When Franklin Graham called Islam “wicked” and “evil” in 2010 on ABC's This Week it wasn't the first time he had used harsh language about Islam.
We often hear language such as Graham's but we also often hear another story. Consider these words from President George W. Bush in the days following 9/11:
The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.
The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.
When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race.
Graham and Bush articulate, from a conservative evangelical Christian perspective, two very different views of Islam. Graham's views has won acceptance within more conservative circles.
Out of your own faith tradition how do you understand Islam?
I ask this for two reasons:
First, I'm currently taking a course in Inter-religious Engagement as part of a DMin program at Chicago Theological Seminary. So I have an academic interest.
In preparation for this visit, I wanted to look again at the varied ways Christians respond to Islam. Here are two examples.
Islam is regarded as one of the three central Abrahamic faiths along with Judaism and Christianity. Islam’s followers are Muslims, or those who “submit” to God’s will. Islam is a universal religion that teaches that God is merciful and compassionate, and that promises the faithful worldly peace and equality and entrance to a sublime eternity.
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ (my own church) also recently passed a resolution that said further:
The Muslim community is among the fastest growing religious communities in the United States. It has also experienced increased suspicion, as well as elevated hostility— both rhetorical and physical—based on ignorance and prejudice toward them. Such actions are reprehensible from a Christian point of view. The ill treatment of Muslims in the United States has been injurious to the Muslim American community, and has had severe consequences around the world, including attacks on Christians and churches in majority-Muslim countries. The UCC engages in interfaith relations with Jews and Muslims in the United States, and with interfaith partners around the world. The UCC is on the steering committee of the US-based interfaith campaign called “Shoulder-to-Shoulder,” which opposes anti-religious prejudices, and anti-Muslim bigotry in particular. The UCC has spoken clearly against anti-Semitism, and is consistent in its condemnation of racially-motivated violence by word and deed. Given recent events in the United States that have targeted Muslim Americans and Islam, the UCC reasserts its clear stance against religious-based hostility, in this case against Muslims and Islam.
A much different perspective comes from the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod):
Along with Christianity and Judaism, one of three monotheistic world religions. The Arabic word Islam (derived from a Semitic root meaning “peace”) expresses entry into peace and security with God (Allah) through submission or surrender of one’s whole life to his will. An adherent of Islam is properly identified by the term Muslim...
In the present pluralistic context, many people may have the mistaken impression that Christians and Muslims worship the same God—especially since Christianity and Islam are both monotheistic religions. They may also think that the religions are more similar than dissimilar in other beliefs and practices. However...from a Lutheran perspective, (there is a) sharp contrast between Christian teaching and the teachings of Islam as found in the Qur’ān.
This divide won't come as a shock to anyone. But compare how you understood Islam a decade ago to what you know now. Are your views changing? Is your faith community engaged in inter-religious engagement?
I'm interested in your views - whether Christian or Muslim (and feel free to jump in from other faith backgrounds as well) and invite you to share them on this blog, Facebook or Twitter. I'll share some of the responses later along with my experiences at the mosque tomorrow.