Tag Archives: muslim

THE THEOLOGY OF ELTON SIMPSON

7 May

We all wonder what makes a killer* tick. People want to know what goes on in the mind of a terrorist. I can shed light on one: Elton Simpson; my former co-worker and frequent debate partner.

The Christian must think theologically about such people. The Christian must not think the murderer – or any sinner, for that matter – is so different, so much worse. The Christian must remember that outside of Christ, we too face God’s judgment for our sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Still, not everyone is ready to drive across the southwest United States to commit murder as Elton was. Why? That is the question. The answer: Elton’s theology.

SALAFI ISLAM

“Are you a Wahabist?”, I asked. Elton waved his hands emphatically: “That is the name Orientalists [British scholars of Islam] gave to those who practice true Islam. I am a Salafi.” Non-Salafi Muslims consider the Salafi understanding of Islam to be strict, rigid, limited, and narrow. Salafis believe Salafi Islam is closest to the Islam of Muhammad and his companions. Estimates indicate Salafi Islam is the fastest-growing form of Islam; the headlines indicate Salafi Islam is also the most violent.

Elton Simpson was a Salafi Muslim – and proud of it.

FAVORITE APOLOGISTS

Zakir Naik, arguably the most prominent Islamic apologist alive, is a Salafi Muslim. Naik, along with Ahmed Deedat (deceased), were Elton’s favorite two Islamic apologists. I learned this when I name dropped the high-minded apologist Shabir Ally. Elton’s response: “We don’t all like Shabir, you know.” I asked who he did like: “Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat”.

Elton’s response illustrates the divide between academic discussions of Islam and Islam in real-life.
Ally: an intellectual; a professor with an elite pedigree.
Naik: only debates opponents whom he knows he can defeat.
Deedat: notoriously shoddy arguments which suffered from a lack of logical rigor.
Why then are the latter two considered the YouTube Islamic champions of debate? Passion. Rhetoric. Intensity. Perceived devoutness. 

Elton preferred apologists like Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat over Shabir Ally.


OSAMA BIN LADEN

Very early in our relationship, I asked Elton his opinion of Bin Laden. “Hero.” Elton gave his answer almost before I finished saying the name. I paused; he looked at me and waited with sincere eyes. He wasn’t goading me; he wasn’t toying with me; he wasn’t playing. Elton was for real.

In Elton’s mind, Osama Bin Laden was clearly a hero – no qualifications needed.

ISLAMIC REPUBLICS

During one talk, I brought up Islamic republics. Elton quickly told me none of the current countries calling themselves Islamic Republics actually were; he found the idea laughable. I wondered what nation could meet his standard, so I asked. Elton answered: “Pre-2001 Afghanistan.” Elton did not think this was debatable, he viewed it as self-evident.

Elton believed pre-2001 Afghanistan was the only true modern Islamic Republic.


SHARIAH LAWTwitter

When I expressed frustration with Elton about the nature of shariah law, he seemed exasperated: “We don’t follow shariah to please man; it is the command of Allah. Allah’s law is not there to make you feel nice and cozy. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not.” Elton’s Twitter handle was “Shariah Is Light”. How tragically insightful! He understood shariah to illumine humanity’s path about how we should live. 

Elton believed all people should submit to shariah law for their own good.


RELATIONSHIPS WITH CHRISTIANS

Surah 5:51 instructs Muslims not to take Jews or Christians as friends. I asked Elton if he could take a Christian as a friend. He indicated “no”. If I remember correctly, Elton waffled a bit. Perhaps he was considering another interpretation of this aayat (verse), such as “don’t take them as ‘protectors’”? I don’t know.

I do know that later on in our first (rather lengthy) conversation, Elton said he would potentially marry a Christian girl. That struck me as odd.

Me: “How could you marry a Christian? I thought you said you couldn’t take a Christian as your friend?”
Elton: “I said I couldn’t have one as my friend. I didn’t say I couldn’t have one as my wife.”

I figured Elton was simply being arbitrary. Since then, I learned there is Hadith precedence for this ruling. Elton wasn’t out of line with Islamic thought; Islamic thought itself is what’s out of line.

Elton’s theology of marriage: your wife is not your friend.


FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Before his death, Elton Simpson went to great lengths to stop an act of free expression: drawing pictures of Muhammad. I do not consider events of this nature to be wise or kind. However, I believe events like this should be allowed. So should the Book of Mormon musical. Same goes for Piss Christ.

Islamic thought holds that creating an image of anything with a soul is haram (forbidden). Drawing Muhammad is especially forbidden. I imagine Elton viewed this art contest as too flagrant to allow; too blasphemous to let stand; too disrespectful to let go unfettered. Somebody had to do something to stop this shameful event – but nobody seemed to be doing anything.

garland-shootingElton must have thought he was the one. This was his time, his chance. Elton Simpson was willing to kill others and let himself be killed in order to defend his Prophet’s honor. For Elton, it was worth it to protect Muhammad’s name. 

In one chilling moment, Elton told me jihad was not one of the Five Pillars of Islam, “jihad was the pinnacle of Islam.” He was explicit: he did not mean an “inner struggle”, he meant a physical struggle against the House of War (the non-Islamic portions of the world).

Elton embraced jihad. Elton embraced death.

                                                                                                                                                                Published 05/06/2015


*I don’t feel entirely comfortable calling Elton a killer; he didn’t actually kill anyone. Yet, I know that was his intention. I know Jesus says “out of the heart come evil thoughts” and “murder” (Matthew 5:19).

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Vocab Malone is the PaVocabstor of Teaching and Outreach at Roosevelt Community Church in downtown Phoenix. Vocab has a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is a Doctoral student at Talbot School of Theology. He hosts Urban Theologian Radio and has many recorded debates. He is married and has four children who have been adopted. His hobbies include reading, coffee, and geek culture.

I KNEW ELTON SIMPSON: MY JIHADIST FRIEND

6 May

I knew Elton Simpson.

On Sunday, May 3, 2015, Elton and a friend opened fire at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas. He was shot and killed shortly after. Elton and his friend drove from Arizona to Texas to attack a gathering celebrating free speech — by displaying artistic depictions of Muhammad. Images of Muhammad are considered highly offensive to Muslims.

No, Elton was not insane. Elton was not mean. Elton was not rude. Elton was not wild-eyed. Elton was not constantly angry. Elton never threatened me. Elton was calm, level-headed, smart, and studious. He was generally kind and well-mannered.  Bright and articulate, he spoke smooth and easy. Elton was not a poor unwanted outcast; a down-and-outer he was not. Neither the simplistic narratives of the right or left work for him.

Elton Simpson

THE CORE ISSUE IS THEOLOGY

I am convinced the secular world will never properly understand people like Elton because the secular world will never properly understand Elton’s theology.

Secularist presuppositions cause many people to seek in vain for a non-theological answer for “radicalization”: economics, insanity, politics, personal nastiness, family problems, blood lust, revenge. Certainly, some of those factors play into some aspects of some people who commit what we know as terrorist acts. But these are not the core.

The core is theology. The core is taking Muhammad, his words and his actions, seriously. Elton took Islam seriously.

How do I know? Elton and I worked for the same company. We spent time together at our mutual workplace. For example, I once asked Elton if he was going to take a certain job promotion:

“No”
“Why not?”
“They would ask me to trim my beard.”
“Why must you keep your beard?”
“To be like the Prophet.”
“Why? You don’t worship him.”
“No, but he was the best example of what it means to live as a Muslim. Do you know what ‘Muslim’ means?”
“Yes – one submitted.”
Yes, submitted to Allah’s will – like Muhammad was.”
“Is that why you wear your pants this way?”
(Elton wore his pants slightly above the ankles)
“Yes, The Prophet never let his garment drag on the ground.”

Elton’s understanding of Islam was such that Muhammad’s example (as found in the accepted Hadith) was paradigmatic for the proper practice of Islam. The way he went about this was very matter of fact. Elton exhibited such a cool confidence in his interpretation of Islam, it is easy to imagine him convincing others to adopt his positions. I once witnessed Elton’s casual yet charismatic sway on display.

THE POWER TO PERSUADE

First, some context: Elton and I conversed at his local mosque a few times. Yes, I have been to the mosque Elton frequented in north Phoenix. Yet, I am not a Muslim. I was at Elton’s mosque to share the gospel with Muslims as they left Friday prayer. I am a Christian; a pastor and a seminary graduate. I engage in evangelism. This is how I ran into my friend at the mosque.

One Friday afternoon, some fellow Christians and I were at the mosque Elton attended, doing what we often did: quietly and peacefully handing out bilingual (Arabic/English) copies of the Gospel of John to all takers. We stood out of the exit paths, on the public sidewalk. We had an established protocol: when someone said “No”, we responded in clumsy Arabic – “Barak Allahu fik” (a common way of expressing thanks to a person) – and then moved on.

Some days, no one would speak with us or accept our offer of the Holy Injil (what Muslims call the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). This day was not like that – it seemed as if every other person was willingly taking a book – it was fantastic. Elton changed all that. He briefly spoke with me as he came out of prayer and then quickly turned to his fellow Muslims. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but after a brief but friendly-looking conversation, they would hand over the Gospel of John they had just received. Elton went around to as many folks as he could in a very short amount of time, smiling and chatting all the way. Almost every person handed over their book to him. Elton was in the adjacent parking lot by this time. Being that it was private property, we stayed put. Elton then slowly turned towards me and slyly smiled – he held up two hand-sized stacks of gospels and threw them all in the trash. Elton single-handedly stopped 30 people from having a chance to read the Gospel of John.

Mosque Evangelism
our mosque evangelism team after an outreach

As I left that day, I was rather depressed. A bleak feeling settled over me as I sat in my car, waiting at the stop light on 27th Ave. and Glendale. As I looked to my side, I saw Elton. We recognized each other immediately. I quickly rolled down my window and we had a brief conversation till the light changed. I asked him why he was so afraid of his friends reading one book out of the New Testament. I don’t recall his precise reply, but I believe it was something to the effect of, “I’m not afraid, I am just warning them about poison.” 

I believe Elton was genuinely concerned for the Muslims at his mosque. That is why he did what he did that day. I also believe Elton was genuinely concerned for the honor of the one he deems a Prophet – and that is ultimately why he did what he did on May 3rd.

Even though I was surprised by what Elton did – drove from Phoenix to Dallas to kill people who were supporting drawing pictures of Muhammad – I can’t say I was shocked. 

Why? I knew Elton’s theology.


                                                                                PUBLISHED 05/06/2015 ~ PHOENIX, AZ

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Vocab Malone is the PaVocabstor of Teaching and Outreach at Roosevelt Community Church in downtown Phoenix. Vocab has a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is a Doctoral student at Talbot School of Theology. He hosts Urban Theologian Radio and has many recorded debates. He is married and has four children who have been adopted. His hobbies include reading, coffee, and geek culture.
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Ministry to Muslims ARIZONA UPDATE 2014

23 Oct

MINISTRY UPDATE!

MINISTRY TO MUSLIMS recently completed its fourth annual outreach trip to Phoenix, Arizona. For four days (October 16-19), we prayed together, trained together, witnessed together, learned together and worshipped together. I was part of it; this is what happened:

TRAINING
Wonderful speakers helped equip attendees for the outreach. Here is a partial list:

Speakers
Sam Shamoun:
Sam resides in Chicago and is well-known for his many debates and articles. A fellow apologist dubbed him “The Assyrian Encyclopedia”. Read his many articles at Answering-Islam.org here

Al Fadi: A passionate, Saudi Arabian-born Muslim who providentially lived with a Christian family during college. Al Fadi is now an author and speaker for reaching out and understanding Muslims. His website and book can be found at TheQuranDilemma.com

Anthony Rogers: Anthony became a Christian and was immediately drawn to evangelism and apologetics. He is currently pursuing a seminary degree and writes articles for Answering-Islam.org. View his YouTube channel here

Topics
-Do’s and Don’ts
-Facing the Islamic Challenge
-Answering Islamic Objections
-Why the Muslims?

THE DEBATESa rogers
There were also two moderated debates on Saturday between Anthony Rogers and ex-atheist Muslim-convert, Andrew Livingston. Andrew is a Muslim apologist and a writer for TAQWA Magazine. The two topics were, “What Did Jesus Say About Himself?” and “Was Muhammad a True Prophet?” More than 50 people listened intently. We had a wonderful time with Andrew; for example, we enjoyed some fine Middle Eastern Cuisine at Fattoush together and talked … Star Wars! I pray that Andrew truly experienced a taste of what a grace-filled and gospel-centered Christian community looks like up close. Check out Andrew’s articles at the TAQWA website

OUTREACH!
Outreach was the main purpose of our trip. We went to several strip malls and struck up conversations at local Muslim-owned shops in the area. About 15 people did this in key areas of the city for a large part of Thursday. On Friday, about 20 of us passed out Arabic/English copies of John’s Gospel at local mosques.

One Muslim man asked a MINISTRY TO MUSLIM team member this as he exited the mosque: “What kind of excuse are you guys going to have when you stand in front of God?” Even though we hear things like this often, it’s still an insight to the way a devout Muslim thinks. One man told us, “I say this with all sincerity and respect toward you guys, but what you are doing out here is the absolute worst crime you can commit – persuading people to commit the sin of shirk.” (Shirk is associating partners with Allah and Muslims believe Christians blaspheme this way when we ascribe deity to Jesus Christ.) Overall, we had some powerful conversations. One brother who was part of the team was a wheel-chair bound Egyptian Christian. It was a blessing to witness his compassion and wisdom for the people he spoke with – both in English and Arabic!

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Stoopid w/Anthony, Luis, Sam @the Arab Fest

Saturday and Sunday nights our team came out in full force to Arizona’s ARAB-AMERICAN FESTIVAL. We partnered with several local churches, a few from downtown Phoenix, another from Mesa and yet another from Tucson. Together, we were able to rent TWO vendor booths, where we took professional pictures for festival-goers at no charge. The booths were filled with gospel material in both Arabic and English, which we passed out everywhere we could to everyone who would take one. We distributed literally thousands of tracts and multiple-language Jesus movie DVDs.

bprCOVER-211

Hear Jamal on Mid-Eastern Christians!

GOSPEL PARTNERS 
I thank the Lord for moving in his people’s hearts to mobilize and unite for God’s glory and the sake of the gospel. Especially Pastor Jamal Bishara of First Arabic Baptist Church,  a Palestinian-born Christian who has been laboring for 30 years in this field. The Lord used him to bring together Christians from multiple denominations, multiple ethnicities and multiple nationalities. The congregation graciously let us use their campus for the event and were very generous all around. (Listen to Jamal’s interview on BPR by clicking the picture)

Will you prayerfully consider being part of the Phoenix trip in 2015, either by going or sending?

Contact George Saieg at 

http://www.ministrytomuslims.org/join-us.html

 

“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Mathew 9:36-38, NASB)

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 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a Christian hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He is married to Nicole together they have adopted four boys. Vocab can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone
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