Their key message: Islam is a religion of peace.
No doubt many of the world’s Muslims prefer peace to the sword, decrying the acts of Islamist terrorists as perversions of true Islam.
And to be fair, Islam is a religion of peace, as long as peace is defined in Muslim terms.
A case in point: dhimmitude.
Dhimmitude is the path to peace non-Muslims may choose when their land and people are claimed for Islam. If you think this is an ancient practice that died with Muhammad, look no further than modern-day Syria
The Times of Israel recently reported that Christian leaders in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, captured by an organization formerly affiliated with al-Qaeda, have signed a submission document banning them from practicing Christianity in public in return for protection from their Islamist rulers.
The Christian community was given three options: (1) convert to Islam; (2) remain Christian but pledge submission to Islam; or (3) “face the sword.”
They opted for the second of these choices, known as dhimmitude.
The Christians of Raqqa chose to sign the dhimma treaty, receiving in return a commitment by the local Muslim commander not to be subjected to physical harm or religious targeting
But there’s a catch: Under the treaty, Christians may not renovate churches or monasteries; display crosses in public; read scriptures indoors loudly enough for Muslims standing outside to hear; or conduct religious ceremonies outside the church. In addition, they must pay the jizya tax twice annually for each adult Christian.
This is not an isolated incident. Rather, dhimmitude is the normal imposition by Muslims who wish to bring the whole world into submission to Allah.
A bitter compromise
Dhimmitude is a bitter compromise that protects non-Muslims from death but grants them only the illusion of religious freedom, which in fact requires an admission that Islam is the greatest religion and Allah is the only true god.
The vast majority of U.S. Christians would eagerly grant Muslims – or persons of other religious persuasions – the right to worship freely according to the dictates of their conscience.
But the simple truth is that Muslims, if true to their faith, would not grant the same freedoms to non-Muslims. Convert, die, or become a dhimmi are the only choices you have when Islam rules.
So what are Christians to do?
First, stay true to our faith. Efforts to merge different belief systems – for example, Chrislam, the marriage of Christianity and Islam – or to blur the doctrinal differences between religions, essentially denies the uniqueness of Christ and the eternal value of His finished work on the cross.
Second, support religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world. Open Doors International’s World Watch List for 2014 shows that nine of the top 10 nations that persecute Christians are dominated by radical Islam. We should urge our nation’s leaders to take a bold diplomatic stand in support of religious freedom, while modeling that freedom, based on Judeo-Christian principles, at home.
Third, hold our Muslim friends accountable. When they say they support religious freedom, ask if such a thing is truly possible in a Muslim society. Even in “secular” Muslim states like Turkey and Malaysia there may be severe penalties for worshiping in public or sharing your Christian faith with a Muslim. Is that truly religious freedom?
Also, ask whether they support the 1,400-year-old practice of dhimmitude and whether they would support it if Muslims outnumbered Christians in the U.S.
Fourth, demonstrate through your life and words that true peace comes only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He not only brings us peace (John 14:17); He is our peace (Eph. 2:14).
Finally, ask yourself, if forced to choose between conversion to Islam, dhimmitude, or death for faithfulness to Jesus, which would you choose? That day is already here for many Christians around the world.
This column first appeared June 3, 2014, in The Pathway, the news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.