So you’re scared of Islam? By that logic, you should be scared of Christianity as well

muslimSince the 45th President of the United States took office last January, the social, economic, and cultural landscape of the U.S. has shifted. For the average American, these changes are not terribly pronounced. Sure, their taxes may go up or down a little, and they may not be able to afford health care, but for the stereotypical white, red-blooded American, there is no worry of physical safety nor cultural belonging. This is not the case for many Muslims living in the United States under reign of President Trump.

Islam is the most feared and misunderstood religion in America. Despite notions of American diversity, Americans are grossly intolerant of Islam.

For many years after 9/11 the villain in action movies were Islamic terrorists. The film and television industry capitalizes on popular opinion when selecting the archetypal “bad guy” for the silver screen. These days the villains tend to be Russian or vaguely North Korean, again reflecting the zeitgeist of American mob mentality. Perhaps the term “American” here is disingenuous and I should be more specific. A Pew Research Center survey found, in 2017, that Republicans, white evangelicals, and those with less education are much more likely to express reservations about Muslims and Islam than any other group of Americans. On their “feeling thermometer” from zero to one-hundred where absolute zero indicates the most negative possible rating and one hundred the highest possible favor rating. The average Democrats rated Islam at 56 while Republicans and those leaning towards the Republican party came in at a cool 39. 63 percent of Republican respondents believe that Islam incites violence while only 26 percent of Democrats agreed with that statement. Additionally, Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is not part of mainstream American society (68 percent vs. 37 percent) and that there is a natural conflict between Islam and democracy (65 percent vs. 30 percent) according to Pew Research Center.



Islam confronts us Christians with long-overdue debates”

patertobiaszimmermannFather Tobias Zimmermann, long grey hair, an earring in his left ear, is head teacher of the Canisius Kolleg in Berlin, one of three Jesuit schools in Germany. The school describes itself as a secondary school “with Christian-Humanist character”. Young people should not only receive a good education here, but also mature to become responsible people. Zimmermann’s decision to hire a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman as a teacher caused something of a furore in Berlin. Newspapers such as Die Welt, the Tagesspiegel and the Berliner Zeitung reported on the story, as well as the regional public broadcaster RBB. As Zimmermann is keen to stress at the outset, he was rather surprised at the media storm.  After all, he’d only appointed a teacher, hadn’t he?


Father Zimmermann, at a time when the AfD is represented in the Bundestag, you appointed a Muslim teacher at a Catholic school. Did you intend to make some kind of statement?

Pater Tobias Zimmermann: No. The key factor was that this woman was very well qualified for the post. And it wasn’t because we had too few applicants either. But how to deal with such an eventuality was something we had already discussed in advance. We’ve had a very diverse staff for a long time now: many of the teachers are Catholic of course, while a few grew up in East Germany and never had the chance to get to know Christianity from the inside. Others are Protestant. As far as the Muslims are concerned, today’s situation reminds of the 1970s. Back then, we made the decision to begin accepting Protestant students. And then at some point, we appointed Protestant teachers too.

kopftuchOver the past two years, you’ve started up two classes at the school for refugee children. Did the decision have something to do with that?

Zimmermann: Of course. We’ve got around 30 Muslim students at the school today, which gives Islam a different visibility. And it also gives rise to new questions: do we now need different spaces for prayer? Not necessarily Islamic, but at least ones where followers of different religions can pray together. We’re also thinking about whether we should be offering Islamic religious studies.

So do children need to be taught by teachers who share their cultural background?

Zimmermann: Not exclusively, of course. But for me, school also offers the possibility for experimentation. Here we have the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with one another. And if society, such as it is here in Berlin, is characterised by a variety of world views, then this should be reflected in our teaching staff. As a Christian school we’re experimenting here with something I believe constitutes a good school.


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.



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.



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.



The Clash of Ignorance


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.



What Christianity and Islam have in common


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.”