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When the average Westerner hears “Muslim,” a number of images come to mind—mostly negative. But most Muslims would be just as horrified as we are at the assumptions entertained about them. Here are some of the most common misconceptions that Westerners have about Muslims:

Misconception 1: Most Muslims Support Terrorism.

Christians won’t usually come out and say that they think all Muslims are terrorists. But many do assume that the majority of Muslims support terrorism, albeit quietly. Much has been written about how Islam was established “by the sword,” or how Muslims engaging in terrorist activity are simply obeying what the Qur’an tells them to do. It is certainly easy to find Muslims using the Qur’an to justify violence. Even when you give the Qur’an a charitable reading, asking “What would Muhammad do?” will lead to a very different place than “What would Jesus do?”

That said, most of the Muslims you encounter—either in Western or in Islamic countries—are not violent people. They are kind, peaceable people and they are often embarrassed by the actions of Muslims throughout the world. While there is a good chance they see world politics very differently from the average Westerner, you will most likely find them warm, hospitable, and kind.

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The history of Islam and Christianity is hardly an amiable one. Many people from both religions view the other with suspicion (at best) or fear and hatred (at worst). This suspicion existed from day one, and centuries of violence have only served to heighten it. Tragically, the border between Christianity and Islam has all too often been a bloody one.

A dicey past, of course, makes for a dicey present. But it isn’t just our history that transforms the border between Christians and Muslims into a dangerous fault line. A lot also rests on uninformed misconceptions. There are, of course, substantive theological differences between the two religions. And these differences can lead to legitimate conflict. But conversations can’t move forward unless we dispel some pervasive myths. I learned these the hard way, through dozens of awkward and often painful conversations with Muslims in Southeast Asia. You can do what I never could—learn from my mistakes without actually making them.

Many obstacles stand in the way of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus—theological confusion and the cost of conversion being two of the most daunting. And of course the most common reason why Muslims are not coming to Christ is that most have simply never heard the gospel.

That said, there is a set of misconceptions that most Muslims have about Christians that keep them from even considering the gospel. On Wednesday, we’ll look at the flip side—Christian misconceptions about Muslims. But here are three of the biggest misconceptions Muslims have about Christians:

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One of my frustrations when sharing Christ with Muslims was that I had a hard time getting them to disagree with me that only God’s grace could save us. When I would say something like, “We can only be reconciled to God by his grace,” they would say, “That’s exactly what we believe!” But the reality of Islam shows a very different idea of “grace” than the gospel.

The Qur’an gives a long and detailed list of how to act, dress, think, and behave. If you follow carefully these instructions, Allah will approve of you and you are more likely to be accepted into eternal bliss. Islam is the ultimate religion of “works-righteousness,” and works according to the principle, “I obey; therefore I am accepted.”

But there are three reasons this kind of righteousness just doesn’t work: Continue Reading…