As some of you know, I have two dear friends from University days who converted to Islam, and with whom I stay in touch. One of them telephoned me on Friday. She has become increasingly concerned at the public displays of hostility to her, and her children; she feels that there is a tide of Islamophobia which is rising. My heart went out to her. I know how unhappy and conflicted she was in her first year at University. The Christian faith she brought with her was not firmly rooted, and it failed to withstand the storms of an aggressive lecturer and the temptations of student life. The loss of her faith made her both unhappy and reckless, and those of us who cared about her prayed for her, and with her, and did what we could to let her know we loved her and were there for her; but none of it helped; not a bit. It was only when she encountered some Muslim students and went along to a Friday prayer group that she found something which helped her, which brought her calmness and peace, and she converted later that year; she later married one of our fellow students, and now has three children and works part-time as a teacher. Like all good people, she is upset at what some do in the name of her faith, and as her husband is an Iraqi, she is especially concerned at what is happening in Mosul. At yesterday’s demonstration in London, there were, as you can see from the picture, Muslims marching with Copts to say that what was happening in Mosul was not in their name.
It is bad enough that the evil being done in Mosul is happening; it would be an even worse tragedy if it were to lead to the belief that these fanatics are typical of Muslims in Britain – or elsewhere. Yes, there are some fanatics, as there are everywhere, but ISIS is as much a threat to many Muslims as it it to everyone else. Senior Muslim scholars have spoken out against the barbarities of what is happening in Mosul, whilst Muslims have declared their support for the Christians:
A day after Christians fled Mosul, the northern city controlled by Islamist extremists, under the threat of death, Muslims and Christians gathered under the same roof — a church roof — here on Sunday afternoon. By the time the piano player had finished the Iraqi national anthem, and before the prayers, Manhal Younis was crying.
“I can’t feel my identity as an Iraqi Christian,” she said, her three little daughters hanging at her side.
A Muslim woman sitting next to her in the pew reached out and whispered, “You are the true original people here, and we are sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.”
That thought is shared by my Muslim friends, and their fear is that community relations, already strained by the activities of terrorists, will reach breaking point. There are millions of Muslims in this country and in the rest of Europe, as well as the United States. We must not let the terrorists win by making the rest of us identify all Muslims as being with this small minority. This Sunday my friend and her family attended an Orthodox Liturgy near where they live; next week some of their Christian friends are going to a Friday prayer meeting. This is not syncretism, it is solidarity – the solidarity of those whose sincerity in their faith leads them to want peace and not war. The fanatics, on all sides, do not speak for most of us. The God who is love does not operate through hate; all those who hate work against the God who is love and have not the truth in them.