September 6, 2006
Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Joel Richardson. Actually this is not my real name, but rather a pen name that I use when engaging in interfaith dialogue with Muslimsa labor of love which has occupied me for the past several years. The reason that I use this pen name is because I have been issued some very specific Islamic death threats after a Muslim that I was dialoguing with converted to Christianity. The e-mail that I received essentially threatened that my head would be cut off and that my family would be killed. Since those days, I have continued to dialogue with Muslims in a spirit of peace and love, although I now have chosen to use this pen name. As such, I ask for your forgiveness for not fully revealing myself to you. I would very much like to do so. Nevertheless, it is my sincere hope that if this letter should miraculously find its way into your hands that you would consider what this little American Christian of no account would like to express to you.
It was with a certain measure of amazement that I read the news that you would be visiting my country next week to address the United Nations General Assembly. Indeed you have surprised the world on more than one occasion over the past several months since your recent election as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Many people all over the world have read your open letter to George W. Bush, the President of the United States and invited him to convert to Islam. Many of us also watched as you were interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. As for myself, I have been closely following your brief career as the President of Iran. I have watched as you have made some very bold and at times some very threatening statements. I have also closely followed your many open declarations about the soon emergence of your Messiah figure, Imam al-Mahdi. And of course, most have closely watched as your nation continues its apparent rush toward the acquiring of nuclear capabilities.
As a Christian and an American, I write to you not only to express some of my concerns, but also to ask you some questionsif you would allow me the privilege to do so.
I am greatly concerned of course for the future relationship between our two countries; the U.S. and Iran. I am most concerned of course for the future of my childrentheir safety and their well-being. But I am also greatly concerned for the millions of lives of common people that also may be at risk in these seemingly tense timesIranian, Israeli, American and EuropeanMuslim, Christian and Jewish.
Mr. President, in your letter to President Bush, you said this:
"I have no doubt that telling lies is reprehensible in any culture, and you do not like to be lied to."
Of course, while much of the world has never heard of the doctrines of Kithman or al-Taqiyya, as a Shia Muslim, you are most certainly aware of these terms, are you not? Certainly you are aware of the words of Imam Jafar Sadiq, the sixth Imam of Shia Islam who clearly disagrees with you about the reprehensibility of lying. In fact, he even states that Allah will dishonor anyone who tells the truth about certain elements of Islam:
"One who exposes something from our religion is like one who intentionally kills us."
"You belong to a religion that whosoever conceals it, Allah will honor him and whosoever reveals it, Allah will disgrace him."
I have also read from A Shia Enclopedia a specific definition of al-Taqiyya:
"The word al-Taqiyya literally means: Concealing or disguising one's beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of imminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury. A one-word translation would be Dissimulation".
So Mr. President, my first question to you would be the following: Would I be wrong to believe the words of your Imam and the words of your scholars by understanding that Shia Muslims are commanded to purposefully hide what they truly believe in order to mislead others as to the true nature of their religion, their "beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies"? As a Christian I am immediately reminded of the words of Jesus who told his followers never to hide their religion:
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
Mr. President, to the vast majority of the people of the world, religion and deceit are simply not compatible concepts. Basic human intuition exposes such as completely contrary to the divine nature. God does not lie, nor does he ask his followers to lie or hide the truth. In short Mr. President, how could any religion that claims to emanate from Godwho is pure light and truthever actually command and promote deception toward non-believers and outsiders?
And even more importantly, Mr. President; you are a Shia Muslim. In light of the doctrines of Kithman and al-Taqiyya, how can anyone not question the truthfulness of anything that you say to those of us outside of the Shia faith? How do the people and the leaders of the world not know that you are simply utilizing al-Taqiyya in an attempt to deceive us?
Mr. President, despite the fact that your nation essentially sits atop an endless supply of oil, how is it that you expect intelligent people to believe you when you claim that your only motivation to achieve nuclear capabilities is for energy? In light of the millions of lives that may potentially be at risk due to a potential nuclear exchange, wouldnt the leaders of the world be utterly foolish to accept anything you say regarding your nuclear program? And wouldnt their foolishness be multiplied by the fact that you regularly seem to make outlandish comments such as your recent statement at the "World without Zionism Conference":
"They say, how could we have a world without America and Zionism? But you know well that this slogan and goal can be achieved and can definitely be realized."
Mr. President, certainly you must realize how such comments will be viewed by the rest of the world.
Mr. President, I would like to be as frank and as honest with you as I can. What thoughts come to your mind when you think about such men as Adolph Hitler, or Saddam Hussein? History has judged these men as both pawns of the devil and failures, but a far worse judgment awaits both of these men when they face their Creator. Surely you would not desire to be found in the company of such men on the Day of Judgment?
Mr. President, I read your invitation issued just today calling the people of the West to Islam. You also said that anyone who declines such an invitation would have a bad future. Mr. President, I would like to now also invite you to become a Christiana follower of Jesus. I would also like to explain to you why I must decline your invitation to Islam and why you should accept my invitation.
Mr. President, if you would allow me, I would like to tell you a story. You are obviously a very influential Muslim leader. For the sake of this story, let us say that we have two other great and legendary Muslim leaders: Caliph Omar and also Salah' ad-Din (Saladin). These two men are among the most legendary and admired leaders throughout Muslim history. Now imagine if I claimed that both of these great leaders played with little girls' dolls. Initially any self-respecting Muslim would be infuriated at such an allegation. "Never!" it would be protested; "Far be it from Omar or Saladin that they should play with little girls' dolls! These are great men! It is not befitting that Omar or Saladin to say that they would play with dolls!"
Initially this might sound quite reasonable. But what if the story unfolded that both Omar and Saladin had a daughter? And what if we learned that these daughters were most pleased with their Daddy when he got down on the floor and played with them as they played with their little dolls? What if we learned that because of the father's great love for their daughters, that they humbled themselves and did this with their beautiful little daughters on a regular basis? Would these men be better leaders and better men for doing this or would they be less respectable men and poorer leaders? Surely, Mr. President, you would agree that this humble act would make them better men and greater leaders?
Now, what if we learned that Saladin played with his daughters while Omar absolutely refused to do so? What if Omar agreed with the statement above that he was far above ever doing such a thing? Which leader would then be a greater leader? Which would be more appealing? Omar or Saladin? Personally I would see Saladin as being a far better Daddy, a far better man, and thus a far better leader. Im sure you would agree. As such Saladin would be a better and more admirable leader, while Omar would be a less qualified leader. Remember, Mr. President; true greatness does not need to be guarded. It does not need to be belabored in order to be authentic. True greatness is self-evident and self-preserving.
Your religion claims that God would never become a man, regardless of the reason.
"Far be it from God that He should have a son! It is not befitting of the Almighty that He should do such a thing!" Sura 19:35
But in this attempt to establish Allah as greater, he has simply become more distant. Is not Allah like Omar in the story above? The Christian belief of God, however, is that He is more like unto Saladin, the loving father in the story above. Because God is good in the purest sense, He desires to share Himself with us. He wants to reveal himself to us. He doesnt merely want us to have abstract knowledge about HimHe wants us to actually know Him. Jesus revealed the man-befriending-God to us. Jesus said:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." John 14:6,7
Mr. President, your religion also refers to Jesus as "The Word of God". Let me ask you, can a person's words be separated from him? Or are a person's words invariably part of him? This is an analogy that God wanted us to understand when we think about the relationship of the Son to the Father. Both the terms, the Son and the Word, are very similar in the sense that each proceeds forth from the Father. The Son bears the very essence of the Father while the Word is the inner expression of a person. "Out of the heart, the mouth speaks." So again affirming both the Son's divinity as well as the fact that all things were created by Him, John the Apostle says that,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men." John 1:1-4
When we compare the Islamic concept of God to the Christian concept on this point, the Christian concept is far more intellectually and emotionally appealing. The incarnation (God dwelling among men through the person of Jesus) as utterly astounding as it is, is also the most awe-inspiring and incredible idea that one could ever conceive. In fact it is Islam's denial of the incarnation that makes it so utterly unappealing. In Christian theology, God says to each individual, "I love you this much, and here is how I have proven it forever." God became a man and suffered in our place for our deliverance.
Mr. President, throughout history, the Christian Church has affirmed the following:
We believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hades.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
According to this ancient Christian Creed, Mr. President, when you stand before the Judge of the Earth, His name will be Jesus Christ. On that day there will be no excuse for denying that He indeed has come, was crucified, buried and has risen from the dead. Of course, Im quite sure that you do not accept this. But Mr. President, have you ever considered the fact that every one of Jesus' disciples, except possibly John, dedicated and eventually gave their very lives as martyrs while preaching the death, burial and resurrection of Jesusthe very Christian Gospel message? Mr. President, what logical answer is there as to why the disciples would give their lives for a complete lie? Unless the disciples were wholly confident of the fact that Jesus was crucified and resurrected, why would they dedicate the remainder of their lives preaching such a lie? Muslims deny the historicity of the crucifixion and resurrection, but they are unable to answer some of the basic questions that explain why the disciplesthe very eyewitnesseswould have lived and died as if it were absolutely true. There are many theories among Muslim scholars as to what may have happened. But none can agree. For regarding the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ, in light of the abundant historical evidence attesting such, the Muslim scholars have only conjecture to follow (Surah 4:157-8). Among the various theories offered, some Muslim Scholars teach that God tricked or deceived the disciples.
Mr. President, did Allah deceive Jesus followers? Does this make any sense to you? If Jesus disciples were preaching a lie, then would you agree that Jesus was the biggest failure of all of the prophets? For if Jesus' true message was not carried on by a single one of his disciples, if after he ascended to heaven, all his disciples were deceived, then indeed, Jesus was the greatest failure of all prophets. Yet even Islam claims that Jesus is second only to Muhammad in terms of the greatest prophets.
Mr. President, the Islamic worldview, when compared to the simple facts of history, simply does not make sense. Jesusthe historical facts surrounding His life and the life of His disciplesis the thorn in the side of Islam, not its vindicator, as we would expect if indeed Islam were only a continuation of the religion that Jesus preached. Islam is not a continuation of the true religion that was declared by the true prophets of God, but something new altogether. Mr. President, I call on you to turn away from religious innovations and to turn to the Truth.
Mr. President, I have heard much of your repeated eschatological references to the soon emergence of Imam al-Mahdi, the one who you refer to as the "last repository, the promised one, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace." I have also studied the Islamic traditions about al-Mahdi in great depth. As you have stated to your people, "Today, we should define our economic, cultural and political policies based on the policy of Imam Mahdis return." I also noticed in your letter to President Bush that you accept the idea that Jesus will also return to the earth. Those of us who are familiar with Islamic eschatology understand that Muslims believe that Jesus will return as a subordinate to the Mahdi. We have seen the Islamic traditions that have spoken of the day when Imam Mahdi, with the assistance of Jesus will unite the Muslim Ummah, attack and defeat the Jewish nation and ultimately cause the entire world to submit to Islam. We have read the opinions of your scholars that the rule of your Imam will only be established with great bloodshed. In Ayatollah Ibrahim Aminis work on the subject of Mahdism for instance: Al-Imam Al-Mahdi: The Just Leader of Humanity, we read of those who refuse to convert to Islam and submit to the Mahdis leadership over the earth:
This group will indisputably be opposed to justice and will never give up their stubborn antagonism against any power. Such people will do anything against the promised Mahdi to protect their vested interests. Moreover, they will do anything within their power to demoralize and combat those who support the Imam (Mahdi). To crush the negative influence of this group there is no other solution except warfare and bloodshed.
And again, we read that:
The Mahdi will offer the religion of Islam to the Jews and Christians; if they accept it they will be spared, otherwise they will be killed.
Mr. President, thinking people around the world will certainly ask; if Islam is such a true and wonderful religion, why then is it necessary to resort to jihad, force and bloodshed to spread among mankind? If God truly wanted Islam to spread, would he not simply cause it to do so through peaceful means? Or is he unable to do so Himself? In this, do we not see the difference between God and Satan. Does God not offer His truth to mankind according to their own choice and free will? Does not Gods ultimate judgment of each person hinge on their own response to His invitation? But historically it is always oppressive and tyrannical regimes that enforce their ideologies onto the people. Can you see how your religious worldview regarding the eventual triumph of Islam does not reflect the manner in which God offers His mercy to mankind? Can you see how your worldview and expectations of the coming new world under al-Mahdi instead reflect the pattern of other various failed regimes of the past, having been exposed by the very people that they once controlled as being destructive and oppressive to the human spirit? In appealing to all of mankind, Jesus Christ once said,
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28)
Again, if Islam were a true and naturally appealing religion to mankind, then why do we find such a radically different call to accept Islam from your prophet with the words:
"Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not." Surah 2:216
Mr. President, why would anyone long for the day when all of mankind will openly be subjugated to a religion that openly calls for warfare despite mankinds natural hatred for such? Should not the true religion be something which the very collective soul of mankind bears witness to and affirms rather than something which your Quran admits is "hateful" to mankind? You seem to be a very brave man; will you search your heart and ask the Lord if indeed he has truly called on his followers to carry out that which is hateful to mankind or if the above quoted verse from your prophet finds its inspiration not from God but instead from another source altogether? Will you consider harnessing your bravery and choose to turn toward the truth, which is found only in the freedom that Christ offers and not in Islamic Jihad and the forceful spread of totalitarian religious ideologies? Most importantly, Mr. President, will you reconsider the direction that you are presently leading the Iranian people? Will you choose to lead the Iranian people away from Islamic Jihad and instead to the One whose burden is lightthe one who calls those who are weary and burdened and promises genuine rest for their souls? Or will you choose to continue following a dark path and continue to lead the Iranian people toward that which is not only "hateful" to them but also destructive to their lives and their souls? As a humble Christian and a citizens of the Eternal Kingdom of God, I appeal to you to change the path that you are presently leading the Iranian people down and instead to choose the righteous way (John 14:6), whatever the consequences may be. I appeal to you to leave behind the road of Jihad and of Islam and to become a follower of Jesus and a genuine peacemaker. For in doing so, Jesus said that you would be called a Child of God. (Matthew 5)
With Love in Christ,