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 

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

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Elizabeth is a Presbyterian-Quaker serving as Interfaith Engagement Fellow at Davidson College in North Carolina. 

 

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 SOJOURNER’S MAGAZINE 

 

 

Live Webinar: Understanding Islam with Safi Kaskas

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Join author Safi Kaskas ( The Qur’an:  A Contemporary Understanding) this coming Saturday (December 3) at 10:00 am Eastern Time (US) for a live webinar on Understanding Islam.

Many people are asking questions about Islam. Is Islam inherently violent? What does the Qur’an actually say? Does ISIS represent true Islam? Should we be fearful of Muslims?

These are a few of the topics I’ll be discussing this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern with Muslim author and speaker Safi Kaskas. You can join the conversation with comments or questions by clicking our AnyMeeting link here.

Safi is an American Muslim strategic management executive with a wealth of knowledge about Islam. As a co-founder of East-West University in Chicago, he’s a big proponent of education. Safi travels the globe to deliver talks about Islam in the modern world. He has spoken multiple times at the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast and serves on the board of the peacemaking organization Bridges to Common Ground.

Safi has translated the Qur’an twice. His first translation is called The Qur’an: A Contemporary Understanding. His second translation, written with a Christian friend, is called The Qur’an – with References to the Bible: A Contemporary Understanding. This is the first translation of the Qur’an that has references to the Bible. Interestingly, Safi found 3,000 biblical references in the Qur’an.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS.COM

Bridge Building Between Christians and Muslims

This is a lengthier, more involved article than usually appears on these pages, but well worth reading for those who wish to hear a Muslim perspective on Christian-Muslim dialogue.  Dialogue is by its very nature a two-way street.  Knowing each other’s perspective is a crucial part of that.  

This is a piece by Jamal Badawi appearing on Islamicity:

With nearly one billion followers each, Islam and Christianity are major religions that influence the thinking and values of over 40 percent of the World population. While there are theological differences, some of which might be significant, there are nonetheless other important areas of belief that are shared by both communities: belief in Allah, or God; belief in revelation, in prophets, in the Holy Books of Allah; in the life hereafter and in a divinely inspired moral code organizing and regulating human life during our earthly journey to eternity.

timthumb1. MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN DIALOGUE

For the Muslim, constructive dialogue is not only permitted, it is commendable. In the Qur’an we read, ‘Say, ‘O people of the book’ (a term which particularly refers to Jews and Christians) ‘come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him (in His powers and divine attributes); that we erect not from among ourselves lords and patrons other than Allah.’ If then they turn back say you ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.’ (Bowing) to the will of God.” (al-i-Imran;3:64)

The methodology of that dialogue is also explained in the Qur’an; “Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful exhortation, and argue with them in ways that are best.’ (al-Nahl; 16,125) A prerequisite for any constructive dialogue is that both communities should not learn about each other through sources that are unsympathetic, critical, or even hostile: they should rather try to formulate an honest idea as to how the other faith is seen in its own authentic scriptures and as practiced by those who are truly committed to it. This need is even more significant in the case of the Muslim-Christian dialogue. The average Christian has heard of or has read about Islam mostly through writers who have had colonial or missionary motives, which might have given a certain slant to their interpretation of Islam to the western mind. While I admit that my own practice of Islam is far from perfect, I at least speak from the vantage point of someone who wants to think of himself as a committed, practicing Muslim. Now I’d like to share with you five basic areas, consideration of which is imperative in any Christian-Muslim understanding: the meaning of the term “Islam”; the meaning of the term “Allah”; the nature of the human; the relationship between the human and Allah; the question of accountability, and finally, some conclusions pertaining to bridgebudding between Muslims and Christians.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ISLAMICITY