Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Christian and Muslim fundamentalism

Some people, either ignorantly or maliciously, want to equate Christian fundamentalism with Muslim fundamentalism simply because the two phrases contain the word “fundamentalism.” Unfortunately, that’s a bit like trying to equate the “Hawaiian environment” with the “Death Valley environment” simply because both phrases contain the word “environment.”

Certainly there are similarities between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists. For example, both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists 1) Love God more than we love to live, 2) Take the Bible or Qur’an seriously (as opposed to dismissing miraculous or politically incorrect texts as symbolic narratives) and 3) Take obedience to God as revealed in the Bible or Qur’an very seriously.

The differences between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, however, are huge. Examples of 21 differences are listed below beginning with the trivial:

21. Christian fundamentalists can wipe with either hand. Muslim fundamentalist specify which hand to use.

20. Christian fundamentalists can have pet dogs. Muslim fundamentalists think dogs are disgusting.

19. Christian fundamentalists can eat pork. Muslim fundamentalists cannot eat pork.

18. Christian fundamentalists can shake hands, hold hands, and even appropriately hug someone of the opposite sex. Muslim fundamentalists are not even supposed to shake hands with a non-family member of the opposite sex.

17. Christian fundamentalist women are expected to dress modestly, but may wear contemporary, fashionable clothing. Muslim fundamentalist women often wear a head covering (hijab) and a long, loosely fitting garment (Jilbab).

16. Christian fundamentalist men and women worship together side by side. Muslim fundamentalist men and women worship in separate spaces.

15. Lying is always considered sin for Christian fundamentalists. Lying is permitted in some circumstances for Muslim fundamentalists.

14. Christian fundamentalist missions provide food, clothing, education and medical care for the people of all nationalities and faiths. Muslim fundamentalist charities generally focus their attention on fellow Muslims.

13. Christian fundamentalists often take notes in their Bibles. In some countries, Muslim fundamentalists would execute someone for doing the same to the Qur’an.

12. Christian fundamentalist men can only have one wife. Fundamentalist Muslim men can have up to four wives at once.

11. Christian fundamentalists generally think divorce is sin. For Muslim fundamentalists, divorce is not necessarily a big deal.

10. For Christian fundamentalist men to beat their wives is considered sin. Muslim fundamentalist men are allowed to beat their wives.

9. Christian fundamentalists oppose state interference in the church. Muslim fundamentalists believe there should be no separation between Islamic religion and state.

8. While many Christian fundamentalists support Christians in political leadership, they would strongly oppose the idea of any church body governing the state. Muslim fundamentalists believe there should be no separation between Islamic religion and state.

7. Christian fundamentalists tend to be strong supporters of Israel, esteeming the Jews as God’s chosen people, and seeing modern Israel as a continuation of biblical Judea/Samaria/Galilee. Muslim fundamentalists tend to hate Jews and deny Israel’s right even to exist.

6. Christian fundamentalists are commanded to love unbelievers and even their enemies. Muslim fundamentalists have no such requirement and generally hate their enemies.

5. Christian fundamentalists in America support the Constitution of the United States. Many Muslim fundamentalists cannot support some freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

4. Christian fundamentalists are never in danger of being killed for changing religion. Muslim fundamentalists believe that departing from Islam should be punishable by death.

3. While many Christian fundamentalists believe they may use force or even kill in self-defense or in defense of someone else, the idea of honor killings, or killing over the desecration of a Bible, or the blaspheming of Jesus are foreign to fundamentalist Christianity. In some Islamic countries, Muslim fundamentalists engage in honor killings and even kill over alleged desecration of the Qur’an or blaspheming of Muhammad.

2. For Christian fundamentalists, martyrdom never means dying while killing for one’s faith. For Muslim fundamentalists martyrdom often involves killing for one’s faith.

1. Christian fundamentalists have no doctrine of violent jihad—Fighting in order to spread the faith is foreign to fundamentalist Christianity. Muslim fundamentalists are under obligation to bring the world into submission to Allah, peaceful if possible, violently if necessary.

Of course exceptions can be found for all generalizations, and some of the above depends on how we define Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, but any way you slice it, the differences in numbers 1, 2 and 3 alone still truly are enormous.