In the midst of doing so, I realized I was going to end up with a fairly long essay on the subject. So far, I’ve written about half of it. It’s really turned out to be far longer than I initially expected, and taken far longer than I expected. This initial response to the first three segments has already taken a week. I’ve put up the mentioned segments, for those interested in reading them.
Although I say this essay was written by me, it was realistically written by two people, and I have to thank the wonderful mokie for her insight, her sharp eyes and her unbelievably succinct judgement. I apologize in advance if my essay is in conflict with friends and family who may eventually read this, but I do not apologize for the text itself.
Please note, this essay is as yet unfinished. In its finality, I predict it to come out in about 10 or 11 parts.
Currently available: Parts 1-2, Part 3, Part 4a, Part 4b
2005.8.1 – It seems strange to write an introduction nearly a month after writing a large portion of this essay, but I felt it necessary in light of how the purpose of this essay can be read. I originally wrote this essay to organize my own thoughts about Gospelcom.net’s article comparing fundamental Christianity with Islam. I found the article’s distortion or sometimes skimming of its facts regarding Islam alarming, and put up my essay as a way of filling in the gaps the article missed, expanding what I could, condensing the range of opinions Muslim scholars appear to have on certain subjects, and in this way provide a means for someone who genuinely would like to compare Christianity and Islam more completely with a reasonable starting point.
I did not, and still do not, intend for this essay to be a response to the article in the defence of Islam. I do not intend for this essay to counter or support any religious view, including Christianity and Islam. I merely put on paper expansions of points the article raises, sometimes questioning the historical context of these points. The reader knows best what to make of it.
Writing this essay has been a great learning experience for me. In many ways, the writing has been its own special challenge. I sincerely hope this essay proves to be of some help to those who do pick it up. I also welcome any corrections or comments you might have. Do feel welcome to post responses as they come. - AMM
"The term fundamentalist has come to be a pejorative term. However, it need not be. Fundamentalism is a synonym for orthodoxy. A religious fundamentalist is one who is faithful to the tenets of his religion."
Essentially, the introduction does a basic job of explaining the differences between fundamentalism, orthodoxy and nominal beliefs from the context of fundamentalist ideology. Also provided are some basic factoids about the physical nature of the Quran and hadiths.
"Let us say this also at the outset. As noted on the home page of our website http://www.faithfacts.org, our organization is dedicated to exploring God through reason and evidence. Many people, including Christians, Muslims, atheists (or whoever) resist using reason and evidence. "Don't confuse me with the facts!" If you are in this camp, you may be wasting your time—even made uncomfortable—by reading this article. But if you are seriously interested in pursuing truth, the following discussion should be extremely interesting."
As per the text above, reason and evidence shall be our guidelines here.
Another minor point:
"One thing that is confusing to English speaking people is that the English spelling of Arabic words is not standardized! For example, Moslem is a variant spelling for Muslim."
In fact, many Muslims today find it insulting to be referred to as a "Moslem". I did some research on this, and "Moslem" apparently is a throwback to orientalist times, and thus comes with those connotations that "Mohammedans" would. More importantly, it seems that "Moslem", as it would be pronounced to Arabic-speakers, seems to translate into "oppressor". The reasonably agreed upon meaning of "Muslim" is "submitter (to God)". It's now a professional writing norm that "Muslim", not "Moslem", is the proper terminology for a believer of the Islamic faith.
Similarities between Christianity and Islam
"Fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims both consider such things as pornography and licentious living as pollutants to society. In fact, one of the reasons for the strong negative reaction to western civilization in Muslim countries is the influence of such practices emanating from the west."
True, yet not exactly in the correct context. Muslims and Christians do agree on pornography and licentious living as pollutants to society. 'Eastern' Muslims do tend to be of the opinion that 'Western' influences are culturally polluting in general. But to say that this is directly one of the reasons for the strong negative reactions to western civilization in Muslim countries is simplistic, and again, misleading. A significant number of important historically Muslim nations fell under Christian European colonization, and won their independence from said powers, over the last two centuries. There was, firstly, a very real cultural shock caused by the sheer difference between the 'Eastern' and 'Western' cultures. It did not help that Christian European colonial-era foreign policy included both missionary work and active imposition of 'Western' culture upon the subjugated cultures. The idea that 'Western' culture is a negative influence stems partly from a reaction to this imposition. Nationalists who fought for the independence of their countries necessarily saw it as a duty to retake the cultural solidarity they lost to foreign powers in their time. Thus, ingrained into many of the national policies of these countries was an active promotion of the original cultural heritage (with corresponding values). Depending on the level of extremism in pursuing these national policies, there is a varying degree of how adaptable the national heritage should be to modern global trends. That is, at the most extreme level, a truly homogenous cultural heritage is achieved, with no space for adaptation to outside influences, or the expulsion of all outside influences is achieved to pursue the same goal.
Today, the work of globalization, an increasingly open environment for intellectual exchange and the plague of multinational corporations dilutes local cultures wherever it reaches. The speed at which this occurs is specifically frightening to traditionalists fighting to retain their cultural heritage. When Muslim countries react to what they perceive as negative western influences, it is partly the shock of sheer cultural difference, and partly a fear of losing a foothold on their culture because of the inevitable osmosis. No religion, and no culture, likes to lose members of its flock. Many of the nationalists who fought against the colonial powers are still alive. It has not actually been a very long time between 'then' and 'now' for many of the ex-colonies. Targeting the cultural differences is easy. The fear of being re-colonized, however, is not so easily explained away.