Posts Tagged ‘christians’

Ethical Guidelines – Questions and Responses

Anonymous Questions

1. Take  point 10 on the Guidelines: Whilst we may feel hurt when someone we know and love chooses to leave our faith, we will respect their decision and will not force them to stay or harass them afterwards. What does this mean?     

Guideline 10 means what it says, we recognize that conversions are taking place between Christianity and Islam and at the human level people should be able to make their decisions/respond to God and not be ill-treated by friends, families and religious communities, event though Christians would rather Christians remained Christians and Muslims rather Muslims remained Muslims. We are aware of the mistreatment (from mild to extreme) of converts from Islam to Christianity and from Christianity to Islam in England and were motivated by these concerns.

2. In Channel Four’s investigative Programme Dispatches, broadcast in Sept 07, about the violence and intimidation facing Muslims who convert to Christianity in Britain, reporter Anthony Barnett met former Muslims who now live under the threat of reprisals from their former communities. Many are still living in fear. He interviewed a family who have been driven out of their home and a convert whose brother was beaten close to death.  Many of the 3,000 Muslims who have converted to Christianity in Britain refused to be interviewed for fear of further persecution.  

Will the Muslims on the Forum now publicly condemn this harassment?  The courageous Muslim leader Sheikh Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain gave them a lead by publicly stating on the programme “We are British Muslims living in Britain. If a Muslim chooses to leave Islam, we have no right to injure them whatsoever”

Our colleague Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, one of the Presidents of the Forum, heads up the MCB’s Inter Faith Relations committee and spoke on the Dispatches programme. He was equally clear when speaking at the launch event. We are currently seeking public support for the guidelines from leading Muslims and Christians. We hope that the guidelines will make things easier for those who convert and we will be using the guidelines at our future events and encouraging mosque and church groups to consider them carefully.

3. One of the hadiths [traditions of Muhammad] stipulates the death penalty for apostasy, for example Sahih [Collection of] Bukhari, considered to be a reliable source by most Muslims, says: ‘Whoever changes his religion, execute him.’ There is a significant number of further hadiths which state that the apostate must be killed. Will the Muslims on the Forum publicly state that the hadith which stipulates the death penalty for apostasy does not have any relevance in Britain?

Hadith on apostasy – this hadith is not relevant in the UK because the UK is not an Islamic state. But neither can it be applied in other countries which are Islamic states as its context relates to Islam’s early days where leaving Islam was tantamount to treason. The Qur’an does not stipulate that those who leave Islam should be executed.

4. Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, whose father converted from Islam told the Channel 4 Investigation mentioned above that many Muslim leaders in Britain have been silent on the issue of apostasy and he implored them to speak out.  Will the Muslims on the Forum now issue a press release speaking out on this issue?

The Muslims (and Christians) of the Christian Muslim Forum have already issued a press release promoting the ethical guidelines. The guidelines, including the statement about converts, have been welcomed in the August/Ramadan 2009 edition of the Muslim magazine emel. We are in the process of seeking sign-up to the guidelines from leading Christians and Muslims.

5. An Opinion Poll in 2007 revealed that 36% of young Muslims in Britain state that Muslim converts to Christianity should be punished by death. Will the Muslims on the Christian Muslim Forum agree to publicly campaign within their communities to change the minds of this 36%?

36% in favour (though a minority) of mistreatment of converts is a disturbing figure. Our guidelines are aimed precisely at challenging Muslim and Christian communities where they do not respect those who have changed their faith. We are working on an open letter promoting the guidelines. As well as potential reservations within the Muslim community we are aware that some Christians have expressed an unwillingness to sign up to the guidelines and that our work involves seeking to persuade people of both faiths. Believers of either faith who are unwilling to sign up are not in a good position to criticize those of the other faith. Above all these guidelines are a basis for further action rather than talking.

Muslim members of the Christian Muslim Forum draw attention to these words from the Common Worddeclaration – ‘As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them – so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of  their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.’

And these, ‘If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake. And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony. God says in the Holy Qur’an: Lo! God enjoineth justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbiddeth lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorteth you in order that ye may take heed (Al Nahl, 16:90). Jesus Christ said: Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and also: For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26). So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.’

Julian Bond
Director, Christian Muslim Forum
on behalf of the members of the Forum

Reflections from Bosnia

It never ceases to amaze me, the human ability to forge strong and sustainable friendship between strangers. Our journeorthoy to Bosnia was a testimony to this, both as a group of Christians and Muslims from the UK and among the Christians and Muslims of Bosnia. Travelling to Bosnia was both a pleasure and a challenge to us all and a test of our faith.
Bosnia, like many other countries that conflict and war has visited, is surely one of the most beautiful countries I have seen. War and genocide does not discriminate along lines of aesthetic beauty, it appears where it likes, making use of existing tensions and conflict. This is certainly true of Bosnia where unresolved conflicts of the past resurfaced during the war between 1991-1995. I would like to be writing here that those wounds caused by war are being treated sufficiently by those who have the ability and power to do so, but this is not always the case, and more needs to be done at both national and international levels to heal those wounds.

However, we as a group certainly witnessed the highest sort of faith, manifest in those wishing to heal the wounds between communities and make strong and lasting friendships. I witnessed this ability and desire to reconcile many times whilst in Bosnia, but those most memorable to me are an Imam and an Orthodox priest telling ‘Imam and Priest’ jokes whilst travelling with us. To be accompanied by an Orthodox Priest, an Imam and a Friar whilst visiting various different places of worship is certainly a picture of hope for Bosnia, a picture of hope that needs to be shared not only in Bosnia but among our culturally diverse world.

Our belief in forgiveness is often challenged as people of faith, and I would like to take this opportunity to present a challenge given to us as a group whilst visiting Srebrenica. A mother who had lost all her family in the Genocide in Bosnia asked “how can we forgive if no one is asking for forgiveness” one of the answers might be found in the fact that this courageous mother had returned to Srebrenica and was living among those people that might ask her for forgiveness.

What follows is an inscription found in the cemetery at Srebrenica:

In the name of God, almighty, merciful and compassionate, we pray that sorrow may turn into hope, that revenge may turn into justice, that mothers’ tears may become prayers, and that nowhere and never again will there be a Srebrenica.

Daniel Edge
Peace Worker

Other members of the group also wrote about their experiences. You can read the reflections of Catriona Robertson in her blog which contains many photographs from the week. We hope to add more from the others and invite them to let us have links that we can add to this piece.

Reflections from Nasar Fiaz