I have a number of Muslim friends, with whom I have laughed, argued, shared food; to whom I have listened, spoken and whom I deeply respect, a feeling that is mutual.
Earlier this year, I conducted the funeral of a close friend who was a spiritual ecumenist, a man of profound and searching Christian conviction. He epitomized respectful listening, humble speaking and generous thinking. He was a trusted member of the Inter Faith Group in Aberdeen.
Among the mourners were some of his Muslim friends, one of whom spoke at the funeral, to which the local imam had sent a sincere apology that he could not attend due to other duties.
At university, I majored in a course called Principles of Religion; forgive the immodesty, but I won the class prize.
A major component was study of Islam, including sections of the Quran, a study of Judaism including Talmudic Tractates, and the same for Buddhism and Hinduism. I later won another prize for an essay titled, “Compare the Islamic and Christian Conception of God.”
Among the greatest books I have read was the then recently published book by Kenneth Cragg, “The Call of the Minaret,” a book still acknowledged as an exemplary exploration of Islam by a critical and trusted Christian friend.
This isn’t mere autobiography, nor, I hope a piece of online self-indulgence.
My Muslim friends, my experience of Muslim-Christian relations locally and in relationship, my own education and ongoing interest in the Abrahamic faiths, all combine in a complex reaction somewhere between deepwater sadness and turbulent moral outrage, laced with compassion and tears when I read the following:
“Taliban gunmen have shot and seriously wounded a 14-year-old schoolgirl who rose to fame for speaking out against the militants, authorities have said.
Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head and neck when gunmen fired on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.”
I do not and will not recognize nor concede that such an act has any connection whatsoever with Islamic doctrine and practice, with Muslim ethics, with a valid Islamic worldview, or even has a foothold on any mind and heart that dares speak the name of the God of Abraham.
Taliban justification is a meaningless rhetoric of lethal hatred and a misconception of righteousness that is the toxic opposite of all that the great word “righteousness” means.
Oh God Of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
have mercy on your daughter Malala Yousufzai;
restore her to health,
protect her from those who hate her;
frustrate the hate and violence
that targets children and silences voices of truth.
Eterrnal God, look on our history with compassion,
help us to look on our history with hope,
invade hearts that are hate filled,
occupy minds that are empty of life-giving ideas,
turn bullets to bread,
grenades to grain,
and the improvisation that creates devices of death,
convert to energy and creativity to build a different future.
We are running out of ideas, God of Wisdom:
Come in peace, Bringer of Life, Compassionate Lord,
Amen, and Amen.
James Gordon is a husband, father, Baptist minister, theological educator, Aberdeen supporter and bibliophile. This column first appeared on his blog, Living Wittily.
Part-time minister of Montrose Baptist Church in Angus, Scotland, and the former principal of the Scottish Baptist College. He is on the advisory board of the Centre for Ministry Studies, University of Aberdeen, and is honorary lecturer in the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy.