‘Between naivety and hostility’ (book review)

BETWEEN NAIVETY AND HOSTILITY Between Naivety and hostility
Uncovering the best of Christian responses to Islam in Britain
Edited by Steve Bell & Colin Chapman
Authentic Media. 316 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 1 850 789 574

This is a brave attempt to bring together different views of how we should interact with Muslims/Islam in the UK and seek to find a biblical way forward. The introduction by Michael Nazir-Ali sets the scene well.

With so many authors and views, it is difficult to summarise the work fairly and it does lead to a ‘confused sound’. It was written before the events of the ‘Arab Spring’. The effect of that on Christians in those communities will add to the concerns of many with the advancing influence of Islam on our own society.

Shari’a and no-go areas?

There are a number of issues which are touched on. We need to distinguish between the religion Islam and Muslim individuals. We must not confuse friendship and evangelism. The Islamic system is an integration of religion and politics. The desire by Islamic leaders to enforce shari’a alongside (and eventually over) the English legal system is a concern. Ethical issues such as the treatment of women and the growth of terrorism among young Muslims need consideration. The growing occurrence of no-go areas in some Islamic areas of the UK is a cause for concern.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is concerned with assumptions. There are some disturbing comments in this section. For example, the attempt to show similarities in background between our Lord and Muhammad are disturbing (chapter 3) — and to what purpose? A later writer gives an opposite view. The former author also comments that our Lord did not raise himself from the dead. This statement is in contradiction to Jesus’s own claim (e.g. John 2.19). The author does acknowledge the difference in power and their view of glory.

Similarly there is debate about dialogue and polemics (chapters 16 and 17). Interestingly the two writers use the same Scriptures to support their respective views! Surely there is place for both and not an either/or position?

Part 2 looks at crucial issues in Britain today (types of communities, treatment of those who convert to Christianity, radicalism, education, the law and women).

Part 3 looks for models of positive relationship. Perhaps the most encouraging chapter in the book is that on the Springfield Project in Birmingham (chapter 13). It shows how we can live alongside our Muslim neighbours in friendship and hold fast to our evangelical faith. Chapter 15 looks at the issue of whether we can trust Muslims. Are they permitted to lie to enhance their faith? This chapter helpfully separates reality and myth. One point of concern in the chapter on dialogue is the uncritical support for the Muslim letter called ‘A Common Word’, unthinkingly endorsed by some Christian leaders.

A final issue of concern for this reviewer is the encouragement in some chapters to Christians to attend their local mosque. Is it wise to encourage them to attend the mosque or the Hindu temple or the local night club, etc. to understand them better?

John Peet, 
member of Chertsey Street Baptist Church, Guildford

This article was first published in the May 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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