Islam

Chapter u62 Introduction to Islam

Preliminary Questions

Why Study Islam?

Tom Richstatter and Islam

Teaching Method

Dangers and Difficulties

Summary of Islam

Vatican II & Islam

Islam in the USA

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

What is your current understanding of Islam?  What is your current attitude toward Muslims?  Do you know any Muslims?  Do you have any Muslim friends?  Where is the closest mosque to where you live? 

What does Islam say about what it means to be a human being?  What does Islam say about the relation of God to humanity?  What is the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? 

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Why Study Islam?

"For the first time in history, we are no longer on top,"  said Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, commenting on new Vatican data indicating that Catholics are no longer the world's largest religious group.  Muslims now make up 19.2% of the population, while Catholics constitute 17.4%.  (As reported in TIME, April 17, 2008, p 23.)

1.  Fastest Growing Religion in America  While Islam is the fastest growing religion in America, fewer than 20% of Americans say they have a positive image of the religion.  (See TIME, August 28, 2006, pg. 37)  A study of this great Abrahamic religion should give one a more positive view of this faith which nourishes one fifth of the earth's inhabitants.  (See the survey Islam in the USA reprinted below.)

2.  Ministerial Background  As the number of Muslims in the USA increases, Catholics will increasingly have occasion to interact with Muslims and to do so knowledgeably will be especially important for Catholic ministers and those who represent the Church.  Hospital chaplains, Army chaplains, Prison chaplains will all be involved in ministry to Muslims. 

3.  Contemporary Prejudice/Ignorance  I rented the film "The Message" from Netflix.  It is an historical epic film (1976) about the birth of the Islamic faith (starring Anthony Quinn).  The authenticity of the film is approved by Muslim scholars and the University of Al-Azhar in Cairo.   Putting aside the question of whether or not "The Message" succeeds as a film (I personally think it does), I found it interesting -- and disturbing -- to find among contemporary reviews of the film comments which indicated a lack of historical information, such as:  "this film is like 10 pounds of steer compost (manure) in a 5 pound bag...it just doesn't work. They completely overlook the historical war-mongering pedophile and his polygamist ways. Very bad..."  "What piece of Wahhabi propaganda. And this rubbish of not showing Mohammed's face! We can show Jesus, Moses, but not that charlatan. A waste of my time."   [A Wahhabi is a member of a conservative Islamic group that rejects any innovation that occurred after the 3rd century of Islam; but I think the reviewer simply uses the term as a pejorative word without any reference to its actual meaning.] 

4.  Faith enrichment  "The one who knows only one religion knows none."  When a Christian seriously studies another religion, one's own faith is enriched.  See The Parable of Jacob the Tailor

5.  Religious Imperative    One night I had a dream.  In the dream I was taken up into heaven and looked into the heavenly calefactory on Saturday afternoon and there I saw Jesus and Abraham watching a football game on television.    Abraham seemed preoccupied, even a bit sad (which Jesus and I both found a bit strange -- this is heaven after all).  And I heard Jesus say, "Abraham, what seems to be the matter?  Is something wrong?"  Abraham replied, "Oh, it's nothing."  But Jesus persisted and asked again:  "Abraham, what's wrong?"  To which Abraham replied:  "I just wish all my children could sit down at the same table and eat together."   Abraham's voice reflected the anguish that I have often heard in the voices of parishioners whose adult children -- because of some feud, injury, or misunderstanding -- refuse to share a common table at Thanksgiving or Christmas.   I know that Abraham's wish will be realized at the heavenly banquet, but I think Abraham wants us to prepare for that day by greater understanding and friendship even today, here and now, between Jews, Christians, and Muslims -- all of whom call upon Abraham as their Father. 

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Tom Richstatter and Islam

My professional training is in music, liturgy, and sacramental theology.  My writings are primarily in the field of Catechetics.  Why then, you might ask, am I teaching a course on Islam?  What has prepared me to teach the course?

1.  I am a Franciscan  I am interested in Islam and the Muslim community because I am a Franciscan and dialogue with Muslims is one of the traditional works of the Franciscans.  As Franciscans, we have a rich heritage of life-among-Muslims that can be traced back to St. Francis' visit with the Sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt in Damietta in 1219.  Contemporary Franciscan studies are discovering the influence of Francis' visit to the sultan on his vision for the brothers (e.g. the shaping of our own common greeting "Pax et Bonum"  by the Islamic greeting "Assalaam Alaikum"' or again, the call to prayer morning, noon, and evening and Francis and the Angelus).  Today, Friars are living among the Muslims in the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and other parts of Africa.  

In the United States Islam is a rapidly growing religion (for example, there are currently more Muslims in this country than Episcopalians). At the same time that their numbers are increasing, there is also an increase in misunderstanding, fear, and prejudice against Muslims. Improved Christian Muslim dialogue is a prerequisite for peace in today's world.   Making peace was so central to the ministry of St. Francis of Assisi that the modern "Peace Prayer" is usually called simply the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon,
where there is doubt, faith,
where there is darkness, light,
and where there is sadness joy.

O, Divine Master, grant me that I
may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born eternal life.

2.  Pastoral Need   Even though I did not have any specific "qualifications" to teach the course, I felt that in 1994 there was a "pastoral need" for such a course and that the students at Saint Meinrad Seminary School of Theology should have the opportunity to become acquainted with this great Abrahamic religion.  Consequently I have offered this elective course in 1994, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2013. 

3.  Chaplain's Assistant   From 1989 until my election to the Provincial Council of my Franciscan Province in 1999 (which demanded that I relinquish all non-essential extra curricular activities) I was a chaplain's volunteer at Branchville Training Center, a medium security state prison in southern Indian.  I was frequently asked to be present with the Muslims on Friday afternoons so that they could perform their Al Jumna prayers. My position at the prison permitted me to be present for Islamic prayer in a more intimate way than most Christians ever have the opportunity to experience.

4.  Foreign Study    During my sabbatical semester January - June 1996, in order to deepen my knowledge and experience of Islam and Muslim prayer and mysticism, I lived with the Franciscans in Cairo, Egypt and studied Arabic.  While I am not able to read the Holy Qur'an, I at least have some understanding of this language which helps me appreciate the text.  During my sabbatical semester August - December 1999, while studying Syriac and the liturgical rites of the West Syrian Church at the St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute in Kerala, India, I had occasion to continue my study of Islam -- particularly Islam / Hindu relations in India -- and was able to form friendships with Muslims and be invited into their homes, etc.  

5.  Dr. Scott Alexander  During the summer of 2006 I had the opportunity to take "Introduction to Islam" from Dr. Scott Alexander at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.  Dr. Alexander is a recognized expert in the field of Islamic studies and he was most helpful in suggesting materials and strategies that I might use in teaching this course at Saint Meinrad.

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A few notes on Teaching Method

1.  General information on my teaching method can be found in Chapter d11 General Introduction

2.  I will update the syllabus to record what we actually did during each class period.  Use the "refresh" button on your computer when referring to the syllabus.

3.  It is very helpful if you would post your picture on MOODLE.

4.  Make a quick visit to the Iceberg Metaphor.

5.  Note:  My comments on your weekly postings on MOODLE should be received simply as conversational comments.  They are "off the top of my head" thoughts that come to me as I read your post. 

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Dangers and Difficulties

1.  Is this for everyone?   Who should "be introduced" to Islam?   I was with a group of Franciscan friars charged with the formation of young men coming to the Order.  As the Order's involvement in peace and dialogue is such an important part of "who we are" they discussed whether "Introduction to Islam" should be a part of initial formation.  The question was decided negatively.  As young men are struggling to identify themselves as Catholics and to know what that means, and struggling as Catholics who might wish to live out their Baptismal commitment in the way of Francis of Assisi, and to know what that means, the formators decided that it would be best to let one's own identity take shape first before introducing another religion into the mix. 

2.  Religion in its "pure" form   Is it possible to study a religion or a religious movement in its "pure" state?  As one involved in encouraging vocations to the Franciscan Order, we find that sometimes someone is drawn to the Order by reading a book on St. Francis, but most frequently, one is attracted to the Order by his association with an actual friar!  Similarly, a religion such as Catholicism or Islam can perhaps be studied "in its pure form" but that "pure form" exists in time/history, in culture, and embodied in individual Catholics or Muslims. 

Dr. Goldbrunner told the following story in class at Notre Dame in the summer of 1967:  A man died after a life of anti-Catholic feelings, words, acts, lots of sin [you can elaborate here as you wish to make the story interesting] ... etc.  At the "Particular Judgment" when he came face to face with Jesus he experienced an immediate conversion and exclaimed:  "So that's who you are!  If I had only known!  During my lifetime I never met you; I had no idea... ;  I only met Catholics!"

Ask yourself what you bring along unconsciously (e.g. iceberg metaphor) as you study Islam?   Compare 1) a person who wants to know about Catholicism and lives in a community of faithful Muslims and hears stories in the mosque of Muslim saints and heroes but hears news stories of Christian terrorists...  and 2)  a person who wants to know about Islam and lives in a community of faithful Catholics, and hears stories in chapel each day of Catholics saints and heroes, but hears news stories of Muslim terrorists.   How can these two people dialogue?

In order for dialogue to take place each needs to struggle to know 1) an accurate account of his own history and 2) an accurate portrait of the other religion.   Both are difficult.   The "under the iceberg" part is by definition "invisible" to us. 

One Saturday in Cairo in 1996, a young Catholic parishioner (at the command of his Mother!) was playing "tour guide" for me and we were at a museum (the equivalent of our "Air and Space" museum on the Mall in DC) and there was an F-16 on display.  My young guide read the "description" -- which was written in Arabic.  (Museums all over the world seem to presume that the visitors all speak the language of the country!)  The description read:  "F-16  made in the USA....

3.  A note on monovision  Following cataract surgery in the Spring of 2006, I see things in the distance with my left eye and I read and see things up close with my right eye.  There was a time when I could see things far away and up close with both eyes -- but those days are gone.  When Christians study Islam, we must be careful not to have "one eye" that sees all the good things in Christianity, and "one eye" that sees all the bad things in Islam.   As the  Qur'an  states in 9:124 [paraphrased] "For those who believe, reading the  Qur'an with faith, will increase their faith and they will rejoice. But for those with doubt in their heart, reading the Qur'an will add doubt to their doubt."

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Summary
A Brief Summary Islam for Christians

The human religious quest can be seen in two movements each of which encompasses approximately half the earth: those who seek God "within" (Animists, Buddhists, Confucians) and those who seek God "out there" (Jews, Christians, Muslims).

1.  The words "Islam" and "Muslim"  The Arabic word Islam simply means "submission." An adherent of Islam is a Muslim [Arabic for "one who submits"]; a Muslim is one who surrenders to God and so, is at peace with God.  "Allah" is simply the Arabic word "God."  [For example, when I was living in Egypt and celebrating the Eucharist in Arabic, the Eucharistic Prayer is addressed to Allah.]   Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in one God, the God of Abraham.  Christians, however, believe that this one God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

2.  Muhammad   Muhammad is believed to be the last and greatest of God's prophets, in the line of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.   Muhammad is not God; followers of Muhammad are not called Mohammedans as followers of Christ are called Christians. [To do so is an insult to Muslims!]  Muhammad was born about 570 C.E. in Mecca and died in 632 C.E.  When he was 40, he went into the desert to pray and the Qur'an was revealed to him. At first, he had few converts and many enemies. In 622 C.E. a plan was made at Mecca to murder him, but he escaped to Medina. It is from this event, the hegira/migration of the Prophet, that Islam counts its dates. By 630 C.E. he had converted all Arabia. -- Today (October 2009) there are about a 1.57 billion Muslims (and about 1.6 billion Catholics / about 2.1 billion Christians). According to Vatican data (as reported in TIME, April 17, 2008, p 23), Muslims make up 19.2% of the population, while Catholics constitute 17.4%.

3.  Qur'an  A book (about the size of the Christian New Testament) revealed by God to Muhammad and dictated to him by the Angel Gabriel.  The Qur'an not only contains the Word of God, it is the Word of God.  [Muslims reverence God's presence in the Qur'an much as Catholics reverence God's presence in the Eucharist.] The Qur'an was dictated in Arabic, the language used in Islam all over the world.  "God" in Arabic is "Allah." Allah is awesome, transcendent, almighty, just, loving, merciful, and good.  No creature may be compared to Allah, and to God alone do Muslims pray.  Al-Fatiha ("The Opening", that is, the first Surah [book/chapter] in the Qur'an) reads in English: 

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Praise be to God, who loves and sustains the world.
God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
Master of the Day of Judgment.
We worship you, O God, and seek your aid.
Show us the straight path --
The way of those on whom
You have bestowed your grace --
The way of those whose portion
is not wrath, and who go not astray.  Amen.

(or -- an alternate translation)

In the name of God the Compassionate, the Caring!
Praise be to God, Lord Sustainer of the worlds
the Compassionate, the Caring,
Master of the day of reckoning.
To you we turn to worship
   and to you we turn in time of need.
Guide us along the road straight
the road of those to whom you are giving
   not those with anger upon them
   not those who have lost the way.  (Translation by M. Sells)

4.  The Five Pillars [or five essential duties] of Islam.  (Islam is more about "right actions" than about "right beliefs".)  One who surrenders to God practices the following divinely ordained acts:

1. Shahada   the witness that there is no divinity but God [in Arabic the word "God" is "Allah"] and that Muhammad is his Prophet.

2. Salat    the ritual prayers, or worship services, performed daily during five specified intervals, facing Mecca, at (1) dawn, (2) midday, (3) mid-afternoon, (4) dusk, and (5) after dark.

11:114   And establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night.

3. Zakat   the ritual almsgiving based upon the value of stipulated property.  The purification of money.

4. Sawm    fasting during the daylight hours during the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Muslim [lunar] calendar). [For an explanation of the Islamic Calendar click here.]  A period of self-restraint.

5. Hajj   the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during the lifetime of each Muslim for those who can afford it.

6.  [A sixth pillar is sometimes added, jihad which means striving, or exertion in the way of God, either personally, by struggle against lack of faith and devotion, or publicly, by preaching, teaching, and, if necessary, armed struggle. The inner striving is the Great jihad.]

Sunnis and the Shia or Shiite Muslims   The division began over thirteen hundred years ago over who would be the legitimate successor of the Prophet Mohammed. In the centuries that followed, that division has widened into distinctively different versions of the Islamic faith. This is seen especially with a Shiite belief in the future coming of the Mahdi (a kind of Muslim messiah) and the conviction that until he comes a succession of Ayatollahs (religious leaders) are divinely authorized to rule in his place. [It is this belief in particular that led Saddam Hussein to keep a very tight rein on the Shiites. It is also the belief that will make democracy in Iraq a very touchy matter, since in Iraq the Shia outnumber everyone else.]  (R W Kropf 4/9/04)

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Vatican II & Islam

Second Vatican Council. Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions ("Nostra Aetate"), October 28, 1965.  For a response to Nostra Aetate by the National Jewish Scholars Project, see Dabru Emet:  A Jewish Statement on Christians And Christianity

#3. The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to humankind. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God's plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they worship Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds, and fasting.

Over the centuries may quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. This sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.

#5c. Therefore, the Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life or religion. Accordingly, following the footsteps of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred Council earnestly begs the Christian faithful to "conduct themselves well among the Gentiles" (1 Peter 2:12) and if possible, as far as it depends on them, to be at peace with all (cf. Romans 12:18) and in that way to be true sons and daughters of the Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt. 5:45).

Background:  [The following is from an article by the historian John W. O'Malley, S.J. originally published in French in the Jesuit pastoral journal Etudes.  The translation here is an unpublished translation by Rev. Paul Philibert, O.P.]  Father O'Malley is speaking of the "Spirit of the Council", namely Reconciliation.  He writes: 

Of course, the most obvious and direct act of reconciliation where the decrees On Ecumenism and On Non-Christian Religions.  The former opens, "The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council."  It bids Catholics to respect the beliefs of those not in communion with the church, and, as mentioned, sets in motion a process of respectful dialogue with them.  These steps might seem cautious and minimal, but they constituted a dramatic reversal of course from the condemning all other Christian bodies and counseling Catholics to avoid as far as possible all contact with them.  The Code of Canon Law of 1918 forbade Catholic participation in any non-Catholic religious service, even weddings and funerals.  … Pope Pius IX in 1928 in his encyclical Mortalium Animos forbade all Catholic participation in the ecumenical movement. At the Council the opposition to Nostra aetate was so severe that at one point it was almost withdrawn from the agenda.… Nostra aetate treats the Muslims at much greater length than any of the other religious groups except the Jews.  No longer were they "our eternal and godless enemy," as Pope Paul III described them in 1542 in his bull convoking the Council of Trent, but people deserving of respect, who shared with Christians many of the same religious traditions going back to the common patriarch Abraham.

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Commentary

3. The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims (1). They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty (2) , the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to humankind. They strive to submit themselves without reserve (3)  to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself (4) to God's plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own (5). Although not acknowledging him as God, they worship Jesus as a prophet (6), his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke (7). Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God (8), especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds, and fasting (9).

Commentary (1) Note that the document breaks with the Catholic tradition of calling them "Mohammedans" or "Saracens" or "Infidels" (as I was taught to call them in the seminary) and refers to them -- as they themselves wish to be called -- "Muslims."   The General Intercessions for Good Friday in the Roman Missal of 1962 after praying for various categories of the faithful, rulers of nations, and the Jews, then prays (in prayer #9) "For the conversion of pagans."   See comments at Chapter y35 Good Friday

Commentary (2) In these adjectives one familiar with the Quran and Islam would recognize these titles as five of the most precious of the "Beautiful Names of God."

Commentary (3) The document uses the key verb "submit"  which gives name to the religion "Islam"

Commentary (4) The document acknowledges that Abraham was "the first Muslim."

Commentary (5) The document acknowledges that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are children of a common Father Abraham, and worshipped the same God. 

Commentary (6) The document recognizes that Muslims reverence Jesus as one of the most important religious figures of history. 

Commentary (7) When we discuss Sufism, we will discuss some of the devotional aspects of Islam. 

Commentary (8) The two commandments of Jesus:  Love God and love your neighbor.

Commentary (9) Three marks of Christian life and three of the five pillars of Islam.

Over the centuries may quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past (10), and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values (11).

Commentary (10) The Latin text "praeterita obliviscentes" is not to be interpreted that the past is to be forgotten as though it never happened.  The text asks us to move forward and not to "get hung up on" the past.

Commentary (11) The working together for peace, liberty, social justice and moral values is not merely an "option" for those (few?) Christians who are able to move beyond prejudice, etc.   Everyone is to strive to get to the point where working together for these "divinely desired goals" is possible. 

5c. Therefore, the Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people (12) or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life or religion (13). Accordingly, following the footsteps of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred Council earnestly begs the Christian faithful to "conduct themselves well among the Gentiles" (1 Peter 2:12) and if possible, as far as it depends on them, to be at peace with all (cf. Romans 12:18) and in that way to be true sons and daughters of the Father (14) who is in heaven (cf. Mt. 5:45).

Commentary (12) Discrimination is not an option. 

Commentary (13) Compare:  "In that new world where the fullness of your peace will be revealed, gather people of every race, language, and way of life to share in the one eternal banquet with Jesus Christ the Lord."  (Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II)

Commentary (14) Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all true sons and daughters of the Father in heaven, and thus we are brothers and sisters here on earth.  This has practical implications for our behavior. 

Note:  Many of these 14 statements were truly "revolutionary" in 1965.  It is interesting that now, more than forty years later, some are are more or less "taken for granted" and some seem to be overlooked or ignored.

For a response to Nostra Aetate by the National Jewish Scholars Project, see Dabru Emet:  A Jewish Statement on Christians And Christianity

Good Friday Liturgy:  General Intercessions  (Prayer for the Muslims) 

1955  Missale Romanum

Let us pray also for the pagans.
May almighty God take away evil from their hearts. 
May they give up their idols
and be converted to the living and true God
and his only Son, Jesus Christ, our God and Lord.

Almighty and everlasting God,
you always desire not the death but the life of sinners. 
In your goodness hear our prayer. 
Deliver them from idol worship.
Unite them to your holy Church,
to the praise and glory of your name; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

(Muslims would find this prayer highly insulting.)

1969  Missal of Paul VI 

Let us pray for those who do not believe in Christ,
that the light of the Holy Spirit
may show them the way to salvation.

Almighty and eternal God
enable those who do not acknowledge Christ
to find the truth
as they walk before you in sincerity of heart.
Help us grow in love for one another,
to grasp more fully the mystery of your godhead,
and to become more perfect witnesses of your love
in the sight of all. 

(Muslims could comfortably pray this prayer -- though they might have a different idea than we do of "way to salvation" and "find the truth." 

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To Think About

1."Only in a theology rooted in a God who loves all people can there be genuine reconciliation, justice and peace. Christians, Muslims and Jews, people of the three Abrahamic faiths, must reject a 'God' who chooses one people against all others, for in this 'God' lies the ultimate mandate for genocide."  Rosemary Radford Ruether, "Jewish settlers as pushy 'chosen people,'" National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 1996, p 12.

2.  A God who loves us all.  One day while I was studying at the Franciscan Centre of Christian Oriental Studies, El-Bendaqa, in Cairo Egypt, an Islamic scholar who was visiting the library at the Center stayed for the noon meal.  He inquired who I was and what I was doing there and when I told him that I was studying Arabic and I was interested in Muslim/Christian dialogue he replied:  "The bottom line is this:  You believe in God who created us all and wants us all to somehow live on this earth as brothers and sisters.  We believe in God to created us all and wants us all to be either Muslims or dead."  This was perhaps my first serious discussion with a Muslim scholar; I now realize that he did not speak for Islam.  (...any more than St. Louis of France spoke for Catholicism when he replied to the question "How do you dialogue with a Muslim?" replied "You take your sword and plunge it into his belly up to the hilt, and then pulled it back out." 

3.  "The Church is the central sacrament of the kingdom, but it is it is not coextensive with God's presence. The kingdom of God in various degrees flows through the entire human race. All are called to be saved (I Timothy 2:4), and the blood of the cross objectively redeemed not only the baptized but the entire human race." (O'Meara, Theology of Ministry, p 32)

4.  A cruel religion?  Is Islam a cruel religion?  The same question might be ask of Christianity:  Is Christianity a cruel religion?  History seems to indicate that in southern Spain in the middle ages, the Christians and Jews had much more freedom under Muslim rule that did the Muslims and Jews under Christian rule!   The slaughter of the "infidels" by the Crusaders; the blood of the infidels ran knee deep in Constantinople...   During the inquisition period at Versailles, after the King's dinner parties, the guests would go to the veranda and shoot protestants dressed up like large birds running through the garden.  The Spanish missionaries to the South West USA took the Zuni and other Indians who persisted in dancing their tribal dances and chopped off their feet at the ankles.  As Jesus said:  "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34).  We must be careful not to select historical facts which support our prejudices and ignore those facts which might run counter to them.

5.  Beware the world's most threatening religion, dogmatic, anti-democratic spiritual regime governed by clerical tyrants bent on worldwide domination! Migrants and refugees escaping political repression in their homelands, they cross the ocean determined to exploit the very freedoms they will eventually strive to overturn. Garbed in religious costume to set them apart, these swarthy foreigners huddle in enclaves in our cities and towns.

Bent on undermining our values and transforming our way of life, they swear allegiance to an authoritarian despot who issues religious edicts that govern virtually every aspect of their lives, from how they are to vote to how many children they are required to have. Their treatment of women is especially barbaric. Among their number are many given to violence, and embedded in secret underground networks.

Despite their apologists' denials, the mass of believers is sympathetic to the terrorist and shares their basic political orientation. And make no mistake: the new immigrants seek to establish their own schools, seminaries and "private" religious institutions, which will serve as safe houses and nurseries of radical religion and revolution.

The reader acquainted with the history of immigration will recognize of this rant not as the post-9/11 script of a right wing talk show host bashing Islam and Muslims but as the mantra of the 19th century nativists decrying the hordes of Roman Catholics invading New York, Boston, Baltimore. and points west.  [Taken from the beginning of an article "The Differences Are Similar" (Notre Dame Magazine, December 2009, pp 42-46) by C. Scott Appleby, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame.]

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org