“We believe in and revere Jesus and you don’t.” The Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, leaned back, stroked his long white beard, and revealed a slight smile.
“Dear brother,” replied Kuftaro. “You cannot be a true Muslim if you do not love Jesus.”
This 1984 exchange between white Christian American Bill Baker and Kuftaro, an Arab Muslim, served as the impetus for Baker to develop his organization, Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP).
Sponsored by the Temple University Religion Department and the Muslim Students Association, Bill Baker spoke to a mixed crowd of Christians and Muslims in the Student Center Oct. 10 as part of Islamic Awareness Month.
Baker, an archaeologist, anthropologist, activist, Marine and ex-football player, founded CAMP with a goal to “promote peace and understanding between Christians and Muslims throughout the world with the hope of preventing future conflicts as well as aiding the resolution of current conflicts.”
After his meeting with Sheikh Kuftaro in Damascus, Baker felt obliged to tell other Christians about propaganda controls of Islam on the public mind.
Baker blames America for promoting the propaganda.
“Hate against Islam has been planned,” said Baker. “Islam has been selected to replace the Soviet Union as an enemy of the West.”
Baker explained America’s need to continue to have enemies, “[Enemies] keep the war machine we call the Pentagon going.”
During his speech, Baker did not limit his criticisms to the American government. Among others, he attacked the Patriot Act, Bill O’Reilly, FOX News, Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson.
After venting his concerns with the enemies of Islam, Baker outlined the basic concepts in Islam.
Shahadah means bearing witness that there is only one God and Muhammad is his messenger.
Salah is praying five times a day. Zakah are dues for the poor.
Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, while Sawm is the fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Baker feels the five pillars of Islam are also at the foundation of Christianity and Judaism.
“We’re [CAMP] not trying to form one religion,” said Baker.
Baker emphasized that all followers of these religions should embrace the many commonalties of their beliefs.
“[These religions] have more in common than you think,” said Baker.
Baker than moved on to breaking misconceptions of Islam. He pointed out that Islam means peace and Muslim means one who submits to God.
Many Christians and other non-Muslims alike, claim that the term Allah refers to a different God than their Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Baker denounces the belief that Allah is somehow different than the Supreme Being of other religions.
Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. In recorded history prior to Islam, Arab followers of Christianity referred to God as Allah.
After clarifying semantic misconceptions, Baker differentiated between Muslims and Arabs. All Muslims are not Arabs. All Arabs are not Muslims.
“The largest population of Muslims reside in Indonesia, followed by India, then Pakistan. The people of these countries are known as Asians,” explained Baker.
Islam has surpassed the Church of England and the Anglican Church as the religion with the most followers in Great Britain.
Baker notes the many obstacles impeding the brotherhood of true Christians, Jews and Muslims.
As long as extreme nationalism, a lack of compassion, ignorance of Islam and little reverence for God exists, then America and the world will remain in a state of constant conflict.
“We’ve got to have a better world,” stated Baker. “One way to do it is by recognizing Islam.”
Obaid Siddiqui can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org