It’s bad enough that right-wing opportunists have turned the proposed building of a mosque near New York City’s “Ground Zero” into a political mowing machine designed to make hay for their anti-Obama cause, claiming that the proposed mosque would be too close to the hallowed ground where thousands died in Al Qaida’s Sept. 11, 2001 attack.
Folks in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and a few other places have no excuse other than pure-T prejudice and ignorance in their opposition to proposals for new mosques of Islamic cultural centers in their communities.
In a report on NPR, one local Tennessee man said he opposed the mosque because “We’re Christians and this religion represents people that are against Christians. That’s something we need to look at, you know, because you’re going to have a lot of trouble down the line.”
Opponents to the building of mosques sometimes say they are afraid Muslims will want to practice Sharia law, an extremely fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that occasionally makes headlines (as when a young couple in Afghanistan were stoned to death for getting married without their parents’ permission).
There’s no question that the practice of such laws is inhumane — but the Bible contains similar laws. Read Leviticus 20 and you’ll find the death penalty (generally by stoning) applied to anyone who curses a parent, commits adultery, or practices magic. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 calls for any rebellious child who won’t obey his or her parents to be stoned to death (precisely the same sort of law that led to the stoning death in Afghanistan). In a number of texts, God is portrayed as commanding Hebrew leaders to commit genocide against various ethnic groups. Often, it’s not a pretty picture. The vast majority of Christians do not regard such commands as applicable today — but full-blown literalists could.
Christians who are critical of Muslims because parts of the Quran are subject to misuse by extremists would do well to read their own Bible and realize that they, too, can choose to interpret Scripture in extremist ways that could be devastating.
I would hope, however, that they would spend more time on the parts having to do with Jesus, whose self-sacrificial love goes far beyond the notion of saving sinners from hell, and calls said sinners to love others — even their enemies — with the same kind of selfless compassion.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.