Advancing Muslim-Christian Dialogue Today

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David L. Johnston



Books Reviewed: Philip Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and
Europe’s Religious Crisis. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press,
2007; Jane Idleman Smith, Muslims, Christians, and the Challenge of
Interfaith Dialogue. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007;
Irfan A. Omar, ed., A Muslim View of Christianity: Essays on Dialogue by
Mahmoud Ayoub. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 2007.
Not surprisingly, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent comments about
integrating more of Shari`ah law within the United Kingdom’s legal system
raised a firestorm of protest in Britain and in many parts of the world. Yet
for twenty-five years already, Britain’s Muslims have been using Shari`ah
law in community arbitration; by simply adding elements of Islamic
jurisprudence in family matters, Muslims would be able to settle most
divorce cases through arbitration, thus freeing up already congested divorce
courts. Why is this suggestion so outrageous?
The only explanation for the deluge of complaints has to do with the
super-charged and dangerously polarized socio-cultural and religious atmosphere
of the “West” in the 2000s. Besides 9/11, other events have contributed
to the ratcheting-up of Muslim-European tension: the Danish cartoon saga;
the assassination of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh; the London bombings;
the “Fitna” film; and, most recently, the tendentious DVD distributed
to nearly 30 million American households in swing states during the presidential
campaign, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” With
right-wing politicians determined to raise the specter of “Islamofascism,” any
mention of including aspects of the Shari`ah in “enlightened” secular legal
structures is enough to give some people fits of panic.
Yet this is the context in which we must insert the three books under
review, each of which examines a particular aspect of today’s vastly complex
Muslim-Christian relationship. Philip Jenkins marshals his consider ...

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