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Christianity, Islam and Terrorism

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The ongoing conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East and Africa have influenced American public opinion against Muslims. There is a fundamental misconception of what exactly Islam sanctions, encourages, and allows. The tenets of the Islamic faith are, of course, different than those of Christianity, which prevails in America today. However, the two faiths share much in common and there is no rational reason to view Islam as an “extremist” faith, any more than Christianity should be viewed that way. How do Christianity and Islam differ, and how are they similar? What common ground can be reached between two cultures that clash so violently? While Islam and Christianity are unique and differ in many ways, the two faiths share similar features, that when analyzed rationally, can unite the two cultures under the banner of understanding.

The faith of Islam centers itself in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, just

as Christianity does. Old Testament stories appear in the holy book of Islam, the Qur’an, as well as New Testament events. Islam does not dispute the veracity of the Bible, merely adds to it. As a matter of fact, Islam itself claims Old Testament roots. In the Old Testament story of Abraham, Sara, and Hagar, Abraham has two sons – Isma’il (Ishmael) and Isaac. Muslims claim the line of Isma’il as their ancestor, and the Qur’an states, “We shall worship Thy Allah and the Allah of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma’il and Isaac, – the one (True) Allah. To Him we bow (in Islam).” 1 “Father Abraham” is held in high regard in the faith of Islam. It is written in the Holy Qur’an, “Also mention in the Book (the story of) Abraham: He was a man of Truth, a prophet.”2 Jesus is also frequently mentioned in the Qur’an, not as the son of God, but as a prophet. The miracles He

performed are acknowledged as divine acts of God that occurred through him, and it is

also acknowledged that he was subject to disbelief at the time. According to the Qur’an, God (or Allah) says to Jesus, “”O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave.

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And behold! thou bringest forth the

dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident magic”3. Acknowledging the Christian biblical references in Islam’s most holy book is one of the first steps in understanding how Christianity and Islam are similar, and how the faithful of the two religions do not differ nearly as much as is perceived.

Like Christianity, Islam requires its faithful to fulfill certain requirements. Known

as the “five pillars of Islam”, all Muslims must meet these obligations. They are:

proclamation of faith, prayer five times a day, fasting and observation of the holy month of Ramadan, a pilgrimage to Mecca, and almsgiving. While these obligations may seem exotic or strange, they are based in the same core values that Christians, and most other faiths for that matter, hold dear. The proclamation of faith is simply stating before a witness or witnesses that “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammad is His prophet.”

Most protestant Christian religions require a similar declaration of faith, such as the Evangelicals encouraging church members to publicly accept Jesus Christ as their

personal savior. Almsgiving, or charity, is very similar to the Christian value of tithing 10% of one’s monthly income to the Church. Furthermore, almost all Christian

denominations encourage their members to pray regularly, albeit not as often as Islam

mandates. The five pillars of Islam regulate for Muslims what is non-regulated by

Christianity, but reflect the same values, meanings, and benefits of the tenets of faith.

Although Christianity and Islam are similar in many ways, the two faiths also

differ dramatically. For instance, Islam calls for “jihad”, or holy war, when required. This is one of the points that opponents of Islam often bring up when describing Islam as “barbaric”. What is commonly misunderstood is that most Muslims regard jihad as something that is fought in the heart, rather than a literal “war” to be fought against enemies. Standing up for one’s faith in the face of diversity or oppression is one example of waging jihad. The word “jihad”, while contextually meaning “holy war”, can also mean “striving” or “struggling”, which is something that occurs on a daily basis in everyone’s life, Muslim and Christian alike.

Islam, as a faith, is not evil or “extreme”. Rather, it is a religion of peace. In fact, the word “Islam” means submission and “Muslim” means a submissive person. When

two Muslims greet each other, they say “Peace be upon you” and “Upon you be peace”.

When we listen to Arabs speaking to each other, whether or not they are Muslim, we

inevitably hear the word “Allah”, or God, mentioned because Islam has incorporated

All Muslims do not hate Christians, and all Muslims are definitely not

terrorists. Rather, Muslims are a people and culture based entirely on peace and

submission to their God. One way of looking at this issue is to consider the Klu Klux

Klan. This organization considers itself a Christian group, but if you ask an unaffiliated Christian if they condone the beliefs and actions of the KKK, you will invariably get a negative response. It is the same way with terrorism. 99% of Muslims in the world may or may not agree with America’s politics, culture, or ideology, but they will tell you that they deplore the terrorist activity that gives Islam such a bad reputation around the world. Terrorists who claim to be acting out the will of Allah are not true Muslims, as Islam deplores those who hurt others. When you hear stories about how all Muslims are terrorists and are committing acts of terrorism because of their hatred for Christians, remind yourself of what the Qur’an says, “nearest among (men) in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.”4

While Islam and Christianity differ in several aspects, the two religions, along

with Judaism, represent the “people of the Book”, all of whom derive their identity as a faith from the Bible. Hopefully, we as Americans, people living in the “melting pot of the world”, will recognize that people are people, no matter what their religious or ideological beliefs, and will be able to view other faiths, cultures, and nationalities with the same measure of respect and acceptance that we view our own.

Works Cited

1. Yusufali, Abdullah. The Meanings of the Holy Qur’an.

http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/2.htm#136, 28 April 2005

2. Yusufali, Abdullah. The Meanings of the Holy Qur’an.

http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/19.htm#41, 28 April 2005

3. 1 Yusufali, Abdullah. The Meanings of the Holy Qur’an.

http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/5.htm#110, 28 April 2005

4. Yusufali, Abdullah. The Meanings of the Holy Qur’an.

http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/5.htm#82, 28 April 2005

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