Conservative Christians: Think Twice Before Claiming ‘Islam Is Not a Religion’

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The assertion that “Islam isn’t a religion” should be a cause for concern among conservative Christians as it can so easily and destructively be turned on Christian minorities in other parts of the world.

In her recent New York Times opinion piece, Asma T. Uddin rightly criticizes the “disturbing trend … [of] state lawmakers, lawyers, and influential social commentators,” like Oklahoma Republican state Rep. John Bennett, who claim that Muslims in the United States don’t deserve religious freedoms granted to adherents of other religions because “Islam is not even a religion; it is a political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.”

The claim has been floating around for several years, but it’s nonsensical for a host of reasons. No reasonable observer would contend that Muslims are the only religious people who try to advance their interests through concerted and coordinated political action, as should be clear from the Moral Majority, the Christian pro-life movement, and the opposition of many conservative Christians to the Johnson Amendment. The fact that the most obvious examples in the United States derive from conservative Christianity is only because conservative Christians have been more intentional, vocal, strategic, and successful in their religious politicking. However, it’s clear enough that liberal forms of Christianity also espouse their own brands of politics.

The obvious national and international political aspirations of Western Christians make their criticisms of the entanglement of Islam and politics particularly bewildering. Such criticisms, therefore, could only emanate either from a stunning lack of self-consciousness or a quite conscious, knowing, and cynically self-serving denial of the nature of things.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REWIRE NEWS 

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Syrian Christians and Muslims: from common wounds a future of peace

SIRIA_-_testimonianza_caritas_rifugiatiokDamascus (AsiaNews) – A lunch bringing together Christians and Muslims became an opportunity to share experiences of war, suffering, divisions and also to discover that despite differences in faith, no family was spared by the conflict.  It also became an opportunity to  discover that the same families can start a journey of reconstruction capable of building bridges on the ruins and achieving a peace that comes from the depths of hearts. This is what emerges from the testimony given to AsiaNews by Sandra Awad, head of Communications for Caritas Syria, 40, married and mother of two children, in the context of the “Share the Journey” initiative launched by Caritas Internationalis. A challenge for a country now in its eighth year of war, but which never ceases to hope for a “reconciliation” that knows how to “embrace the whole country”.

Here, below, the testimony she shared with AsiaNews:

When we received an e-mail notifying us about the topic of the new campaign held by Caritas Internationalis and other NGOs “Share the Journey”, which encourage local communities to receive and welcome refugees and help them integrate in the new society, we felt confused. How can we adopt this campaign in Syria? Which part of the society could be considered to be the host? And which part could be considered to be the new arrivals? Inside Syria, we don’t have refugees. Although the majority of people has become displaced, we are all one aching society who suffered from a long war, which did not exclude any family from its bad impact…

We felt that this campaign is not convenient for the Syrians inside Syria, therefore, we didn’t do a big effort to participate in it, till the day we received an e-mail from Caritas Internationalis inviting us to share a meal with refugees, as part of this campaign.

We finally decided to participate in this action and organize a meal with some displaced people from our beneficiaries from different religions. We started to plan for this event to have place on June 23, in the hall of the Orthodox Cross Church. Beside beneficiaries, we invited also many bishops and priest of the Catholic church.

We had a lot of worries about this gathering. What the reaction of the Catholic bishops would be when we invite them to an Orthodox Church? How would invited beneficiaries interact with each other during this event? They are a mixture of the Syrian society, Muslims, Christians, Alawite, Druze… We are a country which has been suffering from war for almost eight years, distance and separation between people has become wide, we are divided now, the east and the west, the city and the country side, the ones who left the country and those who stayed in it. Everyone is aching, and the hearts are filled with hatred and pain.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS. IT 

Peace-building between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon

3642739700_27ece7f930_bLebanon (MNN) – The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) seeks to change discussions between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. In a country that still feels the effects of a 15-year civil war, people often mistrust those outside their own groups. But the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and its department, the Institute of Middle East Studies, equips leaders to go back to their communities and build peace in the middle of chaos.

Peace-building and the Gospel

Martin Accad, the Chief Academic Officer at ABTS and the Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies explains the goal of ABTS. “We feel very much that our role is not only to develop theologically-thinking leaders, but to also develop leaders that can do works of transformation in society within the area of reconciliation and restoration of communities.”

These students go back to areas where Christians feel out of place in society. As a minority in their country, Accad says there is a sense that they don’t have a place in their culture. But this is not the message of the Gospel.

Christ calls his people to be peacemakers in whatever place they live.

Accad explains, “Peacemaking or peace-building first of all looks at conflict not necessarily as a problem, but as an opportunity. That would be the first aspect of being a peacemaker, but also peacemaking is something you do proactively rather than reactionary, as peace-keeping sounds.”

ABTS seeks to build peace proactively with five key initiatives, three of which are currently in progress.

Initiative 1: Bread and Salt

This unique program brings together both Christian and Muslim youths between the ages of 14-17 who live in the same neighborhood. Though these young people live close by, they may never have dialogued about their faith. ABTS gives them the tools they need to connect on a deeper level as they talk about their personal beliefs and break down stereotypes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MNNONLINE 

Why Christians Should be the Biggest Advocates of Religious Freedom For Muslims Read

christians-muslims-dialogues-in-pakistanSometimes because I write so much about Christianophobia, some feel the need to tell me that Islamophobia exists. No kidding? Do you think when stories such as this one come out that I am ignorant of Islamophobia? It is as if some individuals do not comprehend the possibility that we can have anti-Christian and anti-Muslim hatred in the same society.

But Islamophobia does not merely manifest itself in violent acts. It also manifests itself in the double standard some people have in their treatment of Muslims. For example, the desire to create higher barriers for Muslims to enter the United States can also reflect Islamophobia. When we treat individuals worse because they are Muslims, then we are furthering an ugly Islamophobic mentality.

Unfortunately, the way some Christians have approached Muslims reflects Islamophobia as well. There have been Christians who have tried to stop Muslims from building their mosques. Other Christians have called for a stop of Muslim immigration to the United States. This attempt to treat Muslims worse than we treat those of other faiths or no faith is wrong. The sad thing about the reality of how some Christians have dealt with Muslims is that we have a great deal of incentive to protect the religious freedom of Muslims. When we fail to do so, we fail to fully live out our faith, and we set ourselves up for future hardship.

Before I go into why Christians should defend Muslims, let me be clear about something. I am Christian and not Muslim. I believe that Muslims are wrong about the nature of God and in their belief that Allah is God. I support any efforts at witnessing to Muslims as long as it does not involve coercive tactics. To those who say that Christian proselytizing is evil, then I will ask you to give up telling Christians what to do. When you tell Christians what to do, you are proselytizing about your beliefs to Christians. Stop being a hypocrite!!

So my defense for religious freedom for Muslims is not a defense of Islam. I will leave that for Muslims to do. But I defend their right to be wrong just as I hope that non-Christians will defend my right to be wrong.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS

 

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 

South Africa’s Untold Success Story: A Christian Nation’s Peaceful History With A Muslim Minority

 

01CAPETOWN-web2-master675Growing up in early 90s South Africa I was not exposed to many different races, in that stifling, artificially divided environment apartheid left us with. But I was immersed in a rich religious melange that formed my understanding of community. My neighbours on my right were Hindu, on my left were Christians and opposite me were Muslims. I heard stories about Ram’s love for Sita from Mrs Moodley, about Christmas from the Davids next door and about the Prophet (PBUH) at madressah. There were at least five temples, mosques and churches in my area alone (often right next to each other) and our parks were littered with white rocks that mark Shembe outdoor prayer sites. In town, outside the bustling African traditional healer’s market was the Catholic Emmanuel Cathedral and right next door was the largest mosque in Durban, the Juma Musjid Mosque dating back to 1880.

While we may have been segregated by race, there were no clear rules about religion and it is perhaps one of the reasons that faith bound us to one another so strongly. Religion was not only a source of strength and comfort during apartheid, it was also a means of resistance against a system designed to divide. And yet religion, the one thing that has divided the rest of the world so starkly, has not done so here. This has perhaps been one of the most remarkable stories of post-apartheid South Africa, but the least told.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HUFFINGTON POST (SOUTH AFRICA)

A God by Any Other Name: Evangelicals and Allah, Part 1

islam-christianityby John Hubers

Part 1:  Setting the Parameters

This is the first part of a four part series exploring the question “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the same God?” in its historical context among evangelical Christians.  It will be presented as a series on this page. 

From the Urban Dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com/)
meme    mēm     noun
2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means

The Allah Meme

One of the memes that has recently rooted itself deeply in the consciousness of some American Christians, particularly those who come from the more conservative side of the evangelical tradition, is the confident assertion that Muslims worship a different god from the Christian God.  This is more than saying that we have different conceptions of God.  This is a blunt and often combative claim that we are, in fact, talking about two entirely different divine entities.  Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, who heads up the diaconal ministry Samaritan’s Purse, has been most strident in his public statements to this effect reaching back to the time just after 9/11.  He first did so in an address he gave at the dedication of a North Carolina church that was quoted by an NBC Nightly news segment (as well as nearly every news source in the Muslim majority world)  just two months after the 9/11 tragedy.

            The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo- Christian faith. It’s a different God, and I believe it [Islam] is a very evil and wicked   religion.[1]

 Graham is not alone in this perception.  It has, in fact, become a kind of theological maxim among more conservative groups, particularly after 9/11.[2]

I discovered this in a personal way when I was approached about becoming full time pulpit supply at a conservative church in a Chicago suburb during the years I was doing my PhD studies.  I had first been invited to preach a sermon in this church about Christian-Muslim relations that was well received, enough so that the consistory decided to invite me to preach on a full time basis as they carried on a search for a permanent pastor.  But it wasn’t an open invitation. I was first asked to justify the assumption some heard in my sermon that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.  They were correct in what they heard as this has been an assumption of mine  since the onset of my years of missionary service in the Muslim majority world, just as it was the assumption made by every other missionary I have ever known in that part of the world, evangelical or otherwise.  But at this traditional Christian Reformed Church such a belief was considered suspect, perhaps even bordering on heresy.   So before I was given the invitation I was first required to write a paper giving justification to that assumption for the consistory to review.  I must have made a good case, as I got the invitation and it was never mentioned again.

What I discovered in this incident was the weight of this particular meme – strong enough that in certain circles it has become a kind of litmus test for evangelical orthodoxy.   And while it should be said at the outset that there is a legitimate theological discussion to be had around the question posed by this meme – “do Muslims and Christians worship the same God” – the challenge it poses is related less to the way it answers this question than to its operative force as a test of evangelical orthodoxy.  Simply put those who hold it are suspect of those who don’t. That is the nature of a meme – the confidence with which it perpetuates itself as a kind of foundational truism for those who become its proponents. In this case, however, more is at stake than personal opinion as the tenacity with which it is held can have the effect of endangering the sensitive incarnational witness those of us who teach missions are trying to inculcate in our students.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECCLESIO.COM