Fliers at Pennsylvania church take aim at Islam

Milford, Pa. — Islam is a “clear and present danger,” according to the pamphlet in the foyer of the Milford Bible Church.

“Christians are in danger from the spread of the doctrines of Islam,” reads the first sentence of the flier.

The words are not meant as an attack against Muslims, according to the parishioner who brought in the fliers. They are only a defense against Islamic teachings, she says.

“It’s really all about us being aware of the danger spiritually, not physically,” Norma Drake said at the church yesterday. “It’s just presenting Christ as superior to Mohammed, which is what we, as Christians, believe.”

The pamphlet is published by the Personal Freedom Outreach, a nonprofit group with offices in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The group lists three goals on its Web site: to educate Christians about the dangers and heretical doctrines of religious cults, to use the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reach members of those cults and to warn Christians of unbiblical teachings within the church itself.

The tone of the flier angered some local Muslims.

Islam / Islamism

Islamism is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim extremists (e.g. the Taliban, Wahhabis, Hamas and Osama bin Laden). It is considered to be a distortion of Islam. Many Islamists engage in terrorism in pursuit of their goals.

Adherents of Islam are called “Muslims.” The term “Arab” describes an ethnic or cultural identity. Not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. The terms are not interchangeable.

“Statements like this only further show the ignorance and naiveness of a large portion of Americans when it comes to Islam,” said Abdus-Shaheed Azeez, a Muslim from Middletown.

Dr. Quazi Al-Tariq, the president of the Middletown Islamic Center, said he was surprised that a church would display that type of message.

“This is definitely dividing the nation and creating hatred among people,” Al-Tariq said. “This is not a good practice for a church. It is the church’s moral responsibility to bring peace on all sides and not to provoke any religious hatred.”

The Milford church’s senior pastor, Rodney Ryle, said he had not seen the pamphlet and that the church would usually approve a pamphlet about Islam for informational purposes, but not to slam Islam.

Indeed, few of the 500 or so people attending church yesterday said they had read the pamphlet in the entryway.

The popular church has a congregation of about 300 families and is considered an independent, nondenominational church.

One Sunday school teacher, Tom Christensen, said he also perceived the pamphlet as an informational tool rather than as a call to action against a group of people.

“This is for believers to understand the differences between themselves and the Islamic faith,” Christensen said. “It’s not a judgment on (Muslims) as individuals.”

In the pamphlet, the writer notes that Islam is putting “great pressure on Christians.”

The flier quotes several sources, mostly evangelical Christian scholars, who frame Islam as a religion at odds with Christianity, competing for converts around the world.

An author who writes about evangelical strategies to convert Muslims is quoted as saying, “(Muslims) consider themselves in a holy war to take over the earth.”

Pastor Claude Whitley of New Life Christian Fellowship in nearby Matamoras said the tone of the pamphlet was unfortunate.

“We recognize that there is a difference between Christianity and Islam, but that is true with Christians and any faiths,” Whitley said. “Some churches will take the perspective that any faith that is not the Christian faith is to be attacked.”

Reporter John Sullivan contributed to this report.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday December 11, 2006.
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