If anyone is familiar with Nabeel Qureshi, you'll know he's a devout ex-Muslim who became a Christian after studying the truth about Islam. He documents his conversion story in the book, "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus." It's well worth reading if you haven't already done so.
There are many aspects of the book that stick in the memory but what's especially fascinating for me is when Nabeel talks about the differences between Eastern and Western cultural mindsets. In the West, he says, statements are considered authoritative based on whether they are right or wrong. To discover whether a statement is indeed right or wrong then, Westerners are encouraged to critically examine it and ask questions. Teachers invite questions from students, parents invite questions from children, pastors invite questions from church members. A person's virtue is then determined by whether he does what he knows to be right or wrong.
In the East, however, he says that "authority comes from position rather than reason." In other words, if a statement is made by someone in a more senior position than you, whether it be a parent, teacher, or mosque leader, that statement is considered authoritative simply because of who is saying it. To critically examine the statement or to ask questions in that culture then, is considered disrespectful. It is impudent to question the words of your elders. If your parents tell you something and you decide to conduct your own studies to check, it's akin to calling them liars. If an Imam tells you something about Muhammad, it's impertinent to challenge his authority. An Eastern person's virtue is determined then, not by whether they do what they know to be right or wrong, but by how well they honour and obey their elders. The worst thing in the West is to be guilty, but the worst thing in the East is to bring shame on yourself and your family through disobedience to senior authority.
The Eastern mindset means that children from Islamic homes grow up being told stories about their prophet Muhammad from their parents, grandparents and Imams - stories that have been handed down through many generations - and instead of inquiring further, they simply accept what they're told implicitly. Astonishingly that leads us to this bottom line: Most professing Muslims have no idea what the Quran and Hadith actually says. They've never personally investigated, questioned, studied or sometimes even read their own holy books, because to do so, according to their cultural mindset, would feel like impudence.
Now when a Westerner comes along and starts questioning the life of Muhammad, he thinks he's merely conducting an intellectual exercise. He's just doing what Westerners do - trying to get to the truth of the matter. The Muslim with an Eastern mindset, however, doesn't see it like that. The Muslim takes it very personally. You're effectively calling his parents liars. You're challenging the honour of his family, his heritage, his traditions and his culture. Therefore, he's likely to fly into a rage and he's likely to want to defend Islam at all costs...again though, not because he knows what it says...but simply because it's his family, heritage, tradition and culture.
The ignorance Muslims have about their own religion came to the fore earlier this year when we posted the video opposite, entitled "12 Facts about Islam". Watch it and you'll see that it's just a series of verses direct from the Quran and Hadith. This is Islam in its own words. Nothing more and nothing less.
Yet, upon watching this video, several offended Muslims got in contact with The Fuel Project in various states of shock. What they had read was so vile, that they assumed we must have made all the verses up in some devious bid to discredit their faith. Here are a couple of representative exchanges:
Syed on the left who hoped to check for himself and prove that the verses were wrong never wrote again. Matloob on the right, who had thought the verses to be so hateful, was very nice about it but also had nothing more to add when challenged to explore for himself. Here are a few more interactions:
Saad on the left, who promised to write again proving that the verses were wrong never did. Hassan - the first contact on the right - could only say the verses had been 'read wrong' but couldn't offer any more information on why he thought so. The majority just wrote abusive messages like the second and third messages on the right, and when asked to explain why they were so upset, and seemingly shocked, when these verses were directly from their own Quran and Hadith, they had no response. Indeed, not a single Muslim has ever been able to explain why they think those verses are wrong. No-one has even tried. The reason? Because most Muslims didn't even know those verses were in there.
Incidentally, there was a particularly revealing exchange with a man called Muhammad who wrote a long piece. A couple of segments are below and they demonstrate the Eastern mindset perfectly. He kept comparing a questioning of Muhammad as being akin to disrespecting his parents and grandparents. He was also keen to say that the Quran and Hadith couldn't be understood personally and had to be taught by an Imam.
Now these exchanges actually tell us something strangely hopeful about Muslims - most of them are disgusted by their own religion! They just don't know it yet. As I explained to almost everyone who wrote, if they found anything reprehensible in those Quran and Hadith verses, and they clearly did, then their problem is not with The Fuel Project, it's with Islam itself. For this is what their religion actually says. This is what Muhammad actually did. That video is merely Islam in its own words. So again, the fact Muslims are so repulsed by those Quranic verses as to think it must be some kind of trick, tells us they have a basic sense of goodness. It gives us hope that if they were to become fully aware of their religion, they might wish to leave it altogether.
Of course, the Eastern mindset will continue to make it very difficult. As the exchanges above prove, they generally won't question their own faith, even when given good reason to. They'll blindly defend it at all costs, and often vociferously. When I invited them to go look up the verses for themselves, none of them did it. This is not only because they feel like they're dishonouring their family and heritage to conduct personal study, but it's because of what's at risk. They must wrestle with these thoughts: "What if it really is this bad? What if this is the truth and I must leave Islam?" It's a scary thought. As Nabeel Qureshi discovered, leaving Islam is extremely traumatic. It means dishonouring your culture and shaming your family, which is the worst thing that can happen there. In turn, it means being cut off from them forever. It possibly even means your life being at risk of an 'honour killing'. See, the honour of the family is so paramount in Eastern culture that even the death of a son or daughter is preferable to them leaving Islam. Such is the price of walking away, that you can understand why many would want to bury their heads in the sand and refuse to look for the truth.
In the meantime, it leaves us all in precarious position. "Zeal without knowledge is a runaway horse", as the old proverb goes. And there are currently hundreds of millions of these runaway horses stampeding across the world. John Calvin said it this way: "Zeal without knowledge is like a sword in the hand of a lunatic." These are both good metaphors for Islam. It's a religion of people who are full of ignorant zeal. Foolish but yet dangerously frenzied with it. The whole world is currently paying the price of that in one way or another.
The best thing we can do as a ministry is continue to present the truth about Islam as given by the religion's own texts, in the hope that decent Muslims will find the courage to turn away in disgust once they know the truth. Yes, it's true that many could go the other way and turn violent once they realise that's what Muhammad demands of them, but I can't see any other way forward than to get all this out in the open. At the very least, it should help the West understand what we're dealing with. Either way, let's pray for more Nabeel Qureshis today. People who will listen to the truth, who will question, who will be brave enough to turn away from it. People who will ultimately then come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Here's another video that may help. This is the true story of Islam.