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(January 12, 2010) In light of the recent string of church vandalism which brings the number of attacks to nine in Malaysia following a December 31st court ruling that overturned a ban on Christians using the word Allah for God, ING condemns these senseless attacks and calls on those Muslim Malaysians responsible to return to prophetic and Qur’anic teachings regarding relations with their Christian brothers and sisters, and the sanctity of their houses of worship. Respect for Christians is embodied in the very Qur’anic term of reference for Christians and Jews as “People of the Book,” in recognition of the Holy Scriptures given to them and in acknowledgement of and respect for their shared beliefs: “The Muslims, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians, any who believe in God and the last day and do good have their reward with their Lord. There is nothing for them to fear; they will not sorrow.” (Qur’an, 2:62)
The Qur’an advocates respectful dialogue that emphasizes ethics for dealing with differences: “So then give the call, and be upright as you have been commanded, not following their wishes. And say, ‘I believe in any scripture that God has revealed. And I have been commanded to treat you all fairly. God is our Lord and your Lord too. We are responsible for our acts, and you are responsible for your acts. Let there be no argument between us. God will unite us, and the journey is to God.'” (Qur’an, 42:15)
The Qur’an commands Muslims to uphold the sanctity of all places of worship: “And if God did not repel some people by others, cloisters, and churches, and synagogues, and mosques in which God’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down.” (Qur’an, 22:40). This is an injunction which was honored by the earliest Muslim leaders, such as the Caliph Umar, who refrained from praying in a Jerusalem church for fear it might be turned into a mosque, and by Muslims in subsequent centuries as evidenced by the plethora of ancient churches existent throughout the Middle East.
Prophetic history recounts the important role Christians played as advisors and even protectors for the new Muslims when they were given sanctuary in Abyssinia by the Christian king who safeguarded them from their own countrymen.
In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s monastery came to Prophet Muhammad and requested his protection. He responded by granting them a charter of rights, which stated the following:
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them or the sacredness of their covenants.”
ING urges a return to these teachings – principles advocated in the 7th century, long before issues of human, religious, and civil rights were even conceived of – which Muslims of the 21st century have failed to uphold.
ING advocates interfaith dialogue, education and understanding as a path to peace, harmony, and a better world for all of us.