Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Maybe not. Willis Elliott is a contributor to the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog. Elliott submitted an article to the Post that responded to a piece on Muslim-Christian relations by another contributor. The Post declined to publish Elliott’s essay, so Pajamas Media did. Elliott responded to this discussion topic, posted by Elizabeth Tenety of the Post:

The Mutual Blasphemy of Christianity and Islam.
2011 began with some bleak news for Muslim-Christian relations around the world.
Recent attacks against churches in Iraq, Nigeria and Egypt have killed dozens of Christian worshippers. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government is standing by the country’s controversial blasphemy law which critics say threatens religious minorities.
How should political and religious leaders in America and abroad deal with these challenges to interfaith relations?

Elliott’s response contributed, I think, a needed dose of realism; the fact that the Post didn’t want to print it is disquieting:

“Mutual blasphemers, love one another!” is the title of an essay I published many years ago. Now as then, the human project is to learn not only to live with, but to love, “the blasphemers” (meaning whichever of the two religions is not yours).
1. But the project, so defined, is not neutral. It is Christian and humanist. Christian: Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Islam, to the contrary, is essentially hostile to “the infidels.” …
2. Blasphemy (irreverent speech or action against a deity or religious person/belief/object) is currently in the news only when Muslims become violent, or threaten violence, when they feel offended: when we Christians feel offended, almost never do we become violent, and almost always we suffer the disrespect in silence.
In the New Testament (and other early Christian literature), much is said about nonviolence, never is violence commanded or even suggested; it is forbidden. Not so, early Muslim literature. The contrast is to be expected: Jesus was anti-violent, Muhammad was violent (a military leader as well as a religious leader). …
…Islam was, from its start, majority-minded; and Muslims don’t know how to behave when they are not in power: it enrages them, makes them thin-skinned to “blasphemy,” drives them to achieve power and impose sharia, even motivates some of them to martyr-suicide in killing any they consider enemies of Allah.

Christianity and Islam are far more different than is popularly supposed. Elliott concludes:

[W]e can make no essential progress, religious or political, unless we honestly and courageously confront the reality that our two religions are essential enemies, antagonists each to the other’s essence, mutual blasphemers. Only with that realism can the mutual blasphemers begin to learn to get along with each other without violence. …
Muslims will continue to strive (jihad) for dar es salam (a peaceful world under Allah) in dar es harb (the “war” world, all the world not yet under Allah — especially where non-Muslim governments such as the state of Israel are in control of any part of the world that was once under Allah). And “the West” (with rootage in Christianity) will not cease pressing for religious freedom everywhere.

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