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Why the Afghan shooting imperils Americans

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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An Afghan woman is interviewed next to the body of a child killed by a rogue US soldier in Kandahar province, March 11, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Nadeem)

The shooting of 16 Afghan civilians last Sunday continues to lead world headlines. Anti-Americanism was already boiling over in Afghanistan after U.S. troops burned Qur’ans last month and a video of Marines debasing alleged Taliban corpses was posted on the Internet in January.

Now we learn that the soldier charged in the assault experienced a traumatic brain injury at one point and had problems at home after his last deployment. However, he was considered fit for combat duty and deployed to Afghanistan in December. This was his fourth overseas assignment in 10 years.

The shooting occurred at 3 AM in three houses in two villages in southern Kandahar province. All 16 victims were shot in their homes; 11 were members of a single family. The soldier then turned himself in and remains in NATO custody.

Outrage has been swift. The Taliban vowed revenge against “sick-minded American savages.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the act “an assassination, one that cannot be forgiven.” The Afghan parliament has asked for a public trial of the U.S. soldier. President Obama called Mr. Karzai “to express his shock and sadness at the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians.” Monday night, Rick Santorum said that if the soldier did what has been alleged, the Afghan people deserve an apology from America.

This is an atrocity of the worst kind in any context. What makes this attack so much worse is the way it plays into the theological narrative we must do everything we can to refute. The Qur’an requires Muslims to defend Islam against attack (2:190-193). Radical Muslims have interpreted our military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan not as self-defense but as an assault on Islam. They are doing everything they can to rally the larger Muslim world to their continued terrorism campaign against us, claiming that they are defending the faith against the infidels. When an American kills innocent civilians, such violence plays directly into this assertion and imperils our military and civilians across the Muslim world.

If the allegations against this soldier prove true, our authorities must do everything they can to respond in a way that demonstrates our respect for the Afghan people and the Muslim faith. We who follow Jesus as our Lord must also do what we can to show Muslims that our nation’s war with radical Islam is not an attack on all Muslims

Last Sunday morning, as Janet and I ate breakfast in our Houston hotel, we began talking with our server—a man named Muhammad, an immigrant from Bangladesh 15 years ago. During our conversation I expressed my hope that he would not see the War on Terror as an attack against him or his Muslim faith. He smiled and said that most Americans had been very kind to him. He spoke in especially glowing terms of a Jewish neighbor who had helped him during his move to Houston. “This is the way all religions should be,” he said. We agreed.

Jesus’ “new command” is still his will for his followers: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Would you ask God to help you befriend a Muslim today? Would you join me in praying daily for a great spiritual awakening in the Muslim world?