In my most recent post on Harry’s Place, I noted that Dr Anthony McRoy, whom I have blogged on extensively before, has cited a Holocaust denier in one of his articles. In March 2009, Dr McRoy addressed Cheam Baptist Church, based in Sutton in Surray, and preached on Islam (listen here). McRoy is preaching to Christians about what he perceives as misinterpretation of Christian belief in the Quran, and encourages his hearers to share their beliefs with Muslims. McRoy advises his listeners:
“The first thing to say is that what the Quran says is not what we believe.”
Yet whilst McRoy is happy to share this advice with the lay people of Cheam Baptist Church, things take an interesting turn when McRoy himself addresses Muslims and Quranic theology. In 2007, Anthony McRoy attended the International Conference of Mahdist Doctrine in Iran and delivered a lecture entitled ‘The solace of the savior and HEZBOLLAH’s victory: belief in the MAHDI and JESUS as an encouragement to resistance.’
His talk in Iran makes for an interesting comparison with his talk in Cheam.
In Cheam he says of warfare:
“In our evangelism we must always keep to the strategy of spiritual warfare that Jesus has given us. We don’t return evil for evil.”
In Iran he says of warfare:
…we may term the Iranian Revolution as the Victorious Revolution of the Mahdi. This naturally brings us to Hezbollah. The internal foe in Lebanon – the Israeli occupation – was different than in Iran. Here it was externally-based, but was ‘internal’ in the sense of occupying the land. Hezbollah fused together the example of Imam Hussein in martyrdom with eschatological expectation of the Mahdi. Hezbollah also used one of its own special types of resistance against the Zionist enemy that is the suicide attacks. These attacks dealt great losses to the enemy on all thinkable levels such as militarily and mentally. The attacks also raised the moral [i.e. morale] across the whole Islamic nation.
McRoy spends a few minutes talking about the Christ of Christianity, whilst arguing against Quranic texts about the nature of God and the person of Jesus. McRoy is very certain that Christianity is true and Islam is false in Cheam. Yet in Iran, McRoy takes a decidedly more ecumenical approach:
There are surprising analogies between the solace that Mahdist expectation gives Muslims and that which Messianic expectation gives Christians. The issue of solace in all its aspects – above all, the encouragement to prepare the way for the coming of the Saviour – is a neglected factor in Western studies of religion, largely perhaps because of the post-religious character of especially European academic discourse and its presuppositions.
Atheists and people who marginalise God simply cannot understand the idea of faith as a power to motivate people to endure oppression, and even to conquer it. This is what was so difficult for many Westerners to comprehend about the Iranian Revolution. Similarly, by all normal considerations, a few thousand poorly-armed guerrillas in Lebanon should not have been able to resist and beat the strongest military power in the Middle East, but Hezbollah did it twice. What commentators fail to notice was the power of expectation of the Saviour in motivating people in both contexts in their jihad.
Here’s is McRoy’s take on the ‘Saviour’ in Hezbollah’s Khomeinist theology:
Thus, we can truly say that Hezbollah’s victory over the Israeli bombardment in 2006 was the Triumphant Jihad of the Mahdi. The fact of the Mahdi’s inspiration of Hezbollah’s jihad was hidden from the eyes of the Israelis. Yet for the Lebanese Shia, it was only hidden in the sense of the benefits to the Ummah of the Hidden Imam like the sun behind the clouds, as the Hadith illustrates. This is a major failing of secular Western commentators – to underestimate the power of Mahdist expectation in Hezbollah’s struggle.
Here is McRoy in Cheam speaking about paradise:
“The only way a Muslim can have any kind of security about getting to Paradise is if he dies as a martyr. Be very careful when you speak to Muslims about Paradise, because Paradise is not like it is in the Bible. It’s not about having fellowship with God. If you want a big idea of what it is like for a Muslim man, think of Hugh Hefner in the Playboy mansion. I’m not being crude, it says very clearly in the Qu’ran that when you die, you go to Paradise, you’ll get seven beautiful girls, in fact it means basically voluptuous maidens for your sexual pleasure, if he dies a martyr he’ll get seventy-two. And that’s what Paradise is about. You’ve got to be very careful, explain what you mean to a Muslim about Heaven, because he’ll get the wrong idea. So it’s about faith and works.”
And here’s McRoy in Iran talking about Paradise:
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’, Revelaiton 21:4 (cf. 7:17). Similarly, Shia hold that the injustice of the oppression and murder suffered by Hussein and his entourage will be avenged by the coming of the Awaited Saviour. Christians and Muslim alike in Lebanon and Palestine are awaiting their Saviour to return and liberate them. People everywhere who suffer oppression cry out for the Saviour to come and deliver them, just as oppressors should fear His coming. May God hasten His appearance!
So what is the reason for McRoy’s negative opinions on mainstream Islamic theology but his positive outlook on Khomeinist Islamist theology? Given that McRoy is a lecturer and an academic, and an expert on Islam, we can assume he knows what he’s talking about. I can think of various options:
1. Anthony McRoy says different things to different audiences, and thinks that, whilst he should tell other people to preach the Christian message to Muslims, when he himself addresses a Muslim audience, the most important thing to talk about is resistance to Israel (I choose to dub this the Sizer Formulation).
2. Whilst Anthony McRoy deplores mainstream Islamic theology and dislikes the Quran, which he sees as sensual and inaccurate, he sees Khomeinist theology as pure, and ideologically superior to other interpretations of Islam, and therefore the Khomeinist Revolution should be exported to the Middle East via Hezbollah.
3. In its resistance to Zionism, desire for justice, liberation theology, call for social action and Messianic themes, the Khomeinist interpretation of Islam mirrors closely McRoy’s own interpretation of Christianity. Thus McRoy’s theology and Khomeinism meet in an ideological overlap between Christianity and Islam.
Or is there another explanation?
Perhaps Dr McRoy or one of his students could explain what exactly he believes?
He is, after all, widely considered a Christian expert on Islam, so it would be nice if someone could clear this one up.