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Christianity vs. Islam--What's the Beef?

Updated on November 28, 2013

Trouble in Arab nations

In Search of Peace

It is amazing that two religious groups can be thought to hate each other. The conflict is not their religions, which drives them to violence, but rather the differences economically and educationally between the two cultures that dominate the western world.

Islam is the religion of a wide belt of countries that spans from the Atlantic coast of Morocco all the way to the western border of India with Pakistan, with one notable exception, Israel.

There are many similarities between Christianity and Islam. Both religions trace back to Abraham, a distant descendant of Adam and Eve according to the Hebrew Bible. Both Muslims and Christians, and Jews too, pray to the One God. The Muslims believe Jesus was sent by God, same as Christians believe. They believe in the Ten Commandments, same as Christians and Jews. They believe Jesus will return to earth from heaven, and the Day of Judgment will come. All this sounds so similar to Americans who mainly practice Christianity.

In fact, Muslims believe in the teachings of Jesus and in the Bible. How could there be any hatred based on such close resemblances of the religions? There can't be. The friction has to have a completely different cause.

In a world that is shrinking day by day due to jet travel, television, and the Internet, there is no room for prejudice. But it exists in abundance due to the fighting nature of people everywhere.

Osama bin Laden claimed the Europeans and Americans were waging a Christian war against Islam. After 9/11, many Americans came to believe that terrorism was part of the teachings of Mohammed. But Mohammed believed in Christ also, and for that matter, Moses as well. So why all the fighting? It's not religion, it's power.

The powerful nations always have taken advantage of, exploited, or occupied the less advanced ones the way the original British colonists displaced Native Americans. Empires are the way of powerful rulers.

The fighting is over territory. The president of Iran stated publicly that the way to resolve the problems of the Middle East is to destroy Israel. This statement was based on the belief that Israel drove Palestinians off their land.

Osama bin Laden declared a jihad holy war against America for establishing military bases in Saudi Arabia.

Protesters who learned of an obscure American movie ridiculing Mohammed, killed the American ambassador to Libya.

Christian churches in Arab countries have been bombed; Christians are fleeing Arab countries out of fear.

Behind all this terror and violence is much more than any intellectual distinctions between Mohammed and Jesus. It has nothing to do with that, and everything to do with imperialism and the desire of Muslim communities to remain free of western influences such as women's liberation and other traits of predominantly Christian nations, which the Arab citizens generally consider undisciplined and way too liberal.

In this, the Muslim nations are similar to sects that wish to remain separate from the society of the rest of the world. We have in America the Amish people who live in Pennsylvania. They are law-abiding people who wish to preserve their way of life without being changed by the surrounding society in America. The Muslims are somewhat that way with respect to their desire to keep their nations free from changes that would occur in their society and value system, if too much contact with Christian westerners occurred.

Most Muslim people want to live in peace with everyone, but the radicals often turn to violence to prevent the Americans and Europeans from influencing and changing their strictly defined society.

America, after 9/11, also has become very strict about allowing immigrants into the country. Back in the 1950's we had a House of Representatives Committee on UnAmerican Activities, which interrogated anyone who believed in socialism or communism. So we punished citizens not only for the way they expressed themselves, but also for the way they thought.

In the early books of the Bible, the Hebrews were advised not to associate too closely with, or intermarry with non-Hebrews. This solidarity and cautious attitude goes way back in human history.

So Christians, Muslims, and just about any society you can name, all have problems with keeping things the way they are and resisting change. But try as they may, change will happen.

Americans believe in freedom of religion and freedom of speech. But we have our limits. Un-patriotic speech or anti-Christian speech would not go over well, and might ignite violent hatred in some Americans. Are we any different from the Muslims? Perhaps only in degree of tolerance do we differ, but the same ingredients of separatism and prejudice exist in our own society.

Violence begets more violence. For every killing or act of terror, there will be another reaction of terror and more killing on some future day. Drawing the distinction and battle line between people based on different religions, which each follow the commandment against killing, is absurd.

The Protestant Christians in Ireland didn't have tensions with the Catholic Christians based on ideological distinctions in religious beliefs. Instead, it was the religion of the ruling class that characterized one group, as opposed to the poorer group. The distinction is economic and the advantages that go with wealth, most notably higher education.

This also is true in the Christian western world's friction with the conservative powers in the Arab countries. It's not Mohammed or Islam that is at war with Christianity. It's ruling class Christian nations that the Arab citizens fear because of their liberal cultural societies, which could threaten to influence and change the existing Arab, Muslim ways and values.

These vital cultural differences can include types of music considered appropriate, as well as clothing worn by the two opposing groups of nations. Also, the general attitudes about what is polite and considerate in relations with parents and friends, will differ greatly, as will the types of foods people eat.

Aside from superficial distinctions, there is a different foundation between the two groups, especially considering the United States' uniqueness. The Americans, more than any nation on earth, value rugged individualism and self-sufficiency, whereas the Arabs are more of one mind, together as if all belonging to the same brotherhood. In that respect the Arab countries are similar to most nations on earth.

While America has a Statue of Liberty welcoming all countries, the Arab nations do not. In fact no one does except America. We thrive on diversity. They live in fear of it.

But does that make us better than them? Surely we can take pride in our country. We respect the pride others have in theirs, but reasonable people, who are the vast majority in both cultures, all hate violence and bigotry. For that we can be thankful and optimistic for the future.

Arab Muslims and Western Christians

The Danger of Being Too Much in the Majority

In the Middle East, Arab Muslims are very much in the majority, but as reported, they do not always agree even among each other, similar to the way Christians of many different religious affiliations don't always agree either.

However, when there is such a solid, exclusive block of millions of people all living in the Middle East and all practicing the same essential Islamic faith, there comes with that a feeling, an expectation, that they and their religion are the best, and that their culture must be the best. Of course the same can be said of Europeans and Americans who dwell in countries where Christianity and Western culture predominate.

Both "sides" have created within their separate worlds a feeling of solidarity such that they tend to view their opponents as outsiders whose culture and religion defies their own. But the educated among them know that whether someone is a Westerner or a Middle East citizen isn't nearly as important as the level of kindness, intellectual education, and forgiveness that can exist inside the human soul.

The Islamic perspective isn't all that different from anyone else's. People are the same all over the world in many more ways than they differ. Within a nation or block of nations, there always will be the feeling of walls surrounding the land occupied by those of the same race, creed, or cultural traditions and background. It's only human to feel that together people can form a secure society as long as they believe their ways are the best, or at least the best for them considering their circumstances.

All this is understandable, but what isn't right is killing and harming others just because they are different. Responsible, educated Arab Muslims never would do that. The extremists who've brought disgrace upon a devoutly religious people are hated much more by the respectable members of the Arab community than any outsiders ever could despise them because it's those kind and intelligent people who suffer the most when something like an assassination or 9/11 occurs.

The truly peaceful and educated people in Arab Muslim nations are not at war with Christianity or the Western culture. It's not for them, but they don't have the time or energy to spend their lives being haters any more than Westerners do. People want to go about their business peacefully without interference or fear.


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