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Just before I sat down to write this article, the terrorist group known as ISIS claimed responsibility for another attack in the Middle East. In this latest incident, Muslim terrorists reportedly killed more than twelve people, injured more than twenty-five people, and took as many as fifty hostages. Sadly, we have grown accustomed to such horrendous news—so accustomed that we have almost come to expect such news every day. If we have not become desensitized to these sinful and shameful acts of terrorism, we feel a range of emotions, from anger to sadness, vengeance to helplessness, defensiveness to aggression.
ISIS is a Muslim jihadist organization striving to establish a caliphate to rule over the entire Muslim civilization and, eventually, over the entire world. A caliphate is an Islamic body ruled by a single political and religious leader, called a caliph. The caliph is regarded as successor to Muhammad and the supreme leader of all Muslims. ISIS is, without question, a Muslim group striving to be faithful to its interpretation of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and to be faithful to Sharia, the moral code and religious law of Islam. However, not all who claim to be Muslims have the same interpretation of the Qur’an. Many Muslims throughout the world only follow certain aspects of the Qur’an and Sharia law. Some Muslims, particularly in the West, have denounced the actions of ISIS.
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, but it is also one of the most divided religions in the world. Islam’s varied socio-religious expressions and Quranic interpretations can give the appearance of numerous Islamic religions. In fact, most of those who claim to be Muslims whom I have met over the years in Africa, Iran, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Central Florida (home to about thirty thousand Muslims) have never read the Qur’an and do not faithfully follow the Five Pillars of Islam. Most Muslims I have met are Muslims in name—cultural, familial, national Muslims—but they are not practicing, faithful Muslims. Nevertheless, all Muslims—whether they are nominal Muslims or fundamentalist Muslims, whether they are our next door neighbors or members of ISIS—need to hear the gospel and need to repent and trust Jesus Christ alone, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Although we do not worship the same God, we are all made in the image of the one and only triune God, Yahweh, who calls us to love Muslims and be ready to give an answer with gentleness and respect to those Muslims who ask us about the hope that is in us.