Does Friendship Between Christians and Muslims Require Agreement?

By Kevin Singer and Chris Stackaruk

Screenshot-2018-11-30-07.32.28A 2016 op-ed from the Huff Post recently re-emerged after it was retweeted by a renowned sociologist at Rice University, Dr. Craig Considine, who has a robust 53,000+ Twitter followers. The piece — written by Ian Mevorach, who identifies himself as a theologian, spiritual leader, and activist — argues that “peacemaking Christians” should accept Muhammad as the “Spirit of Truth” whom Jesus speaks of in John 14-16, effectively transforming Muhammad from historical figure to ultimate prophet in Christian theology. He argues this to be a solution to Christian Islamophobia: “Changing our view of Muhammad—so that we recognize him as a true prophet rather than discredit him as a false prophet—would effectively inoculate Christians against Islamophobia and would help to establish a new paradigm of cooperative Christian-Muslim relations.”

Mevorach rightly notes that some of the most revered Christian theologians in the history of the Church, including John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Nicholas of Cusa, and Martin Luther, would find Mevorach’s conclusions deeply troubling. Yet, he feels that his argument will “transform the way Christians and Muslims see and relate to each other.”

We co-direct an organization, Neighborly Faith, that equips evangelical Christians to be good neighbors to people of other faiths—especially Muslims. Over the last four years, we have built an expansive network of everyday evangelicals and their leaders across many churches, colleges and vocations with which we promote Christian friendship with Muslims. Putting the theological cogency of Mevorach’s argument aside, we can say with assurance that his argument would not “make peace between our communities” as he proposes. In fact, we believe it does the very opposite.

Mevorach injects urgency into his argument by noting that “the majority of Christians still maintain a fundamentally Islamophobic position on Muhammad,” and that “our planet simply cannot afford another century of misunderstanding and violence between these two communities.” Yet, the issue with his argument is that he correlates Christian opinions about Muhammed with their feelings about Muslims.

If we have learned anything during years of promoting real, on-the-ground engagement between Christians and Muslims it is that, (1) theological disagreement is not what causes conflict, and (2) theological agreement is not a viable means for reconciliation.

His arguments demand that Christians overturn centuries of belief, which will not be remotely compelling to the Christians he describes. Rather, an argument like this only makes Christian-Muslim friendship more out of reach for most Christians, who are not willing to sacrifice core tenets of their faith.

We have unfortunately seen this habit among many progressive thinkers in North America and Europe who, from the best of intentions, wish to be bridgebuilders and peacemakers. Mevorach and others like him contrive expedient solutions to “the problem of belief,” but never take into consideration whether the people who presumably need to change would find their arguments compelling. Unfortunately this is the case for Mevorach’s essay: His solution is laughably idealistic.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ISLAMIC MONTHLY

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‘Anything but one culture, one thing, one place, one time’ — displaying the art of Islam

Dpx7k_6XoAABHkpAndrew Graham-Dixon explores the British Museum’s new Albukhary Foundation Gallery — opening on 18 October, and presenting a fresh look at the institution’s astonishing Islamic collection and the diversity of cultures behind it.

The British Museum is a treasure trove of Islamic art and artefacts. Its collections of Moghul, Mamluk and Safavid metalwork are unparalleled; and its many early manuscript pages from the Qur’an include some of the most wrenchingly vivid sheets of calligraphy to have survived the centuries that first witnessed the rise of a powerful new faith preached by the followers of a man called Prophet Mohammed.

One of these pages in particular has fascinated me ever since I first saw it some 30 or 40 years ago, even though I lack the language to read it. Inscribed in Kufic by a Syrian scribe in the ninth or 10th century, it vibrates with spiritual conviction: the characters are ranked in a phalanx of forms, each holy word resembling (to my eye at least) an inkblack chariot of war on a parchment field of battle.

Page from the Quran, 9th-10th century. Photo The Trustees of the British Museum
Page from the Qur’an, 9th-10th century. Photo: The Trustees of the British Museum

The museum also houses a number of astonishingly intricate examples of Iznik ceramic ware, including a mosque lamp from the mid-16th century refurbishment of the Dome of the Rock, bequeathed by former trustee Charles Drury Edward Fortnum (1820-99). That object is itself a fine complement to the matchless group of some 600 pieces of Islamic pottery that once formed part of the collection of Frederick Du Cane Godman (1834-1919), a connoisseur and ornithologist persuaded onto the board of the British Museum by the tireless Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks (1826-97).

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIES.COM

Look at art for the deep connection between Europe and Islam

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While politicians present it as alien, a new exhibition in Florence reveals historic exchange and dialogue with the east

The Adoration of the Magi is an early 15th-century altarpiece painting by the Italian painter Gentile da Fabriano. Housed in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, it is considered by many art historians as Fabriano’s finest work and as the culmination of the International Gothic style of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

Look closely at figures of the Virgin Mary and Joseph, and you will notice something odd. Their halos feature Arabic script. That might seem sacrilege in a Christian religious painting. Yet as a new exhibition in Florence, at the Uffizi and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, sets out to show, such cultural and religious cross-dressing was common at the time. Entitled “Islamic Art and Florence from the Medici to the 20th Century”, the show explores “the knowledge, exchange, dialogue and mutual influence that existed between the arts of east and west”.

Embodied in the Renaissance view is certainly a sense of Islam as the other. But it is intertwined with curiosity, respect, even awe. There is a willingness, too, to reach beyond the otherness of Islam and to see the Muslim world not as demonic or exotic but as a variant of the European experience.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN 

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.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SPECTATOR

When the Monks Met the Muslims

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In the popular imagination, Buddhism is synonymous with introspective peace, Islam with violent blind faith. But both conceptions are nothing more than Western fantasy. Revisiting the centuries of Buddhist-Muslim cooperative interaction forces us to rethink our stereotypes.

By Johan Elverskog

The Buddhist monastery of Nalanda was founded in northeast India in the early 5th century. Over time it became the premier institution of higher learning in Asia and, much like leading universities today, had a world-renowned faculty working on the cutting edge of the theoretical sciences and a student body drawn from across the Buddhist world. This prestige also brought with it ample gifts from the rich and powerful. At its height Nalanda had an extensive faculty teaching a diverse student body of about 3,000 on a beautiful campus composed of numerous cloisters with lofty spires that “resembled the snowy peaks of Mount Sumeru.” Then, suddenly, the serenity of this Buddhist institution was shattered. In the fall of 1202, Muslim soldiers on horses rode in and hacked down teachers and students where they stood. The once majestic buildings were left in ruins: the savagery was so great it signaled the end of Buddhism in India.

This powerful story has been told countless times. Today it is ubiquitous, appearing in everything from scholarly mono- graphs to travel brochures. Indeed, by its sheer pervasiveness, this one episode has in many ways come to encapsulate and symbolize the entire 1,300-year history of Buddhist-Muslim interaction. As a result, anytime the topic of Buddhism and Islam is mentioned it almost invariably revolves around the Muslim destruction of the dharma.

This is problematic for many reasons, not the least being that the story of Nalanda is not true. For example, not only did local Buddhist rulers make deals with the new Muslim overlords and thus stay in power, but Nalanda itself carried on as a functioning institution of Buddhist education for another century. We also know that Chinese monks continued to travel to India and obtain Buddhist texts in the late 14th century. In fact, contrary to the standard idea promoted by the story that Nalanda’s destruction signaled the death of Buddhism, the historical evidence makes clear that the dharma survived in India until at least the 17th century. In other words, Buddhists and Muslims lived together on the Asian subcontinent for almost a thousand years.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TRICYCLE.ORG

King of Jordan: ‘Maybe there’s a lack of understanding of Islam’ in Washington

AP-trump-presser-02-as-170405_mnKing Abdullah II of Jordan in a new interview said he believes Islam is not fully understood within both the halls of Congress and the walls of the White House when asked about President Trump‘s rhetoric about the religion.

“Whether I’m in Washington in the Congress or with the administration, I think maybe there’s a lack of understanding of Islam,” the Jordanian leader said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

The king defended the religion, saying the foundations of Islam are the same moral virtues seen in other religions such as Christianity and Judaism.

“When we all greet each other as Arabs and Muslims, we say, ‘As-salamu alaykum’ — peace be unto you,” he added, describing the frequently uttered phrase as “the basis of Islam.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HILL