countries.
Tolerance and freedom
Achmed. The reason for this is obvious. Society is more advanced in the West – there is more prosperity, better health care, more comfortable living conditions, and better prospects for the children. But this does not prove that the Christian worldview is better, or that Western ideas of freedom and democracy are better than elsewhere.
Maurice. I believe that the tolerance found in Western democracy, and the freedom of thought allowed here, have enabled scientific and medical progress to take place. If the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is anything to go by, it seems that an Islamic regime takes a nation back, just as it had done in Iran.
Achmed. But many Muslim countries have airports and modern cities and technology in abundance!
Maurice. But all that is imported technology, which originates in Western development and investment, that has been brought into those countries and paid for by oil revenues. Why not allow more freedom of thought and religion, instead of suppressing Christianity as is done in Saudi Arabia, where even expatriates are prevented from practising their faith?
Achmed. Inshallah – if God wills it!