A new play, ‘Christmas Mubarak,’ mixes Christian and Muslim stories of Jesus’ birth

47119780_1969438653148464_6465564224604078080_o-1024x745CHICAGO (RNS) — The scene is familiar from many Nativity scenes arranged at this time of year: the Virgin Mary, cradling the newborn Jesus.

Then, the baby speaks, defending his mother’s innocence and declaring he has been appointed as a prophet.

That might come as a surprise to Christians in the audience of the new play “Christmas Mubarak.”

“Christmas Mubarak” premiered last weekend in Silk Road Rising’s basement theater at the Chicago Temple, home to First United Methodist Church. The theater company was formed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to shape conversation about Asian and Middle Eastern Americans and became the church’s company in residence several years later.

With an ensemble cast of four playing all the characters and adding scholarly asides where Muslim traditions interpret stories differently, the show is — in its own words — the story of “a love affair” between Islam and Jesus, who is viewed as a prophet by Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

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Abu Dhabi priest’s book about Jesus in Arabia to be published in Arabic

na25-JUL-Religious-Tolerance.jpgJesus of Arabia was translated by a four-person Christian and Muslim Arab team from publishers Motivate

A UAE-based Christian priest’s book showing how Jesus had more in common with Arabian Islamic culture rather than western is to be published into Arabic.

Jesus of Arabia was penned by Rev Andy Thompson, the chaplain at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi, and it also examines the bridges between Islam and Christianity.

The book was first published in English in 2014 and now the Arabic version will launch at St Andrew’s on Tuesday. It is rare that a book written by a Christian resident about Jesus receives such a treatment and Rev Thompson says the event is a pre-Christmas celebration of Jesus for both Muslims and Christians.

“A lot of conversations between Muslims and Christians get bogged down in dogma and it is not really helpful,” said Mr Thompson. “I want to promote education between our two communities which is different from proselytising.

“Education helps us to know one another – meeting with respect and mutual acceptance and we can only do that by recognising our shared heritage in Jesus,” he said.

The Arabic version took about a year to produce, spans 200 pages and was translated by a four-person Christian and Muslim Arab team from publishers Motivate over a two to three-month period. The team carefully translated the text to maintain the respectful tone of the English version.

“Getting the Arabic flavour for that was important so we need both Christian and Muslim Arab translators to make it work. There was an ongoing dialogue between them,” said Mr Thompson.

Over the centuries, Jesus has been recreated in a western image.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL (UAE)

FINDING JESUS AMONG MUSLIMS: A Q&A WITH JORDAN DENARI DUFFNER

ISN recently spoke with Jordan Denari Duffner, author of Finding Jesus among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic. While a student at Georgetown University, Duffner spoke from the main stage at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) on dialogue with Muslims. She has continued to join ISN at IFTJ as a breakout presenter through her work with the Bridge Initiative, a research initiative on Islamophobia based at Georgetown University where she previously worked as a research fellow and is now an associate. Duffner is a graduate of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Theological and Religious Studies at Georgetown University.

Can you explain how this book came to be? How and when did you find yourself as a voice for Christian-Muslim relations?

In many ways, the book emerges from my own experience. I have studied Islam and Islamophobia, and have also lived and worked among Muslims both in the United States and in Amman, Jordan in the Middle East. The book is a call for Catholics and other Christians to engage in dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters. In it, I talk about how dialogue doesn’t draw us away from our faith, but how it can deepen our relationship with God, which has been my experience.

I also hope the book fills a need. When I worked as a research fellow for the Bridge Initiative, I spent much of my time doing research on Catholic media portrayals of Islam. I realized that there were very few books about Islam out there for Catholics that reflected the approach the Catholic Church wants us to take. I hope my book can serve as an invitation for Catholics—both students and adults—to engage in the positive relationships the Church calls us to.

FULL ARTICLE FROM IGNATIAN SOLIDARITY NET 

What Christmas Means to This American Muslim

5a3dbcd821000018005f59d8Every Christmas, my wife, kids, and I make a road trip from Southern California to Texas to spend Christmas with my in-laws and my wife’s extended family. My wife’s parents and family members are Christians. One of my favorite things about visiting them during the Christmas holiday is the chance to be a part of such a warm, large, and loving gathering, typical of most Latino families. The food is amazing and our Christian family always makes sure to accommodate our Islamic dietary restrictions by ensuring there isn’t pork in any of the dishes.

My family’s story is the story of thousands of American Muslim families across our diverse nation who bond with their Christian family members every Christmas season and throughout the year.

For me, Christmas is always a reminder of the commonalities Christians and Muslims share. Honoring and revering Jesus is a part of our core Islamic teachings and it is a beautiful tradition I have enjoyed being a part of even before I began traveling to Texas with my wife and kids every Christmas.

I spent my childhood in Beirut, Lebanon, alongside Christian family members, neighbors, and close friends where we all lived in a close-knit community. My parents, practicing Muslims themselves, sent me to Catholic and Protestant schools to benefit from the high academics and to prepare me for our world’s diversity. Every Christmas, I was inspired by the love my Christian classmates and neighbors demonstrated for Jesus, a love Muslims have always sincerely shared.

After moving to the U.S. in my late teens, and even today, I am pleased to see that same love for Jesus shared amongst Christians in my community in the Greater Los Angeles area and the rest of the country.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

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 

Muslims revere Jesus too, but this Turkish author sees the Islamic Jesus in a new light

RTX35KZENewcomers to the Quran might be surprised to find that the Prophet Muhammad is only mentioned a handful of times in the Muslim holy book.

The prophet whose name is mentioned most? That would be Moses — indeed, the very same Moses from the Book of Exodus.

Jesus, the son of Mary, is mentioned numerous times in the Quran. And the Islamic version of the Jesus story, it turns out, tracks quite closely to the one that Christians know.

The Quran has a whole chapter about Mary, who is the only woman mentioned by name in the holy book.

In one scene after the birth of her child, Mary is confronted by holy men accusing her of being impure. That is when baby Jesus speaks up in his mother’s defense, performing one of a couple of miracles that never show up in the New Testament version of the Jesus story.

About 15 years ago, the Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol was handed a copy of the New Testament for the first time by a missionary on the street in Istanbul. Akyol says he went home and started reading it, and what struck him most was how much of the story of Jesus was already so familiar to him as a Muslim.

Such as the angel visiting the Virgin Mary to tell her that she would give birth to a son, and the description of Jesus as a messenger of God.

“It was so similar,” Akyol says.

The author took out a pen and started underlining the passages about Jesus in the Bible that he agreed with as a Muslim. Those sections turned out to be extensive. And they prompted Akyol to start working on his new book, “The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims.”

While both the Quran and mainstream Muslim teachings emphasize the importance of Jesus as a prophet, Akyol is going a bit further.

 

FULL ARTICLE (AND AUDIO CLIP) FROM PRI INTERNATIONAL 

Interfaith Healer: The Surprising Role of Jesus in Islam

51nMpVg+XhL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_How did a Jewish preacher who became the Christian Messiah also become one of the most admired figures in the Quran? Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish journalist and contributing opinion writer for The International New York Times, sets out to explore this apparent conundrum.

The result will come as something of a revelation to many non-Muslim readers, since Jesus is revered in Islam’s sacred text as a great teacher and prophet, while his mother, Mary, gets more ink — and praise — than in all four New Testament Gospels put together.

If the Quran’s portrayal of Jesus is familiar in outline, however, its details are sometimes not, especially to Western Christians used to a single canonical version. The Quran is more ecumenical, dipping into the rich mélange of Middle Eastern traditions contained in the apocryphal and “gnostic” gospels and still very much alive in the popular lore of Eastern Christianity. It shows Jesus making clay birds and then breathing life into them, for instance, or Mary giving birth not in a Bethlehem stable with Joseph in attendance but alone under a palm tree, deep in the desert.

Akyol makes good use of both canonical and noncanonical sources, tracing where and why the Islamic approach agrees with Christian tradition (yes to Jesus as the messenger, prophet, word and spirit of God), and where it disagrees (no to the Resurrection, and no to divinity). Along the way, he ups the ante by finding what he calls “astonishing” parallels between the Quran and early Christian texts, though such astonishment seems unnecessary to this reader. Given the fertile interchange of ideas and lore in the multiethnic Byzantine Middle East, such parallels were not only likely, but even inevitable.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES