(Paul Findley is a former
Congressman from Illinois and author of: None Dare Call it Treason)
Dr William W Baker, 1998
Pages 125 Paperback, Defenders Publications,
P.O. Box 8038, Laguna Hills,
Muslims are often cited as the second
most numerous religious community in the US, exceeded only by the Christians.
Estimates vary between six million to seven million. Ranking third are the
Jews who number about five and half million.
In contrast to Christian views of the
Jews, who are generally regarded with sympathy if not support, the attitude of
American Christians towards Muslims is largely negative. I find few Christians
who have no opinion about Islam. Those with an opinion almost always
automatically -- falsely, of course -- link Muslims with terrorism, bigotry
The Christians that have correct
information, and the American Muslims themselves, make little effort to
correct these false perceptions.
Sympathy for Jews arises mainly from
the Nazi Holocaust and the constant reminder on television and in the press of
this dreadful episode in history. Support for Israel – and, therefore for Jews
generally – comes substantially from Christian fundamentalists who believe,
contrary to my own belief, that a militarily strong Israel is an essential
part of God’s plan. Their passionate belief in this doctrine leads them to
dismiss Arab / Muslim claims to their ancestral property in Palestine as
contrary to the will of God.
Even members of the mainstream
Christian clergy, who, one would assume, should be correctly informed about
all monotheistic religions, are generally as silent if not as poorly informed
as lay citizens. If they know the truth about Islam, they keep it to
There are other reasons, many and
complicated, for false stereotypes and general misinformation about Islam
which highlight the grim nature of the situation. US Muslims are terribly
misunderstood, but so far little has been done to correct the stereotypes.
However to this otherwise discouraging
scene comes a promising new book, More in Common Than You Think: The Bridge
between Islam and Christianity by Dr William Baker, a former archaeologist who
in recent years has focused his remarkable energies and talent on the plight
of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and the urgent need for
A former professor of ancient history
and biblical studies, Baker is the founder and president of an organization
called CAMP acronym for Christians and Muslims for Peace. His interest was
kindled in 1970 in Palestine, when he ‘soon discovered the tremendous amount
of common ground’ between the Christian faith and ‘the true faith and
teachings of Islam’, after reading and studying the Qur’ān.
His book is easy to read. It is clear,
illuminating and compelling. It is also brief, the text comprising only 101
pages. It supports the inter faith ‘bridge’ with quotations directly from the
Bible and the 1989 edition of the Meaning of the Holy Qur’ān: New Edition with
Revised Translation and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
It presents cogently the fundamental
teachings shared by Islam and Christianity, teachings that form the solid
foundation that should lead the two largest religious communities to
co-operate enthusiastically and to live in mutual respect with each other.
It dismisses in brief persuasive
language the often expressed warning that Islam, the fastest growing religion
in the world, threatens the democracies of the West and that Christians and
Muslims are headed for an inevitable clash (as Professor Samuel Huntington
predicts as the clash of civilizations) reminiscent of the ancient crusades.
Baker’s book should have ready
acceptance in the Christian evangelical community -- a broad and diverse one —
because of his long, close relationship with Rev. Robert H Schuller founding
pastor of the Crystal Cathedral and television pastor of the Hour of Power
program carried world wide on television.
Schuller warns: ‘the coming century
will most surely witness either a coalition or a collision between Islam and
Christianity’. He adds: ‘True believers in God must move our society and our
world from incompatibility to compatibility; from intolerance to tolerance;
positive Christians and Muslims becoming partners in pace. I am convinced this
book by Dr Baker will prove to be a significant contribution in bringing
Christians and Muslims together to live in peace and mutual respect.’
In Chapter 3, Baker writes: ‘Few
Christians are aware that Prophet Muhammad, the messenger of Islam, believed
Jesus and Moses were the most important bearers of God’s revelation to
mankind, that message is enshrined in the Torah and New Testament. Islam
embraces both books and includes portions of both in the text of the Qur’ān.
‘As Christians believe the New
Testament was the completion of the Old Testament, so Muslims believe Islam
and the Qur’ān serve as the Final completion of both books, and Muhammad as
the last Prophet or Messenger of God. Both the Torah and the New Testament are
viewed by Islam as inspired revelation of God to mankind. Both Jews and
Christians are referred to in the Qur’ān as ‘People of the Book’ meaning the
He quotes from Sūrah al-`Ankabūt
(29:46) to support this conclusion: ‘The Qur’ān calls upon Muslims to attempt
to sit down peacefully with People of the Book in an effort to find the common
ground between hem’, and from Sūrah Al-’Imran (3:84) to support this
statement: ‘Muslims are asked to follow the good examples of the earlier
Prophets of the Bible.’
Baker notes: ‘Although the Jews joined
with the enemies of early Islam, neither they nor Judaism were targeted by
Muhammad or Islam. It is a fact of history that when the Jews were being
persecuted in Europe during the Middle Ages they found peace, harmony, and
acceptance among the Muslim people of Spain. In fact, this was the era of
Jewish history that they themselves refer to as ‘the Golden Age’.
Baker finds that both the Bible and
Islam condemn the worship of any other God as idolatry and that ‘A Muslim can
no more be a ‘card carrying communist’ than a Christian can belong to and
support the creed of world atheism.’
He notes that both Islam and
Christianity teach that God is in control of all things, including the destiny
of mankind, collectively and individually. He writes: ‘The sovereignty of God
in both the Qur’ān and the Bible is remarkably similar.’
He writes that Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro,
spiritual leader of the Muslim of Syria, said to him in 1987: ‘My dear
brother, you cannot be a true Muslim unless you love, respect and honour
As one who has endeavoured for the
past three years to create understanding of Islam among Christians, I
recommend Baker’s book as required reading by the Christian clergy in the
United States. I also suggest that all imams and other leaders of the Muslim
community – in America and beyond – place it at the top of their reading list.
Muslim leaders are better informed
about Christianity than the reverse, but, at the least, they will find comfort
in the fact that a lay Christian has produced a document that can help
immensely in ineasing mutual respect and harmony between the two largest faith
traditions in the world.
Impact International, London)