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Evangelicals Who Distrust Muslims Likely Don’t Know Muslims

Ramadan IHOP
How IHOP Became a Ramadan Favorite — image: Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

This article was first published at Christianity Today on September 12.

Earlier this week, a Baptist church in Michigan canceled an event titled, “9/11 Forgotten? Is Michigan Surrendering to Islam?” due to pushback from fellow Christians and politicians.

The pastor of Bloomfield Hills Baptist Church identifies as an Islamophobe and organized the gathering because he sees Islam as a growing threat in the US, The Washington Post reported.

While some fellow white evangelicals share his suspicions, research has shown that those who know Muslims in their communities tend to hold more positive views and are more likely to see commonalities between their two faiths.

“The personal relationships with Muslims, that’s a game changer,” Todd Green, Luther College professor and former Islamophobia adviser to the US State Department, told ThePost. “It tends to make you less Islamophobic.”

Yet surveys from various sources have noted the friendship gap between evangelicals and their Muslim neighbors. More than a third (35%) of white evangelicals knew a Muslim personally in a 2017 Pew Research Center release, fewer than any other religious group, and evangelicals surveyed rated Muslims more negatively than other faiths.

The Southern Baptist-affiliated LifeWay Research found in 2017 that 17 percent of those with evangelical beliefs reported having a Muslim friend, while the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) reported this year that only 22 percent of evangelicals say they interact frequently with Muslims.

FFEU, led by a rabbi seeking to improve Muslim-Jewish relations, also noted that 1 in 3 evangelicals with frequent interaction with Muslims viewed Islam as similar to their own faith compared to 1 in 4 evangelicals overall.

The latest research from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), a prominent American Muslim organization, offers another look at the relationship between the two faiths.

The 2019 ISPU poll, released last spring, surveyed a representative sample of the US population along with a sample of Muslims and of Jews. The results may not offer as precise a picture of other religious subgroups due the higher margin of error, but still gives a valuable snapshot at broad trends between the faiths.

Here are five takeaways for evangelicals from one of the leading indicators of Muslim community sentiment in America.

1. White evangelicals lag behind in knowing and befriending Muslims; Jews excel.

When asked, “Do you know a Muslim personally?” 35 percent of evangelicals and 44 percent of Protestants said yes…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

Middle East Published Articles Religion Unplugged

Did the Bombing of Cairo’s Copts Also Hold a Message for Muslims?

ISIS destroys a Sufi shrine in Mosul, Iraq.

This article was first published at The Media Project.

When a bomb ripped through the women and children praying together at the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo on Dec. 11, the nation’s grief was expressed through a Muslim doll.

The suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State – Sinai Province took place on the national holiday of moulid al-nabi, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. The larger Islamic State has since called for bombings of Christian churches in the USA, with the aim of creating “bloody celebrations” there, as well.

Egyptians have begun trying to make sense of this latest wave of violence in Cairo, and the arousa doll has propelled expressions of grief. A popular cartoon depicted the arousa, traditionally given to Muslim girls, weeping in the black clothes of mourning. Behind her stood a somber crucifix.

Twenty-seven people died in the bombing, and their families have been changed forever. The Coptic community is approaching the Christmas season with fear wondering if another church will be targeted.

But does the timing of the attack suggest Muslims also have reason to be afraid?

The moulid, popular with most Egyptians and in particular the mystical Sufi trend, is rejected by many Salafi interpretations of Islam to which the Islamic State belongs.

It is a day for sweets, visiting family, and giving gifts. It is also a day Christian religious leaders congratulate their Muslim counterparts, reciprocated on Christmas.

But celebration of the moulid is condemned by Salafis as a religious innovation.

Coincidence or not, their extremists chose this day to escalate their insurrection and signal their willingness to inflict mass casualties.

“The message could be, ‘You love the moulid, and you like the Christians?’” said Sheikh Alaa al-Din Abul Azayim, head of the Azamiya Sufi order. “’Then on this day we’ll kill your friends – and you are next.’”

Please click here to read the full article at The Media Project.


Christianity Today History Published Articles

Before We Conquer, Have We Tried Love and Tears?

Ramon Llull (image
Ramon Llull (image from

From my article at The Behemoth on the 13th century Spanish missionary, Ramon Llull. This year marks the 700th anniversary of his death.

Most missionary careers are not launched by a suicide. Neither do most end with deliberate martyrdom. What Ramon Llull did in between rebuked a Christian Europe fighting jihad with its own crusades.

The Mediterranean world in the 13th century witnessed a conflict in transition. The 1212 Battle of Toloso signaled the decisive decline of Muslim civilization in Spain. But in 1291, the crusader city of Acre fell, the last major outpost of Christian power in the Holy Land. Merchants from Genoa and Venice established control of seafaring trade routes. But Arabic philosophy governed the discourse of European intellectual circles.

Born around 1235 in Majorca (a Spanish island near Barcelona his father helped to liberate), Llull was a product of this time. King James I of Aragon granted the family land, and Llull served in the court of his son. A troubadour in the classic sense, he was an accomplished musician and poet, also authoring treatises on horsemanship and warfare. Palma, the family home, was a center of shipbuilding. And Llull was a devotee of courtly love, a palace and literary tradition that germinated in Andalucía.

Here, arresting his licentiousness, God got his attention.

Deep in flirtation with a married woman of the court, Llull’s wooing poem was interrupted by a vision of the crucified Christ. Blood dripping from head and hands, Jesus looked at him reproachfully. Llull immediately retired to his chambers, but was not yet converted. The married father of two tried to resume his poem a week later.

God intervened again, later giving the vision a third time. Now around 30 years old, Llull surrendered to the compassion of Christ, abandoning the king’s court in Aragon.

Back in Majorca, …

The Behemoth is an ad-free, subscription-based sister publication of Christianity Today. The article is behind a paywall, but for those interested a free 30-day trial is available.