Islam teaches that Christians and Muslims worship the same god, the head of The Center on American-Islamic Relations wrote last week in defense of a suspended Wheaton College professor who asserted that notion on Facebook in December.
In an op-ed condemning the Illinois Evangelical higher education institution for suspending and attempting to fire political science professor Dr. Larycia Hawkins for asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same deity, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad argued that the school's belief that the two religions don't worship the same God displays a level of "ignorance."
"It is clear that Wheaton College has the right to its own theological stance on the nature of God, but from an Islamic perspective, there is only one deity worshiped by Muslims, Christians and Jews," Awad asserted. "In fact, the Muslim declaration of faith (shahada) states: 'There is no god but God.'
"Now one might claim that Muslims worship 'Allah,' not 'God,' but that would be in willful ignorance of the fact that 'Allah' is merely the Arabic translation for 'God' and that all Arabic-speaking Christians refer to 'Allah' in their prayers," Awad added. "Muslims commonly use either 'God' or 'Allah' when referring to the single deity. Islam's Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.'"
Awad continued by stating that it is revealed in the Quran that there is unity among the monotheistic faiths.
"'We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them. And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves,'" Awad wrote, quoting the Quran. "God also states: '(Rest assured that) those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians . . . whoever believes in God and the last day and performs good deeds — will be rewarded by their Lord. They will have nothing to fear or to regret."
Awad stated that although Jews, Christians and Muslims might have several differences in how they worship God, that does not mean that all three religions worship separate deities.
Awad concluded that such misunderstandings of theological positions has led to deadly conflicts and "lost opportunities for mutual understanding."
"We see such extremism today in the anti-Islamic actions and beliefs of ISIS and its ilk. We also see similar forms of religious and political extremism in the statements of public figures like Donald Trump and Ben Carson," Awad argued. "The purveyors of different forms of extremism feed off each other to reinforce their own bigotry and to gain unthinking and uncritical support."
After Wheaton College Provost Stanton Jones recommended that school begin the termination process for Hawkins after she refused to participate in further theological discussion with the institution after she submitted a four-page statement explaining her same-god beliefs on Dec. 17, other members of the Wheaton faculty recently came to the defense of the tenured professor and called on the school to drop its termination proceedings and issue her reinstatement.
Despite the faculty's call for Hawkin's reinstatement, a session held last week between the faculty and the administration did not go as well as some faculty members would have liked.
"There was a lot of frustration," psychology professor Michael Mangis told the Chicago Tribune. "It was really us listening to them and their statements of how they hoped that their relationships and trust could be restored. But they didn't choose to follow the faculty council's admonition to reverse their decision."
Leading evangelist Franklin Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, posted to his Facebook over the weekend condemning the faculty for backing Hawkins and contended that there is no way that Muslims and Christians worship the same god.
"This is no minor issue that should be debated. Islam denies that God has a Son. They deny that Jesus is God. They do not believe in a Triune God — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," Graham, whose mother and father met when they attended Wheaton College, wrote. "I can tell you — Islam and Christianity clearly do not worship the same God. How the faculty council can now support this professor being allowed to teach students is deeply concerning."