Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

More in Common Than You Think: The Bridge between Islam and Christianity

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

More in Common Than You Think: The Bridge between Islam and Christianity

Article excerpt

More in Common Than You Think: The Bridge Between Islam and Christianity

William W. Baker, a well-traveled Christian theologian and Biblical archeologist, has released an important work that is timely and pertinent to advancing human understanding and tolerance by shattering stereotypes and misconceptions that have often arisen between followers of the world's two largest monotheistic faiths, Christianity and Islam. In this clear and concise text, Baker introduces lay persons to the great religion of Islam, which now has some 1.2 billion adherents and is the fastest-growing religion in both the United States and the United Kingdom. When the media reports tragic conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims in such diverse regions as Kosovo, Ethiopia, Kashmir, Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine, one can only ask, is it religions that bring about wars, or is it opportunistic politicians misusing scripture, who bring about the death, destruction and needless suffering?

Baker's central theme throughout More in Common Than You Think is mapping the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The first three chapters give the reader some insight into the origins and development of Islam. Even in the historical background, the author illustrates the common origins of Islam and Christianity and the significance of Old Testament scripture to both faiths. He draws special attention to the life and message of Prophet Muhammad and his vision of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims. Baker also provides a good explanation of the five basic tenets of Islam: Witnessing, Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving, and Pilgrimage. He relates these basic tenets of Islam to the basic principles of Christianity.

Chapters four through six are devoted exclusively to clarifying common misperceptions and stereotypical presentations of Islam and Christianity, which have sadly come to be accepted as facts by many Westerners. These include the role of the Gospel of Christ in Islamic thought, the persistent equation of Arab and Islam, ignoring the fact that not all Muslims are Arab and not all Arabs are Muslim, the differing roles of women in Islamic countries, and the various meanings of the term jihad. These chapters are perhaps the most important in Baker's compilation of common ground between Muslims and Christians. They are presented very succinctly and are not accusatory or denunciatory toward any religious community. Baker argues intelligently that blindly accepting popular media representations of fringe elements in both Christianity and Islam is a serious injustice to the millions of Muslims and Christians who follow their respective faiths and live and work side by side. …

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