ST. LOUIS (BP)–Two former Muslims responded June 12 to complaints from Islamic groups that a speaker’s comments at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in St. Louis were “bigoted” and “hateful.”
National media have widely reported that Jerry Vines, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., described Muhammad as a “demon-possessed pedophile” during a June 10 sermon and that Vines inferred that Islam teaches the destruction of non-Muslims.
Clarifying that Vines not only quoted from their recent book, “Unveiling Islam,” Emir and Ergun Caner said Vines also quoted from the Hadith, a highly respected source for Islamic teaching among Muslim clerics and followers worldwide. The Hadith itself verifies that Muhammad married a 6-year-old girl and consummated the marriage when she was 9, the professor-brothers said.
“It’s simply a matter of quoting [Islamic] sources,” said Emir Caner, an assistant professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. “If we are wrong in our understanding of the Islamic scriptures, we would be happy to be corrected.”
The specific Hadith citation concerning Muhammad’s pedophilia is in volume 7, book 6, number 64 and 65, said Ergun Caner, an assistant professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas.
Both Emir and Ergun Caner were Sunni Muslims who became Christians in 1982.
“The comments in question cannot be considered bigotry when they come from Islamic writings,” Ergun Caner said.
A lengthy passage from the Hadith, volume 1, book 1, chapter 1, shows that Muhammad himself believed he was under demonic influence, but it notes that Muhammad’s wife is the one who deemed his experience as “divine,” Ergun Caner said.
Concerning terrorism and Islamic jihad, Emir Caner noted variant interpretations by Muslims themselves. Some see jihad as a “spiritual war,” and others, “physical,” he said.
“Some Muslims want to allegorize their own scriptures because they don’t want to defend jihad,” Emir Caner said. “But if you take the Koran at its word, or Muhammad at his word, then you’ll find physical jihad.”
The highest level of Muslim heaven — which has 70 perpetual virgins on couches — is reserved for Muslims who “shed their blood,” said Ergun Caner said, referencing Hadith 135.
Islam’s tilt toward violence, Emir Caner said, also is reflected in the Koran: “Slay the enemy where you find him, Surah 9.92,” whereas Christians are commanded to love their enemies.
“A so-called Christian who bombs an abortion clinic or shoots an abortionist and says God told him to do it does that act against the Bible,” Ergun Caner said. “But the Muslim who commits acts of violence in jihad does so with the approval of Muhammad.
“When 9/11 happened, we were all shocked. But where was the international outrage when jihad killed 3 million people in Sudan?” Ergun Caner asked.
As former Sunni Muslims, the Caners cite the major differences between Islam and Christianity as the “personalness” of God, and “grace as opposed to works.”
“Jesus Christ … is ultimately personal and wants to have a relationship with me,” Ergun Caner said.
The Koran says Allah “is as close as your jugular vein, which is a place of fear, not of faith,” Emir Caner said. “As Muslims, grace was a foreign word to us,” he said, having noted in an earlier interview that the only way a Muslim can be assured of heaven outside of dying in jihad is whether his good works outweigh his bad ones.
“So do my beliefs dictate that good Muslims will go to hell?” Ergun Caner asked. “The answer to that is: Good Southern Baptists will go to hell. The issue at hand is not one of religious practice, it is one of personal relationship.”
Christianity is “exclusivistic” in its claims, but universal in its appeal to others, Ergun Caner said. Christianity versus Islam is not a “we win, you lose” outcome, he said. “We want to tell all Muslims everywhere that they can be freed from ‘scales of Islam.'”
He noted, “Our culture is suffering the Oprah-ization of America, or the idea that we all just need one big Oprah group hug and there will be peace.
“But I say there will never be peace, not in Jerusalem, not in the Holy Land, not until the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, comes back.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FORMER MUSLIMS SPEAK AT PRESS CONFERENCE.