How to Combat Radical Islam in America

Overcoming Evil with Good

By Published on April 13, 2023

I grew up in America, but I live in the Middle East now, where hospitality is something sacred. In that sense the culture here is much more like that of the Bible’s than the culture is in America.

It helps explain some seemingly strange behavior in the Bible: Why Abraham would get up and slaughter the fattened calf for three complete strangers, why Lot would surrender his own daughters to protect the guests who had “come under the protection of my roof.” Someone who eats in your house is your friend, and more than a friend — someone you have a duty to protect, even at great cost to yourself.

This is why “he who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me” was such a significant statement. In Middle Eastern culture, breaking bread together symbolizes true friendship. By betraying Jesus after eating with him, Judas was committing serious betrayal.

Here, if there is a dispute between two families or tribes, the leaders of the two groups will meet in one of their homes. The host will set a cup of coffee on the table, and they will discuss terms of reconciliation. If the guest takes the coffee and drinks it, he is indicating he has accepted the proposed terms. This is because to drink coffee in someone’s house is to be their friend. This tradition is still practiced today, even for disputes as serious as murder.

Living here as a foreigner, I have enjoyed the benefits of this high value placed on hospitality. Two weeks after I arrived here, I went into a Starbucks (not the most “local” of venues) and was given my coffee for free, because I was a “guest” in the country. This kind of behavior is common.

Sadly, when people from the Middle East come to America, they don’t often experience the same kind of hospitality. It’s not necessarily that we are selfish or unkind; we just come from a different culture, with different practices.

I’ve heard a story of a student who came to America with his suitcase full of housewarming gifts, because in his culture a guest has to bring a small gift to thank his hosts for their hospitality. He returned to his home country with all of the gifts, because no American family had ever invited him over.

Host Your Enemies

There is significant concern these days about high numbers of Muslim immigrants to America and European countries. The concern is not baseless. Islam is an inherently political religion. The ultimate hope for any orthodox and faithful Muslim immigrant in America should be, on his religion’s terms, to turn America into a Muslim nation.

Raymond Ibrahim has recently written for The Stream that nations with significant past encounters with Islam are less likely to welcome Muslim immigrants today — “once bitten, twice shy.” I should point out, though, that most Muslims in the West in the 21st century don’t really care that deeply about their religion, any more than most nominal “Christians” in America care deeply about Christianity. Still, political leaders and voters should not be naïve about the core doctrines and ultimate aims of Islam.

Please Support The Stream: Equipping Christians to Think Clearly About the Political, Economic, and Moral Issues of Our Day.

There is, however, a second question, apart from the question of how many Muslim immigrants our elected leaders should allow in the country. How should we as American Christians, respond to Muslims who are already in our country?

The Buddhist government in Burma is carrying out a campaign of genocide against Rohingya Muslims. That’s the worst of all possible examples, and obviously not an option for Christians. So, what are we to do about Muslims who are our neighbors and co-workers? Ignore them? Ask them to go home?

Also: we often hear arguments about whether Muslims are our enemies, because of what Islam teaches. Again, that’s a legitimate question, but there is a second question we need to remember: how should we treat our enemies?

I don’t believe your neighbor is your enemy just because he is a Muslim. But let’s suppose he is your enemy. Let’s suppose, for example, that your Muslim neighbor does want to gradually turn America into an Islamic country with Sharia Law. That would make him your enemy in a very real sense, because he is working towards something that would harm you. So, how should we treat this sort of neighbor? Paul says in Romans 12:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul is echoing Jesus here. As Christians, we have been commanded to love our enemies. And “enemies” means … well, enemies. Bad people. People who are out to get us. My point is not that we never have to oppose people who are doing evil. But the sort of person who might one day harm you or your community is exactly the sort of person you have been commanded to love and show hospitality to.

We should do this out of love and obedience to Christ, not for any strategic political goal. God is the best strategist anyway. The funny thing is, though, often the best way to combat radical Islam is befriending Muslims. It’s harder for someone to hate you when you’ve had him over for dinner.

That’s human nature. But it’s especially true for a person from a Middle Eastern culture. If a Muslim agrees to share bread and salt and coffee with you, he is agreeing to become your friend.

Combat Radical Islam by Hosting an Iftar

As it happens, now is the best time to be practicing hospitality towards your Muslim neighbors. We are in the middle of the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, which is a time of fasting characterized (ironically) by lots of eating. Until April 20, Muslims are fasting every day from sunrise to sunset, but after dark they visit each other’s homes and feast. It’s called “Iftar,” the breaking of the fast.

It’s a time of celebration and bonding, like our Christmas or Thanksgiving. In a culture centered on hospitality and sharing meals together, this is the month specially devoted to hospitality and sharing meals.

If you invite a Muslim over for dinner after sundown this month (or before sunrise, if you’re that ambitious), they will likely be touched by the gesture of respect and friendship. Just don’t serve them alcohol or pork products, and try to serve the food right at sundown – no one wants to wait after fasting all day.

They will almost certainly invite you to their home in return.

As Paul says:

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. (1 Corinthians 9:19-20)

Any Muslim immigrant who receives hospitality and friendship from Christians is very likely to move toward a modified, moderate form of Islam, if he hasn’t already. (Most Muslim neighbors in America probably already have, to some degree or other.)

That in itself is a good outcome. Mere friendship is a good outcome, too. And there’s also the best outcome of all. It could be that as a result of your friendship, your Muslim neighbors will accept Christ one day.

As a wise Burmese believer I know once pointed out, sometimes when you love your enemy, your enemy becomes your friend. Loving your Muslim neighbors could be the most effective thing you could possibly do to combat radical Islam.


Peter Rowden is a friend of The Stream living in the Middle East.

React to This Article

What do you think of our coverage in this article? We value your feedback as we continue to grow.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Like the article? Share it with your friends! And use our social media pages to join or start the conversation! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, Instagram, MeWe and Gab.

Brew Special: The Sound of Freedom
Al Perrotta
More from The Stream
Connect with Us