I would like to know if you asked Ingrid Matson about how Islam can be viewed as a tolerant or respectful religion, if it teaches that everyone who refuses to become a Muslim is sent to hell? In fact, although Islamic spokespeople constantly talk about how Islam respects the "people of the book" i.e., Jews and Christians, there are many clear statements in the Qur'an that leave no doubt that if you do not accept Islam you are sent to hell when you die(and literally...to hell with everyone who is not a person of the book-about 4 billion people)
I was recently reading The complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam, also written by an American convert to Islam, Yahiya Emerick. Mr. Emerick was, I believe, trying to put the best possible face on Islam, to promote it as a religion of peace, respectful of other faiths, and open to interfaith dialogue. Yet on page 209, it is clear that Islam, like fundamentalist Christianity, is based on extortion as much as love or respect. He answers a question about salvation by saying "Does this mean that Islam accepts Christianity and Judaism as valid paths to salvation? Yes and no." He then goes on to say that "If a person finds out about Islam, then it becomes incumbent uponhim or her to accept it and leave behind the former religion. This is because Islam is consudered to be God's lastand, therefore, most complete message to the world."
Isn't it time for Islamic leaders such as Ingrid Matson to clearly and openly say that Islam should move beyond the teaching of "Islam or hell", the way the Catholic Church finally took that step with Vatican II in the early 1960's ?
Is it possible for Muslims to respect people of other faiths if they accept the Qur'an's clear teaching that to reject Islam is to choose damnation? Muslims can point to many verses in the Qur'an that seem to teach respect for people of other faiths, and statements such as their is no compulsion in faith, yet there are many more verses that leave no doubt as to the fate of those who choose to remain in a faith other than Islam. They are sent to hell. It is the same as the teaching of Christianity for 1,500 years, and it led to genocide and torture of non-Christians. How can people respect other believers when they are taught by their faith (the one true faith) that God sends them to hell, when those people are the "enemies of God"?
It is time to move beyond the "Jesus or hell" and "Qur'an or hell" models of faith. These teachings are extortion, not respectful, and they won't help heal the world. It is time for serious debate about common values and goals, not about which religion or scripture is the perfect truth. Is Ingrid Matson willing to show the courage and decency to say that Islam is not the only path to salvation, to say that people don't have to choose between the Qur'an and hell?
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