Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim!
(In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful)
To all the participants in the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and most especially to our Christian brothers and sisters: Greetings of Peace, in the Name of the One God of All.
We of the Covenants Initiative, whose mission it is to disseminate the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with the Christians of the World, send our greetings.
Like Islam, Christianity is suffering persecution in many parts of the world. It is estimated that Christians are persecuted in 103 countries, Islam in around 100. And although ISIS has massacred many more Muslims than Christians—the elimination of the Shi’a being first on their list—nonetheless, with the help of both regional and western powers, it has all but driven the Christians of Iraq and Syria from their ancient homelands, which are host to the oldest churches on earth. Christianity continues to lose cultural influence in the west, and both churches and mosques continue to be burned in North America.
The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of his time command all Muslims to not kill or rob or damage the buildings of peaceful Christians, or even prevent their Christian wives from going to church, but rather to actively defend them against their enemies “until the coming of the Hour”, the end of the world.
Consequently, we accept these covenants as legally binding upon Muslims today. The Prophet also extended covenants of protection to Jews, Sabaeans, Zoroastrians and other groups. Since the publication of Dr. John Andrew Morrow’s ground-breaking book, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World in 2013, the Covenants Initiative has become an international peace movement in the Muslim world, dedicated to defending persecuted Christians by restoring the memory of the Prophetic Covenants to the Muslim Ummah, and to humanity as a whole.
ISIS and other “Takfiri” terrorist groups—with the aid of the United States, who helped found the so-called “Islamic State” as a proxy army against Syria, Iran and ultimately Russia—are destroying my religion, the religion of Islam; that’s one of the reasons they were created. And though they have massacred Christians, Yezidis and others, they have killed many more Muslims than any other group, men women and children. They have burned mosques, some with copies of the Holy Qur‘an still in them. Thus ISIS is an open enemy of Islam.
Some people, however—non-Muslims who think of themselves as the Muslims’ friends—actually seem to believe that to condemn such Takfiri terrorism is a form of Islamophobia! Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who condemns the mad dogs of ISIS and works for their ultimate defeat is—in potential at least—a friend and ally of Islam. The question of Islamophobia only arises when these enemies of radical Islamist extremism fail to clearly differentiate pseudo-Muslim terrorists from true and pious Muslims. Most of those we think of as Islamophobes fall into this category.
As for our would-be friends and allies—let’s call them Islamophiles—whenever such people mute their criticism of radical Islamist extremism because they fear they’ll be seen as Islamophobes—as if opposing the enemies of Islam could somehow hurt the Muslims’ feelings—they strengthen the false equation between radical Islamist extremism and Islam itself, and end up turning into Islamophobes in spite of themselves. We ask these well-intentioned but misguided potential allies to please consider their position more carefully, until they come to the clear understanding that anyone who refuses to condemn Takfiri terrorism in the most uncompromising terms is no friend of Islam.
Both misguided Islamophiles and even committed Islamophobes might become the true allies of Muslims if they could only correct their thinking and get a stronger grip on reality. If they did, they might realize that they have more in common with us than they suspect. Islamophobes presently operating in the United States are dedicated to preventing agents of ISIS and other Takfiri groups from entering our country, and though we may have serious differences with them about the best way to achieve this—to say the least—how can we possibly disagree with their ultimate objective, especially in view of the fact that ISIS keeps a hit-list of US Muslim leaders?
Unfortunately, it was the policy of the Obama Administration, under the smokescreen of its Countering Violent Extremism program, not to exclude or arrest the returning ISIS fighters, but to reintegrate them into American society!
It is way too easy for us to paint all Islamophobes as mindless bigots and hatemongers. Well, some of them are. But others are simply ill-informed. “Muslims perpetrated 9/11,” goes their argument, “and now Islam has given us ISIS. Therefore, Islam is the enemy.” If these bare facts were the whole story of all the hidden agendas behind the 9/11 attacks and the seemingly endless wars that have followed in their train, then the Islamophobes would be right. But if they could get a clearer picture of the widespread opposition to ISIS within Islam, of the history of the support for radical Takfiri Jihadists by various western nations going back to WWI and before, and of the tactical and logistical support, the funds and arms that ISIS and al-Qaeda have received from the US military, especially under the Obama administration, only the mindless bigots and hatemongers among them could fail to change their minds.
I ask both the Muslims of North America, and those Christians, such as the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign, who have stood chivalrously beside them in the fight against Islamophobia, to consider one simple proposition: that absolutely the best way to strike a powerful blow against Islamophobia, as well as change the minds of conservative Christians and others about the true nature of Islam—rather than simply preaching to the choir—is to dedicate themselves to collecting and promulgating the stories of the courageous actions taken by Muslims, at the risk of their own lives, to protect the lives and property of Christians under attack by ISIS in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, in our own time.
The Muslims of the city of Karbala in Iraq provided refuge for Christians fleeing ISIS; Kurdish Sufi Muslims helped Christians suffering attacks by ISIS in and around Mosul; in Syria, Hizbullah has defended Christians and Christian holy sites.
After churches were burned down or vandalized in Canada and the United States, Muslims rallied to raise funds to rebuild them, just as they did after the recent massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. There were also cases of Muslims making human chains around synagogues in France, and elsewhere, to protect them from Jew-haters, both so-called Muslims and members of the extreme Right.
And when ISIS came after Christians in the Philippines, the Muslims of Mindanao gave them Muslim dress so they could blend with the local population, thereby demonstrating both the promise of inclusion and the power of love. Words in themselves are weak, but words that recount heroic actions are authoritative and powerful. We are now in the process of collecting accounts of such actions, which can be viewed here.
As a witness against Islamophobia, Christians of good will have extended the hand of friendship to Muslims suffering persecution and discrimination in North America; therefore, we hold ourselves bound in religious duty, in personal honor, and in common courtesy, to offer the same kind and degree of friendship and help to them. We hope that this Parliament will give Christians a chance to inform Muslims of the kind of help they need. And irrespective of the Christian response, or lack of it, to our offer of help, we are commanded by our Prophet through his Covenants, which he tells us were inspired by Allah Himself, to actively defend the peaceful Christians of the world, insofar as it is in our power, until the end of time.
(Delivered at the Parliament of the World’s Religions on November 3, 2018, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada)