One of the largest Bible translators in the world is undergoing an independent review after critics claimed language in some of their translations intended for Muslim countries misses the essential Christian idea of Trinity: the father, son and the holy spirit or ghost.
Critics argue that using words like “Messiah” instead of “Son” and “Lord” instead of “Father” badly distorts the doctrine, in which God is said to be one being in three persons.
“If you remove `son,’ you have to remove `father,’ and if you remove those, the whole thread of the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is unraveled,” said the Rev. Georges Houssney, the president of Horizons International, a Christian organization that works extensively with Muslims and himself a translator of the Bible into Arabic.
News flash: Muslims are the most optimistic religious group in America right now. They are more likely than other religious groups to be satisfied with their lives and to see their standard of living improving. In terms of attitudes toward violent extremism, Muslim Americans are the least likely of all major religious groups to say that attacks on civilians are justifiable. And more than 9 out of 10 Muslim Americans say they are loyal to this country.
If you have colleagues and friends who are Muslim American, these findings from a newGallup poll are probably not surprising. But if you know Muslim Americans only through the skewed lens of the media, you might be shocked. That’s because there is a huge gap between the way Muslim Americans—and their religion, Islam—are seen in the media and who they really are.
In the media—and in resulting public perceptions—Muslims tend to be default, all-purpose villains. They are innately suspect, hostile to democracy, and the likely perpetrators of terrorist attacks anywhere in the world. From the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 to the Norway bombing this July, many pundits and reporters were quick to say that Muslims did it, even before the facts were in.
WASHINGTON – It will happen for just one Sunday in June, but on that day, dozens of houses of worship across the United States will open their pulpits to clergy from the other two Abrahamic faiths to read from their scriptures.
The project, called Faith Shared, is set for June 26. A few synagogues and mosques are among those that have signed up for the initiative, as well as Christian communities across the denominational spectrum, including one Catholic church in North Carolina.
“Just having something public is not going to be a big, big deal here, but to have someone come in and read from the Quran and to recognize publicly the existence of Islam and to reverence and respect is a good thing for the church to do,” said Jesuit Father Pat Earl, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Charlotte, N.C.
The project is co-sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First.
New beginning A villager in Sol looks over a Coptic
church that Muslims helped rebuild after it was
destroyed in May by extremists
When President Obama stepped into the State Department on May 19 to deliver his long-awaited speech on the Middle East, he did so amid fears that the Arab Spring was devolving into a Summer of Discontent. Egypt was sagging under a weakening economy and escalating crime; NATO’s efforts in Libya were stuck in neutral; the Syrian government was boasting that its rebellion was over. Sectarian tensions were roiling Bahrain and Syria, and a wave of church burnings in Cairo had spawned a week of deadly violence between Muslims and Christians.
In his speech, Obama confronted these religious struggles head-on. “In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation,” he said. “For this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.”(See “Obama Struggles to Keep Pace with the Middle East Mess.”)
Beyond their political implications, the religious dimensions of the Middle East uprisings have always been central, particularly to the West. Ever since 9/11, the West and Islam have been locked in a chilly standoff. The relationship was captured by Harvard professor Samuel Huntington’s lightning-rod phrase “the Clash of Civilizations.” Huntington’s thesis, which was roundly trashed when it was published as an article in 1993 but became a best seller in book form following Sept. 11, was that Islam taught Muslims to be hostile to freedom, pluralism and individualism.
(CNN) – Osama bin Laden wore the mantle of a religious leader. He looked the part and talked a good game, but his theology was a radical departure from traditional orthodox Islam.
The pitch to join al Qaeda did not start with an invitation to put on a suicide vest but, like other religious splinter groups and cults, took advantage of disenfranchisement and poverty.
Bin Laden had no official religious training but developed his own theology of Islam.
“We don’t know that (bin Laden) was ever exposed to orthodox Islamic teachings,” said Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University.
The writing of ideologues in the Muslim Brotherhood influenced bin Laden heavily, Moosa said.
“He takes scriptural imperatives at their face value and believes this is the only instruction and command God has given him – unmediated by history, unmediated by understanding, unmediated by human experience. Now that’s a difference between Muslim orthodoxy and what I would call uber- or hyperscripturalists,” Moosa said.
The vast majority of Islamic scholars and imams say the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed happened in historical context that needs to be understood when reading and interpreting the Quran.
As Egyptians shape their political destiny, there are questions about whether the Christian-Muslim unity seen during the popular uprising will hold.
On this Sunday morning, Christians attend mass in Egypt’s Coptic Cairo neighborhood, where they have worshipped since pre-Islamic times. Egypt’s Coptic community is the largest Christian population in the Arab world, as Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 82 million people.
St. Mark the apostle introduced Christianity to Egypt 2,000 years ago. And, in this modern time of political uncertainty, Egypt’s Christians say they trust in their ancient faith.
Having been in Cairo since just before the uprising began I’ve witnessed the tensions between Muslims and Christians erupt into violence over the past week, which has resulted in a church being attacked, and fighting between Egyptian citizens. The response of the country was unanimous, and I saw it play out on Friday, the first after this outbreak. Friday has become the day of prayer and protest in Egypt every week – and they do go hand in hand here.
The sermons across the mosques are calling for national unity, and are castigating any Muslim who might think that Islam permits any action against Christians. The sermons are clear: Christians have as much right to be in Egypt as Muslims, and they stand together against the forces of counter-revolution.
And following the sermons of the Friday congregational prayer of the Muslims, Muslims and Christians gather in Tahrir Square, the birth-place of the revolution that saw Muslims and Christians protecting each other and standing over each other in prayer. And in that square, as all over Egypt, they are calling for unity among Muslims and Christians and to stand firm against extremists from all quarters.
In the summer of 1991 our family was home on leave from Bahrain where I was serving as pastor of an international church. It was the summer of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. One night we had the privilege of getting together for dinner with three other families with decades of experience in the Arabian Gulf and Egypt. It was good to be together as our shared experience gave weight and immediacy to what was on everyone’s minds at that time – the invasion.
Kuwait wasn’t the only thing we talked about that night. Our conversation ebbed and flowed around familiar expatriate themes served up with a dash of nostalgia, a pinch of friendly controversy (old Middle East hands can be a contentious lot) and some thoughtful reflection about what the future might bring. It was then that my former mentor in Cairo put on his prophet’s robe, saying something that I have never forgotten:
What we see in the Gulf are countries that have been artificially kept under autocratic rule at least partly because of American support. We support them because they represent stability even though we claim to want democracy. This can’t last, however. These well educated, increasingly sophisticated young Arabs are not going to remain silent much longer. They will soon be demanding the same freedoms we have. Hopefully America will be on the right side when they do.
This prophesy is now coming true in Bahrain. Encouraged by the successful revolution in Egypt, this otherwise peaceful little country – our home for seven years – is experiencing the very convulsions towards freedom that my mentor saw coming twenty years ago. And now similar uprisings are taking place in other countries in the region.
Muslims and Christians can work together to depose dictators and assert the power of the people. We’ve seen it happen on the Tahrir Square in Cairo during the 2011 revolution in Egypt, with devout Muslims and Coptic Christians protesting side by side. But can Muslims and Christians work together to build a democratic society in which rights of all are respected, the rights of minority Coptic Christians no less than the rights of majority Muslims? They can, if they have a common set of fundamental values. But do they? They do, if they, both monotheists, have a common God.
In America and in Egypt, should a majority religion inspire political life? How will Islam play a role in the struggles for democracy happening now in Egypt and other parts of the Muslim world?
Blaming Egyptian political problems on Islam is akin to blaming Confucius for the barbarism of the Chinese communist governments. The thugs and plutocrats looting the economy of Egypt are not notably religious.