Militant Islam continues to strengthen its hold across the Middle East. At the same time, from Oklahoma to England, Western governments are moving to restrict the use of Islamic sharia law in schools, courts and other public institutions (Guardian.co.uk, June 8, 2011). Can Islam find a peaceful place of co-existence with Western culture? Or will its spread lead to increasing tensions and ultimately a final violent conflict against the Western nations?
To understand the tensions between Islam and the West, it is helpful to look at what Muslims believe about the "Judeo-Christian" values behind Western civilization.
The Qur’an proclaims (Surah 5:19–32) that a prophet named Muhammad, more than 600 years after Jesus Christ’s resurrection, came as "Apostle" to the "People of the Book" (chiefly Jews and Christians), calling upon them to replace their previous religions and holy books with Islam and the Qur’an (Surah 5:15).
Understandably, many professing Jews and Christians resisted Muhammad’s call, since many of the Qur’an’s teachings are contrary to what is found in the Old and New Testament Scriptures. For example, the Qur’an asserts that Islam was the religion of Abraham, and that Jesus’ disciples "bowed to God as Muslims" (Surah 5:111)! Although Islam professes respect for Christ as a prophet, it denies the divinity of Christ, claiming that He was actually conceived by Gabriel (Surah 19:19–22), and that He was not in fact crucified; instead someone took His place (Surah 4:157). Furthermore, Islam teaches that Christians "blaspheme" when they proclaim that "Christ is the Son of God" (Surah 5:72).
More than 90 verses of the Qur’an describe war against the infidels (e.g. Surahs 4:101; 9:29), and prescribe that for those who wage war against Allah and Muhammad, their punishment in this life is "execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land" (Surah 5:33). Those who remain unrepentant will receive no mercy in the after-life, and they will never escape hell fire (Surah 5:36–37).
This is an especially harsh punishment when we consider that Muslims believe Allah could bring every person to salvation, but chooses not to. The Qur’an teaches that Allah, "could have brought every soul to true guidance, but the word from me will come true: ’I will fill hell with demons and men altogether’" (Surah 32:13). This is a stark contrast to John 3:16–17: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
While the Western world may comfort itself talking about a supposed Middle East movement toward Western-friendly democracies, the reality in the region appears quite different. For example, in Egypt (for decades a staunch U.S. and Israeli ally) the Muslim Brotherhood—a militant Islamist group—has become a legitimate Egyptian political party for the first time since it was outlawed in 1954 (JPost.com, June 7, 2011), and it is now considered Egypt’s "best organized political movement" (The New York Times, June 19, 2011). It is currently promoting a candidate to become Egypt’s first president since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
Jesus warned that at the end of the age, "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Matthew 24:7). Tensions between the Western world and the Arab world will temporarily ebb and flow, but there will be a final clash between Islam and the Western "Christian" nations. To the surprise of some, however, Scripture foretells that the final clash will not be between Islam and the United States or the United Kingdom. Instead, in an epic confrontation, a final "king of the South" will war against the ruler of a final "Holy Roman Empire"—also called "Babylon the Great" or the "king of the North" (Daniel 11:40–42; Revelation 17:5; 18:2). Shortly thereafter, Christ will return as Lord of lords to rule over the entire earth, bringing peace and blessings to all nations (Revelation 11:15).