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Review: Only Kafirs Ask Questions

Grant Lock and his wife Janna served with CMS for 24 years in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In this edited extract from his autobiography Shoot Me First, Grant reminds us that the political troubles in the Middle East started long before the Arab Spring…

Islamabad, 2002

“My name is Wurzan, and I come from Iraq.”

Over lunch he tells us his story. “I am a Kurd from Halabja, the town that Saddam Hussein gassed last year.”

“Is that why you left Iraq?”

“No! The main reason was that I asked too many questions.”

“About what?”

“About life and about our religion. My father is a teacher and a very religious Muslim, but he couldn’t answer them.” Wurzan reaches hungrily for his fourth piece of naan. “My father took me to the local religious leaders, the Maulvis. They were not happy. They told me that it is wrong to ask questions about our holy religion. It shows a lack of faith. Only unbelievers ask questions. On the way home my father told me that I had embarrassed him and dishonoured him. ‘Only kafirs ask questions,’ he said.”

I take up our guest’s concern. “I’ve often wondered why people can’t ask questions in Islam, Wurzan. It claims to have the answers for life, yet it seems oversensitive about people wanting to scrutinise it. And it’s particularly sensitive if a Muslim investigates another religious system. That isn’t the sign of a confident religion; it’s a sign of insecurity and control.”

Wurzan nods. “Young people are told to be quiet and just accept everything. But in the university, my lecturer encouraged us to explore and evaluate.”

“What university studies did you complete?” Janna asks.

He sets his jaw. “They wouldn’t let me finish. They threw me in jail and made sure I stayed there during the final examinations.”

“But why?”

“I was a student of law and I was asking questions about human rights in our country.”

I can’t help but admire the pluckiness of this young Iraqi intellectual.

“So tell me, Wurzan,” Janna asks, “how did you get out of jail?”

“My relatives arranged it, but I was frightened. I knew I would always be watched. If Saddam could kill five thousand Kurds with gas, he could easily deal with me.”

“So you got out.”

He nods. “I came via Iran, and I have already been to the United Nations here to apply for asylum in a Western country.”

I can see that this young refugee doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet. “Well, Wurzan, we wish you well in the West. At least you’ll be able to ask questions more freely.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“But there is one question that many people in the West are asking, and it’s a question Muslims never ask.”

He raises an eyebrow. “And what is that?”

“Is there intelligence behind everything, an intelligent creator?”

He gives half a laugh. “But anyone can see that there is creative intelligence behind everything. Why don’t they accept that in the West?”

“That’s easy. It’s because they might have to ask the next two questions.”

“And what are they?”

“If there is an intelligent creator, what is that creator like? And secondly, where do I fit in?”


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