Our Judeo-Christian-Islamic Tradition

By Robert Parhamexecutive director, Baptist Center for Ethics The last place one would expect to meet the father of Jesus … Continued

By Robert Parham
executive director, Baptist Center for Ethics

The last place one would expect to meet the father of Jesus is in a Washington, D.C., office shoehorned between the Supreme Court and the Dirksen Senate Office Building. But meet him I did. And he is a Muslim. Yes, the father of Jesus is a Muslim.

Sayyid Mohammed Syeed is the father of identical twin boys–Jesus and Moses–who are American citizens, born to parents who are naturalized American citizens originally from Kashmir. The Syeed twins are named out of respect for one historic figure central to Christianity and another central to Judaism. Islam, the third religion of the Abrahamic faith tradition, identifies Jesus and Moses–Esa and Musa in Arabic–as revered prophets.

When the twins were born, the family had a celebration in Bloomington, Ind. They invited both their Muslim and non-Muslim friends, said the ever-joyous Syeed during a documentary interview in his office.

“There was so much discussion on why we had named our children Jesus and Moses. For many of them it was news that Jesus and Moses are equally respected in Islam,” noted Syeed, who is the national director for the office of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America.

“You can’t imagine how these names have an impact on their personalities,” he said, pointing out that Musa went to New York University for a degree in film production. Esa went to Georgetown University, a school in the Jesuit tradition of Catholicism.

Esa has dedicated himself to teaching in the D.C. public schools, said his proud father, underscoring his son’s sacrificial work and solidarity with the dispossessed. “He considers this as a mission,” he said.

Syeed laughingly remembered a farewell party for John Borelli, who was leaving his position as the interfaith director for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for Georgetown University.

“As a good Christian he is going to Georgetown University, and I know for sure that’s where he will meet Jesus,” Syeed recalled telling the gathering. “He will meet Jesus, my son, not the son of God.”

With a doctorate in sociolinguistics from Indiana University, the unassuming Syeed has worked tirelessly at building interfaith bridges among Muslims, Christians and Jews. Most recently, his focus has been on fostering understanding and goodwill between Muslims and Baptists, two faith expressions known for their boisterous adherents and intolerant extremists.

Walking to the Supreme Court, I asked Syeed about the way many Americans framed the nation’s heritage as the Judeo-Christian tradition, meaning our culture emerges from the Jewish and Christian religions. I wondered if it wasn’t time to refer to our tradition as the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.

Of course, advocating such a linguistic shift would set off a seismic reaction. One can already hear fundamentalist Christians screaming that America is a Christian nation and hate-radio hosts ranting about the slippery slope into a Muslim takeover of the nation.

Nevertheless, a linguistic correction would be more historically accurate and inclusive for the Syeed family, now in its third generation of Americans.

If Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, professor at Colby College and member at Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., is correct, Islam did shape American culture from the very beginning. She contends that 10 to 18 percent of African slaves were Muslims, who would have known the biblical figures common to Judaism and Christianity and would have held a common faith commitment to monotheism–belief in one God.

Gilkes has suggested a connection between the famous African-American Christian spiritual “Let Us Break Bread Together” and the Islamic practice of facing east in prayer. The hymn includes the phrases “Let us break bread together on our knees” and “When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun.”

A popular Christian hymn with an Eastern orientation adds evidence to the file on the influence of Islam on America.

Islam certainly shaped Western culture prior to the American experience. The crusaders brought back with them from the Islamic world the idea of the modern hospital and the public library. The madrasah became the seedbed for the Western university. From coffee to architecture, the Islamic world contributed to Western civilization, which uses the Arabic numerals that are essential to everything we do.

Expanding the national vocabulary from the Judeo-Christian tradition to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is overdue. Showing inclusive respect for Muslims creates good will and advances the common good globally.

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.

For more commentary on Obama’s speech to the Muslim World, go to the Saban Center at Brookings’ Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World and the Doha Network.

Robert Parham
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  • abhab

    Syed Kimran Mirza, an exMuslim wrote in part on “FaithFreedom.org” blog. “These so called “Inter-faith meetings and congregations” are Islamic deception—invented only after 9/11, to avoid repercussions or hate-crimes against Muslim immigrants. This is in fact, an Islamic historical technique of war widely practiced by Prophet of Islam in 7th century to fool the Pagans. Prophet of Islam said: “war is a deception.” Present day Islamists also do the same technique of deception practiced by Prophet Muhammad. Any time, any where, Muslims are arrested for terrorism, or some young Muslims were caught red-handed for hatching a terrorism plot, immediately some cunning Islamist Mullahs will come out and will beat the drum saying: “Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. Quran never allows killing any innocent human, Islam is a religion of peace!” Muslims in general will mostly deny or repudiate that any true Muslims can do terrorism, or Muslims are ever involved in any terrorism around the world. This is simply an act of cover-up or hiding the real face of Islam. This is only to fool the western Medias and western useful idiots…..”

  • justillthen

    Leave it to you, Abhab, to take a positive and real-life story of a good Muslim-American family and try to make ’em all terrorists. Do you work for Fox for a living, or are you just one of the idiot stations that replicate and leapfrog the message of fear. It is counterproductive to finding common ground, which there is much of, and is disgusting.Get used to it. Christians live in a world that is peopled by those of many different, and valid, ways of understanding their lives and loves. Indeed, Christians can hardly brag of their adherence to the message of the Prince of Peace, between themselves and certainly towards others.The majority of Muslims, like the majority of Christians, are good and descent people. Stop lying about them as if they all were Ossamas, Omars, or Attas. They are not, and you should know that. This story is about one of them, and there are far too few of these stories being told, competing for air time over the bullhorns of CNN and Fox. Try replicating a message more akin to your professed Lord, Jesus, Christian, and sing a song of Peace and Brotherhood, and Compassion and Forgiveness. If nothing else it sounds more pleasant than the clash-Metal of your usual tune.

  • halozcel1

    *The crusaders brought back from islamic world the idea of modern hospital and public library**The madrasah became the seedbad for western university*Cotton Princess and her prince,with white horse,got merried and were very happy.The End of the Tale.Realities:-How many *modern hospital* are there in islamic world ?

  • zebra4

    Syed Kimran Mirza:ABHAB is manufacturing things up. He does not know that a person’s name can not be Syed and end in Mirza.

  • zebra4

    How many modern hospitals and Harvards are in the poorest Christian countries of the world–Haiti or the Philippines, or the Christian countries of Latin America?Perhaps you never heard of the libraries of Baghdad, Cordoba or 1,000 year old Al-Azhar university.Why are you determined to prove yourself to be an ignorant person like Archie Bunker, Mr Halozcel1?

  • hitman2

    Zebra4Syed Kimran Mirza?????? He is Abhab! He is Helocelz1!!!! (All three in one)The site he is refering to belongs to his father ali sina, a snail in the hiding.These people are all paid to write against Islam and hence no serious discussion can be carried with them.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    i believe the word the author is looking for is “judeochrislamic”.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    justilthen writes to Ahbab: “Get used to it. Christians live in a world that is peopled by those of many different, and valid, ways of understanding their lives and loves. Indeed, Christians can hardly brag of their adherence to the message of the Prince of Peace, between themselves and certainly towards others.”Yuh think? You should have addressed these words to yourself. And then you should have read them over and over and over again.Btw., aren’t you “tired” of the Christians as you are of “the Jews” (sic), tired and “bored” (sic)? Exhausted, even, faint, dead on your feet, with hardly the strength left to breathe? Aren’t you, at least, weary of Muslims?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    “Our Judeo-Christian-Islamic Tradition.” An analysis of the former pope’s “Abrahamic,” largely meaningless? I commend Mr. Syeed for his efforts. However, terms should be precise and transparent. The author’s is not.With respect to Moses, it is true that Musa is greatly respected in Islam, at least as respected as Jesus, if not more so. There is more in Quoran regarding Musa than any other prophet.However, with some in the Islamic community seeking to connect with Christian anti-semites, Musa is often downplayed and, indeed, some of the Quoran translations delete material on this prophet, featuring “additions” to the Arabic regarding relations among Christians and Muslims.Of course, when push comes to shove, Islam shares with Judaism the taboo on idolatry. This is one, but only one, reason for the discrimination, oppression of Christians in most Muslim countries. In fact, it is much more complicated. Anti-Americanism and, in some cases, e.g., Pakistan and Bangladesh, caste plays a part.As for Jesus (Isa), in Islam, he was wholly mortal, did not die, and will return. Those who believe he was the “Son of God” are condemned in Quoran in the strongest possible terms.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Mr. Parkham,No Jews I have ever known comprehend the phrase Judeo-Christian. The two religions are vastly different. What exactly does this omnipresent word mean? Especially, in light of so much Christian antisemitism, some clarity in terms is long, long overdue.

  • InterfaithNation


  • InterfaithNation

    Dear Mr. Robert Parham & CO;Please think “GLOBALLY” 1st and thus act “LOCALLY” 2nd! Hence EMPATHY! So, Please stop thinking the other way around; else APATHY YE in& Ye congregation indulge’s in! You are BOLLIXING the BOLLIXED much more than the poor souls already are!Note: All, Every & Any [Pre-Apocalyptic] man made competing Religion(s) in sweet sweet U.S. of A., AREinfact “iMPORTED” Religion System(s); NOT MADE/BORN/PROPHECIED in & on this NEBULA Blessed AMERICA! Soo,Please EXPORT All, Every & Any of Ye Soo, Goodbye & Good Ridence HELLO the Yes. The “O.ne U.niversal R.eligion” [OUR] “B.OOK O.F T.RANS{FiNiTY}” [BOT] is borneth in sweet sweet U.S. of A! And in the Holy State of NEW YORK, USA; as told Ye so so many times!

  • InterfaithNation

    Note: According to the “OUR-BOT” {O.ne U.niversal R.eligion B.ook O.f T.rans{Finity}} THATLIFE & LOVE is a Miracle in Holy-i Motion & that WE [i] Us APOCALYPTARIAN Nationals, (Not Ye Pre-Apocalyptic Nationals) was never borneth ViA any man made CURSETH/SiNETH Story’s after all; Includes them (not OUR) ABRAHAMiC Old Time Includes them (not OUR) VEDiC — PS: How many Death’s occur during the Annual “HAjj Mass Murderings” in Saidi Arabia???Hint: Since 1990 to 2007; the Whabbi’s caused the Killings of +/- 3,700 Musloms/Molems/Muzle-Womb/Mans via “STAMPEDE” (like Rams/Cows/Camels/Horses..) & via the “STONING OF THE SATAN/Devil/JiNN/KALi..”, not only adulterers, or from “Self FLAGULATION”!??? Soo,Such “MEMEtic” Behaviours must Change or Be Changed! Hence Like Napolian did Europe, the Bush/Obama [modern?] Napolians of the Middle-East & Pak/Afghan are doing respectfully! Vote: No Theocracy & No Monarchy on S.pace S.hip Earth!iNCAMERA (secret): Bin Ladin is Dead almost 2 Years now. His Face on [Gov Controlledor Cooperating] Media put that up there as a “Big Lie” to distract unsuspecting Tax-Paying Americans! AndiNCAMERA (Secret) That Every Penny, like War Reperations, that was Spent during the Clinton, Bush & now Obama War efferts; will be returned Us via “Payment in Kind” Ironically from Saudi’s, Iraq’s & Iran’s massive Oil Reserves! In other words America is getting payed back in Oil not Dollars! A stealthy Barter-Thing evolving between Nations/Governments right under OUR noses! Soo,Every “Red Cent” rised at the PETRO Pump here; Pay’s for Their War (PLUTOCRATS, acting like SOCIALISTS) with OUR, not Their) Money.Note: They Have not “Nationalized” the Big/Little Oil Company’s, Why?

  • InterfaithNation

    Ooooppsa:All This Sharading, Acting, Tautology Talking, Bending, meeting half way… is a SCRIPT (Pre thought by the White House) Vintriloquesed by the PLUTOCRATS & their Secondary “Ex-Robber Barons turned “Newly Captains of OUR (not their) Industries …For the “Re-Election of OBAMA & CO.! So,Please Vote: APOCALYPTIC GOVERNMENT, aka GRiDARIAN DEMOCRACY” & Not Pre-APOCALYPTIC Government!Besides voting for Nomore Theocracy & No Monarchy on O.U.R. Holy-i Cosmic, Nebula Built, S.S. Earth, aka S.S. GAiA, aka S.S. GEOiD, aka S.S. TELLUSng something, THATPlease VOTE: “NAY” to “PLURALiTY” of [Competing] Religion(s) in Sweet Sweet Amerixca andInstead VOTE: “YEA” to “SiNGULARiTY” of (no competing for a name for god INSTEAD of our G-D) Religion in Sweet Sweet U.S. of A.!Prophecy: OUR miraculous man made “REPUBLiC” (not Democracy, & not via any bibles) of the U.S., will experience an Additional 50 States (+/- 100 States) under it’s Flag/Constitution inevitably!Yes, ALL the Way to the tip of PANAMA (where Prez Wannabe & Plutocrat Sen. J. McCain was Born). A Real Apocalyptic United States, not Pre-Apocalyptic U.S.!?Imagine yourself being able to weewee-on or spitoon-at or sceet rocks at Chavez & Co. towards Venezuala [a divided South America]?

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    justillthen, you said,wow! what does that mean? were you “voted out” somehow? by your family? really?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    justilthen writes:”You certainly must not have read mine.”Oh, indeed, I have read yours, Charlemagne. Pity is you do not read yourself. Name-calling won’t do it. Equivocation won’t do it. Glittering generalities won’t do it, etc., etc., etc.You cannot plead your obvious lack of education since education does not bring enlightenment, nor do the reading difficulties you evince both with respect to my posts on Dr. Tiller, to the panelists’ essays, and to your own pathetic offerings necessarily result in racism.There was no bigotry in my postings regarding the murder of Dr. Tiller. There is only bigotry in your Christianist postings on Jews. Only that.There are none so blind as those who will not see, and you will not. Your limited education and more limited intelligence do not excuse you.

  • InterfaithNation

    O U C H!

  • justillthen

    walter-in-fallschurch, You assume that I voted to stay in the Church, Walter. My family took a simple majority vote of whether to stay in an active or to leave. All but one voted to leave. I was not that one. But, I was eleven… 🙂

  • justillthen

    Farnaz, “Oh, indeed, I have read yours, Charlemagne.”And so my statements of your non-comprehension. Any non biased reading of my posts would make my points and position clear, and they are anything but understood or clear to you. “There are none so blind as those who will not see,…”Well said, Farnaz.Your opening statement to Mr. Land regarding the murder of Dr. Tiller:”Be honest with yourself. Reread your own essay. This is a simple matter of murder, unsurprising considering the climate “pro-lifers” create.”Mr. Lands opening statement in his essay:”The murder of Dr. George Tiller is a human tragedy.”Closing statements:”Clearly the killing of abortion providers is unbiblical, unchristian and un-American. Such callous disregard for human beings brutalizes everyone.””Let’s be clear about this. The struggle here is not between “pro-life” and “pro-choice”­-it is between civilization and barbarism. The murder of Dr. Tiller is an act of domestic terrorism and should be condemned by every civilized person in our nation.”I did not accuse you of bigotry in your statements to Mr. Land. I suggested something closer to ignorance of what he wrote.”You cannot plead your obvious lack of education since education does not bring enlightenment,…””Your limited education and more limited intelligence do not excuse you.”Thank you Farnaz, though you do assume a bit here. And I, who made a veiled compliment to your intelligence. But if your education brought you this snobbery and elitism regarding education, then I shall take it as an attempted insult from you. That is fine with me.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    This is what I wrote to Mr. Land:Mr. Land,”Be honest with yourself. Reread your own essay. This is a simple matter of murder, unsurprising considering the climate “pro-lifers” create. Search your soul. What more could you do to see that such an atrocity never happens again?”There are subtle ways in which a well intentioned person such as Mr. Land may yet unwittingly communicate ambivalence, no matter how small, and confusion.Mr. Land begins by taking the stance of the victim, all to characteristic of Christianists, to be distinguished, although the the distinction has been made endlessly, from Christians.”Despite the fact that some have already used the media to try and paint the entire pro-life movement with the bloody brush of this heinous crime, in truth it is an extraordinarily tiny and maniacal minority that will condone Dr. Tiller’s murder.”This “tiny and maniacal minority,” does not appear to be so tiny and is making itself heard throughout the web, throughout this blog, one way or another. Many who are not so maniacal have sought to “understand” him in light of abortion “murder,” rather than condone his killing.More Land quotations:”the gravity of the moral evil of abortion on demand.”Particularly as citizens in a democracy, we must remember the government is ordained of God (Romans 13). It is His expectation that we submit to and obey those He has allowed to be in authority over us.”Most Christians who believe, as we do, that the overwhelming majority of abortions are morally unjustifiable acts of killing, rightly feel the need to offer significant moral response.”Christians must render unto Caesar in this Christian God ordained government, while Caesar murders babies.Again, I think Mr. Land is well intentioned. That he could benefit from greater introspection, that he could do more to fight the Mohlers among us, I maintain.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Correction to previous posting:This is from Land’s essay and should have been placed in quotation marks:”Particularly as citizens in a democracy, we must remember the government is ordained of God (Romans 13). It is His expectation that we submit to and obey those He has allowed to be in authority over us.”

  • Paganplace

    “Judeo-Christian-Islamic?”Really, isn’t it just time to say ‘Pluralistic?’If 10 to 18 percent of those brought as slaves from Africa were Muslims, (wherever that figure was derived) …that means that 82-90 percent were not… And there probably weren’t a lot of Christians and Jews among those. That means.. Call it ninety percent ‘everyone else’ We’ve *all* got non-Abrahamic roots, and most certainly cultural institutions, from many, many places and cultures. Things like ‘Democracy’ and a ‘Republic…’ …these are Pagan ideas in the first place, connections that perhaps some like to try and obscure when they try to make America a place of Abrahamic privilege, and undercut people’s rights to *not* observe what Abrahamics claim. There’s more of ‘the rest of us’ here than Muslims. Something bothers me a bit about someone starting to claim Muslims get in the ‘Abramamics-only-club’ of who’s American when the whole claims of ‘Our Judeo-Christian nature’ are *meant* to claim the right to exclude others from their American birthrights. It’s more setting-up-of divisions against some of us who probably have the *least* particular problem with sharing our country with Muslim Americans.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    justillthen,guess i was wrong all around.

  • justillthen

    Walter-falls,Thank you for the post. No, I voted against, though I have always been spiritually inclined. At that point the Church made little sense, but I was already pursuing other more eastern views. Thank you for the interest. And for the acknowledgment.

  • walter-in-fallschurch


  • justillthen

    walter-in-fallschurch,”i’ve always found the eastern religions much more interesting (though, just as false) as “western ones.”Cute. You know Walter, I always try to be as truthful as possible, even if it is undesirable.I am disinterested in your attempt at an affirmation while you negate that very thing. I would prefer if you said outright that you thought Eastern religions sucked just like you think Western religions suck. It would be more honest.So, suck off, Walter in Falls Church. My honesty. Hope you appreciate it.