The Muslim World (TMW) is one of the leading academic journals covering Islam worldwide. Strange it would call its own history “bigoted”.
It was founded in 1911 by Samuel Zwemer, a founding father of Protestant missions in engagement with the oft-rival monotheistic faith. Now published by Hartford Seminary, like much of the Protestant mainline its original evangelistic fervor has faded. Still I was startled to read the concluding sentence of an informative historical biography TMW published in commemoration of their 100th edition:
“A century later, TMW has successfully broken ranks with religious provincialism and bigotry, and lives up to the present motto of the Seminary “exploring differences and deepening faith.””¹
Is this a fair account of all but TMW’s most recent scholarship…
Miracles and the supernatural are part of the cosmologies of both Christianity and Islam. The greatest miracle in Islam is the Qur’an. In Christianity the greatest miracle is the resurrection of the incarnate, living word, the Lord Jesus Christ. At some points the religions which claim to be revealed degenerate into folk religion. The serpent of brass, made by Moses at God’s command in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9), later became an object of worship which had to be destroyed during King Hezekiah’s reformation (2 Kings 18:4). Jeremiah was ordered to condemn the mechanical reliance of the people on the presence of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. They regarded the Temple as a kind of automatic insurance policy guaranteeing their protection and that of the city (Jeremiah 7:4). In Judaism, Christianity and Islam practices sometimes show deviations from the ideal as set out in their respective scriptures. There are magical uses of the names of God. Bibliolatry or the worship of the book and bibliomancy or the magical use of the book replaces the proper reading of the inspired books. Charms and excessive veneration of saints replace reliance on God.
When Zwemer was asked to be the keynote speaker at the very first Urbana missions conference in 1946 (before it was called “Urbana”), he chose the theme “The Cross in Christ’s Commission.” This was seven years into his “retirement,” and six years before his death.
World War II had just ended the year before. The world was reeling under the uncertainties of atomic weapons and how the new antagonistic superpowers would go forward. Zwemer began his message,
All of Christendom and the best thinkers of the non-Christian world face the New Year with deep forebodings and a consciousness of crisis. It may be doubted whether there has ever been a time when the Christian church was beset by so many and such powerful foes. . . . Everywhere we read of persecution, closing of doors, bitter opposition, the patience of unanswered prayer, or the flaming sword of martyrdoms. The Christian church is under fire in a hostile world — a world of disillusionment and hopelessness.
This was seventy years ago. It reminds us that there never has been an ideal time for a great missionary movement. The time is always now. Into this setting, Zwemer spoke the only message that he believed could carry the day in such a world: the message of the cross…
Photographs of armed, male police officers forcing a Muslim woman to remove her over-garment on a public, French beach are currently trending on social media. The woman was told to remove her long sleeve top (revealing a tank top underneath) and to tie her headscarf into a bandana. She was also fined for not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.” One eyewitness was quoted in The Guardian, saying, “The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, [and] some were applauding the police,” she said. “Her daughter was crying.”
This incident results from the recent ban by several French towns on a particular style of swimsuit, known as a burkini, which is often worn by Muslim women. Ironically, the woman in the picture was not even wearing a burkini; she was simply wearing a traditional headscarf. It is important to note that the burkini is nothing like the burqa. The best way to describe the burkini would be to compare the garment to a loose-fitting wetsuit with a hoodie over the top portion of the suit, leaving the wearer’s face fully visible. I can’t imagine that Catholic nuns will be prohibited from wearing their religious attire on the same beaches. One can easily sense that the principle of religious equality in secularism does not apply to Muslims. In order to understand the rationale behind the ban on burkinis, it is necessary to discuss the principle of secularism in France and its deep-seated theocratic phobia…