“… through history, influenced both the development of a Christian theology of Islam, and contemporary Christian-Muslim relations in North America? ”
My book, "Christians, Muslims, and Mary: A History," will explore the myriad ways Christians and Muslims have responded to a (seemingly) shared figure, the Virgin Mary. Has she been seen as a bridge or barrier in interfaith relations? One goal of the book is to help nuance the average American Christian’s answer to this question. The Marian “slice” of history might seem too narrow (and thus not significant), but a fuller examination of history reveals that she touches on nearly every issue in the whole “cake” of Muslim-Christian relations, including: extremism and violence, conversion, polemics, exegesis, religious freedom and intolerance, pluralism, ecumenism, feminist concerns, and popular piety.
The fundamental questions driving my inquiry are: 1. Given the variant details about Mary found in Christian and Islamic scriptures, in what sense can Christians and Muslims say they share Mary at all? 2. How has the shared Mary, as seen by believers at different times and places, influenced the development of a Christian theology of Islam? 3. When and by whom has she been seen as a bridge or barrier, and why? 4. How do we ensure that interfaith dialogue today is grounded in authentic and complex—not revisionist or unnuanced—history?