Earlier this month, an article on the Huffington Post’s website made a connection between George Washington and the prophet Muhammad. Titled, “An Unlikely Connection Between the Prophet Muhammad and George Washington,” author Craig Considine cites a number of worthy traits the two men shared. He offers examples of both men advocating the use of respectful language, being humble, and practicing good hygiene – praiseworthy characteristics, all. But what is the motivation for such a comparison?
Mr. Considine’s seems to be interested in helping other faiths work together. His bio on the Huffington Post describes him as an “Interfaith activist.” That is a noble idea – and one with which Christians can agree to an extent. As believers, we are called to live peaceably with others (Hebrews 12:14). However, we cannot naïvely ignore the inconvenient truths about other faiths. The extreme exclusivity of fundamentalist Islam, which Considine seems to dismiss, is one of those truths.
The republic that Washington helped found was built on the basic understanding that the government should not compel its citizens to follow any particular religion. While the separation of church and state may cause some Christians a bit of distress, it has some positive consequences. For instance, what if members of a faith or church fellowship were to gain power and then force all citizens to embrace that faith in spite of the conscience of the individual? This was done routinely in Europe in the days of the Reformation and following, where the religion of the prince became the religion of his people. It is also practiced today in areas where Islam achieves political power.
Unlike Washington, Muhammad taught that the mosque and state are one. To live in a Muslim country is to be a Muslim or face severe discrimination, reprisals, or even death. Even to live as a Christian—a “person of the book”—is unacceptable. In 2006, I sat across the table from an Egyptian geologist working for the government who said that she had been passed over for promotions simply because she was a Christian. How did her supervisors know she was a Christian? For one, in Egypt you have to put your religion on your driver’s license (Egypt was one of the most secular countries in the Middle East at the time. I fear for Christians living there now since the Muslim Brotherhood has become so much more influential).
When we dig down into Islamic teaching, we find a great many troubling things. We see that women are devalued. We find that Jews are to be exterminated. We see that those who do not make the important confession, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet” may expect discrimination and persecution. This isn’t to say that all Muslims believe this way – indeed, there are a great many who do not. There are many Muslims worldwide (but few in the Middle East) who are more than willing to cooperate with members of other faiths. But it is those who hold to the literal teachings of the Qur’an who pose a danger to non-Muslims.
But we cannot be afraid to recognize the differences between men like Washington who held to a biblical worldview, and Muhammand, who promoted an Islamic one. One is dedicated to the nobility of all human beings and the importance of living peacefully alongside those who may not agree with us. The other is not. They, like their practitioners, are worlds apart.