Muslims, Christians, and the Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue

Muslims, Christians, and the Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue

Muslims, Christians, and the Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue

Muslims, Christians, and the Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue

Synopsis

The attacks of September 11, 2001 instantly heightened the American public's sensitivity toward matters of religious difference. Many Americans realized not only that non-Muslims need to learn more about Islam, but also that Muslims must better understand and articulate their own faith to themselves and others. In this volume, Jane Idleman Smith examines the current American Christian-Muslim dialogue, contextualized both through the history of Islam and of the contemporary West. As we approach the sixth anniversary of 9/11, Smith dares to ask what progress has been made through this dialogue, what happens when that dialogue fails, and what direction it will take in the years to come. Smith examines the recent theological writings of both Catholics and Protestants about dialogue and pluralism, and shows that since 9/11 a few Muslim scholars in the West have also begun to write about these issues. Now, she argues, many Christians and Muslims are expressing their desire to move beyond theological discussion into what is often called the "dialogue of engagement." As evidence, she points to initiatives among young people, women, and African Americans as they attempt to find ways to work together in local projects of justice and community service. Throughout the book, one hears the personal voices of these Muslim and Christian participants in the American interfaith dialogue. While many of the encounters between Islam and Christianity over the past 14 centuries have been peaceful, Americans know little about the history of religious interaction beyond the Crusades or the fear Europe felt in the face of the invasions of the Turks. This volume is intended to educate Americans about the great diversity of Muslims in this country while illustrating how Christians and Muslims are coming together, not only to talk to each other, but to work together for the common good.

Excerpt

Phones started ringing off the hook. Email messages piled up. Engagement calendars became immediately filled as those who had some knowledge of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations tried to respond to the question on everyone's lips after September 11, 2001: Why did they do it? Tragedy often begets more tragedy, and the direct and indirect results of 9/11 have brought pain and loss, disillusionment and severe financial repercussions to many Americans as well as members of other societies. Adding to Western fears have been subsequent bombings in Madrid, Bali, London and elsewhere—terrorist acts acknowledged to have been perpetrated by Muslims—as well as the repercussions of U.S. military action in the Middle East. What is going on, Americans ask, and why is it that the religion of Islam seems to allow for such grisly deeds to be carried out on seemingly innocent victims?

Hundreds of books, thousands of journal articles, and an untold number of opinions expressed in cyberspace have been dedicated to trying to analyze terrorist movements linked in some way to the religion of Islam. American Muslims, horrified by atrocities perpetrated in the name of their precious faith, have agonized over the situation. They have spent a great deal of time denouncing violence and proclaiming Islam to be a religion of peace, and in more quiet ways, have begun examining the roots of their faith to find out what, if anything, justifies aggression and retribution in the Qur'an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad. For the most part, American . . .

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