THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHRISTIAN
In church, I was taught that Islam is the religion of the Arabs. And that the Arabs are the children of Ishmael. That Ishmael is the illegitimate son of Abraham. And that his descendants are eternal enemies of the children of Isaac. That, as a Christian, I am an heir to the promise of Abraham through Isaac, his legitimate son, and must expect to be perpetually at war with Ishmael. This is the teaching that conditions me to accept an irreconcilable state of war between Israel and other Arab nations. This is the teaching that conditions me to give blind and unquestioning support, always, to Israel.
In leisure, I grew up watching movies and reading books in which the good guys were crusaders, and the bad guys were moors. Muslims were always in hordes, always dark-skinned, and always trying to over-run Jerusalem. I saw the Crusades as defensive campaigns by noble Christian knights against the unprovoked aggression of savage Muslim kings. I did not know that the Inquisition was carried out by Christians. I did not know that the University was the invention of a muslim woman. I did not know that Islam spread mostly through trade into West Africa. I never heard or read the name, Ibn Battuta, till a few years after I had graduated from University and began to research first-hand accounts of pre-colonial West African empires. I did not know how much of the documentation of this history region we owed to muslim scholars travelling through our homes.
At home, I grew up with the popular notion that all northerners are muslims. And that all muslims owe their allegiance to Saudi Arabia, and will never tolerate a truly democratic government or accept to be governed by a Christian no matter how just. I did not know about Shi’ites or Sufis or the shared belief that Jesus will return one day. I knew about Jihad. That it is always on the mind of the Muslim. That it can only be prosecuted by violence and so the Muslim will never stop attacking us until we are all dead or until we are all muslims. I did not know about Western imperialism in the Arab world and the role it played in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. I did not know that, like the African, the Muslim too had historical reasons to be angry.
I grew up believing that the Muslim was angry and prone to violence. That his anger was irrational, driven only by infractions of his faith. That his violence was irrational, driven only by the desire to forcefully bring others under the control of his faith. I did not question this. I did not read the Qu’ran. I did not study the history of Islam, or – beyond what the Bible said – that of my own religion for that matter. I did not study the history of the interactions between the two. I watched the news on Western news channels. There was no Al-Jazeera. I grew up believing without doubt that we were the good guys. And the muslims? CNN could not be wrong. The muslims were the terrorists.
Like this, I grew up in prejudice. I grew up in many, many prejudices. This is just one of them. And as my spirit turns its face upwards, in a deep longing to return home one day, I find myself confronting each one. Because if God exists, He exists in a realm that does not need any of the land we kill in His name to acquire or defend. If He is truly God, He needs nothing. Not our wealth, not our worship, and not our spirited defence, or evangelization, of His existence. So, why did He create us?
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