Review by Larry Marshall
Here is a book that purports to speak with some knowledge and insight about these two great religious leaders, Jesus and Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Dr Bernie Power suggests that his book may help enlighten modern believers about each other’s sacred beliefs across the major religious and political barriers that we experience today. However, it is very far indeed from achieving that laudable goal. In fact I would suggest that this book will only serve to feed into the growing Islamophobia in Australia by setting up a straw man in opposition to a ‘sinless, pure and perfect Jesus’ and then burning him, and Islam, at the stake.
This is no careful academic analysis but rather a crude polemic hidden behind a plethora of textual references which are offered to the reader as incontrovertible proof because they are chosen from the Bible or the Koran. No real debate here about how all sacred texts have been hijacked at times by powerful men who used them for their own ends, or that various interpretations of the meaning of texts make this a very controversial exercise. The author’s own highly subjective conclusions on each chapter are presented in an astonishing simplicity.
It’s Jesus vs Muhammad (PBUH) for the masses, and we know who Dr Power is rooting for. We have a whole chapter on the miracles of Jesus (ch 10) and then a matching chapter proving that Muhammad had no miracles (ch 11). What we learn is that Jesus was the son of God and Muhammad (PBUH) was a sinful, violent and ordinary human being. This is worrying scholarship and it will only serve to divide rather than to bring people to a place where they can respect and value the beauty, complexity and sincerity of the other’s religious beliefs.
So, here is taste of a different opinion on these two men from the world famous writer on comparative religion, former Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong. I would recommend reading her works because they reflect the respectful inter-faith dialogues that the Uniting Church is trying to foster in our community.
“Terrorism has nothing to do with Muhammad, any more than the Crusades had anything to do with Jesus. There is nothing in the Islam that is more violent than Christianity. All religions have been violent, including Christianity. There was nothing in the Muslim world like antisemitism: that is an import of the modern period. They got it from us. The missionaries brought it over.”