EVANGELICALS AND ISLAMOPHOBIA: Critical Voices and Constructive Proposals
As every day passes, we are subjected to new acts of horrific violence. The list of cities continues to grow: Dhaka, Grand Bassam, Orlando and Nice. Violence and extremism in the name of Islam are saturating the lion’s share of the global news. A conflation of issues, including the ongoing mass movement of people across borders, a resurgence of nationalist ideologies in Western societies, the long-arc of Western foreign policy, and the rhetoric of political campaigns have created environments in which Islamophobia is thriving.
Within a hyper-Islamized-American context, evangelicals have responded to Islam in a myriad of ways. On the one hand, some evangelicals have responded through expressions of fear and condemnation. This is a response that views Islam as terroristic, violent, and a threat to “Western values.” This type of response tends to demonize Islam as a religion and Muslims as a people. Yet another reaction is confusion and paralysis. This is harder to concretely identify, but anyone who has consistently interacted with evangelical Christians in pulpit and pew recognizes this sentiment is widespread. As a result, many evangelicals have opted for a posture of silence. In this case, the most urgent and pressing questions among evangelicals remain dormant—relegated to conversations over dinner with friends or following a board meeting with like-minded people.
In October 2015, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD), Peace Catalyst International (PCI), and the Dialogue Institute (DI) convened a conference at Temple University designed to help evangelicals and others understand the consequences of and develop thoughtful responses to Islamophobia in the United States. The conference had four main objectives: (1) to examine the present challenge of Islamophobia in America, with particular attention to how it relates to evangelicals and Muslims; (2) to provide a biblical, historical, legal, and political rationale for greater tolerance across religions; (3) to develop (and lay the foundation for) a long-term strategy for evangelicals and others to address Islamophobia in the United States; and (4) to develop tools for implementing that strategy.
This issue of the journal contains voices representing Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions. In addition to the featured papers from the Temple Conference, we include global responses to the topic from evangelicals and Muslims representing cross-sections of their respective faiths.