As this column goes to press, hundreds of presumably Muslim protestors in Sudan are shouting for the execution of a British school teacher. Her offense? Insulting Islam because her class of 7-year-olds named a teddy bear Muhammed. According to the New York Times report:
The protesters, some carrying swords, screamed, “Shame, shame on the U.K.!” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.” They were calling for the death of Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who was sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in jail. Under Sudanese law, she could have spent 6 months behind bars and received 40 lashes.
It’s events like this—and similar ones around the globe—that add to my skepticism about the value of a recent exchange pleading for peace between Muslim and Christian leaders.
Last September, 138 of the world’s most prominent Muslim theologians, scholars and leaders sent an “open letter” addressed to Christians worldwide. The document titled, “A Common Word Between Us And You” is an extraordinary communication from the Muslim world. In it the Muslim leaders plead with Christians to recognize in two of the world’s great monotheistic religions their essential “common ground” namely, love to God and neighbor. Only by recognizing this common ground, the letter submits, will Muslims and Christians learn to live in peace. (Of course, by the very existence of this letter, these Muslim leaders are assuming Christians are not at peace with Islam.)
Ecumenicists around the world have undoubtedly leapt for joy at the offering of this “olive branch” to Christianity from Islam. As expected, there were quick and positive responses from the Vatican, the Archbishop of Canterbury and several mainline American denominations.