Whatever else his critics say of him, no one can fault President Bush for failing to go the extra mile in his efforts to show that neither he, nor the United States, is opposed to the Islamic faith, or to Muslim nations.
Last week, the president and Mrs. Bush hosted their seventh Iftaar Dinner, the celebration that breaks the Muslim fast during Ramadan. Immediately after 9/11, the president visited a Washington, D.C., mosque and proclaimed Islam a "religion of peace." He has frequently said that terrorists are not real Muslims, anymore than people who proclaim to be Christian and engage in violence are genuine Christians.
The president is the most openly evangelical Christian and faithful churchgoer since Jimmy Carter. And the evangelical community has mostly embraced him and twice voted for him in overwhelming numbers. But that constituency is likely to be troubled over something the president said in an interview with Al Arabiya television. In an official transcript released by the White House, the president said, "ŠI believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God." Later in the interview, the president repeated his statement: "I believe there is a universal God. I believe the God that the Muslim prays to is the same God that I pray to. After all, we all came from Abraham. I believe in that universality."
To paraphrase a remark often attributed to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, everyone is entitled to his or her own faith, but everyone is not entitled to define the central doctrines of that faith. The doctrines of what is called Christianity not only stand in stark contrast to Islam, they also teach something contrary to what the president says he believes.
It is one thing to try to reach out to moderate and sincerely peaceful Muslims. It is quite another to say the claims of your own faith are of no greater importance than the often contradictory claims of another faith. If we all worship the same God, the president should answer the call of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden, convert to Islam and no longer be a target of their wrath. What difference would it make if we all worship the same God?
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (carm.org) has created a useful chart that shows the conflicting claims of classic Christian belief and Muslim doctrines. It is worth studying whatever one's faith.
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