by Hugh Fitzgerald
Kristy Sabah, Sabeel Ahmed and Irfan Sheikh discuss a nationwide effort to unite different faiths. (Photo: Paulina Pineda/The Republic)
What do Muslims think of Jesus? It’s a question Dr. Sabeel Ahmed said he gets often.
To help educate people on the significance of Jesus in Islam, Ahmed’s group, The Humanitarians, a Muslim interfaith organization, is launching a monthlong campaign that includes billboards along high-trafficked areas in Arizona along with radio ads.
Ahmed, the group’s founder and outreach coordinator, said the intent is to highlight similarities between Islam and Christianity and bring people together during the holidays.
“We want to educate people on who we (Muslims) are and who we are not and show people that there are more similarities between the faiths than differences,” Ahmed said Tuesday during a news conference at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe.
Ahmed said Muslims recognize Jesus as one of Allah’s prophets. His mission, Ahmed said, was to invite people to worship God.
Note that since Christians regard Jesus as the Son of God, Muslims regard them as guilty of shirk, or polytheism, which for Muslims is the worst possible sin — or as some preachers, such as Nassim Abdi of Sydney have put it, is “worse than any sin.” I doubt that Ahmed will be telling his Christian audiences about why Muslims consider them guilty of shirk.
He said there are six articles of faith in Islam that include believing in all of God’s prophets. That includes Jesus, he said.
“If you don’t believe in Jesus, then you cannot be Muslim,” he said.
But the Muslim belief in Jesus as one more of the prophets in Islam — there are 124,000 prophets, according to Muhammad himself, though Jesus is the most revered prophet after Muhammad — has nothing to do with, and stands in opposition to, the Christian belief in Jesus as the Son of God. For as Sabeel Ahmed carefully does not tell his audiences, if you believe in Jesus as divine, “then you cannot be Muslim,” and you are, as noted above, guilty of “shirk,” which is “worse than any sin.” This is an ideological abyss that Sabeel Ahmed hopes his Christian friends won’t notice.
Muslims, like Christians, believe Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, Ahmed said. They believe there is a creator and a higher power. Muslims also believe there is an afterlife and that people are accountable to God for their actions on earth.
Muslims are monotheists, and believe in an afterlife. This we are endlessly told by Islamic apologists. But what Sabeel Ahmed leaves out is the nature of that afterlife, and of how a Muslim can best achieve entry into Heaven, which is a very different place from the Christian Heaven. The Muslim Heaven is a sensual paradise with 72 virgins. And the surest way to enter it and enjoy its delights is to be a martyr, or shahid, dying while conducting violent Jihad against the Unbelievers. That is not information Sabeel Ahmed wishes to share with his audiences of trusting and unwary Christians.
Ahmed said Jesus is mentioned 25 times in the Quran, and that Mary, who is mentioned in the Quran 32 times, is the only woman mentioned by name in the religious text.
Again, the Muslim Mary (Maryam) is very different from the Christian Mary. She is revered; she has Sura 19 named after her; she is mentioned 32 times in the Qur’an –all of this is a staple of Muslim propaganda, that is used to impress Christians, and to conceal the basic difference: in Islam, Mary, no matter how revered, is not the mother of the Son of God.
There are more miracles related to Jesus in the Quran than there are in the Bible, Ahmed said.
More Taqiyya to keep us from focusing on the essential difference between Islam and Christianity. Jesus may in Islam be responsible for some miracles, but that does not make him divine, or the Son of God. He was appropriated by the early Muslims, downgraded to being a mortal man and a prophet. To worship him as the Son of God is inadmissible shirk.
The Arizona chapter of The Humanitarians bought two billboards on Interstate 10 — one near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and another in Tucson near Prince Road.
The billboards, which Ahmed said cost $10,000, state in bold, white letters three Islamic beliefs about Jesus: Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary; he is honorable and blessed; and God supported Jesus with the Holy Spirit.
The billboards were unveiled last week and will be up for a month, Ahmed said.
What do you think would happen if some group of Islamocritics tried to rent billboards which simply read as follows:
Qur’an 3:110: “Muslims are the best of peoples.”
Qur’an 98:6: “Non-Muslims are the most vile of created beings.”
Qur’an 5:51: “O you who believe! Do not take Jews and Christians as friends, for they are friends only with each other.”
Qur’an 8:12: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”
In the hadith of Bukhari (4.52.220), Muhammad claims: “I have been made victorious through terror.”
Nothing here is made up; everything is quoted just as it is written in the Qur’an and, in the last example, recorded in the “reliable” (Sahih) hadith of Bukhari.
Despite the absolute fidelity to its sources in the Islamic texts, is there anyplace in this country where such a billboard could be put up? No. Truth is no defense, when it comes to protecting the image of Islam. Free speech does not matter. Anyone who selects such verses is clearly trying to place Islam in a bad light. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, it’s Islamophobia. No such billboards will ever be seen.
As part of the campaign, the group also is running radio ads from Dec. 24-26 and doing a big push on social media. It has held open houses at different mosques and members are speaking at K-12 schools and universities.
Members of Sabeel Ahmed’s group are speaking to many audiences, including K-12 schoolchildren. Are school boards monitoring these appearances, this early childhood indoctrination? Are school boards, teachers, parents not alarmed? Do they think such propaganda efforts by smiling Muslim apparatchiks, well-versed in taqiyya, should be allowed in public schools, especially among the very young?
He said the group has received about 40 calls from Arizona residents interested in learning more about Islam and the similarities between the different religions.
Similar campaigns are happening in other cities nationwide, he said.
Ahmed said while unity should be celebrated year-round, The Humanitarians chose to launch this campaign in December because people are more spiritual during this time of year. He said Jesus is also a central figure in Christian holidays.
It sounds almost as an afterthought: “Jesus is also a central figure in Christian holidays.” You bet he is.
“We want to let Christians know how much we love, admire and respect Jesus,” Ahmed said.
Of course he does. What better way to reassure Christians about Islam than by Muslims stressing their “love” for Jesus in the Qur’an? Nothing will be said about how Muslims deny that Jesus was the Son of God, and that they regard Christians, for believing that Jesus was divine, as guilty of “shirk” or polytheism.
He said he hopes that once groups see there are more similarities than differences, they can work together to tackle other issues such as poverty, racism, gun violence and extremism.
The “similarities” consist of precisely this: Islam and Christianity are both monotheisms, and both claim to be “abrahamic faiths.” Abraham is seen by Muslims as their forefather, the physical ancestor — father of Ishmael, grandfather of Esau — of the Arab people, while for Christians, Abraham is seen as their spiritual ancestor. They are both “abrahamic faiths,” but in very different ways.
“First we have to do away with the fear of the unknown. Second, we have to educate each other on the commonalities of the faiths. And once we overcome that barrier, we can join together to better humanity,” Ahmed said.
Sounds good. But why stick only to educating about “commonalities”? Why not a free and frank discussion of all the ways Islam is different from, and Muslims contemptuous of, Christianity and Judaism, with which it supposedly has so much in common? That would require going off the interfaith script, and these days, that’s a tall order.
The Rev. Larry Fultz, director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, said while he was not aware of the campaign, it’s a message he supports.
He said especially during such politically divisive times, celebrating the similarities between different groups is important.
If “celebrating the similarities” by Muslims means deliberately misleading Christians as to what Islam teaches about Christianity and Christians, then such “celebration” is to be deplored, and is not “a message” that the innocent Rev. Larry Fultz, up to his ears in interfaith (mis)understanding, should support. Instead, he might devote some time — he owes it to his flock and to himself — to studying the Qur’an and Hadith. No more pleasing interfaith pieties, please — we’ve had quite enough of that. Only the truth, however disturbing, will do.
“Anything that any group is doing to encourage dialogue, I’m for it. That’s our mission, to find things we have in common,” he said.
No, “finding things we have in common” is not your mission. Your mission is to find out the truth about what Islam inculcates, especially its view of non-Muslims, and the duty to wage Jihad against them — and then to educate your own parishioners. Feel-good support for those who are engaged in Taqiyya is a betrayal of that, your true mission.
Start your study of Islam straight from the scripture’s mouth, Rev. Fultz, by reading Qur’an 2:191-194, 4:89, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4. These are a handful of the 109 versus that command Believers to engage in violent Jihad, to “smite at the necks” and to “strike terror” in the hearts of the Unbelievers. Then take a look at 4:34, to learn about how a Muslim man may “beat” his disobedient wife. Finally, take a look at Qur’an 3:110, that describes Muslims as the “best of peoples,” and then read Qur’an 98:6, where Unbelievers — that is, all non-Muslims — are described as “the most vile of created beings.” That’s a mere ten verses of the Qur’an, a kind of starter-kit for a self-directed course on Understanding Islam. There’s more, of course, in the Hadith. There’s the story of Muhammad’s consummating his marriage to Aisha when she was nine years old and he was 54. There’s the delight he expressed upon hearing of the murders of three people — Asma bint Marwan, Abu ‘Afak, Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf — who had mocked him. There’s his participation in the slaughter of 600-900 prisoners of the Banu Qurayza. There’s his buying, selling, and trading of slaves. There’s Muhammad’s remark that “War is deceit,” and his famous claim that “I have been made victorious through terror.” It’s a course of study that all ministers, priests, and rabbis should undertake before they make pronouncements about Islam to their flocks. Whereof they do not know, thereof they should not speak. The knowledge about Islam that they acquire through their own study, rather than relying on Muslims eager to present their sanitized version of the faith, should dampen their enthusiasm for those interfaith gatherings — you know the kind — that no matter where they start from, always end up as sly apologetics for Islam.