Mr. Patterson began the meeting with a presentation that highlighted several verses from the Koran which seem to support violence. While he pointed out his belief that most Muslims do not practice violence and that Muslims are the best ones to interpret these verses, he is genuinely interested in understanding their meaning and influence. Mr. Issa's presentation, which immediately followed Mr. Patterson's, began with his reading several verses that support violence. Many dealt with violence against women for various infractions. After reading these he revealed that they came from the Bible.
Questions from the crowd focused on Christianity vs. Islam with respect to violence. Most if not all of the verses quoted by Mr. Issa were from the Old Testament. It was felt that Christianity supports non-violence as embodied in Christ's statement to turn the other cheek when struck. Christ's disciples, one man argued, also exhibited non-violence, crucified as evangelists rather than living as warriors. Mr. Issa pointed out that Christian nations do not adhere to this practice when it comes to their defense, and that Christian members of the crowd would not behave passively if attacked. While admitting that Christianity has its own violent background, some in the crowd argued that much of that violence of Christian history would not be supported by our scriptures and that self-defense is not prohibited by the Bible.
While I doubt anyone changed their opinion as a result of the meeting, most seemed truly appreciative of Mr. Issa for sharing his views. It took a great deal of courage for him to do so given the events of last summer when a young man from an Islamic background committed tragic and senseless acts of violence in our community. The merit of the meeting is that it gave us an opportunity to meet with one another and to share opinions respectfully. This, I hear, is exactly what terrorist groups such as ISIS do not want. If anything positive happened as a result of last summer's tragedy in Chattanooga, it is that to my knowledge there were no acts of violence against Muslims. Moreover, Muslims in the community themselves canceled their Ramadan services and instead met with Christians in an ecumenical service at a local Baptist church. That, when you think about it, is amazing. I can't say if that is what Mohammad would have wanted, but it is what Christ would want. As far as ISIS is concerned, we won.