Elvis had left the building. What would Jesus have done? Short answer. I have some idea.
Let’s go back a bit first. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit in on a muslim christian discussion evening here in the UK. I have been to this particular series of gatherings before. They are lively, energising, and at times somewhat scary affairs. This one was the scariest by far but not in connection with the subject of this blog post. What was much more interesting was the way a christian and a muslim handled an exchange of words and emotion.
At the Q&A time of the evening, both speakers having delivered their respective presentations, a christian brother took the opportunity to ask a question. The question would turn out to be a very important question. Great. The question would get lost in a moment of heat and pain. Not so great.
The christian brother was from Pakistan, not an easy place to be a christian believer these days. The evening discussion was about Peace – a perspective from Islam and Christianity. The Iman used the majority of his presentation time to present an elaboration of the external greetings of Islam – the ‘salaams’ (peace greetings) and how they are so integral to Islamic thought and the practice of every muslim.
Very interesting but a little thin to my christian heart and consciousness. He included very briefly a number of more important points about the deeper aspects of peace. I say more important because in my opinion they were far more significant. But perhaps not in his opinion. Otherwise he might have and maybe should have given more time to them. However I have to say in fairness to this dear Iman, he is not the most direct or forceful kind of communicator. He frequently appears to squander his time on background or at least secondary issues. So the ultimate shape of his Peace presentation was perhaps more a continuation of this personal limitation or style rather than there being little to say on the more substantial aspects of peace from an islamic point of view.
Notably, he did take a moment to say that in a real sense Islam is not a religion of Peace. He had obviously not been ‘madrass’ed’ (schooled) by George W. Bush, Tony Blair or other such ‘Islamic scholars’ of the recent age. I appreciated this honest statement and look forward to an elaboration of this in due time. He actually proposed that the subject of War be a topic for another evening. That could be interesting.
Anyway, towards the end of the night, the pakistani christian during his Q to the Iman’s A, asked a question about the place of salaams (peace greetings) in engagement with non-muslims. The Iman indicated that there was some discussion within Islamic authorities and scholarship around whether the traditional muslim greeting ‘As-salam alaykum’ should be extended to non-muslims. He concluded that there was only minimal support for it. Reciprocating that greeting when extended first from the non-muslim is another and more positive matter altogether. It’s interesting, I just googled the phrase ‘muslim greeting’ to ensure I got the spelling correct for this post and the internet is full of this very discussion – the yes’ and the no’s of whether a muslim should and can initiate this greeting to a non muslim. (How do you spell the plural of no? What is the plural of no?)