Why Evangelicals Must Defend Muslims

Some Christians get excited when they discover that I’m half Indian or that I studied Islam in college. They’ll sometimes ask me to talk about how Christianity compares to other faiths. But I’ve learned that what they mean to say is: “Great, you’ve read books I’d never own so you can tell us how awful those other religions are, and you’re brown so you won’t be called a bigot!”

That’s pretty much what happened a few weeks after 9/11 when I spoke to a college group at a church. When the pastor learned about my background he said he’d like to throw me a few “softball” questions about Islam at the end of my teaching time. His softball turned out to be a curve ball. He asked me, “Islam is essentially a religion of violence, right?”

“No,” I responded. “Islam advocates peace, and most Muslims are very kind, peaceful people.”
The pastor looked annoyed from the back of the room. He tried again. “But doesn’t the Quran advocate killing Christians and Jews?”

I will continue to speak out in defense of my Muslim neighbors, and I will not stop calling the church to love them rather than fear them. Followers of Christ, perhaps more than any others, should advocate that all people be free to believe, worship, think and preach without fear of persecution. Because where this freedom exists not only are religious communities more likely to coexist in peace, but I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is more likely to thrive.

As Christians, we cannot, and should not, demand that everyone share our beliefs. But we can, and should, demand that everyone share our freedom. For where this freedom exists, we can be sure that Christ will be lifted up and draw people to himself.