|Dr. Timothy Winter|
|Keble College chapel; the debate venue was more|
modern and less charming, off to the left, but this is
what caught my eye.
The debate went along in this unpromising and unreal manner, through a few questions, until a fellow from Nigeria (who came with us) finally asked,
"What about the Muslim terrorists who are trying to kill Christians off in Northern Nigeria?"
This introduced a stronger element of reality into the discussion, but did not, in my opinion, quite get at the heart of the issue. I raised my hand to expand on this challenge, but was not called upon.
Here is what (in retrospect) I would have liked to have asserted and asked:
"You're asking the wrong question! The real question is not whether the West can live with Islam. Of course it can. Any Christian in this room, can convert to Islam tonight, and live peacefully here in Britain, or in America, for the rest of his or her life. Nor are Western nations about to invade, threaten, sanction or in any way disturb any Arab or other Muslim country that acts in a civilized manner -- or, probably, those that don't. Heck, we have hardly sanctioned the lunatics in Iran who want to nuke Israel. Apparently we need their oil too much, and learned too little from what happened when we tried to appease Adolf Hitler.
"No, the real question is whether Muslims can live with Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and especially, Jews.
"Let me concentrate on Christians, with whom I am most familiar.
"Historical Christian populations that have lived in Iraq since long before the prophet Mohammed, that ruthless cutthroat, was born, are now fleeing Iraq and Egypt. The five million Christians in Pakistan are threatened, not infrequently murdered in sporadic attacks. Millions have already been murdered or enslaved in southern Sudan, though that state has finally obtained independence from the Muslim north. Muslims in northern Nigeria are trying to institute Sharia law on Christians, and engage in frequent pogroms, also burning down hundreds of churches. If revolution succeeds in Syria, it is reasonable to fear the large Christian population there will be attacked, as well.
"And what about converts to Christianity? All schools of Islam law lay it down that anyone who converts out of Islam must be killed. This penalty has often been carried out. An African Muslim convert to Christianity who is an expert in Islamic Law told me, as a Muslim, he would of course have agreed that converts should be killed. Yet Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
"How can we, as believers in God, believe that the God who created the nebulae and the human heart, has to hold those who trust Him, not by conscience, nor even by persuasion, but by violence and murder? This seems to feed directly into New Atheist talk about how the "faith meme" perpetuates itself by any means necessary. Isn't it God who gave us freedom? Or do Muslims, after all, worship so different a God?
"Are you so afraid that Islam is false, that you cannot allow your people to choose freely among religious options, but must use terror to keep your people in the fold? Or will you work to allow people in Muslim countries obtain the same freedom of conscience and speech you enjoy here in Oxford?"
Those are the questions I would have liked to address Dr. Winter, and would still like to ask other Muslims.