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DESPITE DISCLAIMERS FROM President Bush and other
leaders, the recent wars in the Middle East have increasingly set themselves
in the public eye as a conflict of religions. The perception of a 'Christianity
versus Islam' global conflict is held by many, and is fanned by fundamentalist
extremists on both sides - the Christian-Zionist Right, chiefly in the
US, and the various groups fostering suicide bombing and other terrorist
acts within the Islamic faith.
Obviously there are differences between the two faiths - chiefly those concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. But the idea that this must result in a war to the death between rival religions is a concept that the enlightened in both would not countenance.
We should not forget that the great majority
in both faiths long for peace. There are 1.9 billion Christians in the
world, and 1.1 billion Muslims which is easy to say, but both faiths
are riven by divisions; Catholic and Protestant, to go no further in
Christianity, and Sunni and Shiite to go no further in Islam.
What do Muslims believe? A simple summary describes
In a gathering that dwarfs any other regular
assembly in the world it grows larger every year. In 1965, 294,000 gathered
in the Hajj. In 2002 that number had swelled to 2,300,00. Just under
a quarter-of-a-million came from Indonesia alone. Forty five per cent
of those attending were women. The number of flights carrying pilgrims
in 2002 was 6,226. Over 1.2 million sheep and goats were needed to feed
those assembled. Over 40 million loaves of bread had to be prepared.
Over 14,000 people were engaged full-time in garbage collection and
How, then, can reconciliation be achieved out
of these different faiths? Both would agree that the basic ingredients
are justice and mercy. Both East and West is persecuted by the most
destructive religion of all - Mammon, or the almighty dollar. Increasingly,
Christians and Muslims are beginning to meet in a common opposition
to this common enemy. Amongst the most authoritative and statesman-like
voices for Islam in the world is that of Dr. Chandra Muzaffar of Malaysia.
His international Movement for A Just World draws on a panel of brilliant
writers and commentators of all faiths from round the world. He presents
a voice for authentic Islam that is seldom heard, offering hope in a
sea of despair.