Islam has faced a debilitating public relations hemorrhage since September 11, 2001. That dreadful day brought to the fore some manifestations of Islamic teachings, which led ordinary Muslims, Muslim civil leaders, scholars and civil rights organizations scampering to mitigate further damage to their religion. Some Muslims even enlisted non-Muslims’ help in this endeavor. Surprisingly, even prominent Christian clergies and scholars have inadvertently answered the Muslim call.
If you think some prominent Christian leaders in the West are confused about Islam, you are not alone. Faith Shared—a project of Interfaith Alliance—reflects some of that confusion. It has nationwide events scheduled for Sunday, June 26, 2011. Various churches are hosting worship services where suggested verses from the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an will be read. Faith Shared will provide suggestions on how to incorporate this program into hosting churches’ regular Sunday worship services “but communities are encouraged to choose readings that will resonate with their congregations.”
The purpose of this event is to combat “a pervasive and unsettling trend of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination, and rhetoric, as well as a general lack of understanding about Islam in America today.” Gathering together in these worship services is necessary “for faith communities to strengthen ties with each other.”
While I commend Interfaith Alliance for coming up with an idea of getting Christians, Jews and Muslims together, here are three problems:
- Muslim misconceptions about Christians and Christianity predate any Muslim’s (other than Prophet Muhammad’s) encounter with a Christian or Christianity and have nothing to do with Islam being misunderstood or Muslims being persecuted. Reading the Qur’an in worship service for photo-ops is not going to alleviate Muslims’ misconceptions of Christians and Christianity.
- Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance claims “specific passages in each tradition can be and have been ripped from their historical/scriptural context and manipulated to promote division, nurture hatred, and even inspire violence.” There is no such thing as “historical/scriptural context” in the Faith Shared suggested Qur’an verses, which remotely come close to Faith Shared goal of Christians, Muslims and Jews strengthening “ties with each other.”
- A Sunday worship service is not a place to achieve this faith-shared goal. A better idea would be inviting Muslims to congregants’ homes for meals. Having discussions over a meal about these suggested texts, especially Qur’an verses, and their “historical/scriptural context” would have had significant effect.
Faith Shared and whoever advises them totally don’t get the Qur’an’s central theme. I will write a post explaining the meaning behind these verses and will go through the exegeses of each one of them to show how historically and contextually these verses were not intended for interfaith outreach. I will explore and expound on each verse using classical Islamic commentaries and Hadith. Interfaith dialogues are noble for promoting peace. However, Faith Shared’s idea is an interfaith dialogue riddled with ignorance.
Muslims’ intention in interfaith dialogues is about propagating Islam. Even Sufi Muslims want a dialogue to end with a non-Muslim converting to Islam. Sufi scholar Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani of Islamic Supreme Council of America says:
As for interfaith, I am not saying I care for it, I don’t. But if someone wants to make interfaith to make an introduction to Islam, it is OK. As long as they don’t become Christian or Jew or Zoroastrian, then it is acceptable. That is a way to tell people they are wrong and tell them their mistakes.
Rev. Gaddy laments “a general lack of understanding about Islam in America today.” Why is he doing public relations work for Islam, promoting it through interfaith dialogues when even Muslims have made their motives clear? Muslims use interfaith dialogues as a venue to stop Islam’s public relations hemorrhage. Many Christians are ignorant of that fact and come to Islam’s rescue. They perhaps confuse Muslimophobia with Islamophobia. Every followers of Jesus Christ ought to fight Muslimophobia but should leave Islamophobia to Muslims. For more information, please read HERE.