Muslims and Christians Face to Face

Article excerpt

Muslims and Christians Face to Face.

By Kate Zebiri, Oxford: One World, 1997. Pp. 258. L14.99/$22.95.

Down through the centuries, Christians and Muslims have related to one another in ways that range from long periods of correct coexistence and friendly cooperation to periods of suspicion, rivalry, enmity, and warfare. When one analyzes the elements that have led-and on occasion still lead the communities today-to recrimination and violence, one finds that it is usually political, economic, social, and ethnic factors, as well as the universal human tendencies to greed, power, revenge, and pride, that are the primary motivations rather than the content or teachings of either religion. Nevertheless, the theological images by which Muslims have perceived Christians and Christian faith, and those by which Christians have perceived Muslims and Islam, cannot be dismissed as factors that have engendered animosity.

Zebiri's work is not intended as a history of Christian-Muslim polemics but limits itself to the study of twentiethcentury Muslim treatments of Christianity and contemporary Christian treatments of Islam. It brings together perceptions of modern Muslims and Christians who have written about each other's religion, in some cases in a genuine effort to understand the other religion on its own terms, though perhaps more often as distorted versions of their own religious paths.

The purpose of this study, as Zebiri states it, is to "make it as difficult as possible for either Muslims or Christians to recoil at the other's distorted or inaccurate perceptions, while remaining complacent about their own. …