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« Trends in Western Religions -- II. World Christianity | Main

Trends in Western Religion: 1. Islam

The OLD Philosopher – John M. Miller


     There are three major western religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Though each is an institutional entity unto itself, all three are historically closely related to one another. Presently, none can be fully understood without comprehending how it is connected to the other two. The doctrines, beliefs, and religious practices of these three religions vary greatly, but they all give allegiance to the same God, even though they call God by different names. To the Hebrews God was known as Adonoy (the Lord) or El or Elohim (God), to the Christians God is known simply as God or “God the Father,” and to Muslims God is Allah. Linguistically Allah is exactly the same as the Hebrew El (singular) or Elohim (plural). Allah is “God” in Arabic. God by any name is God.

     The Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Taoism, and the like) are not monotheistic, with only one God. There are many gods in eastern religions, and in a few, Buddhism in particular, there are no gods at all. But in these four sessions we shall concentrate only on the three monotheistic western religions.

     Now for a brief parenthetical note about chronological nomenclature. In the western part of the western world (Europe and the Americas), English-speaking Christians have used the abbreviations BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domine: the Year of “Our Lord”, i.e., Jesus of Nazareth.) In the late twentieth century (a term which is itself a Christian linguistic invention), a concession was made by many Christians to the Jews. Now we say BCE (Before the Common Era, i.e., prior to Jesus) and CE (Common Era, from Jesus on.) For centuries most Jews have reluctantly accepted the Christian designation of the numbering of the centuries. To Muslims, however, this is not the twenty-first century, but almost the fourteenth century. They reckon their numbering of the centuries to begin with Muhammad, not Jesus. But all of us have learned to humor one another in our religious affectations. Since America is historically part of a Christian culture, we shall assume this is the twenty-first century, even if, in other minds, and no doubt in God’s mind as well, it is not.

     The patriarch Abraham, believed by Jews and Muslims to be the progenitor of the Hebrews and the Arabs, probably lived in the nineteenth century BCE. Moses lived in the thirteenth century BCE, and the Hebrew prophets from the ninth through the sixth centuries BCE. Jesus and the apostle Paul lived in the first century CE. Muhammad lived at the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh centuries CE, from 570 to 632.

     In these four summaries of trends in western religions, we shall begin with Islam, the youngest sibling of the Western Three, then go to Christianity, the middle child of the three, and end up with Judaism, the oldest of the three religious siblings. We are doing it in that order for a very specific reason. We have been cursed to be living in a period of history where we imagine there has been constant tension between the three monotheistic religions for the past fourteen centuries. That is because we are experiencing great stress because of Islamist terrorists. There certainly has been tension over many centuries, and even bloodshed, but for most of the time since Islam has come into the picture of the western world (everything west of, say, Iraq or Iran), the Big Three have gotten along relatively peacefully with one another. To be sure, there have been flare-ups here and there. After all, we are all people, and people are the major problem in maintaining tranquility and harmony in religion, every religion. If it were solely up to God, all would be well. Regrettably, people are the only possible peacekeepers in religion.

     Nevertheless, there has normally been more intra-religious rancor than inter-religious rancor. Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews collectively are not necessarily the clearest example of The Peaceable Kingdom on earth. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians are not steel filings drawn happily and inexorably to the divine magnet. Sunni and Shiite Muslims can be downright un-Muslim, if not actually lethal, toward one another. We have seen that in dozens of headlines over the past two decades. The three major varieties of Jews have their own internal squabbles, and Roman Catholics are not and have never been One Big Happy Harmonious Family. As for Protestants, nobody in the checkered history of religion have been as adept as Protestants in creating factions out of factions out of factions, as we shall begin to see next week.   

A Very Quick Summary of Islamic Evolution

     As was previously noted, Muhammad lived from 570 to 632 in what now is Saudi Arabia. We shall not focus on any of his teachings from the Quran or the Hadiths, because these four essays are neither religious histories nor explorations into comparative religion. Instead they are an attempt briefly to summarize current trends in each of the three primary western religions. Within a century of Muhammad’s death, Arab armies had marched east as far as Afghanistan and Persia and west as far as Spain and France. Within a few more centuries, Islam had spread to the “-stans” of central Asia (Khazakstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, etc.), into India and Indonesia, and into Sub-Saharan Africa. Islam remained in Spain in peaceful coexistence from the early eighth century until 1492. In that year Ferdinand and Isabella drove out both the Muslims and the Jews from mainly Christian Spain, besides arranging for that Italian chap to sail the ocean blue.

     The Crusades were an historical aberration. For three centuries, from roughly the beginning of the eleventh through the end of the fourteenth century, Christian and Muslim armies were attacking and slaughtering one another with unholy abandon, largely in and around Jerusalem and the eastern Mediterranean. But for most of the time from the end of the Muslim Conquest in the early eighth century through the late twentieth century, Jews, Christians, and Muslims cohabited with one another in relative amicability everywhere they existed in close proximity.

     Think about it. Think rationally about it. Why would most religious people, even those convinced that their religion alone is the only correct one, attack or kill one another? The most valid tenets of all three western religions, of every religion, forbid bloodshed. The majority of all religious people everywhere in the world have never made it their calling to try to exterminate or even to convert those who are not adherents of their particular religion. It is the small minority, the zealots, who do that, and even they learn to back off when their zealotry becomes demonstrably unsuccessful or unproductive.

     As has been sadly and sardonically suggested, we are cursed to be living in a time when a very small percentage of very determined Muslim radicals have concluded that it is incumbent upon them to attack “the West.” To them, the West means Christianized Europe, Britain, and North America, in particular the USA. But it also connotes wherever European or other kinds of Christians had historical influence, such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, Egypt, and elsewhere.

     It is a very serious misjudgment for any western Christians to suppose that “Islam” has declared war on the West. Most certainly it has not. That is a deliberate and provocative calumny against Islam. It would be like saying that Americans are at war with North Korea or Russia. It would be like all foreigners fearing Americans because they might say of us, “They all have guns!”

     A few Americans make careless war-like threats against North Korea and Russia, but we, the American people, are not in a pitched battle with these two or any other nations. Many Americans do have guns, but most do not. It is not Americans whom Muslims should fear, but they do have some cause to be rather skittish about America. In the great sweep of history, there have been times when America was at war with various nation-states, and Americans were conscripted into those wars. Nonetheless, it was the American state in conflict with other states; it was not Americans as such who waged those wars. In exactly the same way, Muslims in general are not opposed to Christians in general.

     There is no serious conflict between Islam and the West or between Muslims and Christians. A tiny fraction of people who brazenly claim to be warriors on behalf of Islam are engaged in terrorist actions against innocent westernized people of all religious stripes or of no religious persuasion whatever. These terrorists bizarrely imagine all westerners to be their enemies. We are not, although by their terrorist acts they have tragically declared themselves to be our enemies.

     As Arthur Cleveland Coxe wrote in a poem which became a hymn used in many hymnals, “We are living, we are dwelling, in a grand and awful time.” Muslim terrorists will continue to attack us for years to come, but it is not Islam that is doing the attacking, any more than the purportedly “Christian” zealots who gun down abortion providers or bomb Planned Parenthood clinics represent Christianity at large. Extremism of all varieties is the enemy of moderation of all varieties.

     At the same time that many Americans fear all Muslims, great strides are being made in Islamic moderation. Unfortunately, we hear far too little about that. Mayhem results in headlines; moderation results in yawns.

     Raymond Baker teaches international politics at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and political science at the American University in Cairo. He wrote a book called One Islam: Many Muslim Worlds. He wisely insists that not every Islamic nation is like every other Islamic nation. Prof. Baker cites what he describes as the “three great demographic and cultural reservoirs” of Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. None of these three historic Islamic powerhouses is currently a close ally of the USA or the West. From the standpoint of those three nations, that is because the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have caused them to conclude that America and the West currently are not necessarily trustworthy allies of Islamic nations. Prof. Baker believes that most of the Islamic world is moderate, and that Islamist terrorists are the exception to where most of the world’s Muslims perceives themselves today. There is much to commend that conclusion.

     However, if you are one of those American Christians – or Jews – or secularists – who believe that “Muslims” (in quotes) are becoming more belligerent, you could try to make a case for that too. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world. The governor of the state of Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, was a Christian. He was defeated in his re-election bid last year by a radical Muslim group called Hizbut Tahrir, which wants to establish an Indonesian theocracy based on Sharia law, much like Iran’s government. One might deduce that organizations like Hizbut Tahrir have increasing influence.

      In fact, though, this group is banned in many Muslim countries. Yenny Wahid, the director of the Wahid Institute, a Muslim research center, said of Hizbut Tahrir, “This is an ideology that has the potential to threaten democracy.” It is imperative that Americans and other westerners need to realize that many if not most Muslims are as concerned about radical Islamists as we are.

     Only in the twentieth century did any Muslim countries anywhere become democracies. However, that long-lived historical hesitancy was for cultural, not religious, reasons. Islam, like most religions, is hierarchical. That is, it relies on a top-down structure. That same oligarchical or autocratic structure carried over into the governance of Muslim societies. In the eight-thousand year sweep of recorded human history, nearly every society everywhere in the world was monarchical or autocratic. Thus it has been as difficult for Islamic states to go quickly or easily from monarchies to democracies in the past fifty years as it was for Christian states to do that from two centuries ago to the present.

     Do not make the mistake of automatically equating any religious culture with its predominant religion. Culture and religion may be equally problematic, but by no means are they equal. If you want verification, think back to photographs of your parents or grandparents taken at the beach ninety or a hundred-ten years ago. It was not American Christianity which put them into those ridiculous get-ups, including Grandpa in a kind of sleeveless undershirt; it was American Christian culture which did that. And it was not only “Christians” in those skin-hiding swimming costumes; almost all self-respecting atheists and agnostics were also similarly attired. Religion and culture are related, but they must never be equated. Culture covers people’s bodies or exposes them, not religion. 

     Further to put this issue into perspective, there are millions of Americans who are concerned that millions of other American Christian radicals helped other American secular conservatives elect a President and Congress in 2016 who are a potential if not actual threat to American democracy. Furthermore, American Christian conservatives are the people who are the most upset by Muslim conservative terrorists. It behooves objective-thinking people all over the world to be as calm as possible in attempting to understand the conditions which foment radical religious outbursts from anybody. Unreasonable and fearful clamoring about a war between Islam and the West does not illustrate placid, educated, or reasoned reflection.   

     In any case, Americans must constantly remember that Europe has been far more wounded by Islamist terrorists than has America, and that includes the 9/11 attacks. In addition, there are millions more Muslim refugees from Africa and the Middle East streaming into Europe than into America. Without question, some African and Middle Eastern Muslim nations are very unstable, in large measure because of intra-Muslim religious rancor. That is why people are fleeing those nations. That unrest is spilling over into other regions. Nevertheless, it is Europeans who have been far more adversely affected by it than are Americans.

     Religious zealotry of any kind is a threat to national or international stability. The best way to offset such zeal is by education and democratization, not by guns or bombs.

The Way Forward

     The word “fanatic” comes from a Latin root, fanum, which literally means “firebrand” or “burning stick.” Fanatics always burn very hot politically, religiously, and culturally.

     The word “enthusiasm” comes from a Greek root, en theos, which literally means “in God.” Most religious people believe that they are “in God” (or perhaps more accurately, that God is “in them.”) Religious fanatics are obsessively convinced that God is in them, and their misplaced enthusiasm sometimes leads them to engage in violence.

     If there is currently a higher percentage of religious fanatics among the world’s Muslims than among other religious groups, it is because those people are certain that the West, especially the Christian West, is engaged in an attempt to obliterate Islam. People who think like that tend to believe that fighting may be the best way or even the only way to counter such a perceived apocalyptic threat.

     And thus it is that religious or political fanatics in America and in other western nations believe that Islam is attempting an apocalyptic conquest of the world. As Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief!” What is wrong with such people?

     Jews, Christians, and Muslims have gotten along with one another relatively well for most of the time and in most of the places where they have lived together for the past thirteen centuries. Once again, we need to remember that we are in an unusual situation in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The animosity many people are feeling from Muslim extremists is primarily the result of two wars in Muslim countries very intentionally waged by the United States of America and our allies.

     People who believe that major international or interreligious conflicts are solved only by warfare or are best solved by warfare usually resort to warfare to solve conflicts. Diplomacy flies out the window. Many hundreds of important diplomatic positions in the State Department have not been filled by our current democratically-elected President or his administrative aides who are valiantly attempting to assist him in the West Wing.  

     How do normal people react in abnormal times to religious upheaval? Here are a few illustrations from places where Muslims predominate.

     A group of Muslim terrorists attacked a bus in Kenya. They ordered everyone out of the bus. Then they demanded that the Muslim passengers identify all of the Christian passengers on the bus, so that they could kill them. The Muslims refused to do so, telling the fanatics that either they would have to kill everyone or they would have to leave. After some heated deliberations among themselves, the terrorists left in utter frustration. This incident is being made into film called Watu Wote. That is a Swahili expression which means “All of Us.” All of us are engaged in the battle with Muslim religious extremists, and we must use courage, wisdom, and calmness of spirit to meet the threat, as did those brave Muslims bus passengers on a rural road in Kenya.

     On the Orthodox Easter last year, an ISIS group attacked two Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt, killing several people and blowing up the buildings. To prevent that happening in Jordan a week later on the other Easter for Roman Catholics and other western Christians, many Jordanian Muslims stood guard outside Christian churches in the Hashemite Kingdom. They said they wanted to show solidarity with their Christian neighbors and demonstrate Jordanian harmony.

     Mohammad Morsi was the first democratically-elected President of Egypt. He was strongly supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Muslim organization which has existed underground in Egypt for many decades. Morsi was later ousted in a military coup, and Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi was the general who became the new President. Morsi was imprisoned. El-Sisi and the Egyptian parliament loosened restrictions on Christian churches, and provided security for them on Christian holidays.

     The newly built largest church in the Middle East was dedicated on January 6, 2018, the date for the Orthodox Christmas. It is the Coptic Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ, east of Cairo. It is surprising and almost astonishing to learn that the Egyptian government provided twelve million dollars toward the cathedral’s construction.

     Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi will not receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his openness toward Christianity. Instead he is merely taking measures to solidify his opposition to Islamist extremists. He is one of many rulers in Muslim nations who are deliberately expressing religious toleration to combat the intolerance of Muslim fanatics.

     Even Saudi Arabia, under the new crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, is relaxing some of the ultra-stringent Sharia laws which have governed the Saudi kingdom from the time of its establishment many decades ago by King Abdul Aziz. The prince said, “We are only going back to how we were: to the tolerant moderate Islam that is open to the world, to all the religions and traditions of its people.” That statement is not entirely accurate, but it is essentially true.

     A few weeks ago there was a cockamamie news story to corroborate what Prince Mohammad said. Previously we all heard that women are allowed to drive cars in the Arabian kingdom. But now, for the first time in Saudi history, women are going to be allowed to attend soccer matches. To the rest of the world, except for Americans, that means what they call call football matches.

     In the Wall Street Journal story which featured this cultural bombshell, Sheikh Mohammad Al Arefe, a Muslim cleric with twenty million Twitter followers ( he is almost like Donald Trump) twitted this tweet about this scurrilous scandal, “It is good for women to do sport for their physical fitness. But as for women attending sport matches, I am the most opposed of all, and I do not see how it is permissible.” Not with all due respect, Sheikh Mohammad, but with at least of smidgeon of the same, we conclude your observation is totally culturally-based, and has nothing to do with the religion of which you are a famous Saudi proponent.

     It is well to note that in the early years of his religious leadership, Muhammad himself was open to the Jews and Christians who lived in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century. After all, it was from them that his concept of monotheism was derived. Only in his later years did Muhammad express strong opposition to Judaism and Christianity. Like many of us, however, he may simply have become old and cranky. (That statement in Iran or Saudi Arabia might be sufficiently incendiary to get me killed. But I am here, and not there, thanks be to Allah.)

     The secular leaders of Islamic states are as leery of Islamists as are the leaders of the western states. These leaders believe Sharia law is untenable in the modern world. They want to avoid what has happened in Iran as much as we want that. Religious extremism is often a threat to the stability of secular governments, even in the oldest of democracies, such as the USA. Secular government is always to be preferred to religiously-dominated government of any kind, even the most seemingly benevolent.

     In 1979 four major events occurred in the Muslim world. Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel, after which its president, Anwar al-Sadat, was assassinated. In Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini and extremist Shiite Muslims overthrew the western-leaning Shah. A group of fundamentalist Muslims took control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by force of arms, demanding the overthrow of what they considered to be the apostate House of Saud. They were defeated only by a much larger show of force from the House of Saud. Finally, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, which prompted both the Saudis and the Americans to support the mujahidin Taliban who waged war against the Soviets.

     Only in theocratic biblical Israel and in secular modern Israel were Jews ever in charge of a geographic state. Historically, there have been a few theocracies in “Christian” lands on occasion, but not many, and fortunately none lasted very long.

     However, from the death of Muhammad to the end of World War I there was almost always an Islamic caliphate. The caliphate was the official yoking of Islam as a religion to a supra-national government. The caliph was perceived by Muslims to be a political-religious leader whose rule was intended to unite all Muslims into a worldwide pan-Islamic governing entity. The concept of the caliphate became popular soon after Muhammad died. Muhammad himself never said a word about it. Religions evolve, often quite apart from, and perhaps even in opposition to, the teachings of their founders.

     Osama bin Laden, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and similar individuals and Islamist organizations have all supported the re-establishment of the caliphate. I suspect very few Muslim rulers of any nations anywhere favor that fortuitously extinct concept. A caliphate is problematic and antithetical to their own operation of their own national governance. It should not be surprising to anyone that they oppose the renewed institution of a caliphate anywhere. Besides, where it would be located would be an enormous Islamic problem all by itself to try to resolve.

     Since to the foundation of the state of Israel, Christians have been leaving the Middle East by the millions. For the past ten centuries, there were not that many millions of them to start with. It is estimated that by 2025 Christians will represent just 3% of the population of the Middle East, down from 4.2% in 2010. That is not a very large drop in total population, but it is almost a 40% drop in the total Christian population in less than seven years. Not so long ago, Christians were at least 10% of the population of Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. Just a few decades back, nearly half of the Lebanese were Christians. At its founding, Israel was more than ten percent Christian. Now it is less than three percent Christian.

     Why have all those Christians left? It was not because of Muslim opposition; it was because of Muslim extremist opposition. It does not take a high number of extremists to make conditions intolerable for a far larger number of people. Dedicated killers can terrorize anyone if they dedicate their minds --- and their guns --- to the purge.

     Does the exodus of Christians from the Middle East indicate an upswing in Muslim radicalism? Without question, yes. Does it indicate that most Middle Eastern Muslims are becoming radicalized? Absolutely not. We must always think rationally and act compassionately toward our fellow earthlings. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Without question there is a problem, but it is a terrorist problem, and it will dissipate. All firebrands eventually burn out, and nearly all terrorists also eventually burn themselves out. Terrorism is, after all, a young man’s venture. And when young men are unemployed for too long a time, especially educated ones, they are the most apt conscripts to take up arms against what they believe to be a sea of westernized troubles.

     Bangladesh is a very populous, very Muslim state. Like most other Muslim states, it has its difficulties with Muslim extremists. Last June the wife of a police officer was secretly investigating a militant group of Muslim extremists. She was discovered, captured, brutally slashed, and then shot to death in front of her terrified six-year-old son. The prime minister of Bangladesh accused the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of the murder. He ordered 11,000 people to be arrested.

     Beware of anyone who supports nationalism in a political party’s name or in any form of political posturing. Such men are dangerous; they think too little. They should be considered guilty until proven innocent.

     Only nine days after the woman was murdered by the Islamist extremists, a hundred thousand Bangladeshi Muslim clerics banded together to  issue a fatwa (a religious decree) because of this heinous crime. It declared that the killing of – quote – “non-Muslims, minorities and secular activists is forbidden in Islam.”

     Do not be deluded by western cultural reactionaries into believing that Islam is out to conquer the world. That is a dangerously specious notion intended to sully the reputation of a religion that historically is surely as admirable as Judaism or Christianity. When pressed, every educated, objective observer would have to affirm that truth, even if emotional and viscerally it might be a difficult step to take.

     Many Americans, and especially Europeans, worry that Muslims will soon become a majority in their nations. That is a statistical impossibility, no matter how many future refugees will be allowed into America or Europe at the current rate. Probably that number will actually shrink dramatically. On the basis of current trends, only a couple of European countries will have even a 10% Muslim population by 2050 according to demographers, and most will have far fewer than 5%. The USA is predicted to be just 4% Muslim in thirty years. The Nones (N-o-n-e-s: those who profess no religious affiliation of any kind) now represent almost 25% of Americans. They are the fastest-growing cohort in American religious demography. And you’re concerned about the Muslims?! What about the multi-millions who claim no religious affiliation at all, some of whom may have no reasoned ethical base from which to operate?

     In the meantime, some of “the powers that be” in our nation are telling us that Muslims are dangerous. They warn that something must be done to stem this purported flood of Muslims who in recent decades have come into the land of the free and the home of the brave. Senator Ted Cruz, as an example, says the United States needs to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

     Has anybody been patrolling your neighborhood for fear you and your neighbors might become instantaneously-ignited terrorists? Sea Pines and Hilton Head Plantation seem like likely hotbeds of radicalization, don’t you think? As for The Seabrook, I live here, and I can tell you we have some folks here I am gravely concerned about becoming bloodthirsty killers. So why would anyone imagine that American Muslim enclaves are any more threatening than the rest of us are?

     The kind of religious profiling that is proposed by Senator Cruz – and our President – violates longstanding constitutional principles of religious liberty. Furthermore, this noxious notion is almost guaranteed to produce unintended radicalization rather than to obliterate it. Following 9/11, the New York City Police Department, encouraged by the then-mayor, Rudy Guiliani, tried to employ such draconian measures. For seven long years they spied on Muslim neighborhoods and listened into conversations among Muslims. They decided that it was not only not productive, but that it was actually counter-productive.

     American Muslims are remarkably happy to be living in America. In 2011, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that 56% of Muslim Americans were satisfied with the way things are going in our country, compared to only 23% of the population at large. The poll also discovered that 82% of Muslim Americans are satisfied with their lives, and 79% rated their communities and good places to live. Would that the rest of us were so pleased with our circumstances and communities!

     On average, most American Muslims have been living here somewhat longer than the Muslims of Europe. There, millions of refugees have poured into Europe in just the past few years. Understandably it has been very difficult for government officials, local social service agencies, and communities throughout Europe to absorb so many people so quickly. If we start following some of the suggestions offered by some of the less tolerant American government officials regarding the Muslims in America, we may rapidly turn a happily stable situation into a terribly bad situation. Muslims living in America are more content than are native-born Americans living in America.

     In many parts of the world, including the United States, there is far more secularization occurring than there is growth among any of the world’s historic religions. Where there is religious growth, it is mainly due to a high birth rate among conservative religionists rather than from a high rate of conversion.

     Modernity often does not mesh well religion. Probably it never did. Religion represents the long-time tried and true, and modernity likes to launch out in entirely new directions, such as whiz-bang technology or space travel or computers.

     Too many people in the western world fear the newest of the three great western religions, Islam. Climate change, drastically ill-conceived potential nuclear exchanges, or newly invincible microbes or viruses are far more likely to exact immense damage on the world than Islam. After all, the root Arabic word from which the word “Islam” is derived does not mean “Submission,” as is usually claimed. At its heart, Islam means “Peace.” Though all religions have brought war into the world on far too many occasions, they all primarily espouse peace in the biblical and Quranic sense.

     If you have concluded that “we” are at war with “Islam,” my primary purpose here is to try to dissuade you from that misguided and misanthropic idea. Such thinking only plays into the twisted agenda of Islamist and Christianist zealots. They may be at loggerheads with one another, but the rest of us are not. We must keep ourselves from being drawn into the ignorant and uninformed mindset of those who want to fan the flames of religious fanaticism rather than to attempt to extinguish them. Salaam alikum, shalom aleichem; Peace be with you, and with all of us.   

January 13, 2018

John Miller is a writer, author, lecturer, and preacher-for-over-fifty-years who is pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC.









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