Why Mistreating Muslims can Backfire on Christians

By George Yancey Published on April 23, 2017

Christians who fail to support religious freedom for Muslims are making a major mistake. It’s likely to backfire on them.

Peter Beinart reports on anti-Muslim Christian views in his April 11 Atlantic article, When Conservatives Oppose Religious Freedom.” There’s a lot there that’s worth looking at, even if not all of it reflects the truth about the Christian faith in America. Beinart tells of Christians with ugly anti-Muslim views, standing against Muslims’ rights to build mosques. Christians used to be some of the biggest defenders of religious freedom for Muslims, he says. Now, however, many Christian groups not only oppose Muslims’ right to full religious freedom. They’ll even stand against fellow Christians who defend Muslims.

What is Said About Christians

The simple fact is that denying religious freedom is wrong. It’s wrong against Christians and it’s wrong against Muslims. It’s also an unwise practice for Christians to engage in. We live in a world where powerful people would like to find reasons to justify legal measures being brought against the Christian faith. The reasons Christians bring forth to try to halt a mosque today can be used to halt a church tomorrow.

I know this because during my research on Christianophobia, I read comments from people with great disdain for Christians. I can show you ways they’re likely to turn our own reasons against us.

For example, some of my Christian friends say there’s reason to fear Muslims because they seek to impose Sharia law. Yet the people I heard from in my research often felt the same way about Christians. One respondent stated, “They are America’s Taliban. They will take whatever power they can get. The Catholic Church has a great record — look what they did in the middle ages. The Christian Right would put in a theocracy in a minute. (Male, aged 36-45 with some graduate school)”

Another one argues: “Their agenda seems to include making America a theocracy, which frightens me, as it would take us back to the Dark Ages politically, culturally, educationally and morally. (Female, aged 46-55 with bachelor’s degree)”

Other Christians argue that Islam is not really a religion but a political ideology. Thus, Islam should not enjoy the same legal freedoms we give to other religions. Yet some of those I heard from in research feel that Christianity is just the same. They see it as a platform that powerful leaders use to sway the masses.

The leaders are deceptive and power hungry individuals who invoke “God” in a political sense to rally their supporters … They play to people’s emotions, daily. (Female, aged 26-35 with bachelor’s degree)

The vocal leaders and public faces of this movement are capitalizing on the idiots who blindly follow and support them without thought to push private agendas. (Female, aged 26-35 with high school diploma)

To these people, Christianity is a tool used by powerful people for their own ends. They fail to see the religious aspects of Christianity. That failure can help them justify rules that would restrict the faith. So why would we support them in this by denying that Islam, too, is a religion?

Finally, some Christians argue that Islam is incompatible with our freedoms. They argue that if we allow Muslims too much leeway, they will seek to take away our rights. Ironically many of my respondents feel the same way about Christians.

If we could elect an honest politician who would protect our rights as detailed by the constitution, it would go a long way in affecting these Christian nut cases. … We should put in place mandatory extreme prison sentences for anyone or any group that attempts to take away the civil liberties guaranteed by our constitution. (Male, aged 56-65 with master’s degree)

A dangerous group of stupid judgmental sheep following evil leaders. It is a major threat to our country, our constitution, and our rights. (Male, aged 26-35 with bachelor’s degree)

Do the Differences Between Islam and Christianity Matter When Talking Religious Freedom?

I know that some think there’s an important difference here. These sorts of charges are true of Islam, but not of Christianity. Does it really matter that much, though? Muslims would never be able to set up Sharia law in our country even if they wanted to.

But I am not going to argue that at this time. Let’s instead suppose you’re right. Let’s suppose all these negative beliefs are true about Islam but not about Christianity. Being right does not remove the weapons such arguments will become in the hands of Christianity’s opponents. They honestly believe Christians are violent and want to set up legal system based on our faith alone. Telling them they’re wrong won’t slow them down.

I am not so naïve as to think that if we stand up for Muslims’ freedoms today, everyone will stand up for Christians’ freedoms in the future. People who hate Christians are perfectly capable of hypocrisy. The Eric Walsh case, for example, showed how many of them really do not stand for freedom of worship, no matter what their words may say.

Still, making a stand for Muslims’ religious freedom today will at least take one future weapon away from Christianity’s opponents. It will at least help us persuade reasonable persons to help us maintain our freedoms. Attacking Muslims will do the exact opposite. By doing so, many Christians may be putting nails in the coffin for their own religious freedom.

I am not a Muslim. I want Christians to critique Islam. I also want Muslims to have the same religious freedoms I possess. Because religious discrimination is wrong, period — and because religious freedom for all is good for us all.

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  • Gary

    I’m for religious freedom for Muslims, as long as it happens outside the USA. Islam and the form of government that the USA has are incompatible. If we allow Muslims to do what they want, they will abolish the US Constitution and all of us will be living under Islamic laws. That is intolerable.

    I suppose that, as long as muslims are a small segment of the US population, and they have no political power, it is fine for them to have religious freedom to do everything except kill non-muslims. But we keep importing more of them. That is bad and will eventually mean civil war. Look at what is happening in Europe because of the Muslims they have let come in.

    There are many countries where the Muslims control things. Let them all live in those countries.

    • Gregory McNeill

      Excuse me Gary, you cannot have it both ways. since Christians can freely worship here in America, so should Muslims. You forget that in Islamic countries that Christians are dealing with persecution on a regular basis. How America is treating Muslims under Trump Will definitely effect Christians in those countries. Gary that backlash will affect Christians in America sooner or later.

  • Autrey Windle

    We already are experiencing Sharia creep in our local and state courts. Sometimes you have to call something what it is. It wouldn’t hurt for the ‘peaceful’ Muslims to stand up and fight against the wrongs perpetrated by radicals instead of continuing to say they fear retribution for speaking out. What kind of retribution do they expect Christians to tolerate? Decapitation? Stabbing on the streets? Attacked at an army base or at work? “No man comes to the Father but by Me”. Sometimes good people are seduced by evil. Sometimes religious freedom is abused and the most basic tenet of Islam is Sharia and we cannot risk that for political correctness. If the ‘peaceful’ Muslims don’t like it, let them take an oath not to interfere with our laws or constitution. That will only happen if they lie, which they have and will do, to fool the stupid American Christians.

  • tz1

    The error here is the slow but constant erosion of the area granted to the church v.s. the state over the last 200+ years as in “Separation of church and state”. Originally the church handled a huge territory of issues, but there was no means to compel people. Now the church does something spiritual and refers everything else to the state.
    When the Government concerns itself with the civil order (criminals, defense, public works) there is little controversy.
    Islam and Sharia could not be a threat if we were 1825 sized instead of a pervasive Stalinesque government. And Islam doesn’t recognize two spheres, so if Islam takes over the intrusive, micromanaging government, it will impose sharia as that is what their scriptures and beliefs require.
    Christians ought to aim and fight to defang, disarm, and destroy the overweening government and practice subsidiarity. Sadly few do this but instead try to tame leviathan to accomplish pet projects.
    Yet if we are going to ignore the Constitution and not limit government, then Islam must be opposed in a different and more serious way than if Islam had no way to use secular government power.

  • tz1

    Let’s instead suppose you’re right. Let’s suppose all these negative beliefs are true about Islam but not about Christianity. Being right does not remove the weapons such arguments will become in the hands of Christianity’s opponents.

    First ISLAM IS ONE OF CHRISTIANITY’S OPPONENTS and they aren’t using Aristotelian syllogisms. In Iraq, Syria, and Egypt they are literally violently murdering Christians.

    Weapons are things like guns and swords, not reason or feelings. And you are arguing not taking an opponent’s rook because it would empower the opponent’s pawn.

    What battle are you talking about with these weapons? It cannot be truth v.s. falsehood, or good v.s. evil. This is not a sporting contest like the Superbowl, Stanley Cup, or World Series where things are neutral. This is like saying that by killing Rommel’s Nazis we would be giving the Beduoins their weapons.

    They honestly believe Christians are violent and want to set up legal system based on our faith alone. Telling them they’re wrong won’t slow them down.

    It is irrelevant if a gravely wrong and evil belief is “honest”. And it is equally irrelevant to “tell” them they are wrong – you can show through reason and evidence they are OBJECTIVELY wrong. If they reject that, they are not the enemies merely of Chrisitianity, but of Truth, Reason, and Evidence, and if you have some psychopath (who honestly believes un-reality) you can’t reason with and wishes to kill you, the choice might be stark, but it is between survival of you and yours and some kind of turning the other cheek where you and your family will be discovered with turned heads and slit throats. You are trying to reason with the Joker and Harley Quinn.

    • Kevin Carr

      Well said.

  • Kevin Carr

    I don’t agree with mistreating Muslims, but I don’t believe in being so trusting as to think Sharia will not happen here because they are already at work on it. I also do believe God has a heart for Muslims or we would not hear of the conversions that have and are taking place. That being said I would dare any secularist to find anything in Christianity a fraction as close to Sharia in Christian doctrine, unable to point things out is a the least dishonest. However in leftist secular ideology many Stalinist action abound. I take the Netanyahu view “If someone says they are going to kill you take them seriously”. We see what has happened in France, Sweden, and Germany. Also, the words of Kamal Saleem, former Muslim Brotherhood terrorist, now christian, says they have written the Dawa, the Muslim Brotherhood plan to overthrow the West. While I am for religious freedom, as long as it does not inflict itself on anyone else. They can be free to try and persuade people to believe as they do, just as Christians are told to do. Christians are not cutting off the heads for non believers as they do and secularist have to at least see that. There are no comparable actions of Christians violently overthrowing and group of people or nation.

  • SophieA

    No one should be mistreated for the practice of his faith. Ever. However, how many non-Muslims must the Islamists slaughter in our very streets before we understand that violent Islamists hide behind our Bill of Rights to advance their sharia laws here? Is this just? I don’t think our First Amendment freedoms extend to a religion that practices its religious freedoms by either genocide or subjugation of those who aren’t adherents. I believe we Christians desire to live at peace with and demand religious freedoms for all faiths and treat everyone as we wish to be treated. This is just. However, turning the other cheek shouldn’t mean the extermination of our way of life or our very lives. How do we insure the security of freedom of religious practice for all when so many plot evil against sincere believers?

  • #EpluribusAwesome

    The article needs more specifics. I do not know of any actual religious discrimination against Muslims in the US, and if it does exist you can bet they will take it to court and win whatever “rights” they feel they are being denied that way. Please don’t waste your time fighting a battle that does not even exist.

  • JDubya

    I take issue with the comment that “Muslims would never be able to set up Sharia law in our country even if they wanted to.” We have no idea how much that has already happened, but we can cite some cases. The fact is that under most of the municipalities and under state constitutions it is illegal to use a form of government not commensurate with the US government. The whole idea is that the immigrants coming here should ‘join in’ the great melting pot. Assimilate. That does not mean to give up their culture, it means to give the best parts of their culture to the betterment of this nation’s culture and to join together willingly as one America. But the leftists have ended that assuring Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, etc, etc. — no, no, NO! They are Americans period.
    That is not the case with many of the newer immigrants – they do not intend to ‘join in’, their idea is more like ‘take over’. We are seeing suggestions by state elected officials (Muslims) that the terrorists should be allowed to receive insurance proceeds after they commit murder by terrorism. The mosques of the US have been found to be armories for the Muslim Brotherhood, which was on the list of Terrorist groups while heavily represented in President Obama’s administration despite that fact and being represented to the country as CAIR.
    It is very difficult to be committed to freedom of religion to a group who has no intention to assimilate (except by eradication of their opposition), to a group that has repeatedly stated that their intention is to take over the world, to a group who has repeatedly referred to the USA as the Great Satan, to a group who admits that their teaching is that they may purposefully lie in order to further the cause whatever it is at the time, to a group who teaches that they should use all of the country or nations’ laws and customs against them to allow Islam a foothold – this list goes on and on.
    And now our courts at the Federal level are telling the President that he does not have the right to limit the influx of these ‘refugees’? Guess what, there are almost no rules that the President can change without running afoul of the Judiciary if it allows itself to be used like that.
    This baloney is the result of two factions wishing to remove the Christian influence in the US so that they can assume power: one is the leftists (communists and Democrats) and the other is jihadists (radical Islamic terrorists as Democrats). These two are working together to minimize and shunt Christianity up, but the stupid Democrats think that they will be able to keep radical Islam in check when the Christians are gone – but they can’t, so they too will see their friends in the LGBT community and all the sexual perverts in the US murdered before their eyes as well as all of those so-called Christians by this inherently evil group (the true Christians will be raptured by then). They have told us this before in loud speeches, but we don’t seem to hear. The suggestion that this kind of statement is somehow going to backlash on Christians is absurd – we are well past the point of backlash – they are already taking over our schools, all institutions of all kinds are being infiltrated and re-aligned so they won’t fight back.
    There is no doubt in my mind that the Terrorists within the faith of Islam are at this very minute plotting and putting that plan into action against the USA and we stand idly by wringing our hands and listening to the very stupid saying, but this has a religious test (especially since a good portion of similar restrictions on visas, etc., have all had similar religious tests) as the hordes pour in over our puny borders. And there is more evidence of these facts that I will not enumerate due to the lengthiness already. You should change your name to ‘Chamberlain’.

    • Autrey Windle

      Amen! and as far as I know, no one has ever put a knife against anyone’s throat and said become a Christian or you lose your head.

  • Bryan

    This may not be the most coherent set of thoughts on this subject but I will try anyway and apologize for any confusion upfront.
    There is a difference between perception and reality and in our current culture perception is often mistaken for reality. For example, perception says all religions are basically the same. Reality is obvious in the differences but these differences do not play as sound bytes as well as the similarities.
    As a few others have said, I do not condone the mistreatment of any person. However, Christians need to be aware of their own history as well. The general public knows some of our history better than we ourselves know it. That they have manipulated it and twisted it beyond Truth is another perception that speaks louder than reality. To combat that will take time, patience, love, and the rest of the fruit of the spirit. It will also take a unified message, not only from our pulpits but also from every person who claims the identity of Christian. While this is impossible, because there are always deceivers in our midst, we must pursue this as much as possible.
    It is naive to think that Sharia can never come to the US. We see it taking shape in the birth places of West Civilization already. See the Muslim-only communities within towns and cities and the declaration of cultural jihad from the Muslim Brotherhood among others as evidence. I think it is naive to think that restricting the religious freedom of a group of people will solve the problem as well. In this I agree with Mr. Yancey. I think that we must remind ourselves of some of the founding principles of our nation: Self-determination and self-governance and the rule of law. We are a nation of laws not a nation of men. If we abide by those laws, we can continue as a nation of equality for all. It kind of falls under the same principle as to why the free market works. In the case of sharia laws, if you don’t like them in the locality that you’re in, then you can move away from there or stay and continue to vote to change them. If voting becomes impossible, then moving may be the only solution. When enough people decide to leave the locality because the prospects in another locality are better, the only locality slowly dies. Think of all of the ghost towns in the west from the gold rush. If we fail to abide by our own laws though, it won’t matter whether we persecute Muslims and forbid their religious practices or not. We will have already failed and it will only be a matter of time before we implode.

  • David MacKenzie

    One complicating problem in all this is the lack of formal media candour in North America and elsewhere. Religious and conscientious freedom is an extremely important ideal— for everyone. But naivety is the net result of a liberal media that seems increasingly adverse to ideological controversy. Sharia, as a formal legal and political extension of Islam, knows NO public square, and itself limits all kinds of speech and criticism. Yet, the legitimate Christian concerns about an Islam that is, at its core, more fundamentally totalitarian, are often dismissed as “phobic” by a naive progressivism. Hence, I don’t think it’s particularly productive to focus upon secular progressivism’s mere fears of Christian theocracy when these perceptions, though real, are patently false. Dominionism, in truth, is a “straw man” whose advocates barely exist.

    • Autrey Windle

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the secular progressives are propagating the ‘Christian Theocracy ‘ myth just to see if they can get the muslims to kill a lot of Christians and send the rest underground so they can have their agendas met by government; what they progressives may be forgetting is how much of their agenda puts them ahead of Christians for the killing order. The liberals better hope the Christians hold the line against Muslim sharia law and muslim freedom to follow the dictates of the murderer Mohammed.

  • Texican

    This authour seems to be writing about being nice while being ignorant of the quran. It DOES tell muslims to kill all nonbelievers. It DOES tell them to take over all countries, first through deception and then through open force. It DOES present an existential threat for all non-muslims. Being nice doesn’t mean clutching the viper to your breast. Sweden is seeing the fruits of this kind of thinking. This is not islamophobia… it is just studying islam.

  • Billy

    The article above gives a very naive view of Islam. Here are just a few reasons why Islam should be opposed at all costs here in America.

    “When the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution
    using the Holy Qur’an,” stated President Obama in Cairo,Egypt, June 4, 2009. The dilemma is, can one swear to
    defend the Constitution upon a book that claims to be superior to it?

    The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the “free exercise” of religion, yet Mohammed said “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” (Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 84, No. 57). Islamic law relegates non-Muslims to “dhimmi” status, where they are not to propagate their customs amongst Muslims and cannot display a Cross or Star of David.

    The First Amendment states Congress shall not abridge “the freedom of speech,” yet Islamic law enforces
    dhimmi status on non-Muslims, prohibiting them from observing their religious practices publicly, raising their
    voices during prayer , ringing church bells or say anything considered ‘insulting to Islam.’

    The First Amendment states Congress cannot take away “the right of the people to peaceably assemble,” yet Islamic
    law states non-Muslims cannot repair places of worship or build new ones, they must allow Muslims to participate in
    their private meetings, they cannot bring their dead near the graveyards of Muslims or mourn their dead loudly.

    The First Amendment states Congress cannot take away the right of the people “to petition the Government for
    a redress of grievances,” yet Islamic law states non-Muslims are not to harbor any hostility towards the Islamic state or
    give comfort to those who disagree with Islamic government.

    The 2nd Amendment states “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” yet Islamic
    law states non-Muslims cannot possess arms, swords or weapons of any kind.

    The 3rd Amendment states one cannot be forced to “quarter” someone in their house, yet Islamic law states
    non-Muslims must entertain and feed for three days any Muslim who wants to stay in their home, and for a longer
    period if the Muslim falls ill, and they cannot prevent Muslim travelers from staying in their places of worship.

    The 4th Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
    effects against unreasonable searches and seizures,” yet Islamic law states if a non-Muslim rides on a horse with a
    saddle and bridle, the horse can be taken away.

    The 5th Amendment states that “no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime…
    without due process of law,” yet Mohammed said “No Muslim should be killed for killing a Kafir (infidel).”
    (Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, No. 50).

    The 6th Amendment guarantees a “public trial by an impartial jury” and the 7th Amendment states “the right
    of trial by jury shall be preserved,” yet Islamic law does not give non-Muslims equal legal standing with Muslims, even
    prohibiting them from testifying in court against Muslims.

    The 8th Amendment states there shall be no “cruel and unusual punishments inflicted,” yet the Qur’an states:
    Cut off the hands of thieves, whether they are male or female, as punishment for what they have
    done—a deterrent from Allah. (Sura 5:38) A woman who has been raped is also punished “with a hundred stripes.” (Sura 24:2)

    The 13th Amendment states there shall be no “slavery or involuntary servitude,” yet the Qur’an accommodates
    slavery as Mohammed owned slaves.

    The 14th Amendment guarantees citizens “equal protection of the laws,” yet the Qur’an does not consider
    non-Muslims equal to Muslims.

    The 15th Amendment guarantees “the right of the citizens…to vote shall not be denied…on account of
    race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” yet strict interpretation of Islamic law does not allow voting, as
    democracy is considered people setting themselves in the place of Allah by making the laws.

    The 16th Amendment has some similarities with Islamic law, as “Congress shall have the power to lay and
    collect taxes on incomes from whatever source derived.” Mohammed said “Fight those who believe not in Allah…
    until they pay the jizya [tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Sura 9:29)

    The 19th Amendment allows women to vote, yet in strict Islamic countries women cannot vote.

    The 21st Amendment allows for the sale of liquor, yet Islamic law states non-Muslims are not to sell or drink wine and liquor openly. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in the foreword of the book Law in the Middle East (1955):

    Islamic law offers the American lawyer a study in dramatic contrasts. Even casual aquaintance and superficial knowledge … reveal that its striking features relative to our law are not likenesses but inconsistencies, not similarities but contrarieties. In its source, its scope and its sanctions, the law of the Middle East is the antithesis of Western law. 


    In addition to the Qur’an, Muslims respect the “Hadith” – sayings of Mohammed recounted by his wives, relatives
    and warriors. Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari states: No Muslim should be killed for killing a kafir (a disbeliever). (Vol. 1, Book 3, No. 111)

  • Thinking Deep

    I’m not sure if this article is some kind of trolling attempt? Kind of like the blog post in HuffPo saying white men should be denied the right to vote for a few decades?
    I think it’s clear the author is incredibly naive and has no grasp on the reality that there are muslim terrorists but no Christian terrorists – the two are not equal. The peaceful majority of muslims are irrelevant if their belief sytem becomes a vehicle for a minority to cause mayhem in otherwise peaceful countries. This is the kind of ideology that looks good on paper but turns out completely different in reality. Very similar thought process to the progressives really: Sweden welcomed refugees from utterly different cultures and BAM it all goes to hell in a handbasket. Or, freedom of speech, but only if we agree with what you’re saying.
    Other commenters are quite correct in stating that not all belief systems are created equal. Governments have a solemn duty to protect and provide a peaceful, prosperous existence for their citizens. Any group that would deny liberty and life to others not in that group should not be allowed. I’m afraid simply from what we see on the news, and what we know of the writings of Islamic scholars and the Qu’ran, it’s clear that Islam falls into this category.

  • 1. Pamella Gellar is a libertarian, not a conservative.
    2. The Muslim Brotherhood has a history as a terrorist organization. It has also spawned multiple terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, ISIL, and Hamas.
    They are not just Muslims or even Salafist Muslims. They are radicals, who hate America, and want to spread Islam by all means including violence.
    The Muslim Brotherhood motto is
    “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way.
    Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu akbar!”

    Allowing them to operate in the US would be like allowing Japan to set up Shinto shrines in the US or allowing the SS Wotanist cult to operate during world War 2.
    Allowing patriotic Muslims is great. Allowing the Muslim Brotherhood is all but treason and suicide.

  • I really appreciate George Yancey’s wise advice. I hope that readers of this article will understand the importance of what he’s saying.

    I also hope that some Christians would be willing to do what they can to encourage peaceful Muslims to work to prevent violence originating from the fringes of their community.

    The strongest defense against terrorism by members of any social group is from other members of that group. For example, Christians can and should be most effective at discouraging anti-abortion violence by people who have some association with Christianity.

    Similarly Muslims can and should be the most concerned about violence by people who claim a connection to their religion. First, for basic humanitarian reasons as so well expressed in the Quran (5:32), “if anyone killed a person … it would be as if he killed all mankind.”

    Second, because the great visibility and incredible savagery of many of the attacks causes some to view such violence as characteristic of Muslims rather than of a small number of fanatics. Women and children who were no threat to Islam were recently killed or severely injured by a bomb laced with nails in Manchester, England. Frequent terrorist acts do not encourage tolerance for the Islamic faith.

    But the question remains: How best to encourage Muslims to take effective steps to discourage violence by people identifying with their religion? I suspect that demands Muslims be “good believers” like Christians would not work very well. Here’s a suggested alternative to that kind of self-righteousness.

    As a person who converted from atheism to Christianity in 1971, I’d like to see my pastor, and ones in other churches, acknowledge that there has been a lot of violence in the history of Christianity—for example anti-abortion murders and bombings; Catholic and Protestant violence and terrorism in the 20th century; religious wars in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries; Christian violence against non-combatants in the Crusades; etc.

    If we first own up to our own history, we could then acknowledge that some Christians might nowadays engage in violence too. And point out that each member of the congregation has a responsibility to prevent it from happening. After that, pastors and individual Christians would be in a better position to promote interfaith efforts to encourage Muslims to do the same.

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