Articles on Christians and Muslims

Divide and Conquer The tactic of “Divide and Conquer” has been used for millennia as a diversion by those in power to keep different elements of a population under control while they are needlessly fighting each other. Mike Tudoreanu writes in The Daily Collegian about where this tactic has been successfully used in the past, and how we are watching it begin to fail as people wake up to the deception and create their own channels of dialogue and trust between their different communities.

From The Daily Collegian:

The hidden evils behind “divide and conquer”

By: Mike Tudoreanu | February 17, 2011

It’s an old tactic: Get your opponents to fight amongst themselves so that they will get weaker and you can pick them off one by one. Gaius Julius Caesar coined the phrase “divide et impera” – divide and conquer – to describe it. He used it in his war against the Gauls, but in the millennia since then it has also become a very common political strategy. Again and again, the ruling classes of various societies at various times have used this trick to keep the people in line, to make ordinary people fight each other both literally and figuratively and forget about the guys who are really in charge. It continues to be used today all over the world, sometimes with great success. But sometimes people figure out what’s going on, and refuse to be divided.

Capitalists and politicians love to use whatever excuse they can find to get different groups of workers to be suspicious, afraid and hostile to each other.

In the Middle East, and also increasingly in the West, they are currently trying to instill hatred between Christians and Muslims. They are helped in this task by the existence of real religious extremists who really are crazy. The media gives them excessive attention; they are made to look much more powerful than they actually are and books get published telling the adherents of one religion that everyone in the other group is secretly out to get them. Right-wing talk shows in the United States say that there is a secret Muslim plot to destroy America. Right-wing talk shows in Pakistan say that there is a secret Christian plot to destroy Pakistan. Some people fall for it, angry crowds protest against Muslims’ right to free speech in New York City or Christians’ right to free speech in Karachi; each side sees the other side’s anger as a confirmation that all the people in the other religion really are dangerous and scary. We end up with a self-reinforcing spiral of hate and the capitalists who started it all laugh all the way to the bank as they use the excuse of imminent danger to start profitable wars and cut social spending.

But, fortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. Last December, there was a bomb attack on a Christian church in Egypt. One might expect that this would increase sectarian tensions and mistrust between Egypt’s Christians (who make up 10 percent of the population) and Muslims. But in fact, the opposite happened. Weeks later, at Christmas, thousands of Muslims flocked to Christian churches and formed protective human shields around them in an impressive display of solidarity. They said they were ready to die for their Christian neighbors in case the fundamentalists tried to stage another attack. “We either live together, or we die together” was the slogan. The fundamentalists were nowhere to be seen that night. They did not dare face the people. A month afterwards, as millions of Egyptians of all faiths took to the streets to bring down Hosni Mubarak, inter-religious solidarity was taken to new heights. Christians defended Muslims during their noon prayers in Tahrir Square when it looked like Mubarak might send his thugs against them at any moment. Muslims attended an open-air Christian service, also in Tahrir Square, a few days later. Signs and graffiti depicting a crescent and a cross were among the symbols of the revolution. The people of Egypt were not divided, and as a result they were not conquered.

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Christians and Islam Discussion Guide

From the Sojourners website:
Perfect for small groups or individual study! Designed to spark discussion and thought about how to live out God’s call for justice in our world. Each session includes Sojourners articles, questions for discussion, and ideas for further study.

# 4 sessions, 16 articles, 57 pages.

About this guide: This discussion guide will lead users through a study of the important stories of shared history, theological similarities and differences, and aspirations for social justice that both Christians and Muslims share as communities of faith. Religious differences provide fertile ground for animosity and misunderstanding. Yet as Christians, we are called to work for truth and reconciliation.

Over the years, both Muslims and Christians have dealt with extremists who distort the character of true belief. Significant, intelligent dialogue and the development of authentic friendships across religious lines are key to deepening our mutual faith.

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In an incredible display of unity and courage, Muslims turned out in their thousands at the Coptic Christmas mass to shield Egypt’s threatened Coptic Christian community, who had recently been targeted by terrorists.

From Ahram Online:

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.

From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular Muslim televangelist and preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly Street. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

In the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. Millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent – the symbol of an “Egypt for All”. Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.

The attack has rocked a nation that is no stranger to acts of terror, against all of Muslims, Copts and Jews. In January of last year, on the eve of Coptic Christmas, a drive-by shooting in the southern town of Nag Hammadi killed eight Copts as they were leaving Church following mass. In 2004 and 2005, bombings in the Red Sea resorts of Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh claimed over 100 lives, and in the late 90’s, Islamic militants executed a series of bombings and massacres that left dozens dead.

This attack though comes after a series of more recent incidents that have left Egyptians feeling left out in the cold by a government meant to protect them.

Last summer, 28-year-old businessman Khaled Said was beaten to death by police, also in Alexandria, causing a local and international uproar. Around his death, there have been numerous other reports of police brutality, random arrests and torture.

Last year was also witness to a ruthless parliamentary election process in which the government’s security apparatus and thugs seemed to spiral out of control. The result, aside from injuries and deaths, was a sweeping win by the ruling party thanks to its own carefully-orchestrated campaign that included vote-rigging, corruption and widespread violence. The opposition was essentially annihilated. And just days before the elections, Copts – who make up 10 percent of the population – were once again the subject of persecution, when a government moratorium on construction of a Christian community centre resulted in clashes between police and protestors. Two people were left dead and over 100 were detained, facing sentences of up to life in jail.

The economic woes of a country that favours the rich have only exacerbated the frustration of a population of 80 million whose majority struggle each day to survive. Accounts of thefts, drugs, and violence have surged in recent years, and the chorus of voices of discontent has continued to grow.

The terror attack that struck the country on New Year’s eve is in many ways a final straw – a breaking point, not just for the Coptic community, but for Muslims as well, who too feel marginalized, oppressed, and overlooked by a government that fails to address their needs.

On this Coptic Christmas eve, the solidarity was not just one of religion, but of a desperate and collective plea for a better life and a government with accountability.

Jewish and Muslim groups in Detroit generously coordinated a Volunteer Day to take over various volunteer services so that Christian volunteers could be with their families over Christmas

Detroit Volunteers

From The Detroit News:

Jewish and Muslim volunteers fanned out across Metro Detroit on Friday to serve the community so Christians could spend time with their families preparing for Christmas.

The Volunteer Day is part of the Jewish Mitzvah Month and is coordinated with Muslim groups. Hundreds of people volunteer in social service projects throughout the region.

Volunteer Susan Sabbath and daughters Rachel, 16, and Madison, 13, helped prepare meals at the Detroit Rescue Mission for what was expected to be around 300 people. It’s something they’ve done for years.

“It’s nice to give back on a day where people can be at home to celebrate their holiday,” said Sabbath, who is Jewish.

Volunteers helped out by making meals at the Rescue Mission; serving meals at the Congregation Beth Shalom — South Oakland Shelter in Oak Park; delivering poinsettias to seniors in southwest Detroit through Bridging Communities Inc.; serving meals to residents of the Sunrise Senior Living of Troy; and taking inventory at the Active Faith pantry in South Lyon, as well helping out other groups in Wayne and Oakland counties. The Jewish Community Relations Council coordinated the event.

Traditionally, the volunteers come together on Christmas Day to aid the social service agencies for Mitzvah Day — the single largest day of Jewish volunteering. But this year, many volunteered on Friday instead.

The interfaith sites concluded by noon to accommodate Muslims’ Friday prayers, and other sites were scheduled to wrap up by 3 p.m. to avoid any conflict with the Jewish Sabbath.

Observant Jews don’t work from sundown Friday until sundown today.

About 200 Jewish and 50 Muslim volunteers joined the efforts Friday, said Robert Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

“This is just going to continue to be a connection between communities,” he said.

Muslims have indicated they’ll fill in for many Jewish and Christian volunteers today.

Dr. Zahid Sheikh of Bloomfield Hills, who is Muslim, made a family outing of the volunteering. He and his wife, children, brother, sister-in-law and nephews helped sort books for a sale at Bookstock.

The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries offered some good cheer to one local family Friday when it gave a house to Christopher and Myia Coker and their five children.

“This is just amazing, I can’t believe it,” Christopher Coker, 29, said.

He h as worked for the group for 10 ye

ars and helped to fix up the house that was donated by a retiree. The Coker family was given the keys to the house by Chad Audi, the president and CEO of the charitable organization.

“I thought when I was working on it, ‘This is nice. Whoever gets this house will be truly blessed.’ I had no idea it was going to be us.”

To keep the house: The family must live in it for at least three years, maintain it and pay the taxes, and will be required to save for their children’s education.

Fr Dave with Sheiks 2006

On September 10th, 2006, I was a guest speaker at a gathering of around 500 Islamic men and women in Bankstown, raising funds for war-torn Lebanon. Unfortunately I was nervous and forgot to switch on my audio recorder, so you’ve only got the written transcript. This is a shame, as the group were very responsive – laughing at the appropriate points and applauding warmly afterwards. It was a great night.

We live in dark times, my friends, and the recent tragic violence in Lebanon is an indication of just how dark things have become!

It is hard for us to conceive, from this distance, what it must have been like for our sisters and brothers in Southern Lebanon, who endured a month-long military bombardment! The carnage, the destruction, the misery and the inhumanity have left none of us untouched, and yet … we realise that this is only a short chapter in a much larger and more miserable story that has not yet reached its conclusion!

The immediate future is unknown, but the indications are in no way encouraging. Somehow Israel has proclaimed its attack on Lebanon to be a victory, while the USA continues to posture for an attack upon Iran. And fuelling this insanity is an increasing amount of propaganda, coming from a number of directions, depicting this conflict as a war between religions – God forbid!

I’m not sure when this transformation happened, as in the case of the attacks on both Lebanon and Gaza, the initial issues were reasonably clear. Both conflicts concerned disputes over the integrity of territorial boundaries and the release of prisoners – a total of three Israeli prisoners on the one hand, and around 9,500 Palestinian prisoners, plus a number of Lebanese prisoners, on the other.

These were the issues. I’m not saying that they are easy issues to solve, but they are not hard to understand. They are significant issues – politically and historically – but they are not religious issues, except in so far as the level of human abuse involved is an offence to all religions!

How is it then that the violence in the Middle East has become a war of religions? It is my belief that the only explanation for this is that there must be some powerful groups with a vested interest in dividing Islamic people from Christians and Jews.

I believe it is deliberate, as the rhetoric and the propaganda and the way the media has twisted events, even in this country, is just too well-thought-through and too systematic to be the result of a simple misunderstanding.

I believe that there are forces at work – powerful and well-financed sources at work – trying to divide Christian people from their Islamic sisters and brothers, Christian from Muslim, Muslim from Christian, Muslim from Jew. And the truth is that these forces are currently proving to be very successful.

As some of you will know, I run a number of websites, and have a number of subscribers to my websites from all around the world, most especially from the US – around 5000 in all. Every day, it seems, I receive emails from some of the people on my mailing list, telling me that Muslims want to kill them!

Every day I receive these emails, and every day I write back: ‘brother, please tell me which of our Islamic brethren is trying to kill you? Brother, do you actually know any Islamic people? If so, have you asked them why they want to kill you?’

The answer I get back is always basically the same: ‘No, I don’t personally know any Islamic people, but I have been reading a lot about Osama Bin Laden!’

‘Brother’, I reply, ‘if we were Islamic, I think we would have much better grounds for believing that the people of the West are trying to destroy us! Afghanistan did not declare war on America. It was not Iraq that invaded the US. It was not Lebanon nor Palestine that invaded Israel. And I personally do not believe that Iran is about to initiate violence against anybody!’

Somehow everything has been twisted! Everything has been turned upside-down! Israel, the most militarily aggressive country in the Middle East, is somehow always seen as the victim. America, the most powerful country in the world, is somehow seen as being terribly vulnerable to attack!

It is rhetoric, propaganda, a twisting of the facts, and a number of downright lies that have brought us to this point.

And we know full well where this path is going to take us if we continue on it – into further violence and bloodshed.

For this reason, I appeal to you tonight, my Islamic sisters and brothers, to please resist the temptation to cut yourselves off from your Christian friends. I ask this humbly, recognising that so many Muslim people in this community feel themselves to be under siege and the victims of prejudice, and for good reason. Even so, I ask you, please do not give up on us.

Please be patient with those amongst us that are struggling against the weight of propaganda that is aimed at dividing us. Give us another chance, so that we might stand with you against this violence and inhumanity that threatens to engulf us all.

As I said, it is not our respective religions that led us into this violence. Ironically though, I do believe that our common religious values may be able to lead us out.

Christians, Muslims and Jews, at a faith level, are all ultimately committed to peace – to peace and mutual respect. These are values that are sacred to all of us. Perhaps some of us have forgotten this. With all the violence and inhumanity, we have forgotten who we are and what we believe. Please dialogue with us and help us to remember.

I was fascinated to read about some recent research done by a Professor Pape of the University of Chicago in the US. The Professor did a detailed profiling of Hezbollah suicide bombers, following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. What Pape found surprised many – namely, that out of 38 suicide bombers he studied in detail, only 8 were Islamic. Three were Christians. The vast majority, it seems were people of no faith. What united them was not their common religion, but a common commitment to resist the occupation.

The study reminds me again that these wars are not about religion, and yet, as I read about Christian and Islamic people working together there in violence, I think, how much more should we be able to work together for peace – for the rebuilding of Lebanon, for an end to the Palestinian occupation, and for an end to all this bloodshed.

Salam Alaikum. Thank you for the hospitality you have shown me tonight.

Rev. David B. Smith (the ‘Fighting Father’) – Parish Priest, Community Worker, Professional Boxer, father of four. Get a free preview copy of Dave’s book, Sex, the Ring & the Eucharist when you sign up for his free newsletter at

Is it appropriate for me to refer to my Islamic friends as my ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ or should I reserve this language for fellow Christians? Is it only right to exclude some people from ‘the family’? What does that New Testament have to say?

It’s been a few months now since I started my ‘Christians and Muslims can be friends’ campaign, and the results thus far have been … well … surprising.

Some of the surprises have been very pleasant. I’ve made new friends – most of them warm-hearted Muslims from Turkey and elsewhere, along with some enthusiastic Aussies who are keen to stand with me in battling prejudice against Muslims and Arabic people in general.

The nasty surprises have been the flames I’ve received (that’s NET-talk for vicious and caustic emails). I’ve been called every name under the sun and told repeatedly that I’m not a real Christian and don’t know my Bible. I’ve even received some threats!

The biggest surprise though has come from some well-meaning and mature Christian friends, who are largely supportive of the campaign, but think that I went too far in one of my addresses when I referred to the Islamic members of the gathering as ‘my Islamic brothers and sisters’.

The first time someone drew my attention to this I thought nothing of it. But when two and then three people – all of whom I respect – independently made exactly the same point I thought I’d better re-examine what I had said.

What was put to me was as follows: that while we all want to be friends with all sorts of people, regardless of race or creed, the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ reflect a level of kinship that is not appropriate between persons of totally different faiths.

The paradigm appealed to was the Bible itself. In the New Testament the words ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ are used quite specifically to refer to other members of the Christian community. The terms are not used indiscriminately, and we likewise should be guarded in our use of them.

It was suggested to me that I substitute the term ‘friend’ or ‘neighbour’ when speaking of Islamic persons and reserve the more familiar terms for my fellow Christians.

These challenges have concerned me, and have forced me to re-examine the Biblical material. They also got me thinking about what lay behind these challenges. Why were some of my Christian brethren so determined to exclude Islamic people from the family, so to speak?

Now, before anybody accuses me of being a raving liberal, let me acknowledge up front that the Bible does indeed recognise a significant distinction between those who are inside the community of faith and those who are outside – between us and them.

This doesn’t sit well with the modern ethos, where all religions are considered to be variations on the same theme, and where differences are minimized and often trivialised for the sake of harmony, but this is not the mindset of the Scriptures.

Further, my critics were quite right in pointing out that the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ are generally reserved for persons who are on the inside of the faith community. What they overlooked though, I think, was the way in which the Lord Jesus Himself continually blurred the border between those on the inside and those on the outside – between us and them.

Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will show us that most of Jesus’ contemporaries had a very straightforward understanding of who was part of the family of faith and who was not. Your brothers and sisters were your fellow Jews, and all non-Jews were outsiders.

Jesus’ clerical contemporaries (the Scribes and the Pharisees) had a still narrower understanding. They only included Jews who lived pious lives in accordance with the commandments of the Torah as members of the household of faith. Those Jews who collaborated with the Roman occupying forces and other notorious sinners joined the great unwashed as being excluded from membership of the faith community.

In both cases Jesus repeatedly and deliberately blurred the borders between saved and unsaved, between insiders and outsiders. He openly fraternized with the great unwashed within Israel, and he regularly moved beyond ethnic and religious boundaries – communicating with Romans, Greeks, and even a Samaritan woman!

It was for this reason that Jesus was so often despised by the authorities – because he refused to accept the clear lines of demarcation between us and them. And when challenged to recognise His own family, Jesus made a very telling response:

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)

This is a significant quote, as here Jesus defines membership of the household of faith dynamically. It is obedience to God that makes someone part of the family – not their synagogue membership nor their ethnicity.

This is consistent with Jesus’ behaviour throughout the New Testament. He shows striking disregard for the traditional distinctions between insiders and outsiders, and the early church followed in His footsteps by joyfully abandoning any spiritual distinctions made on the basis of race and ethnicity.

Two of Jesus’ parables also come to mind:

One is the parable of the weeds in the field in Matthew 13, where Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a field of wheat that is somewhat overgrown with weeds. The servants of the farmer ask him whether they might not go and rip out the weeds, but the farmer stops them, saying, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them”.

The problem is that the servants can’t tell the difference between good and bad. Membership of the right church is clearly not sufficient as a mark of authenticity. Only the master can tell the wheat from the chaff.

The other parable that comes to mind, ironically, is the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke Chapter 10.

There we see one of the clergy testing Jesus concerning the commands of God. Jesus tells the questioner to love God and to love his neighbour but the man is not satisfied. He asks, “but who is my neighbour?”

Those who were listening that day knew the answer to the man’s question. Your neighbour is your fellow Jew – a fellow member of the people of God.

So Jesus tells a story about a good Samaritan – a man of a different race and faith altogether!

I said that there was something ironic about the appropriateness of this parable, and it is the fact that one of my critics had suggested to me substituting the word ‘neighbour’ for ‘brother’ when referring to my Islamic friends. The irony is that the two terms would have been used interchangeably in New Testament times. Both brother and neighbour were labels you applied to your fellow Jews only. Jesus though refused to play along, but instead redefined the word for us.

I’m sure that there’s plenty more that could be said on this subject. Let me make only one point here – that any attempt to make a tangible distinction between the wheat and the weeds, between those on the inside and those on the outside, between those who are our brothers and sisters under God and those who are not, is surely contrary to the Spirit of the New Testament.

Christ reserves for Himself the role of separating the nations into sheep and goats. It is not our role. So does this mean that all Islamic people are my brothers and sisters, in terms of the language of the New Testament? The answer is simple:

“Whoever does the will of our Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Rev. David B. Smith (the ‘Fighting Father’) – Parish Priest, Community Worker, Professional Boxer,  father of four.  Get a free preview copy of Dave’s book,  Sex, the Ring & the Eucharist when you sign up for his free newsletter at

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