Facing Islam

"Facing Islam" Continued...

Issue: "2008 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 13, 2008

Siljander defended his exegesis by telling WORLD that he's trying to start among evangelicals "not a theological discussion but a strategic one. . . . Facing massive cultural differences, how do you present Jesus in a way that will open minds and hearts?" He argues that the primary goal of evangelicals should not be to convert Muslims to Christianity, but to awaken in them the desire to follow Jesus that Siljander says is embedded in Islam.

Siljander has thus followed the path of Nicholas of Cusa, but then gone further: He told WORLD last year that Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir, culpable for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Christians in southern Sudan, truly wants peace without tyranny. (Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, calls Bashir the mastermind of genocide in Darfur.) That would be like Nicholas visiting Ottoman tyrant Mehmet in 1459 and claiming him as an ally rather than an adversary.

Siljander says he understands Bashir because he has discussed with him the bridges between Islam and Christianity during frequent trips to Khartoum that included numerous dinners: "They can only con you so long," Siljander said. Others, though, wonder if the former congressmen has been conned. Even Adolf Hitler, who had left a long paper trail, conned some church leaders during the 1930s, and terrified others into speechlessness, as Joe Loconte notes in his The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm.

It turned out that European Christians following the disaster of 1453 did not surrender to Islam. Constantinople's fall came in the same decade in which Gutenberg and his colleagues began using printing presses with movable type-and soon printed materials worrying about Turkish aggression began flowing throughout Europe. As Roger Crowley reports in 1453, short pieces that described "the damnable menace of the Grand Turk" flooded Europe, along with occasional books: French publishers put out 80 books about the Ottomans between 1480 and 1609, compared to 40 on the Americas.

Bartholomew Georgevich wrote what today we might call a graphic novel, the illustrated Miseries and Tribulations of the Christians held in Tribute and Slavery by the Turk: It showed Turks beheading prisoners, Turks spitting babies on their lances, Turks leading into slavery captured women and children. In England, books with titles such as True News of a Notable Victory obtained against the Turk, The Estate of Christians living under the Subjection of the Turk, and A Discourse on the Bloody and Cruel Battle lost by Sultan Selim appeared.

During the century after 1453 Ottomans came to control much of southeastern Europe, including Romania and Hungary, and much of the Mediterranean Sea. But western European powers, aware of the danger, improved their navies and subsidized voyages of discovery. European military innovations undercut Ottoman supremacy. Culturally, Ottoman society began to stagnate: Some clerics denounced the printing press as a work of the devil.

Providentially, the military advances of Ottomans early in the 16th century-they nearly captured Vienna, Austria, in 1529-occupied the attention of Catholic powers that otherwise might have strangled the Protestant Reformation that Martin Luther inaugurated in 1517. Later, the Protestant surge (and the need of the Roman Catholic Church to respond with the Counter-Reformation) gave many Europeans lively faiths to fight for. The forecasts of inevitable Muslim triumph proved wrong. Bible-based cultures held on, without giving up the farm.

Is there a lesson in this for our own days, when pundits predict that Europe will become Eurabia and the best a weakening America can hope for is peace in our time?

A case against Siljander?

The indictment of former Rep. Mark Siljander came as a surprise to supporters in Washington and his home district in Michigan, where the three-term Republican has been an outspoken social conservative, visible at National Prayer Breakfasts, but was less known for his globetrotting and ties to Muslim figures, outlined more in his new book.

Siljander is the seventh defendant in a case against five officers and their Islamic American Relief Agency stemming from consultation work he did for the charity, which closed in 2004 after the Treasury Department designated it a terrorist group. In a 42-count indictment, Siljander is named in three counts, all involving conspiracy to engage in money laundering. Charges against the other defendants, including two naturalized Sudanese and an Iraqi, are more serious, including funneling money to terrorist groups.

Siljander through his attorney "vehemently denies" the charges (he would not comment on them in an email interview on the advice of his attorney), as do the other defendants. Abdel Azim el-Siddiq, a Sudanese defendant who has lived in the United States for 24 years, said in an interview with me this summer that he believes most if not all the charges will be dropped once the paperwork is sorted out. "As Muslims in America we are caught between two fires," he said. "If I go into the mosque with an American friend, I am suspected of being CIA. And if I work with an Islamic charity, I am suspected of being a terrorist."


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Troubling ties

    Under the Clinton State Department, influence from big money…