Loving our Muslim Neighbors, Part I
- Monday, September 11, 2006
"This sounds obvious, but not all Muslims are terrorists," said Carl Ellis, whose Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Project Joseph ministry reaches out to African-American Muslims. "Ninety percent of Muslims are peace-loving people. They have the same hopes and fears that we do."
2. "They're unfriendly."
"Muslims are incredibly hospitable," said Seaton. "Their honor is on the line when they have you in their home, and they consider friendship precious." In fact, community, or umma, is at the heart of Islam. The concept of family is the backbone of society, and is much stronger than in the West. "One of the problems of Christianity is that we've lost the art of community," said Ellis. "We're too individualistic."
"If you strike up a relationship with a Muslim, you will likely be good friends for life," said Lamos. "They place a high value on personal relationships in the community."
"I had a Muslim say to me, ‘Americans are friendly, but they are not good friends,'" said Ashton Stewart, the director of Persian ministry for the Association of Reformed Presbyterian Churches (ARP), and a church planter. "Americans are pleasant enough when we meet Muslims, but we don't want to open our homes and lives to them."
3. "They share our same worldview."
This is one of the most problematic misconceptions, says Seaton. "This is why we can't understand why Muslims act the way they do. We believe they're coming from the same worldview we are." But actually, Muslims don't see religion as part of life — as Westerners do — but life as part of religion. The complex forces of modernity and globalization, along with Muslims' cultural need to uphold honor and avenge shame, explain why some Muslims act in anger and violence.
"The flap over the Danish cartoons created an opportunity for Muslims to air their grievances," said Iraj. "Violent Muslims do not see us eye-to-eye. They see the West as exploiting them. So the West becomes a common enemy for Muslim nations. It prevents them from looking at their own problems."
Lamos agrees. "When people can't articulate their interests at the voting booth they often express their interests in the streets. We have seen this in France with recent student riots over the attempt to change employment laws. We also saw this in Eastern Europe just before the wall came down."
Additionally, Islam is not just a religion, the way that we understand religion in the West. "Islam is a way of life governing the individual's personal religious duties, as well as giving directives for the running of a state and for the shaping of cultures under the Shari'a — Islamic law," said Stewart. "Generally, Muslims look at life in social and political terms rather than spiritual terms. They see the West as a huge, looming entity, and modernity and democracy as a threat."
4. "Allah is the same as our Jehovah God."
This is a complex issue, according to Seaton. "Muslims pray to the same God that Christians do. In fact, ‘Allah' is a pre-Islamic name that is still used by millions of Christians. But the Islamic understanding of God is radically different, as Muslims believe Allah is utterly transcendent, impersonal, and disconnected from our daily lives. Allah cannot and will not draw near to us."
The Muslim Allah is stern, aloof, and unknowable, says Anees Zaka, who heads "Church Without Walls," a PCA ministry that promotes meetings for better understanding between Christians and Muslims. "Muslims are amazed by Jesus' willingness to come to earth. God is selfless, whereas Allah is selfish. This unconditional love and grace is new to them."
Iraj grew up in Iran, trying to appease Allah. "I finally learned that the tyrant god I had worked so hard to please wasn't real. I had been looking for God since I was 13 years old. But I knew in my heart that Allah wasn't the true God. What a gift to realize that I was already accepted by God, that He had already done all of the work for me."
Recently on Spiritual Life
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content