From right to left: Rabbi Marc Schneier, Bishop Robert Stearns and an Imam from the trip to Azerbaijan at the Guba Genocide Memorial.
(photo credit: THE FOUNDATION FOR ETHNIC UNDERSTANDING (FFEU))
Christian and Muslim relations are considered one of the greatest interreligious challenges today. A new poll conducted by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and PSB Research tried to determine the similarities and differences between American Evangelical Christians and Muslims, with the aim of deepening the understanding of existing relationships and perceptions among them and identifying opportunities for engagement.
The poll found that the two groups see many similarities in their religious values and rituals. However, these similarities get buried beneath a lack of understanding between the two religions, and both groups see room for improvement in their relationship with each other.
Furthermore, it found that Evangelicals tend to fall in line with US President Donald Trump on things like the travel ban, the migrant caravan and moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, while Muslims tend to side against the president.
Most Muslims did not vote for Trump (only 12%) and express strong disapproval of his performance in office, for example. In contrast, Evangelicals voted for Trump (56%) and continue to support him.
Evangelicals and Muslims do not agree on the travel ban, the colloquial name for executive actions taken by Trump in 2017 that include two executive orders for restrictions on citizens of seven (first order) or six (second order) Muslim-majority countries. A third action, made by a presidential proclamation, restricts entry to the US by citizens of eight countries, six of which are predominantly Muslim. Some 37% of Evangelicals support the travel ban, whereas only 7% of Muslims do.
When it comes to Iran, Israel and a Palestinian state, Muslims and Evangelicals likewise disagree: More Evangelical Christians approve (35%) of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iranian nuclear deal) than Muslims (only 11%).
More than one-third of Muslims see Israel as responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as opposed to 5% of Evangelicals. Some 37% of Evangelical Christians support a two-state solution, versus 53% of Muslims.
Evangelicals strongly support US policies toward Israel, including Trump’s decision to move the embassy. Some 45% of them are supportive of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as opposed to only 5% of Muslims. Moreover, some 45% of Muslims say US policy is “too supportive” of the State of Israel.
More Muslims vote Democrat; more Evangelicals vote Republican. According to the poll, 46% of Muslims say they are Democrats, versus 23% of Evangelicals. In contrast, 44% of Evangelicals are Republicans, versus 11% of Muslims.
PSB CONDUCTED 1,000 online interviews – half for each religion – between January 3 and 15 to compile the data. The report was released on March 10.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, head of the FFEU, said the survey is essential given today’s growing number of Evangelical Christians and Muslims in the United States and around the world. He said that there are 60 million Evangelicals and several million Muslims in the US, and globally there are more than 600 million Evangelical Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims.
“American Muslims have been under attack for some time now,” said Schneier. “From an interreligious point of view, it is important for the Evangelical Christian community to have a greater understanding of and sensitivity to Muslims and Islam.
“As we are looking to heighten interfaith activity and dialogue, it is important for these two faith communities to be engaged,” he continued.
Schneier recently returned from the first ever Evangelical mission to Azerbaijan, a Shi’ite-majority country. The reason he chose Azerbaijan is because out of the 57 Muslim countries around the world, it is No. 1 when it comes to support of Israel. He has also been asked to lead Christian missions to Gulf countries to meet with leaders there, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
He said that “warming relations with Israel will impact Evangelical Christian-Muslim relations in American and worldwide.”
Of the six Gulf states, five now have interfaith centers and five have made interfaith dialogue with other religions a priority. He described a competition between Gulf states over who will warm relations with Israel first.
The survey did find, he said, that both Evangelicals and Muslims are receptive and favorable toward Muslim nations cooperating with and supporting Israel.
“While there will be political issues and the communities will disagree,” said Schneier, “I believe they can transcend those differences. In the poll there is recognition on the part of both communities of the need to improve relations.”
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