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A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman's Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide Hardcover – 1 Oct 2008


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  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (1 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061438286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061438288
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 940,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Former Congressman and Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Mark D. Siljander takes us on an eye-opening journey of personal, religious, and political discovery. In the 1980s, Siljander was a newly minted Reagan Republican from Michigan who joi

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Format: Hardcover
Mark Siljander's book is written in an easy to read informative style which certainly challenged my own paradigm as a Christian, in relatiion to Islam. I could not put the book down and its introduction to the influence of the Syriac language of Aramaic as a key to better understanding translations of the Qura'an and the Bible into English, from Hebrew and Arabic, is groundbreaking in his pursuit of reconciliation between the West and Muslims.

Having access to the highest courts of influence around the world ensures that his academic rigour has an open door to the ears of those who can really make a difference and we should all be grateful for his sharing the results of his studies and encouraging us with the prospect that real progress can be made in drawing the hearts and minds of those previously misunderstood into a meaningful accord.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has a clear message, simple to understand and share with others. It brings hope for a brighter future between nations/neighbours, bringing a special emphasis on creating friendships through the person of Jesus and his message, regardless of people's background/religion; not converting people, but making friend with them. Amazingly it reminded me of a passage in Dawkins' God Delusion, where he wrote humorously "I am an atheist for Jesus"; in a way, Siljander's book makes this concept possible: those who are in search of peace, unity (that is, NOT being all the same, but being united through friendship and brotherhood) could find it through an exploration of Jesus' message, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, from another faith or Atheist!
I thoroughly recommend this book, it is a must-read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D on 16 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Mark Siljander is the Lawrence of Arabia of our time.

This book answers so many questions about culture and faith that governments and the media have so far failed to explore.

Written as a biography and therefore easy to read 'A Deadly Misunderstanding' is in fact the summary of a life spent studying the roots of religion and most importantly uncovering truths which if widely understood would bring much needed peace between faiths.

I will never hear the words Jihad, Infidel, Terrorist and Christian in the same way again. I'm a better man for reading this book.
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Format: Hardcover
There have been bitterness and strife, long centuries long of such destructive sorts of conflict, based upon lack of appreciation of truly how much Islam shares with the Christian faith. I am not altogether the most completely qualified person to evaluate Mark Siljander's book (however, neither are many others who have contributed their nonethess useful views about what Siljander has written), but my own careful reading of the Holy Qur'an in meticulously precise translations has led me to suspect that most Muslims do not understand the full import of what Muhammad conveyed in the Quran. Even reading it in responsible English translation (e.g. the fine old Sales or Abdallah Yousuf Ali translations) reveals just how close the Quran is to the Old Testament, the New Testament Gospels, and to non-canonical Judaeo-Christian sources (O.T. deutero-canonical, Pseudepigraphal, and N.T. Apocryphal writings), and to much of the teachings and lore of the Orthodox and Oriental Eastern Christian Churches.

As this former Congressman, author Mark D. Siljander (who also had valuable experience as a diplomat), and his joint-author John David Mann discovered, I found during my mission to Istanbul and, more importantly, to the Turkish sector of Kurdistan (late 1997) under joint Kurdish partisan and Independent Lutheran auspices, that Muslims are surprisingly open to Christian witness that focuses upon Bible and Quran alike, and especially upon the often surprisingly great level of authority of Jesus for Muhammad and his followers.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
A Misunderstanding of Christianity 17 Oct. 2009
By John M. Balouziyeh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Mark D. Siljander's A Deadly Misunderstanding is the account of a congressman's discovery that the Christian-Muslim divide is not so wide after all. Indeed, Islam and Christianity in many ways share the same essential tenets. It has been linguistic mistranslations and centuries of misunderstandings between Islam and the West that have caused a wide chasm between the two faiths. If Christians and Muslims sincerely search for the central message of their respective faiths, they will find the major differences to dissipate.

Arriving at these points, the author has misunderstood the basic and central messages of Islam and Christianity and their incompatibility. He states, for example that nothing in Christianity "contraindicates acknowledging Muhammad as a prophet or `messenger of God'" (p. 115). That may be true, until Muhammad's prophecies are read. His writing on the question of salvation--perhaps the most important issue--is fundamentally different form the teachings of Christ as recorded in the Gospels. The Quran teaches that our salvation is secured through good works that are recorded in a "ledger (of their deeds)" (Qur'an 18:49), which Allah will use on Judgment Day. "Then you will see the sinners terrified at its contents." (Id.). The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) deserving punishment. Yet a sacrificial Lamb (Christ) was offered for our sins (John 1:29), and all who put their faith in Him will be saved (Ephesians 2:8).

Within this context, all of the similarities that Mr. Siljander has highlighted become secondary and unimportant. For even if, as he says, Muslims have far more in common with Christians than we thought, the most important question of how we are saved is fundamentally different. Nonetheless, the commonalities that he highlights caused me to realize that there is more in common between the two faiths than I had known. For example, the Quran teaches that Jesus died (3:55, 4:159, 5:117, 19:33) and resurrected from the dead (2:72-73, 19:33) (p. 224).

However, Mr. Siljander makes several overstatements to support his points. On page 116, for example, after summarizing the pillars of Islam in five brief statements, the author asks, "what Christian ... could object to any of these five statements [of the five pillars]?" and boldly states that any good Christian, "adhering to his own faith in all ways and also following all five of these central tenets, could at the same time be considered a Muslim." Yet a Christian's adhering to his own faith in all ways while following the five pillars is an inherent contradiction. A Christian cannot at once proclaim that the Bible is God's Word while at the same time declaring, as required by the first pillar of Islam, that Muhammad is God's prophet. To do so would be to deny that Christ was slain for our sins, that he rose again on the third day, and that it is through faith in Him that we are saved. It is to deny that God became man, the very essence of Christianity that was affirmed and reaffirmed in the ecumenical councils that rejected the notion that he was a mere man or prophet, as Islam would hold. It is to deny the Bible as the inspired and uncorrupted Word of God. It is to reject the Eucharist in remembrance of the sacrifice of God's Son who was offered once and for all for their salvation, and to instead make sacrifices to Allah by slaying male goats, lamb, or other animals in a yearly ritual. Christ claimed to be both God (John 14:11, 10:31-33) and the Son of God (Mark 14:61b-62), thus fulfilling the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures. He also claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6). Through His death, the sins of humankind were paid for, and through His resurrection, all who placed their faith in Him was given renewed life and salvation (Rom 3:26). To become a Muslim would be to profess that Muhammad is God's prophet and to deny these basic biblical teachings.

Mr. Siljander's effort is a valiant one and his desire to bridge the Muslim-Christian divide is noble. Yet he does it at the expense of truth and misses the mark of true Christianity. For fourteen centuries, Christians and Muslims have recognized that the teachings of their respective faiths were irreconcilable. This is why Christians have not accepted Mohammed as a prophet and why Muslims have not accepted the Christian Scriptures as the authentic Word of God. Muslims instead believe that the entire New Testament, which proclaims in each of its books that God became man for the salvation of the world, is a corruption of the original texts. The Christian Church, according to Muslims, for nearly two thousand years, has been able to hide the truth about Jesus: he was a great teacher and prophet who proclaimed God's Word, but he was not God and he did not die for the sins of the world, thus conquering sin and death. Christians who have had an encounter with the living, reigning Christ instead pledge allegiance to a different creed--Christ was who He is claimed to be in the Christian Scriptures, as best exemplified by the words of the Apostle Peter, who called Him "my Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).
37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
A Fine-Sounding Argument 23 Oct. 2010
By Ron Brackin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A Deadly Misunderstanding (by Mark D. Siljander, HarperOne, 2008) is the thread of a notion woven into an anecdotal, historical and autobiographical fabric.

From the Foreword, written by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through pages populated by African and Middle Eastern potentates, to sober endorsements by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III on the back of the dust jacket, the reader is left a little giddy by the panoply of glitterati.

At the same time, few could help being charmed by the author's modest account of his extensive political career and startled by the amazing discovery that left these notables, along with an impressive array of scholars, so effusive in their praise.

The weight of the endorsements alone might convince the reader that the author's conclusions are valid and unprecedented. But even eye-witnesses, as every prosecuting attorney knows, can be and often are wrong. Agreement merely indicates consensus; it does not establish truth.

Among the book's conclusions are:

* that Islam and Christianity are "not simply overlapping ideas. They were not merely compatible. In the most central sense, they were one continuum. Muhammad had named his movement of total submission to God by identifying it with the core message of Jesus and his followers . . ." (emphasis his), p.122.

* that "The question of Jesus's nature is an utterly unique situation within our collective historical experience, and one that does not have a simple, clear-cut, yes-or-no answer," p.145

Its logic goes something like this:

1. "When Eastern thoughts are translated into Western languages, such as Greek, Latin, or English, there is enormous potential for mistranslation," p.29

2. "When [mistranslations] involve pivotal beliefs that entire civilizations are willing to die for--and kill for--it becomes quite serious," p.29

3. Aramaic is "the `secret' language of the Bible." Reading the Bible in Aramaic is "the only way to legitimately get a clear sense of what the authors of the New Testament were actually saying--in the words, phrases, and idioms they would have used," p.28

"I excitedly searched out a copy of the Peshitta," the author wrote, "the earliest known Aramaic New Testament (dating back to the third or fourth century), along with its 1933 translation into English by Dr. George Lamsa, a scholar of Iraqi origin himself. Armed with several Aramaic dictionaries and the Lamsa Peshitta, I began to dig in."

He began by comparing the New Testament with the Torah.

"Aramaic and Hebrew are both Semitic languages and are closely related. Was there a connection?"

Yes. Hebrew shalom, Aramaic shlama. Both mean peace. And the parsing continued through the author's new Aramaic filter.

By page 33, he had concluded that "It was crystal clear from the text that neither Jesus nor any of his followers ever advocated that anyone `convert' from one religion to another. . . . Our insidious concept of conversion was a linguistic error, a clear mistranslation. Pure and simple: a mistake. A deadly misunderstanding" (emphasis his).

With a few key strokes, the author invalidates the Great Commission, the Book of Acts and most of the other New Testament epistles, along with centuries of evangelism and missions.

Then a Christian friend tells him that he has read the Qur'an and that it "strengthened his faith," leading the author to examine "the other holy book." (That the Qur'an illuminates the Bible is a popular theme of what is known as the postmodern "emerging church," as well as proponents of "contextualization" in Muslim evangelism and the radical and amorphous "Insider Movement." More on that in another article.)

The Islamic Qur'an, whatever else can be said about it, is flush with passages cannibalized from the Bible. Yet, Christians always seem amazed to discover the frequent mention of Jesus (Isa, in Arabic).

The Isa of the Qur'an, however, is just a man and bears no other resemblance to the Jesus of Scripture. Islam, being a unitarian religion, adamantly rejects both the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. Nor is Allah the same as the God of the Bible, regardless of what biblical characteristics are attributed to him.

A Deadly Misunderstanding, nevertheless, pushes ahead in an ever-increasing frenzy of semantic gymnastics, ignoring both divine revelation and literary context, until it convinces itself--but hopefully not many readers--that it has discovered what millennia of Jewish, Christian and Islamic scholars and followers have overlooked.

But no matter what kind of shoehorn you use to try to stuff Islam into the shape of Christianity or Christianity into Islam, it will never fit. Christianity and Islam are oil and water, apples and oranges, toothpicks and totem poles.

"No one comes to the Father except through me," Jesus said in John 14:6. Or was that also mistranslated? And there is no way to misunderstand what he meant when he said, "I am the way and the truth and the life," which clearly excludes any way or truth that denies or rejects him.

A Deadly Misunderstanding is a laudable attempt "to bridge the Muslim-Christian divide." To make sense out of senseless hatred and violence. To resolve the planet's most ancient and obstinate feud.

I wanted it to succeed. But it does not.

It is an entertaining read and a fine-sounding argument. But therein lies the danger.

In its struggle to establish common ground through semantics, it succeeds only in diluting the uniqueness of the very religions it tries to harmonize. And it can raise doubts in those whose faith is not anchored in the Word of God.

As for bridge-building, few I think would disagree that it is better for people to focus on what we have in common than on what divides us. But might we not have sufficient commonality in our humanity, without trying to write a parallel version of the Torah, Qur'an and New Testament?

We are all sons and daughters, men and women, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. We share the same needs. We all are born, we live, suffer and die. We love and lust and battle with our dark sides. We want to be all that we can be and are frustrated when we are not. We live under the same sun, breathe the same air, sleep beneath the same stars. We all help one another and use one another.

If we cannot find common ground in who we are, how less likely are we to find it in what we believe?

* * * *
In the interest of full disclosure, I have known Mark Siljander for many years, having served on Capitol Hill as his press secretary during the Reagan Administration. I know no man of greater integrity. My critique is of the work, not the man.
A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman's Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide
56 of 72 people found the following review helpful
A Deadly Misinterpretation of Christianity 31 Oct. 2009
By L.D. Waterman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A Deadly Misunderstanding contains some good insights for dialogue and relationship building, and describes a wonderful change of attitude toward Muslims - from negative stereotypes to open-hearted bridge-building. However, it is very misleading as an overall approach to Islam and Christianity.
I would note nine major problems in Siljander's approach.

1. He presents a view of Christianity and "the core message of Jesus" that does not include a gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone: "Islam and Christianity were not simply overlapping ideas. They were not merely compatible. In the most central sense, they were one continuum. Muhammad had named his movement of total submission to God by identifying it with the core message of Jesus and his followers" (p 122). Siljander claims to focus (and agree with Muslims) on the essential teachings of Jesus, which strangely don't include his deity or salvation by grace through faith (p 66, 114, 122, 145, 179, 201, 203).

2. He treats the deity of Christ as a non-essential issue, diminishing it to unbiblical views that Muslims can accept. "We agree on what Jesus said and what he stood for, what he has to teach us and be for us today. Whether or not he died on the cross, or exactly how you frame the nature of his identity - while critical, those are separate issues" (p 203).

3. He writes: "Nothing in either Judaism or Christianity contraindicates acknowledging Muhammad as a prophet or "messenger of God" (p 115). He also views Muhammad's messages as "a very close parallel to the tradition of Jeremiah, Isaiah, John, and James" (p 116).

4. He overlooks all parts of Islam that deny the gospel (such as the 2nd half of the shahada), as in this claim: "The central profession of faith of all three great monotheistic, Abrahamic faiths...were not simply compatible - they were essentially identical" (p 119). He also tries to make Christianity compatible with all Islamic practices: "a good Christian or Jew, adhering to his own faith in all ways and also following all five of these central tenets" [Islam's 5 pillars]..." (p 116).

5. He ignores progressive revelation (NT interprets the OT, and the {later} Medinan suras of the Qur'an can abrogate the Meccan). He counts the number of violent verses in the OT in comparison with the number in the Qur'an (p 41-43), ignoring the fact that Jesus and the NT taught a new and different way, thus fulfilling and teaching an end to earthly violence in God's name. This contrasts sharply with the Qur'an's violent verses, which are generally the later ones, thus not abrogated by earlier verses.

6. He cites the Aramaic translation of the NT as a supposed key for correcting errors in the Greek version (p 28-29, 33, 46-47, 137, 199, 229-234), whereas the vast majority of scholars strongly agree that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, and believers in inerrancy and/or infallibility make this claim only for the original Greek manuscripts (not to be corrected by an Aramaic translation).

7. He offers weak logic and misses the biblical main point on some major issues (such as "conversion," (p 16-17, 32); and "begotten," (p 137, 143).

8. He strongly encourages Muslims who follow Jesus to remain Muslim (p 16-17, 87, 116, 122), a very dubious approach to discipleship.

9. He claims support for these ideas from scholars, not all of whom actually give the support claimed in the book. I asked two of the scholars cited as supportive (each more than once) what their opinion was about the book. Both gave substantially negative comments. One said "his scholarship is sloppy in places, and that leads him to make exegetical and theological statements which cannot actually be supported by the evidence," and the other wrote "The book I endorsed didn't end up being the book published. At best, the intention of the congressman is being misrepresented. At worst, his publisher has made some cataclysmic errors in the final product."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Great read and fascinating research but glosses over some things 25 Mar. 2009
By DAT - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I think the author's material is fascinating as are his first hand accounts of meeting with leaders from all over the world. He has many fascinating stories to tell and reading about them made me feel like I was privileged to have the proverbial 'fly on the wall' experience. Very cool!

Siljander offers a radical alternative to typical diplomatic techniques or the bombastic posturing that one often sees in the American conservative community (or amongst radical clerics for that matter). It's fascinating to see his evolution for a staunch hard line conservative to someone who attempts to build real relationships with Muslims.

The book left me wanting more - in particular a more in-depth resource for studying the scriptural and linguistic commonalities in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic, as well as a more in depth exploration of scriptures about Jesus (Isa) in the Koran. I am hoping that such a book is in the works.

I found that the author sometimes glossed over theological points -- such as the doctrine of the Trinity. As a 'Oneness' (ie. non-trinitarian Christian), I had no problem understanding where Siljander was coming from and felt that he was right on but I was also aware that the mainstream Christian orthodoxy, which is staunchly Trinitarian in orientation, may not be so forgiving.

I also think the author, in his desire to build bridges, sometimes falls into the trap of 'syncretism' defined as "attempts to merge and analogise several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, and thus assert an underlying unity allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths."

The problem with syncretism is sometimes you end up with something that really sounds great from a philosophical point of view, but it's really not what you find in the scriptures.

For example, Siljander was challenged by a colleague to find scriptures that demanded the need for conversion to Christianity. Finding none, he seems to conclude that dialoging with Muslims and sharing common beliefs is sufficient. However if you read the words of Jesus, he says he is the sole source of salvation for the human soul and that being baptized and filled with his spirit is an inherent part of the salvation process. I would consider this conversion and am not sure that a Muslim having this type of experience would feel comfortable continuing to practice Islam, with it's many laws and traditions.

Nevertheless I think the book is a fascinating read and a great springboard for those who want to explore this dialogue in greater depth.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Understanding and Mutual Charity That Derive from Probing the Foundational Documents Both of Islam and of Christianity 24 Aug. 2009
By Gerald Parker - Published on Amazon.com
Mark D. Siljander's book (as have his many other endeavours for mutual understanding between the Muslim World and Christendom) has created intense interest in his own country, the U. S. of A., judging from the impressive response to it on Amazon's American site (Amazon.com), less so in the Dominion of Canada or the U.K. I am not altogether the most completely qualified person to evaluate this book (however, neither are many others who have contributed their nonethess useful views about what Mark Siljander has written), but my own careful reading of the Holy Qur'an in meticulously precise translations has led me to suspect that most Muslims do not understand the full import of what Muhammad conveyed in the Quran. Even reading it in responsible English translation (e.g. the fine old Sales or Abdallah Yousuf Ali translations) reveals just how close the Quran is to the Old Testament, the New Testament Gospels, and to non-canonical Judaeo-Christian sources (O.T. deutero-canonical, Pseudepigraphal, and N.T. Apocryphal writings), and to much of the teachings and lore of the Orthodox and Oriental Eastern Christian Churches.

As this former Congressman, author Mark D. Siljander (who also had valuable experience as a diplomat), and his joint-author John David Mann discovered, I found during my mission to Istanbul and, more importantly, to the Turkish sector of Kurdistan (late 1997) under joint Kurdish partisan and Independent Lutheran auspices, that Muslims are surprisingly open to Christian witness that focuses upon Bible and Quran alike, and especially upon the often surprisingly great level of authority of Jesus for Muhammad and his followers. Fortunately, I already had read the eye-opening book, Sharing Your Faith With A Muslim, by Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq (Bethany House, 1980, available from Amazon and written from a believing Christian standpoint), which, along with this book, I strong commend to those who wish to follow up these connexions and which a reasonably well-informed Christian layman, without special training, can understand with some concentration and effort. There are at least several more books on this subject, which I have in my own personal book collection, but which certainly are of a more arcane and difficult level to read.

For those who wish to read about the book by this kindly former Congressman (with extensive quotes from it) before purchase, I would refer the potential buyer to the article about it ("Bridging the Islam-Christian Divide: Former Congressman Seeks to Correct a Deadly Misunderstanding", by Michael Ireland, in, among other periodical sources, Christian News (ISSN 0009-5516), vol. 46, no. 30 (28 July 2008), pg. 8-10, deriving from the ASSIST News Service. A later pair of essay reviews, Thomas Pfotenhauer's "Who Has the Real Jesus, Islam or Christianity?: Mark D. Siljander Thinks [That] It Could Be Both" and an unsigned reply, presumably by Herman Otten, "Only Christianity Has the Real Jesus", which also appeared in Christian News, in vol. 46, no. 46, on p. 14-15 (written for C.N., rather than taken from a syndicated press service), was disappointingly uncomprehending in some ways, although not entirely without some good points to make, especially if compared to many far more obtuse and worthlessly negative comments and reviews printed elsewhere concerning Siljander and his book.

There have been many vicious and slanderous attacks on Mark Siljander and this book of his on the part of Zionists (alike observant Jews, secular zio-nationalists, and so-called "Christian Zionists"). Their motives of stirring up fear, strife, and loathing between Muslim peoples, regions, and nations, on the one hand, and the prevailingly Christian (and post-Christian) West, on the other, have more to to do with promoting (so it seems to them) the interests of the Israeli state by such base propaganda than with serving the interests of truth and peace. This is not the forum to deal at length with such crass manipulation in the media, but the reading public at large should be aware of such efforts of Zionists and of their putatively Christian allies to discredit Siljander and to defame or vilify Islam.

The real crux (forgive the pun!) of the problem, as I, Siljander himself, and some others perceive it, is that there has been a disconnexion between what the Qur'an states and what Muslims themselves (as well as their adversaires) perceive to be its genuine meaning. Atop that, there are passages in the Qur'an that are ambiguous or obscure in meaning which Muslims have tended to interpret in a manner contrary to orthodox Christian teaching, but which such passages do not necessarily bear as a sole or correct exegesis thereof. These divergences between Islamic doctrine (as opposed to the message of the Qur'an itself) only serve to "widen the divide" between Christians and Muslims in ways that are not helpful. Abdul-Haqq and Siljander (only to consider two books at a level accessible to non-specialists) reconcile many Christian and Muslim differences in treating these issues.

Muslim "Fundamentalists" have misread the Qur'an as badly as many Christians have done so. Two such areas of blatant misinterpretation concern "Jihad" and the respective roles and norms of gender-specific dress, conduct, and social roles. Siljander deals especially well with the former, explaining what I myself was able to discern right from my first complete reading of the Holy Qur'an, that "Jihad" has little to do with the combative pugnaciousness and violence of "Fundamentalist" Muslim "warriors" (violently militant "jihadists") for the cause who resort to guerilla and even terrorist tactics and to the rhetoric of hate, vindictiveness, and coërcion. Christians should not abet such ill-informed zealots by accepting, unquestioned, their vision of Islam and of what is appropriate to propagate it.

As for thorny matters of gender and sexuality, believers in Islam should attempt to understand and to apply what the Qur'an teaches about men's dress, modesty (not just for the ladies, according to the Islam's supremely definitive Sacred Text!), mutual deference, fidelity, and so forth. Even regarding homosexuality, the Qur'an (unlike too much of the Sunna, a.k.a. Hadith, and of the Shar'ia law), while severe in its comments and prescriptions, is less dire than the Old Testament's death-sentence edicts for some manifestion(s) of gay and lesbian sexual behaviour.

Given how inadequately Islamic tradition and jurisprudence concur with the spirit, and even with the letter, of the Qur'an, I can understand how one distinguished but still youthful Kurd, whom I have known in Diyarbakir and elsewhere, insisted that Islam must move to a "Qur'an only" basis of doctrine and precepts, casting the Hadith aside for determining what is normative in Islam, to reopen what Muslims term "ijtihad" (a phenomenon and concept which Siljander mentions explicitly only on p. 208, but which he implies throughout) to considerations entirely Qur'anic, apart from the sort of encrusted traditions that have distanced Islam unduly from Christianity! Sadly, too few Muslims share that brilliant young man's insights.

The greatest divide, the one of most significance, between Christianity and Islam, surely is the relative weight in each of Grace and of Law. Christianity, above all, is a religion of Grace, of the reconciliation of sinful man with the demands of an all-Holy God. While the Sovereign Grace of God is by no means a concept absent in Islam, the Qur'an emphasises Law and pious precepts to such an extent (and the Sunna often yet further) that it is hardly surprising that legalism and scrupulosity, obsession with the Shar'ia, dominate Islam. In Christianity, the sinner has the objective resort to God's provision, through Christ's propitiatory sacrifice of Infinite extent (because of His Divinity), of Grace to apply to cover a believer's sin, without in any way impugning God's perfect Holiness and His demand for complete perfection. God is both Holy and Compassionate in Islam, but, in the ultimate analysis, there is no adequate provision in Islam, according to its most Sacred Text, for reconciliation of man, inevitably a sinner, with God without loss of divine total (not merely relative) severity towards sin. This is the greatest divide between Islam and the Christian faith with which, unfortunately, Siljander does not deal adequately in what is otherwise so fine and probing a study of Islam.

In his eagerness to overcome barriers between Christians and Muslims and between their faiths (or shared faith from different angles, as Siljander views it), the sectarianly Protestant views of the book's author do not take into account some formidable hurdles for more traditionally Catholic Christians (especially for Roman and Uniate Catholics, Old Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, as well as some Anglican and Lutheran Christians and, partly, those of the non-Chalcedonian Oriental Churches). For us, Siljander's blithely stated dismissal of the pertinence and crucial importance for Catholic-minded Christians entailing such criteria as the Oecumenical Creeds, absolute Trinitarian and Christological orthodoxy, the Visible Church (Christ's corporate Body on Earth, the Holy Ministry, etc.), the sacraments (lacking in Islam) as objectively efficacious and normative means of grace, the authority of Oecumenical Councils, and so forth, is unacceptable.

The stripped-down and individualistic Christianity of sectarianism (of the "Fundamentalists", the "Neo-Evangelicals", the "Charismatics" or "Pentecostalists", the "Cambellites", the "Adventists", the "Methodists", and of others) of Mark Siljaner and his pan-denominationalist co-religionists, and even of more decidedly "magisterial" Protestantism, can accomodate such unreconciled divides more readily than Catholic Christianity (broadly but not indiscriminatately defined) can tolerate the same with a good conscience. However, all Christians, if they ponder deeply and fully what Siljander, Abdul-Haqq, Bp. George K.A. Bell, and others like them have had to say and and to write about what Christianity and Islam share, should have a greater mutual understanding and respect than, sadly, they have tended to manifest in the past.

A number of fine Islamic scholars and activists currently active (e.g., Tariq Ramadan and Farid Esack) have militated for better understanding and "dialogue" of some kind between Muslims and Christians on questions of social issues, sexuality and gender, ideology, politics, tolerance, and other such issues, but Siljander and others who share his specifically religious motives deal with what is more fundamental, i.e. what the Qur'an and Bible say in common (to an amazingly large degree) and on what they differ (to surprisingly limited extent). For religious understanding, love of the souls of Muslims, and peace and harmony between the Christian and Muslim world and communities, books such as those by Siljander and Abdul-Haqq have an important role to play.
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