The Courier had a report about a Leslie drug addict convicted of assaulting a Muslim woman by pulling a burka from her head in the Glenrothes town centre. The article contained the following intriguing quote from Imam Manzoor Zaman:
What we need in Fife is more inter-faith dialogue to raise awareness of differences between religions and cultures. This will ensure that these kind of rare acts do not harm community relations in Fife.
I wonder what the imam means. Does he think inter-faith dialogue is going to change the behaviour of drug addicts? I don’t know how many drug addicts attended earlier inter-faith meetings, but I would be surprised if a significant percentage of the drug users in our town would choose that way to spend an evening. If the imam thinks that the things said in these meetings are going to have any discernible impact on the behaviour of drug addicts, I really don’t know what to say.
Is he suggesting that Christians don’t understand Muslims well enough, and so might support this man’s thuggish actions? The Bible condemns law-breaking (I Peter 2:13) and commands us to love our neighbours (Romans 13:8-10). That is enough for any Christian, for anyone who even pretends to be a Christian, to condemn this attack. Surely the imam does not think Christians endorse what Mr. Gandy did, does he?
Mr. Gandy did not do what he did because of Christian faith or Christian teaching. He made his own decision, for whatever reason, but it has nothing to do with faith. To suggest inter-faith meetings in such a case is to suggest that “faith” somehow has something to do with what he did. If the imam is concerned about community relations, perhaps he should consider that slandering the faith of others, by suggesting faith is involved, won’t help relations.
What Christians Need to Say: God condemns behaviour like Mr. Gandy’s.
That’s not inter-faith dialogue, that’s proclaiming God’s truth.
What Christians Need to Hear: people like Mr. Gandy need to be given the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. They need to be told that He can set them free from the slavery of addiction, and they can be rescued from a path that is obviously harmful to them and to others. Mr. Gandy, and others like him, don’t have to live like this anymore. There is hope for them.
I doubt Muslims want an inter-faith dialogue so they can tell Christians to spread the Gospel.
Christians know how we are to behave towards Muslims. 1) We are to love our neighbours as ourselves (Galatians 5:14). 2) We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). 3) We are to do good to all (Galatians 6:10). 4) We are to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone (Matthew 28:18-20), including Muslims. In an inter-faith meeting, Muslims may agree with the first three things, but they certainly won’t agree with the fourth. Since it is a clear command of Jesus Christ, there is an impasse.
In general, we must treat Muslims with respect and kindness, but our faiths at the core are diametrically opposed. If we are to speak the truth in love, the truth is that the very foundations of our faith are contrary to the teachings of Islam. Thus, inter-faith dialogue is at best unprofitable, because it will founder on irreconcilable differences, if both parties are honest about their beliefs. It is at worst dishonest, if it instead minimises the differences.
In any event, I do not know why Imam Zaman thinks inter-faith meetings will help with the aftermath of the assault. It makes no sense. We do not call for inter-faith meetings when vandals damage our church hall. Muslims have nothing to do with drug and alcohol fueled vandalism against Christian churches, and Christians have nothing to do with a drug and alcohol fueled attack against a Muslim woman in the Glenrothes town centre.