Welcome to an exciting week—full of news and inspiring vistas!
Stay tuned to ReadTheSpirit all week:
TODAY and Wednesday, we’ll spend time with scholar John Esposito on his important new book, “The Future of Islam.” But, this week, we’ll also take you to Africa with Youssou N’Dour and into Asia for a startlingly fresh look at Buddhism. All of these stories represent news you can use to spot gems you’d miss without ReadTheSpirit.
THIS IS Part 1 of our 2-part review and interview with Dr. Esposito. Today, we begin with a few paragraphs from his book to give you a feel for what he’s saying in this important new work:
For the forseeable future, religion will remain a significant political and social force for reform because majorities of Muslims today stress the importance of its role for the progress of their societies. Thus it can be viewed as part of the problem if we focus on the extremist fringe or as part of the solution, sustaining Muslim majorities with their values of human rights, mutual respect, and cooperation between communities of believers intent on the same goals.
The idea of “family” in the history of religions, as in our ordinary lives, is a source of strength, nurturing, love and security but also of conflict and violence. Despite, or some would even argue because of, close family resemlances, relations between Judaism and Christianity, Christianity and Islam, and Judaism and Islam have often been characterized by tension, conflict and persecution. The beliefs of each that it possesses the one true revelation and special covenant and, in the cases of Christianity and Islam, that it supersedes earlier revelations and has a universal mission have been stumbling blocks to religious pluralism and tolerance. However, there are an impressive number of initiatives by religious leaders and NGOs today that move beyond vying for who is most correct to recognizing, respecting, and cooperating with other faiths to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
The future of Islam and Muslim-West relations remains a key political and religious issue in the 21st century. Understanding and appreciating shared beliefs and values has become especially critical post 9/11, no longer only in multifatih relations but also in international politics and security. Islam and Christianity are the largest and fastest-growing religions in the world. Moreover, the interaction and connection, religiously, politically, economically and militarily, between the United States and Europe and Muslim countries globally cannot be ignored. In the 21st century, intercivilizational dialogue is no longer simply the preserve of religious leaders and scholars but is now a priority for policymakers and corporate leaders, a subject of domestic and foreign policy, and the agenda for international organizations.
Jews and Christians have come to affirm that beyond their distinctive beliefs and past conflicts, they have a shared Judeo-Christian heritage. Most have been raised with some appreciation of the interconnectedness of the Old and New Testaments and their faiths’ common belief in God prophets, and revelation, and moral responsibility and accountability. Few until recently have possessed the broader Abrahamic vision that recognizes the integral place of the descendants of Abraham, Hagar, and Ismail, Muslims who are co-equal citizens and believers in the West.
Our next step is to acknowledge this “missing link,” to recognize that the Children of Abraham are part of a rich Judeo-Christian-Islamic history and tradition. Despite the rhetoric and actions of Muslim extremists and terrorists, and religious and cultural differences, the peoples of America, Europe and the Muslim world have many shared values, dreams and aspirations. The future of Islam and Muslims is inextricably linked to all of humanity. All of our futures will depend on working together for good governance, for freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, and for economic and educational advancement. Together we can contain and eliminate our preachers of hate and terrorists who threaten the safety, security, and prosperity of our families and societies.
Come back tomorrow for news on Youssou N’Dour! And Wednesday for our interview with John Esposito!
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