The U.S. today is abuzz with debate about Muslims. Most of the conversations are driven by politicians with political agendas, networks with economic agendas, and our ancient, seductive enemies, fear and anger. Some Christians, called by God to welcome strangers in one of our favorite biblical passages, advocate for turning homeless war refugees away because they might be Muslims. Others work to support the refugees. A major candidate for the U.S. Presidency calls for a ban on any Muslims entering the U.S., and important Christian leaders make speeches supporting him. To their credit, other Christians firmly denounce him.
Amidst all of the people earnestly debating Islam in the U.S., how many of them understand the historic or contemporary differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims? How many of them can identify the five pillars of Islamic faith or know why Muslims fast during Ramadan? We are earnestly arguing about a religion of which most of us have little understanding. Our ignorance renders our debates less effective and makes us easier to manipulate.
Arm yourself, not against Muslims, but against ignorance, blind fear, and knee-jerk reactions. Imam Mustapha Elturk is a teacher, an author, and Imam of the Islamic Organization of North America. Learn from him some of the basic principles of Islam: what Muslims believe about God and their most essential principles for interacting with the world. Use Introducing Islam with Mustapha Elturk as a jumping-off point for understanding what Muslims believe, and then go out and learn more.
It is incumbent upon today’s American Christians to understand Islam. Our debates on this subject are essential in defining for ourselves and for non-Christians what it means to be an American Christian today.
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