There is a well-known mosque in Phoenix, Arizona. It is north of Orangewood and east of 27th Ave. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, both killed when they attacked a Draw Muhammad Contest in Texas, attended this mosque.Hassan Abujihaad, convicted of handing over military intelligence to al Qaeda, attended this mosque.
I didn’t know all that then. On Friday, December 16th, 2011, I was passing out copies of the Gospel According to St. John on a public sidewalk near mosque. The team I was with was there to discuss Islam and Christianity with Muslims for the purpose of having all peoples call Jesus Lord and be saved from their sins. Here’s how we proceed: I usually ask the men leaving prayer as they are on their way to their vehicles if they have read the Holy Injil. Most people pass by but sometimes they take one and say “thank you”, while other times they say “no” – in so many words or less. However, if they stop or inquire further I say, “This is Gospel According to Saint John in Arabic and English”. Sometimes, we talk more.
One man I spoke with that day was ‘Miraj’, who was visiting Phoenix from the midwest. We spoke for about one full hour. The first 50 minutes were very cordial. I told him he was nice and respectful numerous times. I apologized once for cutting him off in my excitement. He was very patient and understanding. This is not to say I was not troubled by some things he said. Miraj told me Muslims had proof for their beliefs while Christians utilized “blind faith”, that mosques have been burnt down in the United States, and that persecution in countries such as Pakistan was not bad at all (in fact, he claimed the laws there usually protect Christians). Most troubling was this exchange:
Me: “What if I said anything like that [like what a Muslim apologist I just quoted said about Jesus] about Muhammad in an Islamic country?”
Him: “You cannot say that because the punishment is very clear, like if you say that such thing, you will be beheaded – that’s the punishment and it is clear – there is no two opinions about it – that’s very clear.”
Me: “Listen, my name is Mark. What is your name?”
Me: “Miraj, we just shook hands and we’re talking, we’re calm, I’m not making fun of you, you’re not making fun of me – this is good. But right now if I said something dirty about Muhammad what should happen to me?”
Him: “Well, because here I don’t have all the …”
Me: “What should happen to me under God’s law?”
Him: “Well, then in Islamic law, it’s clear, if you insult Prophet Muhammad, then the punishment is you should be beheaded”.
Shortly after this, a tall young man (pictured in the video below briefly, wearing all white) interrupted us. I had already spoken with this young man the week prior briefly – he was rude and not well-informed. I did my best to get the conversation with Miraj back on track. I asked the tall man to please refrain from interjecting and we could talk again next week. He said he was going to leave but then did not and loudly dominated the conversation. Whenever he told me to stop and listen to him, he would place his rather-large hands on my shoulders in a less than gentle manner. This tall man said the following to Miraj:
“Good job, brother. You handle it. Yeah, just stick to the truth like that. Don’t worry. Don’t be like salty Muslims and be like, ‘oh, no, in Islam we don’t have these things’”.
I responded: “No, no, he said I should I should be beheaded if I say something dirty. He said this; so you would be happy about him.”
The tall man said back to me: “Well, of course – you can’t. In a Muslim state that’s the punishment; no one talk about the messenger of Allah.”
I noticed Miraj became more aggressive the minute this other man arrived. He began saying things like this: “It doesn’t matter what you like and don’t like, what matters is what God likes and what he wants. Your opinion doesn’t count – you are no one.” This comment was in regards to my distaste for Sharia Law. This may not seem like a very big deal but for the most part Miraj was not saying things like this before. For example, at one point he even said that Pakistan applied some of its blasphemy laws in an unfair manner against Christians. We continued on like this for a few minutes and the tall man quickly lost whatever patience he had and said the following:
“Here’s what: Islam is the fastest growing religion no matter if you like it and it’s going to dominate the whole world – no matter if you like it. You’re going to be paying the jizyah when that time comes. You’re going to be paying the jizyah.”
I replied: “And you know who is going to judge you?”
“God. Only God.”
“You’re going to be paying the jizyah, buddy. It’s going to dominate the whole thing.”
“And this is your dream.”
“It’s going to dominate everything.”
“And this is your dream.”
“It’s not a dream, it is already happening. Yup, it’s already happening.”
Shortly after, the mosque president stormed out, demanding to know what church I was from. He asked if I was from Calvary. He did not believe me when I told him I was not. He told me I could come and talk about Jesus but then asked me not to quote anything from the Qur’an. He said I had to make sure people knew what they were getting was not Islamic. He told me I was deceiving people. Not wanting to be viewed as purposefully deceiving people, I turned to Miraj and asked him if he knew what he was getting; unfortunately, he would not give a straight answer. It did not help that the tall man was still throwing his two cents in. I pointed out that the one article I had said answering-islam.org printed on it. He asked me why it had verses from the Qur’an. I told him because Muslims are not supposed to throw it away that away. In response, he got right up in my face and ripped up the paper – five times. As we continued to speak, he accused me of being a liar and said I was not welcome. I told him I was on a public sidewalk and as long as there was no Sharia Law, I was allowed to be there. The mosque president and I spoke for about five minutes, then he turned and left. The other two men followed suit.
After listening to the audio, there are things I would have done differently. For example, I noticed when the man downplayed Islamic persecution of Christians all over the world, I became agitated. He even mocked the idea of Christian persecution and said Christians do the exact same thing. Even though this issue is dear to me, misinformation is no excuse for me to be rude. Christians must be bold with Muslims, yes, but I also must give them a chance to hear the truth – but only in love.
NOTE: Some of the audio quoted in this piece can be downloaded right here, on a radio broadcast I did on the topic. Some of the names and such have been changed.