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May this Hate-fest Fail

26 Jul Posted by in | Comments

By Benjamin Lee Hegeman, PhD

The most haunting of proverbs in Baatonu says:

“Before a witchdoctor kills a victim,

he first accuses the person of being a sorcerer.”


How demonically clever: the assassin camouflages the murder of his opponent as a noble act of protecting the public good. A pious killer is the most dangerous assassin of all.

If say, however, two witchdoctors should mutually accuse each other of being sorcerers, can you imagine how the spells, curses, hexes and incantations would soon fly like swarms of bats out of rival chimneys? Reciprocal hatred is a prelude to the unthinkable.

My application: I fear those who thrive on vilifying and demeaning their rivals because my research is already a most contested minefield: the study of Muslims and Islam. Accusations and demonisation is thick in my neck of the woods. From certain quarters I hear vehement deprecation of Muslims; from other quarters I hear ferocious denunciation of anyone critical of Islam. Both camps scream their moral legitimacy. Neither community has a monopoly on hate, yet both condemn the other of having caused it. The level of hatred is way too elevated.

I pray fervently that this hate fest will fail. The growth of Christianity in the Islamic world is unprecedented, but it is critically dependent on total openness and total compassion. We need complete freedom to research all aspects of Islam and the diverse world of Muslims, and complete freedom to love them.  Christians are children of the light and we must bring everything into the light: our own past, their own past; our own struggles, their own struggles. We need total freedom and total compassion and for that we must expose two pernicious arguments: first, that Muslims are hateful people who must be silenced and second that criticism of the Muslim faith is an act of hatred. Both quarters attempt to enforce some form of silence, and both must be countered with a resolute ‘no’.

Since the genesis of the computer, the internet, and wireless communications our global research on Islam has mushroomed gloriously. We have more historical and contemporary academic light on Muslims and Islam than at any time in history. More Islamic texts have been scanned, translated, edited, published, shared, studied and analysed in the last 30 years than all of the last 1400 years combined. This openness is awesome. Muslim scholars

The former exclusive monopoly of Islamic information held for centuries by Arabic-speaking imams and ivory tower Arabic academicians has been broadly translated in many languages to the global public. This is academic light; a new age of Islamic research. We must never let political campaigns silence Muslims nor silence the study of Islam. We must resist all attempts to force the church or the public square back into the dark ages of censorship. Any legislation that criminalises Muslims or that criminalises critique of Islam as alleged hate-inspired Islamophobia will do just that: it will legislate hatred into oppression. We have no common cause with anyone’s hatred. The Christian rebuttal to all hatred is the polar-opposite to all witchdoctors: we pray for our enemies, we protect all would-be victims, and we shine light on everything that is done. Pray it will be so.

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