“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” (Ex. 20:5).
One principle that Muslims and Christians share is that the God that they each worship (the Trinity vs. Allah) is a jealous God, i.e., He will not share His glory with another. He rightfully demands the full allegiance of His followers. Equally forbidden is not just polytheism (more than one god) but syncretism (fusing features of separate gods into one and worshiping that amalgamation as the true god).
Muslims generally even today are very careful about this, refusing to allow their mosques to become places of syncretistic or interfaith worship. They are horrified at the possiblity of transgressing the sacredness of Allah’s unique place of honor, and rightly so if he is indeed the one true God. Here is a case in point:
On July 1, during the month of Ramadan in Selangor, Malaysia (touted in the West as a moderate Muslim country, an uproar occurred during the iftar (breaking of the daily fast) meal at a Selayang mosque. Apparently, a non-Muslim Chinese Malay politician (notice the racial as well as religious discrimination in the reporting) was allowed by the mosque chairman to enter the prayer hall in order to wish the gathered Muslim crowd “Selamat berpuasa” (Happy Fasting!) and “Selamat berbuka” (Happy Breaking of the Fast!). According to official Muslim guidelines in Malaysia, “…non-Muslims are not allowed to step into the prayer area of a mosque or surau in the state to hold any activity.”
Apparently this was such a serious affront against Allah that the clamor reached the ears of the His Royal Highness, the Sultan of Selangor, who decreed that the implicated mosque chairman be sacked (fortunately, since this is such a moderate Muslim country, he was not executed). It doesn’t look like any action will be taken against the non-Muslim involved, though under Selangor law he could be charged with breaking Section 12 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Enactment 1995, conviction for which would mean a fine of 3,000 Malaysian ringgits (about $750) or two years imprisonment, or both.
Muslims take their worship space seriously, and refuse to allow it to be defiled by non-Muslims (or even by Muslim women who are unclean due to their menstruation cycle). Their seriousness is meant to show their devotion to Allah and his honor.
Contrast this incident with the one that happened two weeks earlier on June 18th at the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly in Portland, OR, where a Muslim was not just allowed into Christian “sacred space” as the gathered delegates were worshiping, but was chosen to help lead in worship, and did so by praying not to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” but to Allah, using the key prayer of Islam (the Fatiha), imploring the Muslim god to guide all the Presbyterians gathered there to the “straight path,” i.e., to Islam.
While the Stated Clerk offered a “non-apology” apology five days later to “any who were offended,” the Presbyterian leadership felt showed no repentance over disdaining God’s jealousy for His own Name. In fact, because of continuing alarm in the PCUSA pews about this event, Mike Cole, General Presbyter of the Presbytery of New Covenant (one of the larger presbyteries in the PCUSA) wrote a letter to his own constituents to quell the unrest. The first line of his message is, “Too much has been made of a prayer offered at the beginning of our General Assembly (GA) by a Muslim Imam.”
Can you imagine what would have happened in Malaysia, and perhaps around the Muslim world, if the non-Muslim, Chinese Malay (perhaps Christian, perhaps Buddhist) had been invited to offer a prayer in the name of his god at this Muslim iftar gathering? He and the mosque chairman might not have gotten out of there alive — quite literally. Muslims take their allegiance to Allah quite seriously, and refuse to allow rival faiths to co-mingle in their sacred times before Allah.
One could wish that leaders in the PCUSA were as zealous for the honor of the Trinity as Muslims are for Allah. That certainly was the case once in the history of the PCUSA. May it be so again!