By Robert Wright, for the New York Times:

Last Friday night a New York Times headline underwent an online transformation. The article formerly known as “A Christian Overture to Muslims Has Its Critics” acquired a new billing: “A Dispute on Using the Koran as a Path to Jesus.”

For my money this was a big improvement, and explaining what I mean will illuminate a dirty little secret: some American Christians are fostering religious strife abroad. They mean well, but the damage they’re doing can be seen all the way from Nigeria, where Christians and Muslims are killing each other, to Malaysia, where Muslims are trying to keep Christians from using the term “Allah” for God.

The Times story is about an outreach technique that some Baptist missionaries use with Muslims. It involves stressing commonalities between the Koran and the Bible and affirming that the Allah of the Koran and the God of the Bible are one and the same.

You can see how a headline writer might call this an “overture.” And certainly the Christians who deploy the technique see it in sunny terms. Their name for it — the “Camel Method” — comes from the acronym for Chosen Angels Miracles Eternal Life.

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Image from the New Statesman

By Tariq Ramadan, for the New Statesmen:

The dust from the collapse of the twin towers had hardly settled on 11 September 2001 when the febrile search began for “moderate Muslims”, people who would provide answers, who would distance themselves from this outrage and condemn the violent acts of “Muslim extremists”, “Islamic fundamentalists” and “Islamists”. Two distinct categories of Muslim rapidly emerged: the “good” and the “bad”; the “moderates”, “liberals” and “secularists” versus the “fundamentalists”, the “extremists” and the “Islamists”.

This categorisation was not new. Literature produced during the colonial era, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially by orientalist scholars in Britain and France, depicted Muslims in the same binary manner. “Good” Muslims were those who either collaborated with the colonial enterprise or accepted the values and customs of the dominant power. The rest, the “bad” Muslims, those who “resisted” religiously, culturally or politically, were systematically denigrated, dismissed as the “other” and repressed as a “danger”. Times have changed, but the old mindsets and simplistic portrayals continue to cast a shadow over today’s intellectual, political and media debate about Islam. One reason why so many Muslim thinkers, activists and reformers today try to avoid the label of “moderate” is the perception of having sold out on their religion to the west and its suffocating terminology.

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