Islam’s Future in America—Part IV

Muslim 1This is the fourth part of a series resourced by Dr. Adam Francisco’s article cited in Part I.

“The 1960s, in general, were productive years for the strengthening of Islam in America. The number of students sent here on scholarship from places like Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia was over 10,000.”

“America became a land of promise for Muslims, especially those with Islamist commitments, in the 1960s. Muslims began to immigrate here in droves after passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished national origins quotas from immigration law.”

An organization called the Muslim Brotherhood set out “to fundamentally transform America by uniting Muslims who had settled in America.” The Brotherhood wrote a memo that said:

“The Ikhwan [Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s [Allah’s] religion is made victorious over all other religions. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes.”

The memo identifies a “civilization alternative” as the chief means of accomplishing the goals stated in the memo. “In other words, rather than some show of force or even overt political activity, the Islamist group in America sought (and seeks) to pursue the advance of Islam slowly, patiently, and even peacefully and, while doing so, to portray Islam as a legitimate and rational alternative to the hedonistic, relativistic, and materialistic culture that dominates the West.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Muslim population in the U.S. increased, both as a result of “natural biological unions between a Muslim man and his wife or wives” and continued immigration that included Islamist jihadists. For example, Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, “toured Silicon Valley in the early 1990s raising funds to support the fighters and organizations that would soon become al-Qaeda.”

“On the East Coast, mosques in New York and New Jersey used by the CIA in the 1980s to support the Afghan jihad were also used to recruit the jihadists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993.” That bombing pales in comparison to the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda.

These descriptions of Islamist jihadist ideology are not necessarily reflective of all Muslims. Nor should we consider all Muslims our enemies. I’ve been reminded by several readers that we are to share our faith and Christ’s love with all people, including Muslims. I agree. Stay tuned!

Islam’s Future in America—Part III

MosqueThis is the third part of a series resourced by Dr. Adam Francisco’s article cited in Part I.

Building on the initial expansion of Islam in the United States in the early 1920s, the number of Muslims in other parts of the world also increased. One contributing factor was the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928. From the Brotherhood emerged what came to be known as Islamism, a view of Islam “as an all-encompassing worldview or ideology.” Every aspect of life was thought to be “ordered by the Qur’an and Islamic tradition.”

Muslims “had a global mission that included bearing witness to Islam in or outside of Muslim majority lands. This played some role in the increasing number of Muslims who migrated to the United States on student visas shortly after the end of World War II.”

“Many of them, being too radical for the secularized Muslim states in the Middle East (the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, was and still is routinely outlawed), moved here and took advantage of American ignorance of their totalitarian ideology and began to make their way into and influence American Muslim organizations. In the mid-twentieth century … they soon began purposely working toward having ‘Islam recognized as an American religion.’”

The spread of Islam in America was aided by the development of the concept of “American civil religion” before and after the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961). “In 1948, the National Education Association began promoting the advancement of a universal vision of moral and spiritual values that were ‘shared by the members of all religious faiths.’ This enabled the newly established Federation of Islamic Associations to begin efforts at defining Islam as ‘yet another of the monotheistic religions upon which American values were founded.’”

“They were largely successful. By 1957, their work led to the building of the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., where, at its inauguration, President Eisenhower praised what Islam had allegedly ‘contributed to the building of civilization’ and ‘contributed to the advancement of mankind.’ He then acknowledged Islam’s place in the American religious landscape, assuring Muslims that ‘Americans would fight with all their strength’ for the right of Muslims to assemble at their mosques (he called them churches) and worship according to their conscience.”

“Just how many Muslims were in America in the mid-twentieth century is unclear. There were enough, though, that mission agencies and Middle Eastern governments began to take notice.” For example, in 1961 “the Saudis got involved and began their efforts to exert control over Muslim institutions in the United States, efforts which still continue today.”

As previously stated, my goal with this series of articles is to be as objective and accurate as possible, being neither unnecessarily alarmist nor gullibly naïve about the potential impact of Islam’s future in America. I welcome your assistance in achieving that goal. See you next week.

Islam’s Future in America—Part II

IslamIt’s apparent from the numerous responses I received after last week’s initial article on Islam’s Future in America that there is great interest in this topic. Many Americans have Muslim neighbors and their number will assuredly increase. It behooves us to inform ourselves as much as possible about Islamic values, ideals, attributes, and objectives, along with the challenges and opportunities Muslims bring to American life and Christianity.

Next week I’ll continue with excerpts from the article by Dr. Adam Francisco, cited in last week’s Perspectives. Before doing so, I thought it would be helpful to present here a brief summary of Islam per se. Greater detail can easily be found on the Internet.

The simple, concise summary below is provided by Patheos – Hosting the Conversation on Faith (http://www.patheos.com/Library/Islam). In this summary, CE stands for Common Era or Current Era or Christian Era. The abbreviation CE is an alternative naming of Anno Domini (AD – The Year of Our Lord). In addition, BCE is the abbreviation for Before the Common or Current or Christian Era, an alternative to BC (Before Christ). Frankly, I prefer BC and AD.

Here’s the summary of Islam from Patheos: “Islam is a monotheistic religious tradition that developed in the Middle East in the 7th century C.E. Islam, which literally means “surrender” or “submission,” was founded on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of Allah, [who Muslims believe is] the creator and sustainer of the world.

“The Quran, the sacred text of Islam, contains the teachings of the Prophet that were revealed to him from Allah. Essential to Islam is the belief that Allah is the one and true God with no partner or equal. Islam has several branches and much variety within those branches. The two divisions within the tradition are the Sunni and Shi’a, each of which claims different means of maintaining religious authority.

“One of the unifying characteristics of Islam is the Five Pillars, the fundamental practices of Islam. These five practices include a ritual profession of faith, ritual prayer, the zakat (charity), fasting, and the hajj (a pilgrimage to Mecca). Many Muslims are characterized by their commitment to praying to Allah five times a day. One of the defining characteristics of Islam is the primacy of sacred places including Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Muslims gather at mosques to worship Allah, pray, and study scripture.

“There is not a sharp distinction between the religious and secular aspects of life in Islam; all aspects of a Muslim’s life are to be oriented to serving Allah. Islam expanded almost immediately beyond its birthplace in the Arabian Peninsula, and now has significant influence in Africa, throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas.” Here ends the Patheos summary of Islam.

Stay tuned for next week’s continuation of Islam’s Future in America. God bless you!

Islam’s Future in America—Part I

islam-9-1532819-640x480At the conclusion of my article on the visit of Pope Francis to America a couple weeks ago, I said: “Roman Catholics are not our greatest spiritual enemies. That designation belongs to Satan, the world, our own sinful flesh and Islam. I’ll say more about the last topic on that list in the weeks ahead.” This week I’m making the first installment on keeping that promise.

The title of this edition of Perspectives is borrowed from that of an article in the January/April edition of Concordia Theological Quarterly by Dr. Adam Francisco, Professor and Chair of the History and Political Thought Department at Concordia University Irvine in Irvine, Cal. Dr. Francisco is a young, very intelligent authority on Islam and is the son-in-law of Terry’s and my very good friends, Priscilla and Bob Newton. Bob is president of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and a very bright mission-minded theological leader. Contents of Dr. Francisco’s article are shared here with his permission.

Dr. Francisco’s article chronicles the history of the first Muslims in the United States, who were slaves from Africa brought to this country over 200 years ago. Initially their influence was basically negligible. However, in the late 19th century the first Muslim missionary, Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb (1846-1916), began work in the U.S. Webb “was born in New York, raised in a Presbyterian household, moved to Missouri … established ties with Muslims in India, and received a commission from them to begin a mission to America.” Webb was basically unsuccessful in his five-year effort to promulgate the Islamic faith in America.

A few years later Islam’s influence in this country was catalyzed by “the thousands of immigrants who managed to circumvent the restrictions of the Immigration Act of 1891. By the 1920s it is estimated that around 60,000 had settled in cities throughout the United States. Most of them kept their religion private and sometimes even lied about it. But a few were apparently emboldened to advance Islam.”

The result was “a good bit of success in winning converts” among African Americans in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and St. Louis in just three years (1920-1923) by holding what are described as “Mosque meetings” where the “virtues of Islam were exalted and Christianity was severely criticized.” The plan of Islam was to “conquer America.”

Perhaps that’s enough to whet your appetite. I’ll continue next week with more on this important topic. My goal is to be as objective and accurate as possible, being neither unnecessarily alarmist nor gullibly naïve about the potential impact of Islam’s future in America. See you next week.

The Papal Visit

Pope Francis at UNPope Francis has concluded his visit to America, which in some ways seemed longer than the six days he actually spent in our country. The reception he received in the cities on his itinerary was warm and enthusiastic. His pastoral touch was obvious, as he paused en route to touch and bless individuals, particularly children with special needs, their families and caregivers.

While comments could be made about each of the pope’s speeches, I’ll share here a few thoughts about Saturday’s 90-minute worship service at Saints Peter and Paul Basilica in Philadelphia. It was carried live, in its entirety, on Fox News and a couple other national networks.

Watching such a service brings to mind more similarities between Catholicism and Lutheranism. Both are fundamentally liturgical and sacramental. Clergy vestments, Scripture readings, homily, hymns sung by congregation and choir to organ and orchestra accompaniment are quite familiar. Seminarians later visited briefly by the pope sang the familiar “Lift High the Cross.”

Yet some of the differences between the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations were also obvious, including a somewhat appealing use of incense and the repeated veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It’s obvious that Catholics still pray to Mary and consider her holy and a perpetual virgin. They often and properly identified her as the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, thankfully making generous reference to his work of redemption on Calvary’s cross.

The publicity, news and TV coverage received by the Catholic Church last week was worth millions and likely will catalyze, at least temporarily, a resurgence of interest in Catholicism. The negative image of the church resulting from sexual abuse scandals of the past may perhaps be somewhat mitigated by this pope’s messages and non-self-aggrandizing sense of humility.

That humility was emphasized, intentionally, in simple yet significant ways. One of the most visible was his ground transportation in the U.S., provided not in a limousine or even a Chevrolet Suburban, but sometimes in the Popemobile, at other times in a much smaller Fiat. By the way, the Vatican vehicle registration plate for the Popemobile and all official Vatican vehicles, begins with the letters “SCV” (an acronym of the Latin Status Civitatis Vaticanae “Vatican City State”) followed by the vehicle fleet number. In this case the plate read SCV-1.

Summarily, Pope Francis should feel very good about his visit to the U.S. And so should the Roman Catholic Church. The visibility and news coverage received by both provided publicity beyond the hopes, not to mention the dreams, of the rest of Christendom.

I pray that the result of this papal visit will be fruitful for the kingdom. As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaches, perhaps even our own church will experience resurgence from the apathetic atrophy in which we seem to be stuck. Time will tell. Lord, help us!