Understanding The Differences In Islamic Cultures: Did you know that some Muslims groups save persecuted Christians enslaved by ISIS? In today’s episode, we discuss with special guest, Rudy Attalah, rescue operations, differences in Islamic cultures, and ways you can get involved in helping to save persecuted Christians as well. Tune in now to learn more!
Air Date: 10/16/2019
Guest: Rudy Attalah
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Faith And The Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always doing that from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.
We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Also, Tim Barton, national speaker and President of WallBuilders, and my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas state legislator, national speaker, and author. You can find out more about all three of us at WallBuildersLive.com, that’s our main website for the radio program. You can also get a list of all of our stations across the country where we can be heard, and a list of the archives in case you missed some programs and you’d like to catch some of the interviews, or some Good News Fridays, or Foundations of Freedom Thursdays. All of that’s available right now at WallBuildersLive.com by simply clicking on the archives section while you’re there on the website.
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The Problem With Generalizations
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Rudy Atallah will be with us a little later in the program. This is the topic that we’ve really not covered this much, just talking about the difference in Islamic communities, because—I know for me—I’m pretty uneducated on this, so I tend to kind of broad stroke people in big buckets based on religion instead of realizing the big differences within those religions. I know that inherently with Christianity, but I haven’t thought about it much with other religions.
Well, it is a challenge when, in culture itself, we promote the generalization of things for simplicity’s sake.
So we’ll say, “Christians believe this, and Muslims believe this, Buddhists believes this,” and although you might be right more than you’re wrong in some of those statements, those are still generalizations, and inside of Christianity there are how many hundreds of different denominations? Not everybody believes the same thing.
Inside of some of these other religions there are different distinctions, different sections of those religions, and not all of them are the same.
Distinguishing Between Muslim Denominations
In fact, this summer when we were doing our our leadership training program, one of the cool things we have an opportunity to do is have different leaders Skype in, and they talk with the students. So we had guys who are pretty renowned, significant people—military leaders, political officials, business leaders, etc.—that would Skype in and give the students some thoughts and some insights.
One of the guys we had this summer was Rudy Atallah. And when we got him on, we were talking about the work that he’s done to help relocate a lot of Christians out of the way of ISIS when a couple of years ago ISIS was making the big push. Now he’s helping find some people that have been kidnapped and is trying to help rescue them and bring them back home. A lot of cool stuff he’s doing.
But in the midst of this, a question came up.
“How do you work with some of these Muslims?”
Because a lot of the guys on the ground these operations are Kurds, and are Muslim guys who are not a fan of what ISIS was doing. So the question came up, “How do you distinguish between some of these different groups?”
He started telling us some of the very different thoughts of some of the groups he works with. And we realize that even some of the extremism that we thought we knew from some groups, he said, “It’s not really the way you think it is when you’re here working with them.”
Understanding Islamic Denominations
And even in the midst of this, he talked about how he’s able to even share the gospel with some of them, because for Muslims—and this is across the board—muslims learn that Jesus was a prophet. He was a really, really good guy. So he’s able to talk about Jesus pretty openly. Not in the sense of the Son of God necessarily, but in the sense of that’s not a bad word to use with them.
So we just started talking to us and sharing some of these stories. So we thought, “Well, we’re going to have an explanation. Rudy’s probably one of the best guys to help give that explanation.”
And Rudy is probably one of the best guys to be able to explain the differences because, maybe more than anybody in America, he understands these differences. He literally was the chief intelligence officer for America’s Secretary of Defense for 14 and a half years. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Secretary of Defense Gates. He’s the top intelligence officer for all of the Middle East/Africa region. He has to know all those groups, what they’re up to, how they think, how to respond to them, how to react to them if it’s necessary.
And so because of that, that’s what makes him so effective in dealing with these various groups.
Tim, as you pointed out, they’re just as different from each other as a lot of Christian denominations are from each other. And yet he understands each of them, and knows how to deal with them. It’s just really fascinating what he does. The coalitions he’s able to create and form to help get good things done in the Middle East, it really is remarkable.
The Nazarene Fund
Well David, you had a chance to work closely with with Rudy through some of the mission work and in rescue missions.
Yeah, I have worked very closely with him. One of the things that that I helped run is what’s called the Nazarene Fund. And we take the money out of that, and 100% of the money we raise the Nazarene Fund goes to helping persecuted Christians and religious minorities, getting them out of the hands of ISIS. And so he works literally with Muslims who will go in and fight ISIS to get these Christians freed. It’s just amazing stories that he has. By the way, if anyone wants to support helping rescue persecuted Christians, if you go to WallBuilders.com/PersecutedChristians, whatever you give there, 100% goes downrange to help in this.
One of the things that Rudy has been really effective in is we were able to out a couple of years ago the fact that, over in Turkey, you have guys running organ harvesting farms, literally taking children and Christians, killing them, harvesting their organs, and selling those organs on the black market for a high profit. There were five of those organ harvesting farms and we’ve been able to shut down so far. The other three we need to shut down, we’re working on that. But this is the kind of stuff Rudy is so good at.
It’s not just theory for him.
Join the Action bt Donating to WallBuilders.com/PersecutedChristians
He’s on the ground with these rescue operations, really making a difference in the lives of actual people, really saving people out of slavery, out of sex slavery, out of organ harvesting farms. He really is making a difference globally. If you want to help, again, go to WallBuilders.com/PersecutedChristians, and whatever you give them, 100% will go downrange to help these persecuted Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East.
He does incredible work, and he’s our special guest today! So stay with us when we return from break, Rudy Atallah here on WallBuilders Live.
America’s Hidden History
Hi, this is David Barton.
And, this is Tim Barton, and we want to let you know about a series that’s happening right now on TBN on Thursday night. TBN is the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Every Thursday night, there’s a series that we’ve filmed called America’s Hidden History.
And, this season is called “America’s Hidden Heroes.” The reason is, we highlight heroes from American history. For years we’ve been focusing on the forgotten history and heros of the nation.
And now, we have a TV show just highlighting some of those heroes.
These are inspiring stories about some of the greatest people maybe you’ve never heard about. We go on location to the sites and show you where the events happened. It’s the stories of folks like Bronco Charlie, Stagecoach Mary, Jedediah Smith, Robert Smalls, and so many inspiring folks.
Now, this happens every Thursday night, and the time is gonna be different based on where you live. Either way, we think this is something that will so encourage and inspire you in learning some of these great stories for America’s Hidden History.
Welcome Rudy Atallah
Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us today! Lieutenant Colonel Rudy Atallah is back with us. Rudy, always good to have you, brother. Thanks for your time again today.
Thank you so much for having me.
Hey man, we’ve been talking about the difference in—especially when you look globally—the Muslim population out there. Sometimes as Americans, if you’re not in those communities at all, you just kind of put everybody in the same bucket, and frankly people do that to Christians too.
David said, “Rudy can definitely help us distinguish this and give us a little background, especially considering what’s going on in the world today.”
We’re just looking for a little education today. And honestly, bro, treat me like the four year old that I sometimes am, and break this down for me as somebody that hasn’t been around Muslim communities much at all in his life.
Sure. Well, in simple terms, a lot of times when people look at Islam, which is the second largest religion after Christianity in the world, we’re talking about maybe 1.6 to 1.7 billion people, and I’ll talk about it from a just a purist standpoint and then of course from a biblical standpoint. That way we can look at you know the two.
From a straight standpoint, the majority of Muslims around the world are called Sunni Muslims. The word the word Sunni comes from the derivative sunna, which means, “The ones who follow the traditions of the prophet.”
Shia V.S. Sunni
Then the Shia believe that they are from the bloodline of the prophet. And what happened really was the belief system between Sunni and Shia. Now, Sunni make up about 85% of the Muslim population around the world, and Shia make up about 15%. So they’re in the minority. When I say Shia, I’m talking about predominantly Iran, parts of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. There are only a handful of countries that have Shia Muslims. The rest of the world is Sunni Muslims.
I always thought that each country kind of had a breakdown of both, but what you’re saying is there’s only a handful that have have Shia. And so most countries are predominantly Sunni—most Muslim countries.
That is correct. 85% of the world’s Muslims are Sunni.
OK, got in. The differences between the two was primarily political. It’s not religious. So when the prophet died in 632 A.D.—that’s the Prophet Muhammad—there was a dispute on who would lead the the Islamic world.
So most Sunnis—and then this is where it was established a guy named Abu Bakr, who was the leader of the first caliphate in Islam, believed that because he was closest to the prophet, and he had to be voted in, and he was voted in, so that’s basically the lineage of the Sunnis.
On the Shia side, they took a whole different look, and they said, “No, no, no, no, no, it’s not by election. It should be somebody who is closest in kin from the bloodline of the prophet.” And those are the Shias.
The History of Islamic Denominations
So that is primarily the distinction between the two. They all follow the Koran, they all follow the Islamic beliefs, and traditions, and all that. So on the Shia side, they wanted to elect, basically, the cousin and son-in law—his name is Ali—of the prophet. And that’s that’s why they elected.
What happened is later on as time progressed, the Sunnis went out and killed the grandson of the prophet in Karbala, Iraq. That’s a holy place for the Shiites. Over the centuries, for the most part because the Shia are a minority, they kind of remain quiet, and you didn’t see a lot of disputes between them after the death of the Prophet’s grandson. Fast forward to today in the 21st century—it started out more in the 20th century, into the 21st century—we’re seeing a lot more on a political level of disputes between Sunni and Shia. I mean you see it across the Middle East today. You see Saudi Arabia raising up against Iran, and Iran against Saudi Arabia. So you have different countries that have a majority Shia wanting to attack majority Sunnis, and vice versa. So that’s what we’re seeing today. Those are the major differences.
Why is it that, when you do see the radical elements, that they usually come from the Shia community and not the Sunni? Or is that even accurate? Is my perception right on that?
No, it actually comes from both. But remember that the Sunnis are—so right now that the biggest and most radical, they’re coming in—ISIS is also Sunni, and al-Qaeda is all Sunni. So Those are the big, big bad guys.
I had that totally backwards.
Descendants of Ishmael
Yeah, exactly, and Hezbollah is Shia. So that’s where you have the distinctions. Now, what’s really interesting is, if we look at the Biblical side of things, we know that Abraham had two sons.
I was reading just a little bit ago in Galatians chapter 4, verse 21, where Paul was saying, “Tell me you desire to be under the law. Do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a bond servants,” that’s Hagar, “The other by a free woman. But he who was of the bond servant was was born according to the flesh, and he of the free woman through promise.”
So there are several verses that talk about that, but we go to the old testament through the lineage of Ishmael, and Ishmael had twelve sons that became princes, and these are basically the forefathers of the Arab world today. But there’s there’s an interesting section in Genesis Chapter 16 starting at verse 11. This is before Ishmael was born.
This is chapter 16 verses 11, “And the angel of the Lord said to Hagar, “‘Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son you shall call his name Ismael, because the Lord has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man, his hands shall be against every man and every man’s hand against him, and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”’
Are All Muslims Bad?
I find that very, very, very interesting, because of what you see going on today with some of these radical elements popping up, and then the wars that you see back and forth in the Middle East and what’s happening between Sunni and Shia.
How much of the background is in the history of the world? Of course, here at WallBuilders, were always talking about we need to know our history as Americans and all those things. You’ve been at the highest level of the military and American politics.
How difficult is it for you to find people in American politics that understand Islamic history so that you can deal with the geopolitical situations in a in an educated way? Because you don’t hear many people talk about it in an educated way.
No, you’re absolutely right. And actually that goes also across the broad spectrum of Christians the same way outsiders look at Christians. Very, very few people truly understand the difference between Sunni and Shia, the decisions that are going on and and the history behind it, I think it’s imperative that we understand that, as Christians, we also I think we always I find even among senior politicians who say, “Hey Imam, I’m a strong Christian, I’m a strong believer,” which is wonderful. They take broad strokes against Islam in general, and their thinking, which is not a good thing.
I have many friends from all over the world. Many of them, of course, are Muslim believers, and they’re no different than you a Christian believer in the sense that they just want a family, they want to take care of their life, they want a stable government, yada yada.
Muslims as American Patriots
But most of the time you have this this stigma that we find sometimes within, you know, Washington D.C. circles, “Oh my gosh, this person is a Muslim! They must be a terrorist!”
And that’s not true at all. We have to approach folks like that with the heart of Jesus. Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners and wine givers. If we have an open heart, we live as a true model of christ, as Christians we find that that even Muslims—and you know people who claim to be Christians but are not true followers—will tend to listen, and gravitate, and then have an open heart to that type of lifestyle. To our lifestyle.
Yeah. In fact even approaching that perspective of American Muslims that love America, and are glad that they came here, and have assimilated, and lived the American dream, our perception sometimes is, “No.”
Let’s just be blunt, a lot of Americans tend to think if you’re a Muslim, and you’re in the U.S., there’s some nefarious reason, right? Instead of saying, “Wait a minute, I know they have a different background, they have a different faith, but they love our country too, and many, many, many that also serve in our military and sacrifice for us.”
So I think knowing that and not having such an isolated view, I admit I’ve been guilty of that because of where I come from. That perception is just, frankly, wrong. So I that’s why it’s important why David wanted us to talk about this, is because, as Christians, when we do approach and we build relationships with our fellow Americans and others around the world, we need to have that broader view and that broader understanding.
Muslims in the U.S. Military
I know so many Muslims who have served in the U.S. military, and they’ve served honorably. Some have laid down their lives for our country. They would do anything to defend and protect who we are as Americans. We say Muslim, it’s not a country. We’re talking about a faith.
And again, remember the lineage is the half brother of Isaac. So they still came from the lineage of Abraham. God did not just just abandon Hagar and Ishmael, He blessed them. Of course they weren’t through the lineage of son the son of promise, but still the Lord had provisions for them as well. So I mean we all are sinners, and we all fall short of the glory of God. So who am I to judge? My job is to love them and share what Jesus taught, and then they make the ultimate decision between them and the Lord.
Well, speaking of that, Rudy, what about conversion? I remember, five or six years ago, talking to somebody and they were saying that there was a higher percentage of conversion from Islam to Christianity than ever in history. Is that still accurate, or was that accurate? Do you see much of that today?
I’m seeing a lot of that today, especially in the war areas in the Middle East and Syria. A couple months ago we had a person who completely—a Muslim that completely gave his life to Jesus—and we didn’t say anything to him. He just was witness to the killings going on by ISIS and al-Qaeda, and saying, “Well, I don’t want any part of that. If that’s the religion, I don’t want a part of it.”
“I Don’t Want Any Part in This”
So he just went looking for an opportunity or something that was different, and that led him to Christianity. All we had to do was pray with him and baptize him in the name of Jesus. Now he’s going around telling everybody about Christ.
So now that’s just one example of many where we’re seeing major conversions to Christ, and especially when you have seen, for example—it happened several years ago when ISIS paraded 21 Coptic Christians on the beach and beheaded all of them in orange jumpsuits in Libya. These guys were martyred, and they were out there singing the praises to the Lord, and they were martyred. After that many, many saw that and many Muslims gave their lives to Jesus saying, “I don’t want any part of that. I’m not like that.”
In fact, that’s what I was going to be my last question for you, with your work with rescuing persecuted Christians and how much you’ve seen that where the responses of the Christians in those persecuted situations has changed hearts, and it’s been even—like this gentleman you talked about—that he saw the cruelty of ISIS in the name of Allah, in the name of Islam, that made them want something different. So the same thing is happening when they see how the persecuted Christians are responding.
Yeah, absolutely. And they also see that the other the other topic you see, because ISIS took a lot of a lot of women, and we’re still rescuing a lot of these women still from inside Syria. The fight continues, and we know we love the support that we’re getting. We need as much as we can.
Forgiveness, a Christian Virtue
Many Christian women, like Yazidi women, have come back pregnant. Many of them, when they were kidnapped, were married and had families. So now what you have is these Christian women now coming back with a child from an ISIS fighters, and now the husband has to take her back and with the kid.
And in Christianity we have something called forgiveness. You don’t see that in the other religions, only in Christianity. So all of a sudden they turn to their priest and they say, “What do we do?”
Of course, the priest takes them to the gospel of forgiveness and the child is assimilated into the Christian homes through love and through forgiveness.
“This is a horrific thing,but we’re going to turn it for good.”
Kind of like a rape victim was a Christian, who raises a child as their own despite the horrific thing they’ve gone through. So people see this and they go, “Oh my gosh, if that’s Christianity, I want to be part of that. I want that same heart.” Instead of, “Why don’t we just take the woman out back, because she was she got pregnant from an ISIS fighter, and kill her and the baby because we don’t want a part of that?”
There are some cultures that do that, but not in Christianity.
What a powerful, powerful witness, Rudy. I’m so thankful for you, brother. Thank you for coming on. Let’s do this again.
I’d love to do it almost like a continued education, but I don’t want to gloss over what you mentioned, the work of rescuing persecuted Christians and folks that, today, want to be a part of that.
Learning the Differences in Muslim Culture and More on WallBuilders Live
If you go to WallBuildersLive.com and go to our contribute link there’s a place for you to donate to the effort of rescue persecuted Christians. 100% of what you give goes to that effort. Rudy and his team are doing phenomenal, phenomenal work. We’ve done several shows with Rudy on that in the past, and I need to do more in the future. But Rudy, bless you, brother. Keep up the great work. Look forward to having you back again soon.
God bless you too. Thank you so much.
Well we are out of time for today, folks. Thanks to Rudy Atallah for joining us today. Thank you for listening. Be sure to visit our website today at WallBuildersLive.com where you can dive into the archives of our past programs over the last few weeks if you’ve missed any of those. It’s also a place that you can make that contribution. Your contributions are what make this program possible and allow us to grow and expand as well.
All of those things happen as a result of you being a force multiplier by donating to the program and allowing us to equip and inspire more citizens across America to help restore America’s constitutional republic. Thank you so much for listening today. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.