While Muslims in the West often emphasize their kinship with Christians (the Qur’an claims we believe in the same God, and trace our lineage, spiritually at least, back to the same forefather Abraham), at the same time Muslims in other parts of the world are targeting Christians for extinction. It’s no secret that in modern times Christians are the most persecuted religious group among all the world’s faiths, and that Muslims in particular are perpetrating the greatest horrors against them.
So why is there such disparity in the Muslim world toward Christians? And who are the true Muslims, the friendly or the ferocious?
As to the first question, the answer lies in the schizophrenic stance which the Qur’an takes toward Christians. Early in the career of Muhammad as a prophet, when in the first twelve years he had minimal success in attracting followers, he sought to enhance his stature as a monotheist among pagans by placing himself in the same religious stream as Christians and Jews, thereby bolstering his appeal. Hence his early “revelations” in the Qur’an contain some very positive statements concerning Christians (among others):
Lo! those who believe [i.e., Muslims], and those who are Jews, and Sabaeans, and Christians — whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does what is right — there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve. — Sura 5:69 (see also 2:62)
Dispute not with the People of the Book [i.e., the Bible] save in the fairer manner, except for those of them that do wrong; and say, ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered.’ — Sura 29:46
Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of men to the believers are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou wilt surely find the nearest of them in love to the believers are those who say ‘We are Christians’; that, because some of them are priests and monks, and they wax not proud…. — Sura 5:82
The Qur’an even portrays Allah as commanding his prophet to go to the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) if he has doubts about the content of the revelations Gabriel is passing on to him. Allah’s implication is that the prior revelation found in the biblical texts will confirm what Muhammad is receiving:
And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. — Sura 10:94
However, as the Jewish and Christian tribes heard more of Muhammad’s recitations they grew more and more certain that his message was not in line with their Scriptures, and so they withdrew any pretense of support for his claims that he was a prophet in the same lineage as the biblical seers. This rejection increasingly angered Muhammad, and his “revelations” began to turn negative toward Jews and Christians as duplicitous and unbelieving.