10 – Major differences regarding freedom
Major differences regarding the concept of freedom. Christianity has accepted, even taught, the important principle of the state not favoring any religion and people being free to choose, while throughout the Islamic countries, religious persecution is a frequent reality, in some countries an extreme one, and this despite what these countries claim.
“In no country where the Christian faith is the faith of the majority is it illegal to propagate another faith… Yet, there are numerous Islamic countries where it is against the law to publicly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and where a Muslim who renounces his or her belief in Islam to believe in anything else risks death. Freedom to critique the text of the Qur’an and the person of Mohammed are prohibited by the laws of blasphemy, and the result is torturous punishment. One must respect the concern of a culture to protect what it sees sacred, but to compel a belief in Jesus Christ is foreign to the gospel, and that is a vital difference.”
From both a teaching and practical perspective- even with the Roman Catholic Church abuses of the medieval and post-medieval times- Christianity and Islam differ considerably regarding religious freedom.
Separation between church and state
D’Souza, a research scholar at Stanford University, said: “The teaching of Christ, in Matthew 22:21, to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God, is the origin of the separation of Church and state. Not only does this separation help prevent the excesses of a theocratic state, but it also gives origin to the concept of limited government, by advancing the concept that state power has a limit and must respect the conscience of each person.”
Lamin Sanneh, PhD, Professor of History at Yale University, in a 1999 Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview with Toni Hassan, stated: ”By and large, Christians have accepted the principle of the separation of Church and State, and Bishop Tutu for example, in South Africa, was adamant that the new constitution which was being promulgated in South Africa, did not favor one religion. Whereas his Muslim counterparts, they would say they want a government, a State, that has the Sharia, the Islamic code, as part of public law.”
Don Closson in his article “Islam and Christianity: common misconceptions.” said: “Generally, Christians in the West view Islam through the lens of Western tolerance. Americans especially, are used to the separation of church and state, and assume that people enjoy such freedom all over the globe. Many Muslims neither experience such separation nor see it as a good thing. For those who take the Qur’an seriously, Islam and Islamic law regulate all aspects of life. The history of Islam supports the idea that the state should be involved in both the spread of Islam and the enforcement of religious duties by individuals in Islamic societies.”
The same author added: “In fact, the ultimate goal of many Muslims is what might be called a global Islamic peace enforced by Islamic law. When Muslims talk of Islam being a religion of peace, it is often implied that this peace will occur only when Islam rules the world, the Islamic law being therefore applied universally. As Harvard professor Bassam Tibi wrote, “…the quest of converting the entire world to Islam is an immutable fixture of the Muslim worldview. Only if this task is accomplished, if the world has become a ‘Dar al-Islam (house of Islam),’ will it also be a ‘Dar al-Salam,’ or a house of peace.”
Despite the fact that Christianity has at times had similar views regarding the use of government to enforce religion – see the Roman Catholic Church abuses before the Reformation when the Christian practice of religious tolerance was almost non existent- the view remains unanimous that there is no comparison between Islam and Christianity in this regard. To summarize it- in Christianity, some people and organizations that claimed having adopted the worldview have clearly broken its core teachings and made their own interest fundamental. In Islam, on the other hand, it’s a completely different story based on its very core teachings. Despite the fact that there is a verse in the Qur’an that says “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error” (Quran 2:256) many of its other core teachings -those on violence as well as the example of Mohammed conducting many wars himself- clearly and practically contradict the idea of religious freedom.
In “World Religions through a Christian worldview” Pat Zukeran says: “The powerful combination of immediate paradise for those who die fighting for Allah and the unity of political, religious, and economic structures, helps to understand the source of suicide bombers and children who dream of becoming one. Young Palestinians are lining up by the hundreds in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to volunteer for suicide missions. Eyad Sarraj, the director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Project, said: “If they are turned down they become depressed. They feel they have been deprived of the ultimate award of dying for God.” Palestinian support for suicide bombers has seen an incredible rise recently.
Islam and Christianity both require its followers to sacrifice and turn from the world and self. Yet while Islam equates political conquest to advance Allah’s reign, Jesus taught that we render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. The New Testament did not advocate the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Muslims are given the example of Muhammad’s personal sacrifice in battle so that Allah’s enemies might be defeated. Christians are given the example of Christ who gave His life as a sacrifice, so that even His enemies might believe and have eternal life.”
On the same topic, Ravi Zacharias in his book ‘Jesus Among Other Gods’ adds: “Jesus’ kingdom was of such nature that it was not procured by military might or power. Its rule is neither territorial nor political. If history has proven anything, it is that the spread of the gospel by the sword or by coercion has done nothing but misrepresent the message and bring disrepute to the gospel.”
The same author added: “The teaching of Jesus is clear. No one ought to be compelled to become a Christian. This sets the Christian faith drastically apart from Islam. In no country where the Christian faith is the faith of the majority is it illegal to propagate another faith. There is no country in the world that I know of where the renunciation of one’s Christian faith puts one in danger in front of the powers of the state.
Yet, there are numerous Islamic countries where it is against the law to publicly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and where a Muslim who renounces his or her belief in Islam to believe in anything else risks death. Freedom to critique the text of the Qur’an and the person of Mohammed are prohibited by the laws of blasphemy, and the result is torturous punishment.
One must respect the concern of a culture to protect what it sees sacred, but to compel a belief in Jesus Christ is foreign to the gospel, and that is a vital difference. The contrast is all too clear.”
(Sources: ‘Jesus Among Other Gods’, by Ravi Zacharias, “World Religions through a Christian worldview” Pat Zukeran http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=603)