Prison Preacher Slams Islam
I receive far too many emails that have little or no value. A large portion of them are from friends and relatives who sincerely believe that transferring junk emails from their in-box to mine is a way of "keeping in touch." I should tell them how I feel but the truth is I’m just a coward. I’m too afraid I might find myself sitting at the same table with them at some family function in the future.
I usually read each one until I get to the part that tells me I have to forward it right away to everyone I know (or at the very least to some specific number of people) if I want to receive some unspecified good fortune in the near future.
Well, this week someone forwarded an unsigned email to me that managed to get my full attention. The insensitivity and elitist tone was disturbing. Here is the full text as I received it in my in-box. Judge for yourself.
THE ORIGINAL EMAIL
This is a true story and the author, Rick Mathes, is a well-known leader in prison ministry. The man who walks with God always gets to his destination. If you have a pulse you have a purpose.
The Muslim religion is the fastest growing religion per capita in the United States, especially in the minority races!!!
Last month I attended my annual training session that's required for maintaining my state prison security clearance. During the training session there was a presentation by three speakers representing the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Muslim faiths, who explained each of their beliefs.
I was particularly interested in what the Islamic Imam had to say. The Imam gave a great presentation of the basics of Islam, complete with a video.
After the presentations, time was provided for questions and answers.
When it was my turn, I directed my question to the Imam and asked: 'Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that most Imams and clerics of Islam have declared a holy jihad [Holy war] against the infidels of the world and, that by killing an infidel, (which is a command to all Muslims) they are assured of a place in heaven. If that's the case, can you give me the definition of an infidel?'
There was no disagreement with my statements and, without hesitation, he replied, 'Non-believers!'
I responded, 'So, let me make sure I have this straight. All followers of Allah have been commanded to kill everyone who is not of your faith so they can have a place in heaven.. Is that correct?'
The expression on his face changed from one of authority and command to that of a little boy who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar..'
He sheepishly replied, 'Yes.'
I then stated, 'Well, sir, I have a real problem trying to imagine Pope John Paul commanding all Catholics to kill those of your faith or Dr. Stanley ordering all Protestants to do the same in order to guarantee them a place in heaven!'
The Imam was speechless!
I continued, 'I also have a problem with being your friend when you and your brother clerics are telling your followers to kill me!
Let me ask you a question: Would you rather have your Allah, who tells you to kill me in order for you to go to heaven, or my Jesus who tells me to love you because I am going to heaven and He wants you to be there with me?'
You could have heard a pin drop as the Imam hung his head in shame. Needless to say, the organizers and/or promoters of the Diversification training seminar were not happy with my way of dealing with the Islamic Imam, and exposing the truth about the Muslims' beliefs.
In twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President!
I think everyone in the U.S. should be required to read this, but with ACLU, there is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us send it on! This is your chance to make a difference...
I'M SURE I DON'T HAVE TO ASK YOU TO SEND THIS ON!
(End Of Original Email)
IS HE FOR REAL?
After the second reading, I slumped in my chair and stared at my computer screen in disbelief. Why would a professional intentionally embarrass a colleague this way, much less, be so blatantly intolerant of the beliefs of Islam? I even wondered if the "friend" who forwarded it to me had actually read it first. I then did something that I rarely do. I wrote a response. However, being the coward that I am, I didn’t send it.
Like so many of its kind, this email is a careful blend of fact and fiction designed to make the reader adopt impressions about Islamic beliefs that are not true. To separate the facts from the fiction, I found and read the original essay, "Allah or Jesus", written by Rick Mathes. To my dismay, most of the email’s content was taken verbatim from Mr. Mathes’ article. But please don’t accept what I’m telling you without first doing your own research.
HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED
Fact #1: Mr. Mathes is indeed the Executive Director of the Mission Gate Prison Ministry and he actually wrote the essay "Allah Or Jesus" in which he admits to challenging the beliefs of Islam during a diversification-training seminar.
Fact #2: The originally published version of this article mentions evangelist Pat Robinson and Watergate notable Chuck Colson but both names had been removed from the email version that I received. This suggests to me that there were specific opinions about the Muslim religion that the originator wanted to circulate.
Fact #3: Everything following "You could have heard a pin drop as the Imam hung his head in shame" is not part of the original essay. Those added comments appended, I guess, by one or more other bigoted hypocrites who chose to remain anonymous.
Snopes.com refuted the email this way: "If one is willing to ignore history, context, and actual practice when quoting scripture and other religious texts, followers of just about any religion can be painted as uniformly fanatic and intolerant. By presenting misinterpretations and fringe activities as the norm, one could claim that mainstream Christianity tolerates or promotes child molestation and stoning."
ADDING THE FEAR FACTOR
Near the end, the email takes a swipe at the ACLU and makes this unsupported prediction: "In twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President!" I went looking for some rational data to support this statement and came up with absolutely nothing, zippo, nada. What I did find was widely acknowledged uncertainty over the actual size of the Muslim-American population. Most estimates range from 2 to 8 million members of the Muslim religion living in the USA around the start of the millennium. Almost all the sources I found admitted their figures were based upon assumptions and not hard data. What percentage of these Muslims were American citizens is anybody’s guess. On the other hand, Jeffrey Passel and D'Vera Cohn at the Pew Research Center project Hispanics will make up 29% of the U.S. population by the year 2050, while Whites will become a minority (47%), and Negroes, Asians, and other groups will make up the remaining 24%. Since I expect the Muslim-American population will be mostly in the latter 24%, it’s not apparent to me how they will single-handedly determine the outcome of the presidential race in 2052.
ANCEINT TOMES IN MODERN TIMES
Here are few examples of why the Qur’an and the Bible, in spite of all the wisdom and history they contain, can not be applied literally in today’s world:
1. Exodus 35:2 instructs Christians and Jews to kill everyone who works on the Sabbath: "Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death." Are we to believe that God commands all Christians and Jews to kill everyone that works on Saturday and Sunday including Muslims and other non-believers?
2. Leviticus 24:16 commands that we stone to death anyone openly critical of God. Is this a command from a loving, compassionate God?
Since Exodus and Leviticus are both books of the Old Testament, they obviously were not written for Christians who hadn’t arrived on the scene yet. However, they are both included in the Christian bible so the references still make the point.
Rick Mathes clearly displayed a lack of sensitivity. To question the Islamic beliefs of another religious teacher in that setting was as crass, arrogant, and counterproductive as was his decision to publish the details of the episode. Although Mr. Mathes has tried to deflect criticism by claiming too much attention is directed toward the messenger instead of toward the message, it is precisely the tenor and tone of both the messenger and the messge that is most objectionable. When the messenger is both the source and the deliverer of the message, then who else should be held responsible?
The use of chain emails, like this one, to promote such bigoted and hypocritical sentiments should remind us that the Internet is an enormous resource for information and ideas. But not all are reliable, accurate, or true. As for my friends and relatives who continue to send me the junk emails they find in their in-boxes, to them I say, "Thank you for sharing but please keep the ones containing lies, half-truths, intolerance, and bias. Or better, keep all the junk emails and just write occasionally to let me know what’s going on in your part of the world."