Author: Heiser, James
Date published: November 8, 2010
Journal code: NEAM
In the nine years since the terrorist attacks of September 1 1, 2001, Americans have been subjected to a great deal of "spin" from the political elites and the media regarding the history and teachings of the Islamic religion, and the rise of jihadist terrorist organizations around the globe. America's history of religious freedom and the religious dimensions the current conflicts in which American troops are engaged leave many citizens feeling confused: How should they perceive Islam? How may they best understand the faith of Muslims living in the United States?
Rev, Elijah Abraham offers a muchneeded perspective on the nature of Islam. He was born and raised as a Muslim in Iraq, but converted to Christianity when he found that Islam did not answer his most pressing religious questions.
Rev. Abraham earned a degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2002. In 2006, Rev. Abraham started Living Oasis Ministries, an organization devoted to teaching American churches about Islam and the best means for reaching out to Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the past year, he has also helped to establish Veterans Against Jihadism (VAJonline.org), endeavoring to inform our nation's veterans about Islam and the origins of the current conflict in the Middle East.
Rev. Abraham was recently interviewed by Rev. James Heiser for THE NEW AMERICAN and shared his perspective on Islam and the current threat posed by the ideology of the Islamic jihad.
THE NEW AMERICAN: IVAa/ was it like growing up in Iraq as a Muslim?
Rev. Elijah Abraham: Born in a Muslim family, you really have no choice but to be a Muslim. If a child is born to Muslim parents, according to Islamic law, he is immediately a Muslim. And that locks that human being - be it a boy or giri - into Islam. Whether he grows up knowing what Islam is all about - that's really secondary. Of course, it would make the parents happy if that child grows up and knows everything about Islam, becomes an Imam, or whatever he does to advance Islam. But he will learn about Islam from his parents, from society, from school, from the mosque if his father takes him to the mosque, from the culture. Islam is a way of life. It's not like here in America. Christianity, or whatever faith that you have here in America, is a personal thing. That's why they don't have "separation between Islam and State."
So I grew up under that environment. I was a member of a large family, and my father was self-employed, and he did pretty well. He didn't work for the government. My parents were devout and prayed five times a day and observed all the religious holidays, and they tried to teach us kids to do that, but they really didn't enforce it because my parents were uneducated. If they were educated and read the Koran themselves, probably they would have enforced all the Islamic laws on the family. We were more nominal Muslims, as kids. My dad and my mom were devout because they wanted to please Allah.
TNA: Growing up in a nominally Islamic home, what was your view as a child of Christianity?
Rev. Abraham: It's a license to sin, and that was the view not just for me, but really for every Muslim around the world. You ask any Muslim. Usually when I witness to Muslims, they ask me, "What religion are you?" I say, "What do you mean?" "Well, what do you believe?" "I'm a follower of Jesus Christ." "Oh, so you're Christian!" I don't say "yes" right away; I say, "What do you know about being a Christian?" I want to know his worldview: "What's Christianity to you?" And they'll tell me. Their view of Christianity is Hollywood, Clinton, Baywatch, drugs, alcohol, and pornography. It's a license to sin. When I hear that, it's a great opportunity to share the Gospel with them and say, "You know, I don't know where you get that from, but let me show you Christianity, really true Christianity." I ask them, "Can you read? Read this." And I let them read the Sermon on the Mount. And they ask me a very powerful, legitimate, indicting question: "If this is really true for Christians to live like this, how come I've not seen a Christian live like this?" I turn it around, so it is a witnessing opportunity. I say, "God knows we still have this flesh. We still fall short. We're saved by grace through Christ Jesus. And when we sin, we come to Him directly and say, 'Lord, forgive me. I messed up and I'm sorry.'" And He is faithful and righteous to forgive my sins, 1 John 1:9. It's a promise.
I grew up with hatred: hatred toward Christianity. I had a lot of Christian neighbors and friends and I loved them, but the Christians I could not separate from Christianity because my community and Islam told me I could not separate America from Christianity. England from Christianity. Colonialism from Christianity. So that was the hatred - hatred toward the West, imperialism, capitalism, etc., and hatred toward the Jews, and Israel, and Zionism. Nobody told me why I needed to hate. The culture of hate is just a way of life, and not just hatred toward Christians and Jews, but also toward other factions within Islam. There is no peace. There is this constant struggle, on a personal, community, or national level. That's why it's a really great opportunity to share the Gospel with Muslims, because as human beings we always want to have peace of mind. We always want to be at rest and ease. That's the void that only God can fi]]. So it's a great opportunity when I witness to Muslims and give them that option. Yes, they will give me typical Muslim objections to the Gospel, but I'm prepared to answer those questions.
TNA: Was it the hatred and the lack of peace that led you ?? start having doubts about Islam?
Rev. Abraham: No, it was really something else. It was a personal journey seeking answers from God. And I could not find those answers from the Islamic god. 1 have an analytical mind. I majored in engineering, so I looked at it as a mathematical equation: Because I'm begging God to help me and He's not answering my prayers, either God does not exist, or the way I'm talking to Him is not the right way. Well, He exists because creation tells me He exists, and I exist, so therefore He exists. So Romans 1 is really real. So the problem is not with God; the problem is the way Tm talking to Him. The only way I had known was Islam, and I'd been begging Him. By that time I was a very devout Muslim, praying five times a day, doing everything that Allah asks me to do. He's not answering me, so maybe Islam is not the way. So I checked out other religions. I had the boldness to do this because I was outside the Muslim world. I was in the United States. I was free. The Constitution gave me the freedom to check it out, and I loved it. And that's why I'm pretty hostile to those who want to undermine our constitutional freedom - our religious liberty and freedom of speech. I don't care if it's Obama, or Islam, or the liberal media, or whoever it is; if you want to take my liberty, you've got a fight on your hands. Every American should have that attitude.
TNA: How did you become a Christian?
Rev. Abraham: I went through the law of deduction. I said I'm going to try other religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, eastern religions. If I can't find Him, then it's between You and me, God. That's how I saw it. And one day I looked outside my apartment, and there's a cross and a steeple: a church. I knew nothing about denominations. To me, a cross represents Christianity so I went to "check it out." During the service, the pastor preached out of a text in John, and God really answered my typical Muslim objections.
Muslim objections are really few. If every Christian knows how to answer them, I don't think there's really any problem witnessing to Muslims. Of course, that's the apologetic side - defending Christianity. First, we've got to love them. We need to pray for them. We've got to love them and reach out to them in a genuine way. The apologetics are just something in your armament for when they give you that objection.
TNA: There is quite a bit of debate over the size of the Muslim community in the United States. How many do you believe there are at this point?
Rev. Abraham: It depends on whom you talk to. If you talk to the Muslim community, they say there are about nine to ten million. I would say anywhere between four to six million. But we really don't have any way to measure the population because there are many things to consider. You've got migrants, refugees, and then second and third generations descended from them, and then the converts from black, white, and Hispanic communities. Then you have the women who marry Muslims and then later on convert.
TNA: What is the highest legal authority for a Muslim?
Rev. Abraham: You've got the Koran, and under it is the Hadith, which are the Islamic traditions of Mohammed's deeds and sayings. The Islamic Sharia law really comes out from within the schools of thought of the Hadith to interpret what the Koran says. The Koran is a little vague on certain issues, and Mohammed elaborated a lot on what the Koran says, and as a result you've got different schools of thought of what the Islamic law is. So Sharia law dictates every aspect of the typical Muslim's Ufe: how you wash your hands, how you eat, how you sleep, how you have sex with your wife, etc. It's a mess.
TNA: Can someone be a true Muslim without adherence to Sharia law?
Rev. Abraham: An orthodox Muslim will tell you no. But at this time, they are not going to make a big issue out of it, because they brag about numbers - that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and it's not. It's the fastest growing religion or ideology in the West. In the rest of the world, Christianity is "kicking butt," and I like that. In 2001, an Islamic scholar on Al Jazeera television was lamenting the loss of six million Muslims in Africa to Christianity per year.
TNA: Since September 1], 2001, there has been a great deal of talk about "moderate Islam" and "moderate Muslims." Is there such a thing as a "moderate Islam " that Mohammed would have recognized as genuinely Islamic?
Rev. Abraham: There is no such thing as "moderate Islam." You mentioned "moderate Muslim" and you need to define what a "moderate Muslim" is. But let's go back to "moderate Islam": There is no such thing. Islam is locked on a seventh-century Arabian religion.
Let me redefine Islam: Islam is not really even a religion. That's a key point. It's a socio-political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda. Why do you think Islam is doing what it's doing in the West, and being allowed the freedom to do what it is doing without being confronted? Because Islam passes itself off as a religion and thus, under the Constitution of the United States, has the protection of freedom of religion and therefore the protection of a religion to exist. If the United States finally comes to its senses and acknowledges that Islam is a socio-political system - not a religion, so we need to reclassify what Islam is - then the fight is on. Then we will address Islam just like we addressed Naziism, fascism, communism, and all these ideologies.
TNA: Is there such a thing as a "moderate Muslim"?
Rev. Abraham: There are two types of moderate Muslims. First, let us talk about an American. You've got a moderate Muslim who really doesn't know anything about Islam. All he's doing are the five pillars of Islam the best he can. He prays five times a day. It's a memorized, repetitive prayer. When I was four years old, my father prayed, and I heard his prayer. We brought him to the United States, and I heard him pray and it was exactly, word for word, what I remembered from when I was a child. All he's doing is the five pillars of Islam to appease Allah. He's doing his duty. Now, if he decides to be faithful, and be serious about Islam, and really dig deeper into Islamic theology and history and the life of Mohammed, then he's got two choices to make. He either becomes "Osama bin Laden," or leaves Islam for another religion or becomes agnostic. I have some friends who are former jihadists; They used to work for PLO, HezboIIah, Hamas, and so on. The deeper they dug into Islam, they realized there was something wrong, and they started looking into really spiritual things. They left Islam and became Christians.
So you've got that side of the moderates, who are just doing their thing, just as we have a lot of Christians in oar churches who know nothing about the Bible. You see somebody who comes to church, does his thing, but then something happens in his Ufe and he says, "You know, I need to seek God. I need to be more serious about Christianity." And he starts reading the Bible and God starts speaking to him, convicting him, and he becomes excited about what God is saying and he starts talking about how God is taking care of him and his family. So he becomes a more active Christian and more faithful to God. He's no longer just a nominal Christian sitting in the pew keeping that seat warm . It 's the same thing with Islam. So you've got that one side of the nominal Muslim.
Then you've got the other side, the second kind of moderate Muslim. People like Dr. [M. Zuhdi] Jasser from Arizona, who was featured in a documentary, The Third Jihad. He is a Muslim medical doctor of Syrian heritage who is speaking out against the jihad and the violent side of Islam, He wants to reform Islam, but he can't. He's a reformed Muslim, as a human being. He likes the Constitution, and he was in the Navy for about four years. He served this country faithfully. I like him. He's a reformed Muslim, but he cannot reform the religion, or the ideology. The ideology is locked.
TNA: Cannot a Muslim simply relegate Sharia law to his personal or private life while he adheres to the law of the land?
Rev. Abraham: Because we adhere to the Constitution, we want to give the Muslims then- rights, as well, so they can keep their Sharia law, as long as it is pertaining to spiritual things. You step out of bounds to the socio-political - "honor killings," for example - then it's against the law. So can it be merely private? No, as far as Islam is concerned.
TNA: How should Americans view the mosques that are springing up all over our country?
Rev. Abraham: When you look at a mosque, and let's define what a mosque is, please don't look at it as you would ioolc at a cnurch or a synagogue or Buddhist temple. This is not just a house of worship. You need to go back in history and look at the first mosque (which Mohammed established in Medina) and look at its function. Yes, they prayed, but it was also a base of political operation where Mohammed issued a lot of rulings and launched jihads and launched wars and administered Sharia law in every aspect. But it was also a storage place for weapons. The best example I could give you is from the battle for Fallujah in April 2004 when the Marines went into a mosque and killed everyone in the mosque. The liberal media and the Muslim community in the West cried out and even our politicians, like John Kerry and others, said, "How dare they? This is what Americans do, they go and kill the worshipers. They were just worshiping there." If those are honest worshipers, what are they doing with bazookas and other weapons? And they and the Marines were shooting at each other. Nobody talks about that.
Let's look in the United States. Every mosque, every Islamic center, school, library, whatever, is a missionary training center to convert Americans to Islam.
TNA: Would you contend that most mosques in the United States are also serving as weapons repositories?
Rev. Abraham: Sure! Now, are there any weapons right now if I go to the mosque down the street? Do they have them? Maybe, maybe not.,But that does not mean they would not have them.
TNA: And, of course, the question would be absurd if we were talking about a synagogue ora church?
Rev. Abraham: Right. The best example is why the FBI is allowing 30 to 34 terrorist training camps in the United States. I mean, if I'm the average guy and I go to YouTube and find videos of Islamberg in upstate New York, which is a training camp, why hasn't the FBI shut it down? I do not understand how the American government allowed this to happen and to go this far with the military actions of the jihadists in America. Just imagine if during the Second World War the United States government allowed Nazi training camps and Fascist Italian camps and Imperial Japan training camps within the continental U.S.A. to practice how to kill Americans.
Perhaps the government is allowing this to know who are the terrorists and you want to chase after them. I sure hope that's the case. But if that's the case, why are most of these guys ending up in Pakistan and Afghanistan fighting our own army?
TNA: Please define the difference between a "terrorist" anda "jihadist."
Rev. Abraham: A terrorist will put a gun to your head in the middle of the night, threaten your life, and steal your possessions. He's not willing to die for what he wants to accomplish. That's why we have Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, Chavez, Stalin, and others. They did not kill themselves. They gained their power at the cost of the people they were willing to kill or massacre, by the millions, if they had to. That's a terrorist.
A jihadist is willing to die for his ideology in order to advance that ideology. That's a jihadist. That's why, in America, we don't know who we are fighting. We don't know who the enemy is. First, we have not identified that Islam is really an enemy. We have given it the status of a religion. Second, as soldiers ofthat religion or ideology, if we call them jihadists, our own government, thanks to Obama, has redefined the terms so that we don't use the term "Islamic terrorist" in our vocabulary anymore. So, Mr. President, what do you want to call them? Attention Deficit Disorder with a gun?
TNA: You are involved with the organization Veterans Against Jihadism. What is its work?
Rev. Abraham: I was approached by a friend of mine, a former Marine Colonel - a wonderful, godly man - and we started talking about it at the end of last year. In February, he invited me to a meeting in the Bronx, New York, to make a presentation about the threat of Islam to the United States. That was the birth of Veterans Against jihadism. Actually, they wanted to call it "Veterans Against Terrorism." I said, "No, it's jihadism we are dealing with here," That's why I believe George W. Bush did an incredible disservice to the United States when he said that Islam is peaceful and that 19 people hijacked Islam. That drove me nuts when I first heard that.
We launched the Veterans Against jihadism website in April 2010. The purpose is to educate veterans, and the American public in general, about the threat and give documentation about this concern. The emphasis is on being factual, not emotional. The goal is to mobilize veterans - 29 million strong in the United States - to vote this November, to get rid of big government, to get America back and to fight for America, because when the veterans took an oath to protect the Constitution from domestic and foreign enemies, that did not end when they were retired. A veteran is a veteran. Veterans Against Jihadism 's goal is basically to protect the Constitution of the United States, and to protect America from foreign and domestic enemies, and they see jihad and jihadism as a clear and present danger.
TNA: What do you believe would be the three most important books for a Christian to read about Islam, its history, and "peaceful jihad" ?
Rev. Abraham: There's a book called The Mosque Exposed by Solomon and Almaqdisi. It's very good because it explains what the purpose of the mosque is, and every American needs to read that. Also the book Modern Day Trojan Horse - it's very powerful. There's a good website to go to for history and apologetics: www.answering-islam.org. There's also jihadwatch.org and, of course, VAJonline.org.