Saturday night. It could have been anywhere. But it was England. And it was London.
Three terrorists shouted “this is for Allah” as they stabbed random victims during the horrifying van and knife rampage at London Bridge …
The three attackers were in a white Renault transit van which rammed pedestrians on the bridge just after 10:00 p.m. (London time) on June 3. Then they drove to Borough Market, where they began indiscriminately stabbing members of the public before being gunned down.
The attackers have been praised on social media by ISIS militants and supporters, and the Islamic state group has claimed responsibility.
Less than two weeks ago, a suicide bomber killed 22 children and adults at a concert by singer Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena in northern England. Five people died in March after a man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in central London and stabbed an unarmed police officer.
“This is for Allah!” No. No, it isn’t.
On Sunday, Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, denounced the terrorist attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market, saying those who would commit such atrocities during Ramadan “respect neither life nor faith.”
“I am appalled and angered,” Khan said. “These acts of violence were truly shocking and I condemn them in the strongest terms. Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons.”
“This is for Allah!” No, it isn’t.
Above all else, terrorism is murder, and murder is strictly forbidden in the Qur’an. Qur’an 6:151 says, “do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct …” And of one who kills an innocent person, Qur’an 5:53 says, “it is as if he has slain all humankind. And whoever saves one, it is as if he has saved humankind entirely.”
In fact, the Qur’an demands of believers that they exercise justice toward others—even when they have reason to be angry with them: “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.”[5:8]
“This is for Allah!” No. No, it isn’t.
Brutal, unprovoked violence against those who have done you no harm—this is not the will of Allah. It is not the work of God, any more than witch trials or Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition or the kidnapping of aid workers. Or public beheadings documented on video.
No. The massacres in London and in Manchester may have been carried out in God’s name—but certainly not in accordance with God’s will.
Well, then … with whose? With whose will could such atrocities accord? And what sort of people could carry them out?
“You are from your father the devil,” Jesus said. “And you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (JOHN 8:44).
Yes. The “father of lies.” The one who is the polar opposite of truth.
As someone has remarked, “Satan is very good at his job.” I think the ongoing global struggle against terrorism is a perfect illustration of that point. Not only are unoffending individuals being maimed and killed—not only are young lives being needlessly and senselessly cut short—but members of the three great Abrahamic religions are being dragged into a swirling vortex of destruction and hatred.
The plan is as simple as it is ingenious. With each fresh act of barbarism, Christians and Jews alike find themselves tempted to embrace hatred—to return evil for evil. Whether that means defacing the exterior of a mosque, or bullying and threatening Muslims in our communities, or enforcing a travel ban on persons from Islamic countries—or even (God forbid) picking up weapons ourselves—when we embrace hatred, we are buying into a lie. A lie about Muslims. A lie which convinces us that, somehow, Muslims are different. Not like us. Not capable of loving their children the way we love ours. Without a moral sense like ours. Lacking every vestige of compassion. And therefore, somehow, less human than we are.
Of course, all of that is … well, lies! It’s hogwash. But it is sophisticated hogwash, intricately crafted in the bowels of hell. Don’t believe it. Believe, instead, in the goodness and decency of the Muslim folk whom you know—those you work with, or go to school with, or with whom you trust those things most important to you. Refuse to play the devil’s game—because he is the only one who ever wins it!
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (MATT. 5:43-45).
Almighty God, you give us power—but we don’t use it. You send us your Spirit of courage and truth and healing—yet we cower in fear. Clinging to illusions and refusing to let go of our hurts, we lash out at our neighbours. Regarding them as enemies, we view them as somehow less than ourselves—less human, less valued, less beloved by you. Spirit of forgiveness, blow through our lives! Burn up every trace of timidity, deceit, and resentment. Make us better disciples of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.