John Azumah is professor of world Christianity and Islam and director of international programs at Columbia Theological Seminary. He was previously a lecturer in Islamic studies and director of the Centre for Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations at the London School of Theology. Azumah is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. His publications include “My Neighbour’s Faith: Islam Explained for Christians” and “The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa: a Quest for Inter-religious Dialogue” — among many others. Azumah earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. at the University of Birmingham.
There are more Muslims now in America than Jews. Yet, many Americans are often confused, afraid and lack a basic understanding of Muslims and the Islamic faith. John Azumah joins Today’s Conversation with Leith Anderson to help us understand the history of Islam and how it impacts our relationships with Muslims today.
In this podcast, you’ll hear from a Christian scholar of Islam on:
- The role of commerce in the spread of Islam;
- How the main segments of Islam (Sunnis and Shiites) developed;
- The historical background of “jihad” and how Muslims understand it; and
- Why Christian and Muslim relations soured.
Read a Portion of the Transcript
Leith: From your perspective, what do you think American Christians most misunderstand about Islam?
John: American Christians are not any different from many Christians in different parts of the world, and the misunderstanding of Islam is not exclusively a Christian problem. Many Muslims doesn’t understand their on faith. If they did, we wouldn’t be having the problem that we’re having. There’s a deep misunderstanding of Islam across boards — it’s both Muslims and Christians.
But when it comes to America, I think, for me, the misunderstanding of Islam is that we don’t really get a sense of the depth of sectarianism within Islam. The sectarian divide is deep, and it’s palpable. If Americans don’t take time, we can easily be co-opted to one side or the other. My fear is that is going on and that Americans have been co-opted into some of these sectarian wars and battles in the Muslim world, and we need to be smart on that.
The other thing, of course, is that we as American Christians because of 9/11 see every Muslim as a potential terrorist. That for me is very, very dangerous, because when you began to demonize everybody of that faith, you run the risk of dehumanizing them and you run the risk of punishing them — implicitly or explicitly harm to these vulnerable people. So for me, the misunderstanding of Islam and of Muslims, we have a lot of work to do in educating our people and helping them to understand that not every single Muslim is a potential terrorist.
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- Today’s Conversation podcast with Joseph Cumming on Understanding Islam From an Evangelical Perspective
- Addressing Radical Islamism webinar with Jennifer Bryson