For weeks the headlines have been of beheadings, crucifixions and executions taking place in Iraq. Even people to whom Iraq seems a million miles away have been concerned, and rightly so, that Islamic State terror might be exported to the streets of London and New York.
Listen to Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Fund and an expert on Islam:
"Last month I was in Damascus. I had the great privilege of meeting Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria. He is a man of peace who pleads repeatedly for equal and harmonious relations between Muslims, Christians and followers of all religions as members of one human family. Because of this stance, he has endured great abuse and criticism from some of his fellow Muslims and was targeted for assassination by the Saudis. Knowing that he would have good security and protection, the group of Islamist hit-men were instructed that, if they could not kill the Grand Mufti himself, they should kill one of his sons instead. In due course they murdered his teenage son. After some months, two of the perpetrators were caught and imprisoned. The Grand Mufti asked to see them and they were brought to him blindfolded. He instructed their blindfolds to be removed, and the two young men, discovering themselves face to face with the head of Sunni Islam in Syria and the father of their victim, shook with fear. But, to their astonishment, the Grand Mufti gently reached out his hands to them and told them not to be afraid. He said that he did not want their mothers to weep as his own bereaved wife had wept for her son, and therefore he forgave them.
"Last week I was in northern Iraq and came face to face with the stark reality of another face of Islam, that of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now calling itself simply the Islamic State). The sheer brutality of this face of Islam cannot be comprehended. It kills men, women and children, the elderly, the poor and the weak. It cuts in half little children and commits acts of ethnic cleansing that border on genocide. This behaviour is pure barbarism reminiscent of the early Assyrians and later Babylonians who once inhabited this region and were known for their immense cruelty, , ,
|"This face of Islam, based as it is on Islamic sources including the Quran and hadith [tradition recording the words and actions of Mohammed], is as authentic as the peaceful tradition of the Grand Mufti of Syria. Both have existed throughout Islamic history. The Grand Mufti of Damascus has not only been ridiculed and vilified by his co-religionists but also told that he is not a true Muslim. When he visited the UK some ten years ago, and he preached at Regent's Park mosque in London and at other mosques, he afterwards had to be protected from Muslim leaders who disagreed with his theology. . .|
"The question therefore is: what is true Islam? The reality is that there are now many 'Islams' depending on one’s interpretation of the texts and of the history. All can validly claim to be theologically based on the same Islamic source texts."
Dr Sookhdeo adds a word of hope. And a word of warning.
You can read his complete article here.