A Framework for Christian-Muslim Relations

HistoryChristianity and Islam are the two dominant religious groups in our world. According to the Pew Research Center Report, the number of Muslims worldwide will be “nearly as numerous as Christians” by 2050. The study also points to the interesting statistic that for the first time in history, the number of Christians and Muslims will be 2.9 billion and 2.8 billion respectively. In view of this, interfaith relations assume an added significance. Christians and Muslims have a duty to work toward peace and betterment of humanity through a shared framework. It is imperative that the mainstream leadership take an active role in promoting positive relations that are based on the universal principles of these two world religions.

The extremely heinous acts committed by “Muslim” terrorist groups like ISIS are a betrayal of Islamic teachings, in the same way the genocide of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR) by “Christian” terrorists is a betrayal of Christian teachings; or the violence against Christians and Muslims in India by “Hindu” terrorists is a betrayal of Hinduism; or the violence against the Rohingiya Muslims in Burma by “Buddhist” terrorists is a betrayal of Buddhism. These horrendous acts should not be allowed to deflate the desire and passion among mainstream followers of all religions to continue to build relationships toward making this world safe for our future generations.

As I noted in my earlier blog, the Christian-Muslim Dialogue sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Dr. Jay Rock and Dr. Jamal Badawi were the keynote speakers at this celebration. Dr. Badawi’s framework for Muslim-Christian relations from a Muslim perspective was quite compelling. I would like to summarize that framework, quoting from his world renowned research paper, which is considered a mainstream thesis.

1. Faith in One Universal God (Allah in Arabic language):  Islam is founded on the belief that there is only one God, who is the universal Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher of all. Being the sole creator of all humankind precludes any notion of multiple, competing creators, each marshalling his creation against the other “gods” and their creation. Allah is One and is impartial toward His creation. He provides for all, including those who reject faith in Him, or even those who defy Him. He cares for the well being of all and gives them ample opportunity to repent to Him and end the state of separateness suffered by those who reject Him or are unmindful of Him. This belief implies that all humans are equal before Allah in terms of their humanity, irrespective of their particular beliefs. Only Allah is the ultimate judge of any person’s “theological correctness.” No human should be oppressed or mistreated by other fellow humans because of a perceived “theological incorrectness.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE 

Q&A: How would you respond if your Christian daughter became a Muslim?

18775Alana Raybon was baptized as a child in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She attended youth activities and vacation Bible school and even sang in the choir. But today, she wears a headscarf and worships Allah.

Her mother, Patricia, describes Alana’s conversion to Islam as “heartbreaking,” and yet, they’ve found a way to love each other despite the faith divide. They share their struggles in “Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace,” a book that begs a vital question: “How would you respond if your Christian child converted to Islam?”

Religion News Service talked to them about their experience. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Alana, tell us the story behind your conversion.

Alana: I developed a love and reverence for God in church, but I couldn’t connect with the idea of the Trinity. I didn’t let my mother know about these feelings, and patiently waited to feel a connection to this concept. In my 20s, I began searching for spiritual enrichment and came upon the concept of Islamic monotheism — the idea of God being one, solely, without any associate. I became inspired to learn more about Islam and converted to the faith as a junior in college and called my mother to share the news.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DESERET NEWS

The 21st century call for Islamic Reformation

irshad-manjiIrshad Manji, a Canadian television journalist and commentator, is a Muslim. She is on the front line of the public’s question about Islam. All made up looking like a model, but actually very tomboyish, she has become the cover girl of Melbourne’s The Age magazine with the caption, “Meet Irshad Manji.” Some say she was the late Osama Bin Laden’s worst nightmare.

Reporter Johann Hari described her in an interview: “Irshad is a key figure in the civil war within 21st century Islam. She is the Saladin of progressive Muslims, an outrider for the notion that you can be both a faithful Muslim and a mouthy, fiercely democratic Canadian. She does not drink alcohol and she does not eat pork.”

Christianity’s Reformation happened in the 16th century

“What I want is an Islamic reformation,” Irshad says. “Christianity did it in the 16thcentury. Now, we are long overdue. If there was ever a moment for our reformation, it’s now, when Muslim countries are in poverty and despair. For the love of God, what are we doing about it?”

The core concept in Manji’s thought – and that of all progressive Muslims – is Ijtihad. Ijtihad is the application of reason and reinterpretation to the message of the Koran. It allows every Muslim to reconsider the message of the Koran for the changed circumstances of the 21st century.“What was true for the 9th century Mecca and Medina may not be the best interpretation of Allah’s message today,” Irshad exclaims.

This seems obvious to post-religious European ears, but it is literally heresy to conservative and even most mainstream Muslims. Irshad explains, “At this stage, reform isn’t about telling ordinary Muslims what not to think. It’s about giving the permission to think. We can’t be afraid to ask: What if the Koran isn’t perfect? What if it’s not a completely God-authored book? What if it’s riddled with human biases?”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PHILSTAR

Top Islamic University, Muslim Leaders Condemn ISIS’ Slaughter of Ethiopian Christians, Say It Goes ‘Against Any Religion’

isisThe University of Al Azhar, the highest academic center of Sunni Islam, along with Muslim governments in the region have condemned the slaughter of 28 Ethiopian Christians in a video released by ISIS on Sunday.

The statement from Al Azhar, attributed to Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb and sent to Agenzia Fides, calls the mass killings a “heinous crime, committed by the Daesh terrorist group, which goes against any religion, law or human conduct.”

The terror group has targeted Christians in its attacks throughout the past year, and in February executed 21 Egyptian Coptics in another video posted online.

Muhammad Dayri, the foreign minister of Libya condemned the latest murders carried out by ISIS, and called them “barbaric.”

“This is not the first time that these hordes of ISIL operate with tragic and horrible actions in Libya,” Dayri said at a meeting of African and Asian leaders in Jakarta, referring to the February executions.

Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry also spoke out against the slaughter of Ethiopian Christians and the religious nature of the crime.al-azhar-mosque-in-the-old-city-of-cairo-december-2-2011

“The Foreign Ministry condemns, in the strongest terms, terrorist organization ISIS’ slaughter and killing in cold blood of 28 innocent Christian Ethiopians in Libya, whose only sin was to not believe in ISIS’ takfiri ideas and delusional teachings,” the ministry said, expressing solidarity with the Ethiopian people in light of “this painful tragedy.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST 

Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell in Christian and Islamic Perspectives

heavenThe Catholic University of St. Thomas hosts a Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center.  Their website includes good summations of contrasting Christian and Islamic views on various topics, including key theological concepts.  Here is one of their postings in this case contrasting the Muslm and Christian views on death, heaven and hell. The article begins with the Christian perspective followed by the Muslim perspective.  Makes for interesting reading.

Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell: A Christian Perspective

In Christian tradition, death is the end of individual life on earth, but not the end of personal consciousness, which survives the death of the body as the soul.  Death, then, is the separation of the soul from the earthly body. However, the whole Christian tradition hopes for reunification of the soul with a resurrected and transformed body at the end of history, so the soul will, once again, be embodied in the resurrection.

The process of death is difficult for most people. Not only does it entail pain, but increased dependence on others. Consequently, many people hope for a quick and painless death. But in Christian tradition, a sudden and unexpected death is not a good death. This is because Christians believe that at death one comes into the presence of God, and therefore of judgment. For this one needs to be prepared. Jesus teaches that we must repent (Mark 1:14), learn to love one another (Matthew 22:36-40) and forgive those who have wronged us, otherwise we ourselves will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). The time of dying therefore is an extremely important period in which to forgive others, say goodbye to loved ones, settle one’s material affairs, and most importantly make one’s peace with God. Death is the end of our earthly journey, but is the beginning of the much longer journey in the afterlife. In Christian teaching, this afterlife journey can be a beautiful and fulfilling experience or it can be traumatic (see Matthew 5; 25: 31-46).

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS WEBSITE 

Kenya’s Christians and Muslims divided over amnesty plan

RNS-ALSHABAB-KENYANAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Religious tensions between Christians and Muslims have flared after the government extended amnesty to youth who denounce the Muslim terrorist group al-Shabab, a step Christian leaders condemned.

On Tuesday (April 14), Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said the government was giving a 10-day amnesty to repentant members of the militant group if they surrender and assemble at government offices in Garissa, Mombasa or Nairobi.

Hundreds of Kenyan youth from the predominantly Muslim coastal and northeastern regions and Nairobi are believed to have been recruited by the Somalia-based al-Shabab insurgency.

But the move, which comes two weeks after al-Shabab killed 148 mostly Christian students at Garissa University College, appeared to further divide Christians and Muslims.

“We have often turned the other cheek, but now the cheeks have run out,” said the Rev. Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya. “The government must move with speed to definitely and openly punish the perpetrators of the attacks before Kenyans take the law in their own hands and foment an endless religious war.”Although Muslim leaders say they, too, are victims of terror attacks, Christian leaders feel that Muslims have not been forthright in addressing terror challenges.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGIOUS NEWS SERVICE 

‘Radical Muslims’ clothing line aims to shatter stereotypes

Unknown1(RNS) Radical Muslims. The phrase elicits images of ISIS militants and terror in the desert, perhaps grainy YouTube videos, Kalashnikovs, and raised fists.

What about a man in an ankle-length garment and cotton headscarf carving the air with his skateboard?

Along with shirts bearing the “Radical Muslims” image and a Nike-like swoosh saying “Just Dua It” (dua being nonobligatory Muslim prayer, or supplications), Boston-based Munir Hassan has created an entire line of stereotype-shattering clothing for American Muslims.

In an explicit attempt to flip the script on popular images of Muslims and Islamic symbols, Hassan’s own Sidikii Clothing Co. merges cultures in fashion-forward, Muslim inspired designs.

“I’m Muslim, I’m American; I was born both,” Hassan said. “I wanted to design clothing that showcased different pieces of my culture inclusively.”

Hassan started screen-printing his own shirts a few years ago. When friends, family, and people on the street started asking questions about his T-shirts, he launched Sidikii Clothing Co.

In aiming to proclaim “a positive message in a negative space”—the company’s motto—Hassan and his customers are part of a wider stream of media resistance against popular, too often stereotypical, conceptions of Muslims in America. Increasingly, individuals and communities are using billboards, graffiti, music, dancing, and clothing to express irony, anger, humor, and resistance to the status quo.

Clothing can prove to be a powerful communicator of inner convictions, said David Morgan, chair of the department of religious studies at Duke University.

“That is because it is a kind of second skin, the skin you opt for, display openly and use to fit into a social body, a collective reality, that matters to you,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY