For many, the words “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) is a mantra that tragically speaks of violence and death. When recited in this way it becomes a profanity, the brutal corruption of a world religion that gives meaning and purpose to 23% of the planet’s population.
Living in Indonesia 25 years ago my family and I were woken each morning by this Muslim call to worship. Well before sunrise this prayer was recited by a local imam over loud speakers in a mosque nearby.
Beginning with the words “Allahu akbar” Muslims pray fives time a day. It’s a prayer that brings people together to focus on the awesomeness and the majesty of God.
But what has gone wrong? Why has a simple yet profound call to prayer become the mark of something quite sinister as 129 people were gunned down in Paris eight days ago and many more have been savagely executed in Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria – all in the name of God?
I remember a friend of mine once saying that “religion brings the best and the worst out in people”. What’s currently happening across the world in the name of Islam clearly emphasizes the worst is coming out.
How do we respond to such a shocking scenario? Do we condemn Islam outright? Do we embrace the idea of a “clash of civilizations” and embark on a militant crusade?
The attacks in Paris represent, I believe, a serious corruption of religion – a “mutation” of Islam if you like. Such a scenario must surely be condemned.
But, in making a response, we need to ensure we don’t “twist” or “corrupt” our own faith by meeting evil with evil.
With this in mind St Paul writes: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2).
Responding to this terrible perversion of Islam is a major challenge. But, in making a response, Paul tells us: “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good”, (Romans 12:21).
The Gospel speaks of love, justice, mercy – and a new way of being. These things must inform our response.
In today’s world this is a very tough call – but we must press on for Jesus wouldn’t have it any other way!