Bob Dylan has a famous line in one of his early songs, You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing. Penned in 1965, this lyric seems quaint in light of the increasing mobility and internationalization of our times. The airplane has made moving people inexpensive and efficient, and the internet has made sharing ideas quick and easy. So, we move a lot and we have access to a lot of information. But both the migration of people and the sharing of ideas bring the inevitable clash of civilizations. To use Dylan’s metaphor, the wind is blowing from every direction. Consider several news stories from the past few weeks:
- In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has been taking heat for his intention to ban women from wearing the full Muslim veil.Sarkozy tied his decision to the nobility of women, saying that a full veilruns counter to women’s dignity. The backdrop of the ban, however, is larger still. Fully 10 percent of the population of France is Muslim. Most of these are very poor immigrants living in suburban communities that are violence prone and incubated from France’s secular society. In a word, these neighborhoods are seedbeds for radical Islam. As one writer put it, The veil [is used] to deprive girls of basic educational opportunities and to prevent women from fulfilling their obligations as citizens.
- Just last month, FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, banned from the game women in ahijab (the head scarf worn by women soccer players from Islamic countries). The laws of international soccer decree that a player may not wear any equipment that has any political, religious or personal statements.
- From Dubai comes the story of a British couple, Charlotte Adams and Ayman Najafi, who had the audacity to smooch while having dinner at Bob’s Diner.They were both fined a few hundred dollars, and Najafi is facing deportation issues over the incident.
- In Yemen, Sheik Abdul Majeed Zindani, the country’s most influential cleric, is gathering a million signatures to protest a draft law banning child marriages.The impetus behind this came about after a thirteen-year-old girl bled to death after being married off to a twenty-three-year-old husband who forced himself upon her. Zindani said the proposed ban on child brides threatens our culture and society and spreads immorality.
- Two weeks ago, a federal judge declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue, or practice magic.
- Then, last week Franklin Graham was uninvited to the Pentagon because he has called Islam an evil religion. The event, held every Spring, is sponsored by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which works with the Pentagon’s chaplain.
So you can’t kiss in Dubai and you can’t pray in Wisconsin. You can bathe topless in Biarritz, but don’t try going to the mall in your burka. So much for knowing which way the wind is blowing.
Two books I’ve read recently speak to both the problem and the solution for the crosswinds that are blowing through the time in which we live. First, A God Who Hates is written by Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-born émigré to the United States. She calls herself an atheist Muslim—atheist because she doesn’t believe in God andMuslim because that is her background, her culture. Time included her on its list of the world’s 100 Most Influential People. Sultan’s book is, basically, an autobiographical tell-all about the way women are treated in Syria and about the darker side of the Koran and Islamic teachings. She claims that speaking Arabic as a first language helps one see what the Koran really says about the treatment of women, children, and people from other religions. The title says it all: Islam, Sultan contends, is a religion of hate, and its adherents worship a God who hates. For the past twenty years, Sultan’s god has been the United States of America. But even that god is disappointing her as she has watched our leaders become increasingly accommodating to radical Islam under the guise of pluralism.
The second book, even more fascinating, is entitled Son of Hamas and was written by Mosab Hassan Yousef. The author is the son of one of the founders of Hamas, the radical Palestinian organization that sponsored many of the suicide bombings in Israel during the past two decades. When Yousef was arrested for being a terrorist, an unexpected change took place in him while he was in prison. He saw the way Hamas treated its own, using torture to extract information from fellow members. God began working on Yousef’s heart, and he left both Hamas and Islam, eventually placing his faith in the God who loves. From an early age, Yousef had been disillusioned with Israel. He had seen Palestinians killed in the streets and incarcerated for no reason. When he was arrested, he himself was brutally tortured. But this prison experience caused him to become equally disillusioned with his neighboring Palestinians (whether from Hamas or the Palestinian Authority). A long internal search led Yousef to give his life to Jesus and be baptized.
Son of Hamas makes for terribly exciting reading: for ten years Yousef acted as a spy for Israel, infiltrating the deepest pockets of Hamas and sharing his information with Israeli intelligence. The book is one of thoseJust ten more pages and I’ll turn out the light kind of reads. And Yousef saves the best for last. In the epilogue, he explains that his purpose in writing the book was to show his own people—Palestinian followers of Islam who have been used by corrupt regimes for hundreds of years—that the truth can set them free.
The truth, of course, is not an ideology or a political system. The truth is neither Sharia Law nor the Declaration of Independence. The truth is a Person who suffered a horrible death so that, indeed, we all might be set free. As believers caught in the crosswinds of our time, let us cling to and proclaim the God who loves, the God who stooped to meet our need (Psalm 113:6).