October 23, 2015

Fighting perceptions, evangelicals and Muslims commit to oppose religious bigotry

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Imam Talib Shareef, president of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, D.C., signs a pledge to denounce bigotry and defend religious freedom at a ceremony outside Washington National Cathedral on Oct. 23, 2015. Photo courtesy Danielle Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

Imam Talib Shareef, president of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, D.C., signs a pledge to denounce bigotry and defend religious freedom at a ceremony outside Washington National Cathedral on Oct. 23, 2015. Photo courtesy Danielle Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

Pastor Bob Roberts, who leads the evangelical Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, speaks on Oct. 23, 2015 along with other religious leaders who signed a pledge committing to defend religious freedom and reject religious bigotry. The “Beyond Tolerance” was held at the Washington National Cathedral. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Pastor Bob Roberts, who leads the evangelical Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, speaks on Oct. 23, 2015 along with other religious leaders who signed a pledge committing to defend religious freedom and reject religious bigotry. The “Beyond Tolerance” was held at the Washington National Cathedral. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) A majority of evangelical pastors consider Islam to be “spiritually evil,” according to one just-released poll, but on Friday (Oct. 23)  an evangelical pastor and an imam took turns talking about their friendship and mutual respect.

Texas Pastor Bob Roberts and Virginia Imam Mohamed Magid joined dozens of other religious leaders in prayer at the Washington National Cathedral before signing a pledge to denounce religious bigotry and asking elected officials and presidential candidates to join them.

“I love Muslims as much as I love Christians,” said Pastor Bob Roberts, of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, before leading a prayer at the “Beyond Tolerance” event. “Jesus, when you get hold of us, there’s nobody we don’t love.”

Although mainline Christians have joined together for years on interfaith initiatives, work of evangelicals and Muslims is a newer dimension in efforts to foster interreligious understanding.

An imam signs a pledge committing to defend religious freedom and reject religious bigotry. The “Beyond Tolerance” was held at the Washington National Cathedral. Photo courtesy Danielle Thomas/Washington National Cathedral.

Imam Talib Shareef, president of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, D.C., signs a pledge to denounce bigotry and defend religious freedom at a ceremony outside Washington National Cathedral on Oct. 23, 2015. Photo courtesy Danielle Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

“I would like each one of us today to spread the news, using evangelical terminology, or to share what we have learned here today,” said Magid, president emeritus of the Islamic Society of North America, as he issued a call to action.

The pledge comes as presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson have questioned each other’s devotion to faith and Carson has said he didn’t think a devout Muslim could be president.

The pledge reads: “I pledge and commit to the American people that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals; and reject and speak out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.”

Many other Muslims and evangelical participants joined in the pledge signing after gathering the night before at a suburban Washington church as part of the “Spreading the Peace” meeting attended by 175 evangelical pastors and imams.

“American evangelicals, they want to win the world for Jesus and send missionaries, but they want to be hateful here,” Roberts said. “And they don’t understand they’re shooting themselves in the foot.”

In July, the two men joined other leaders in decrying anti-Muslim comments by evangelist Franklin Graham after the killing of five service members in Chattanooga, Tenn.


MORE: Evangelicals and Muslims together denounce Franklin Graham’s anti-Muslim remarks


Now, Magid and Roberts are planning retreats across the country — including in Washington, Phoenix and Dallas — to continue the bridge-building efforts.

Despite the agreements and future plans, a new survey shows that evangelical Protestant pastors view Islam more negatively today than they did five years ago.

Fifty-two percent of evangelical pastors now characterize Islam as spiritually evil, an increase from 44 percent in 2010. About one-third of mainline pastors (32 percent) agree, a rate that is unchanged from 2010, LifeWay Research reported Thursday.

Fewer than a quarter of evangelical pastors (24 percent) surveyed said Islam was spiritually good, but a smaller fraction (16 percent) said that five years ago.

Roberts called the survey results, announced at the Thursday gathering, “very sad.”

“That’s why this work is very crucial,” added Magid in an interview. “We cannot afford hatred, animosity between the two communities.”

Catherine Orsborn, director of the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign, an interfaith group that seeks to end anti-Muslim sentiment, was an observer at the Thursday event and an organizer of the Friday pledge.

She said Thursday’s gathering is part of an evolution in Muslim-evangelical relations that is not “flashy” but has been breaking down barriers.

“I see this event as a step toward relationships between evangelical pastors and imams, and also between evangelical and Muslim communities, becoming a norm rather than an exception,” she said.

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  • Bernardo

    How is this going to work when the Koran teaches the following?

    o “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

  • Jack

    There have been plenty of Christians who thought Muslims were their friends in Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, etc…
    They’re mostly dead or in exile now.

  • The only Religious Freedom we need is the one we already have!

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof” – US CONSTITUTION

    To go any farther than this would break the rules.

  • Bernardo

    Once again, the issue:

    o “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

    And please no “out of context” excuse. Iams and terrorists don’t follow excuse but follow the literal word of the Koran.

  • Bernardo

    Oops, make that “imams”.

  • Ah, so this means you’re free to mistreat, harangue and harass Muslims? Really!? Interesting you’d think that — and given what you said, I have to assume you do — given that this is “two wrongs make a right” thinking, which happens to be fallacious.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that Christians have some of their own issues (http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2015/08/23/the-kind-of-terrorism-that-gets-far-too-little-attention/). So let’s not act all sanctimonious and pretend that Christianity is somehow impervious to being exploited by evildoers or in driving its followers to do evil in its name. They CAN do so; they HAVE done so; and they WILL do so in the future.

    If you don’t like hearing that … well, too bad so sad for you. Get over your Christianist superiority complex already.

  • Ben in Oakland

    “The pledge reads: “I pledge and commit to the American people that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals; and reject and speak out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.”

    Except for those icky gay people, and the Not True Christians/Jews/Muslims/Buddhists/Atheists and the Ministers/Rabbis/Imams/Churches/Temples/Denominations who support them…

    because that really isn’t about discrimination on the basis of religious belief at all, but just discrimination and opposition to sinful lifestyles that and enemies of God and humanity.

    And really, who could find bigotry is THAT?

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  • Max, the pledge articulated and signed by these fine people is a compliment and is connected to our constitutional freedoms. Pledging to fight bigotry and for religious freedom is not a violation of constitutional law or rules.

  • As someone who was there and who signed the pledge as a participant in multifaith engagement that includes Muslims and Christians, what we do in America in this area has ramifications around the globe for good or ill. According to good survey data by Gallup, the vast majority of Muslims want peace and decry terrorist violence. Christians should come alongside such people in love of neighbor (and enemy if you construe them this way) in order to develop relationships, understand each other, hold our irreconcilable differences in peaceful tension, and work together toward peace in the world.

  • Much like Judaism, in Islam there is a long history of scriptural interpretation that is legal and scholarly with various schools of jurisprudence that have arisen. As a religious community Muslims look to their tradition and these hermeneutical systems to understand their text. For someone to grab a text in an English translation of the Qur’an and then try to arrive at a “literal” interpretation, and then to go further and accuse Muslims of failing to respond to such an interpretation is way off base. We Christians really need to do a better job in our religious literacy in general, and in understanding the religion of Islam and Muslims in particular.

  • @John,

    The part of the pledge which refers to censoring religious ‘bigotry’ is a misstep. Of course bigotry is horrible. But arguing against a religion is not bigoted – the pledge goes to far in that regard. Religions are just ideas.

    An open argument against religion is a necessary opinion. And to forbid opinions (as this pledge does) is devious, counterproductive and wrongheaded.

  • @John Morehead,

    A Holy book does not come with a user’s manuals. And that is the problem!
    They insist they are the user’s manual.

    Religion must be freely discussed and argued over with words and not weapons. But this pledge wrongfully calls such argument ‘bigotry’ – this criminalizing of conversation must stop.

  • @John,

    You argue for a world where ideas must protected from offense. That is completely unfree.
    Ideas (ideologies) must never be placed in a higher place than the people who are affected by them.

  • “We Christians really need to do a better job in our religious literacy in general, and in understanding the religion of Islam and Muslims in particular.”

    Wrong. We must ALL understand each other better. And shutting down conversation about religion as this silly pledge does, is a wrong move. Fortunately, the pledge has no teeth. Our freedom of speech will be upheld in the courts.

    I have the right to criticize all religions. And you are trying to take that right away from me.

  • Bernardo

    John,

    Actions speak louder than words and they prove what many Muslims if not all believe.

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” :

    The massacre in Mumbai, the assassinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, the Filipino “koranics”and the Boston Marthon bombers.

  • Ben in OAkland

    And what do you have to say about religious freedom and gay people?

  • Bernardo –

    “Actions speak louder…”

    Stop it please! Muslims are not the problem. Start behaving and thinking.
    You are a demonstration of bigotry. You are against “THEM” instead of “IT”. Bigotry is when you lump people together as when you speak of MUSLIMS.
    This is why the word ‘bigotry’ must be excluded from this pledge. The enemies are the depraved religions and NOT Muslims, the vast majority of whom are wonderful people who are forbidden by their own religion to doubt their Imams or question their Laws!

    The religious need to be free to question their own religions!
    Only free speech will do that. The bigotry clause in this pledge is the enemy of freedom.

  • Bernardo

    Max, Max, Max,

    I am not against Muslims. I am against their book of horror and terror that dictates death to all apostates and infidels. And Muslims by the way are not free to question their own religion. There are programs for freeing Muslims from this tyranny but no Muslim dares to follow it.

    One example:

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi————–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using “The 77 Branches of Islamic “faith” a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true “faith” (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings.” i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    Continued below:

  • Bernardo

    “1. Belief in Allah”

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    “2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence.”

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the “Gib Gnab” (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the “akas” for Allah should be included if you continue to be a “crea-tionist”.

    “3. To believe in the existence of angels.”

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No “pretty/ugly wingy thingies” ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as fairies and “tinker be-lls”. Modern devils are classified as the demons…

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