Islam is in the public consciousness at the moment, with recent events in Australia including a series of "terror raids" and a young man with suspected links to Islamic extremism shot dead in Melbourne. In the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing from persecution under the Islamic State.
How do Christians respond to Islam? Is this an Islamic issue or is it only ideological extremism we need to worry about? Rev Mark Durie is a theologian who has written extensively on Islam and Christianity. He talks to ACL's Daniel Simon about how to answer some of these questions.
DANIEL SIMON: Islam has been in the public consciousness lately after a series of incidents in Australia including the so-called terror raids by police in Sydney and Brisbane, and as recently as this week in Melbourne as well.
On the other side of the world, Christians are fleeing in their hundreds of thousands from persecution by the Islamic State in the Middle East.
As Christians, how do we respond to this? How do we love our Muslim neighbours? Is this really about Islam or is it just ideological extremism?
The Reverend Mark Durie has written extensively on Islam and Christianity and he’s here to help us think about these questions. Thanks for joining me Mark.
MARK DURIE: It’s great to be with you Daniel.
DANIEL SIMON: Australians are responding in a variety of ways to the threat of extreme ideological Islam. Some people are responding with hostility. Some politicians are proposing a ban on the burqa and things like that. On the other side we have people like the Victorian premier Denis Napthine or the US president Barack Obama saying that the violence committed by extremists really has nothing to do with Islam at all. So how can we know where the truth lies and how should we talk seriously and honestly about Islam without giving in to fear or hatred?
MARK DURIE: Well Daniel I think it is the case that many of the acts of groups likes ISIS or the Islamic State can be traced back to the teachings of Mohammad and the teachings of core principles of Islam. There is an issue there, but for the majority of Muslims in Australia, they would see these sorts of actions as having nothing to do with Islam so they would want to dissociate themselves from it. It’s important not to tar all Muslims with the same brush even if for example you can find precedents in the life of Mohammad for beheading people or selling people and so on. Most ordinary Muslims are not kind of across that or aware of those connections.
I think being afraid is a really bad response for these sorts of event.
Those radical jihadists, they want to make us afraid, they want us to be so intimidated we will give in or even that we’ll hate so much that a conflict will break out and there’ll be a fight because they believe they’ll win that.
I don’t think it’s helpful to ban the burqa or impose restrictions on you might say fairly ordinary practice of Islam by Muslims, but we certainly should take very seriously the radicalisation that is particular religious leaders preaching activation for jihad amongst young people. That’s a very serious threat that needs to be addressed quite vigorously by Australia.
DANIEL SIMON: A few days ago on your blog, you commented on the social media movement involving young Muslims and the hashtag #NotInMyName, and I was very interested too in what you wrote about ‘what is a Christian response’ to all this. How do we as Christians engage with and relate to our Muslim neighbours?
MARK DURIE: I think the #NotInMyName movement is a sign that many Muslims do find the actions of the Islamic State repugnant and they really want the world to know that as far as they’re concerned, these actions have nothing to do with their religion. They have no desire to defend these actions; in fact they reject them.
One of the very big challenges for Christians to relate to Islam and Muslims is firstly to acknowledge the truth. You know, there are problems. There are bad things in the life of Mohammad and in the Quran that actually motivates some of these atrocities. The ISIS fighters are, you know, all Muslims so there’s no kind of Buddhists fighting for them. It is an Islamic issue.
But at the same time, we need love. It’s really important not to be defined by fear. It’s important to reach out to your Muslim neighbour. It’s important to realise that most Muslims just want to get on with their lives. It’s important to build bridges. So we have to hold these close together. Truth and love together. It’s so easy to just go for one or the other.
DANIEL SIMON: One of the suspected terrorists arrested recently was wearing a T-shirt saying ‘I found prophet Jesus in the Quran.’ Theologically, must there always be conflict between Islam and Christianity, or is there important ground? Can we find Jesus in the Quran?
MARK DURIE: The Islamic view is that Jesus was a Muslim prophet and he taught a path to God that leads us to Mohammad. So if you really want to follow the Jesus of the Quran, you’d become a Sharia compliant Muslim who believes in Mohammad. Islam teaches that when Jesus returns, he will with the sword fight against anyone who doesn’t follow Mohammad and Mohammad said that he will destroy the cross. So that Jesus - that man found in the Quran - is the Jesus who will destroy Christianity. That’s a strategy that’s used by Muslims to convert people from the Christian background into the Islamic faith. But I would say it’s a very different Jesus.
I’ve actually written a book that deals with this called ‘Which God?’ and I explain at some length that the Islamic Jesus that is found in the Quran is a very different figure from the Jesus of Nazareth, the historical Jesus of the gospels.
DANIEL SIMON: Reverend Mark Durie thank you very much for joining me.
MARK DURIE: It’s been a pleasure talking Daniel.