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Christians and their attitude to Muslims

Most Christians in the West today are painfully aware that, while Christianity is not popular, Islam is in the ascendant—and many are alarmed at the prospects. It is hard to avoid knee-jerk emotional reactions and look in a more considered way at the situation and how best to handle it. This book is a huge help: Cross And Crescent: Responding To The Challenge Of Islam by Colin Chapman (IVP, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84474-192-2).

Chapman approaches the topic as one who has lived most of his life in Muslim countries and learnt a thing or two about how to interact positively with them. He acknowledges frankly that our problem is how to maintain our deeply-held doubts about the validity of Islam as a God-given revelation and, at the same time, to reach out with the love of Christ to the flesh-and-blood Muslims around us.

‘Allah' is the ordinary Arabic word for ‘God'. It is not associated exclusively with Islam, since it is the word for 'God' used by up to 15 million Arabic-speaking Christians all over the Middle East.  (p31)

When stories of persecution are combined with the big political issues related to Muslims and Islam, it is only natural that Christians begin to feel afraid. They then find it harder to trust Muslims or to develop natural and meaningful relationships with them. lf Christians find that they are responding to Muslims and Islam more out of fear than out of love, it becomes very much harder for them to obey the command to 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Matt. 19:19).  (p42)

When God eventually speaks to Abimelech in a dream and Sarah is restored to Abraham, the painful lesson that Abraham has to learn is that some people outside the covenant do have a real reverence for God, and are even able to hear and respond to a direct communication from God.  (p51)

If Christians want to appreciate what the Qur'an means to Muslims, they need to understand that the Qur’an is to Muslims what Jesus is to Christians. It is a mistake to make a direct comparison between the role of Jesus in Christianity and the role of Muhammad in Islam, or between the place of the Bible in Christianity and the place of the Qur'an in Islam.  (p88)

It is an unhelpful and misleading half-truth to say that ‘Islam was spread by the sword'. (p136)

The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is seen by most Arabs and Muslims as the last—and perhaps the most bitter—example of Western imperialism. From their point of view, Jews (mostly from Europe) were coming as colonizers to settle alongside the small Jewish communities which had existed in Palestine for centuries, but in the process were dispossessing thousands of Palestinians. (p146)

Considerable numbers of Western women have converted to Islam in recent years. Sometimes it happens through marriage, but in many cases they convert because they are disgusted at the promiscuity in Western societies and are attracted by the higher moral standards of Islam. (p182)

We need to recognize that in many (if not most) situations, terrorism is the angry and violent response of individuals or communities to violence that has been done to them. What has been done to them in the first place, however, is not often called ‘terrorism', largely because it is carried out not by individuals but by governments and their armies. Observers are often quick to condemn the terrorism, but slow to say anything critical about the actions to which the terrorists are responding. (p191)

If Jesus avoided the term Messiah so deliberately, we today have every justification for avoiding the title 'Son of God' as much as we can in speaking with Muslims. There is no dishonesty or compromise in trying to find other ways of speaking about Jesus.  (p225)

Muhammad should be regarded as a prophet in some sense. Since he enabled the Arabs to reject polytheism and idolatry and to accept monotheism, he must have received some genuine revelation from God. He can perhaps therefore be regarded as being comparable to Old Testament characters like Gideon or Elijah, even though he is not part of the biblical ‘salvation history’ and falls short of the revelation of God given in Christ. (p269)

An overemphasis on the role of Satan in Islam can easily prevent Christians from facing up to the terrible record of the Christian church in its relations with Muhammad and his followers. Attributing everything we dislike or disagree wish in Islam to demonic forces allows us to ignore the responsibility of the Christian church in much of what has happened. The very existence of Islam can be seen as a judgment on the Christian church, and the record of the church over fourteen centuries in its relations with Islam should leave us with a sense of shame. (p270)

‘Islam', in the words of Abul A’la Mawdudi, ‘is a one-way door, you can enter through it but you cannot leave.' A Christian response to this assumption is summed up just as sharply by Kenneth Cragg: 'A faith which you are not free to leave becomes a prison, and no self-respecting faith should be a prison for those within it.'  (p309)

Muslims have great difficulty with the title ‘Son of God’ as applied to Jesus, largely because they believe that the Qur'an's condemnation of the idea of God having sons and daughters applies not only to the pagan beliefs of the Meccans, but also to the beliefs of Christians about Jesus. In this situation the first thing that Christians need to do is to attempt to remove misunderstandings. The idea that Jesus became 'the Son of God' through some kind of physical begetting is as blasphemous to Christians as it is to Muslims.  (p370)

Christians need to see Muslims as neighbours to be loved and not as people to be avoided because their culture is different (Matt. 22:39). While some aspects of the culture of Muslims will always remain difficult and foreign, if we can put aside our ethnocentricity, which makes us feel that our culture is always bound to be best and therefore the norm, we are sure to discover aspects of their culture which will put us to shame. (P404)

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