I’m a Christian and an Interfaith Educator. America Needs Islam.

I am a Christian who was raised, and now choose, to profess Christ as Lord and Savior. I was born into a white middle-class family in suburban Maryland. I was part of the majority of Americans who received little education on Islam. I didn’t know that, in addition to sharing a common humanity, we also shared core teachings of our faith. It was not until I left home, at age 17 that I even met anyone who identified as Muslim.

Now I work at Davidson College in the Chaplain’s Office, as an interfaith educator. My job includes supporting students who live faithfully according to the practice and teachings of Islam. Every day, I find that students who identify as Muslim teach me to be a better Christian and a better citizen.

Islam deeply values humility. The Arabic word Muslim means “one who submits [to God].” Submission takes many forms, including daily time for prayer and bowing oneself before God, offering hospitality to one’s family and neighbors, and cherishing peace. I learn from practitioners of Islam the teaching of Jesus that “those who humble themselves will be exalted,” for they place God before all else (Matthew 23:12). Without humility, we destroy our own social fabric.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOJOURNERS 

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The Muslim Jesus provides common ground for Christianity, Islam

Iraqi man carrying cross and Quran attends Mass  in BaghdadAs the country sits transfixed with one of the strangest, divisive and most unpredictable presidencies in the history of the United States, lost in the madness has been the increase in Islamophobia since Donald Trump was elected president.

Islamophobia, defined as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims” has become frighteningly commonplace in the U.S. and this hatred and misinformation has found fertile soil in the past eight months of the Trump presidency.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented 451 incidents that stemmed from anti-Muslim bias between April 1 and June 30, 2017, 15 percent of which were acts of violence against Muslims. This represents a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during that time compared to the same time period in 2016.

These crimes occur in a conducive environment. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 rated Muslims at 48 degrees, the lowest on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer” out of nine religious groups in the United States, two points lower than atheists. Particularly negative feelings towards Muslims were harbored by Republicans and those who were Republican-leaning.

The irony here is that most Americans really have no idea what is in the Quran, the Muslim equivalent of the Bible, beyond the mostly negative and out of context soundbites they hear on talk radio, cable TV or the internet. They have no idea that the three monotheistic religions that follow the same Abrahamic tradition, namely that Abraham was the first prophet of God, are Judaism, Christianity and yes, the third sibling, Islam.

All three religions were born in the Middle East and are inextricably linked to each another. While Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism. In fact, Islam sees itself as the culmination of the Abrahamic faiths, the final revelation by God in the monotheistic tradition.

The Quran specifically protects Jews and Christians as Peoples of the Book, the “Book” meaning revelations from God to Jews and Christians which gives them a spiritual connection to Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

Commentary: Have questions about Islam? Let’s talk about them

newsEngin.19474449_rbb-True-Islam-2Courage is facing fear head on. One does not have to go through heroic situations to show courage; it can be found in the simple everyday actions. In this day and age, when the words “Islam” and “terrorism” have unfortunately become synonymous, I had a unique opportunity to talk to a group of women who wanted to learn about the truth of Islam directly from a Muslim.

Despite their understandable reservations and possible fear, they took the first step of starting a dialogue instead of being passive and believing in what they were told. I am thankful to them — not only for making me feel welcomed, but allowing me to feel as an equal part of the society.

I am an immigrant from Pakistan and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect of Islam that has faced religious persecution for decades by its own countrymen. I grew up with fear of being judged and verbally abused because of my religious beliefs. In recent years, all those feelings have become all too familiar again as the media focuses only on the actions of some Muslim countries’ unjustifiable political agendas and label it as the Islamic way of life.

By receiving the invitation from St. John’s Presbyterian Church bible study group, I was not only honored, but my faith in the general American public was restored. I was treated with utmost respect and love and was asked genuine questions to help remove the misconceptions regarding Islam. I was given the chance to explain various aspects of our lives, which follow the true teachings of Islam.

We talked about jihad, which now is commonly perceived as the license to kill in the name of spreading the religion. The literal meaning of jihad is “struggle,” which is first applied in self-reformation. Only after that, when one becomes a portrayal of a true Muslim, he or she can spread the teachings of Islamic faith through his or her way of life and dialogue. I had the opportunity to discuss the rights of women, education, marriage and many other aspects of life as per Islamic teachings. It was no surprise that we found our religions to be quite similar. We follow the same guidelines to live a meaningful life in love and peace, which eventually lead us to finding God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MY STATESMAN 

The Clash of Ignorance

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Labels like “Islam” and “the West” serve only to confuse us about a disorderly reality.

By Edward W. Said

This article, referenced in the previous news item, appeared in the Nation in 2001.  Its insights remain valid as a much-needed critique to the kind of simplistic categorizations often employed in the media to describe a complex reality.   What was valid in 2001 continues to be valid today, perhaps even more so today given our contentious political environment. 

—————– Samuel Huntington’s article “The Clash of Civilizations?” appeared in the Summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs, where it immediately attracted a surprising amount of attention and reaction. Because the article was intended to supply Americans with an original thesis about “a new phase” in world politics after the end of the cold war, Huntington’s terms of argument seemed compellingly large, bold, even visionary. He very clearly had his eye on rivals in the policy-making ranks, theorists such as Francis Fukuyama and his “end of history” ideas, as well as the legions who had celebrated the onset of globalism, tribalism and the dissipation of the state. But they, he allowed, had understood only some aspects of this new period. He was about to announce the “crucial, indeed a central, aspect” of what “global politics is likely to be in the coming years.” Unhesitatingly he pressed on:

 “It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”

Most of the argument in the pages that followed relied on a vague notion of something Huntington called “civilization identity” and “the interactions among seven or eight [sic] major civilizations,” of which the conflict between two of them, Islam and the West, gets the lion’s share of his attention. In this belligerent kind of thought, he relies heavily on a 1990 article by the veteran Orientalist Bernard Lewis, whose ideological colors are manifest in its title, “The Roots of Muslim Rage.” In both articles, the personification of enormous entities called “the West” and “Islam” is recklessly affirmed, as if hugely complicated matters like identity and culture existed in a cartoonlike world where Popeye and Bluto bash each other mercilessly, with one always more virtuous pugilist getting the upper hand over his adversary. Certainly neither Huntington nor Lewis has much time to spare for the internal dynamics and plurality of every civilization, or for the fact that the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture, or for the unattractive possibility that a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilization. No, the West is the West, and Islam Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATION 

What Christianity and Islam have in common

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Profiles with Christian and Islamic symbols

There are many people today who argue Islam and Christianity are locked in a civilizational war, a view that has become a rationale for a number of the Trump administration’s policies.

This argument, however, is an inaccurate and simplistic assessment of the relationship between these two faiths. Quite distinct from the apocalyptic struggle many espouse, an examination of the foundations of the Islamic faith shows respect for Christianity.

Islam is part of the same Abrahamic tradition as Christianity. Key figures within the Bible — Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), Mary (Maryam), and Jesus (Isa) among others — are all respected prophets and figures within Islam. There is a chapter in the Quran about Mary and, within the Quran, Jesus is the only person who can perform miracles.

Within Islam, Christians and Jewish people are therefore treated as “People of the Book” whose rights and religious traditions were to be fully protected as monotheistic faiths with revelations understood to be earlier versions of the same revelation to the Prophet of Islam.

The protection that Christian communities were meant to receive under Islam was enshrined in a letter of protection from Prophet Muhammad to the Christian monks at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai in the early seventh century. This letter promised the monks that, under Islamic rule, the Christian community, as a “people of the book”, shall have the freedom to practice their religion and be protected from any unlawful interference or molestation, whether in their communities or while traveling. Distinct from a war with Christianity, Prophet Muhammad further stated, “No one shall bear arms against [Christians], but, on the contrary, the [Muslims] shall wage war for them.”

The respect that Muslims have for Jesus in particular is demonstrated by the verses of Hafez, the most famous and beloved of Muslim poets from the 14th century. In one stanza, he writes, “I am a hole in a flute that the breath of Christ moves through/Listen to this music.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TENNESSEAN 

Why Islam Overtaking Christianity is Good for Christians

14359962849_1440794a9b_cApparently, Pew Research projects that Islam will overtake Christianity as the world’s largest religion by the year 2070.  This projection is based mainly on birth rates – Muslim women have more children than other religious groups, at 3.1 per woman for Muslims versus 2.3 for others.  In addition, the average age for Muslims is seven years younger – 23 – than other religious groups.

Naturally, many American Christians, especially conservative-evangelical types, are terrified.  Many already hold persecution complexes, and this knowledge seems to vindicate their xenophobic fear that “they” are taking over (even though by the time Islam becomes the world’s largest religion, Muslims will still only make up about 2% of the US population).

Reactionary violence aside (and no matter what happens, reactionary Christians gonna react), this impending de-throning of Christianity as the world’s largest religion is the best thing to happen to Christianity since the Reformation.  Finally, at long last, Christians will have to wake up.

No more can we rest on our laurels, assured that we’ve somehow “won” the game of religion.  No longer can Christian spiritual arrogance and chauvinism stand when Christians are a minority.

It will no longer be enough that we have converted the most people, or hoarded the most wealth.  Churches will no longer be able to fall back on the argumentum ad populum.

FULL ARITLCE FROM PATHEOS

On Islam, Christianity, and Violence

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It appears that Steve Bannon believes Islamic values are antithetical to almost everything that’s American and even that Islam today is essentially violent. At the same time, college students in my Introduction to Religion are certainly aware of the slogan that “Islam is peace.” Therefore it cannot be associated with disagreement and certainly not violence in any way. (One might just as easily quip that Christianity centers on “Jesus, the Prince of Peace,” and with that, we can be done with the history of violence in the name of Christ.)

To my mind, worst of all is the idea that “my religion” isn’t violent—and when it is, it’s not my religion. (And conversely, “your religion” is always violent.) Even the great Christian thinker Blaise Pascal realized that this is a phony rejoinder (the “No a True Scotsman” defense) and commented scathingly,

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Pascal

(If this topic doesn’t seem important question, can I remind you that this week Trump signed a revised travel ban, targeting Muslim-majority nations?)

Actually, none of these actually describes us what Muslims and Christians are doing today, or have done throughout the years. At the center of this controversy over religious violence lurks the human tendency toward oversimplifications, especially what is one of the most difficult realities to figure out: human nature… especially when fueled by religious devotion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST