IN this sample of Christian eschatology, Grant R. Jeffrey argues that we are witnessing the last days or the end times. Propagating Christian Zionism, he says that the present ‘war on terror’ is the beginning of the third world war, which will lead to the prophesised war of Gog and Magog, the rise of the Antichrist and then finally to Armageddon, when Jesus Christ will return to this world, establish peace and reconcile the Arab and Jewish brothers.
The author quotes from the Book of Genesis, the Book of Ezekiel, the Book of Revelation, the Quran and a few other sources, including non-religious ones. Relying on his inference from biblical prophecies, the author chooses to ignore the various schools of thought within the religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism and the numerous Christian eschatological differences that exist even within the same group or sect.
Very blatantly and emphatically Jeffrey states, ‘Extremist Islamists are determined to destroy our civilisation and our political and religious freedoms.’ Here the word civilisation refers to the western world so the issue becomes regional rather than religious. Jeffrey has ignored the Christian and Jewish minorities living among the Muslim populations.
He further says that the Quran as well as various Muslim commentaries condemn Jews and their faith. In most instances, he seems to have missed or ignored the wider meaning. For instance, the Quran does indeed say that the Jews rejected prophets of other races and even those of their own race but so did many other nations; the lesson being that such nations (and not only the Jews) were ignorant to God’s truth, having received only a fragment of it, which led them to erroneously claim exclusive knowledge of theological matters.
Moreover, even if this book is read objectively, without any inclination towards any faith, one is led to the conclusion that the need for ‘reference to the context’ seems to have been totally disregarded, leading to a rather flawed analysis which is not expected from a learned author and researcher.
He claims that ‘The prophet proclaimed his new faith of conquest and submission to Allah with the Quran in one hand and a sword in the other.’ Having taken this stance, we would think that he sees all Muslims as extremists and terrorists. But then he mentions ‘moderate Muslims’ and one wonders how Muslims can be moderate when the author just said that the religion they are following only teaches conversion by force and violence.
It is perhaps the author’s wavering opinion, from one chapter to another, more than his biased point of view, which weakens his arguments. Moreover, he chooses to discuss everything from the state of Israel to Osama bin Laden in great detail, while on the other hand falters from debating other historical events such as the Crusades — which were military conflicts in the name of Christianity and a discussion on which would prove that every religion has had its share of fundamentalists. The Nazi Holocaust also shows that Muslims have not been the only ones harbouring anti-Semitic feelings or discriminating against the Jews. Also, the role of Christian missionaries and the fact that they have been accused of forceful conversions in different places is completely ignored by the writer.
As he recounts the history of Jerusalem, the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the on-going Palestine issue and so on, Jeffrey seems to have difficulty categorising actions into those that are politically or economically-motivated and those carried out for the safeguard of religion. For instance, when discussing Israel, Jeffrey mentions that in 1921, 1929 and 1939, Britain changed its moves in favour of Arab refugees. So what religion were the British following? By failing to make any distinction the writer is in fact confusing readers.
It is also rather unfair to quote people like Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden and Khomeini, because they are by no means the only representatives of Muslims. If the only purpose is to point fingers at each other rather than resolve issues, one can easily find examples of similarly notorious figures in the West.
Jeffrey also ignores the differing views within his western audience: the Bush administration did not receive widespread support for its military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is still ambiguity with regard to the 9/11 terror attacks and it is a known fact that Bin Laden was previously a western ally and clearly, Muslims are not the only possessors of weapons of mass destruction.
Books such as this one can only be detrimental to the cause of inter-faith harmony. Instead of promoting peace between nations, it is disappointing to see a minister engage in Islam-bashing, preach intolerance and give historical justification for the clash of civilisations. It is also astonishing to see him blame Muslims for thinking of their religion as the best of faiths and asking people to join it, when he is unabashedly doing exactly that in order to popularise his own faith.
The only positive outcome of perusing this book is that it will induce readers to investigate further and learn the truth rather than accept Jeffrey’s distorted version of the clash of civilisations. His research and interpretations are, unfortunately, far from exhaustive.