Truth Over Fear: Combating the Lies about Islam
By Charles Kimball (Westminster John Knox Press)
Christianity and Islam hold some beliefs in common—there is one God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all life and who made himself known to Abraham, Moses and the prophets. But perhaps the real common denominator between Christians and Muslims is that each thinks of his or her faith in terms of its ideal expression while tending to judge the other’s religion on the basis of how its most strident and militant adherents demonstrate it.
Charles Kimball understands better than most what is at stake in helping people of the two largest world religions understand each other. The American Baptist minister, now chair of the department of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, has spent more than 30 years doing just that—even serving as a mediator in the Middle East during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979-81.
At one level, Truth Over Fear functions as an informative and accessible primer on Islam. Particularly helpful are sections explaining what jihad and sharia mean to the vast majority of Muslims—as opposed to how the terms have been appropriated by Islamist radicals and abused by fear-mongers. Kimball also provides an important discussion of the missionary mandates inherent both to Christianity and to Islam. He emphasizes both religions urge their followers to bear witness to their faith through acts of compassion, not coercion or compulsion. However, each faith remembers those times when the other has abused power, creating “converts” at the point of a sword or using the sword to exterminate “infidels.”
Beyond its obvious value as an aid in introducing Christians to Islam, this book may do an even greater good by promoting relationship-building. Kimball encourages Christians and Muslims to work together on community service projects, share meals and engage in honest conversations, because that is where real understanding takes place. As he writes, “Talking about people, their scriptures, and rituals is not the same as talking with them and observing how their faith and practices are manifest in their lives and communities” (p. 65).
Ken Camp, managing editor