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A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman's Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide

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Former Congressman and Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Mark D. Siljander takes us on an eye-opening journey of personal, religious, and political discovery. In the 1980s, Siljander was a newly minted Reagan Republican from Michigan who joined Congress in the same generation as Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, ready to remake the world. A staunch member of the Religious Former Congressman and Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Mark D. Siljander takes us on an eye-opening journey of personal, religious, and political discovery. In the 1980s, Siljander was a newly minted Reagan Republican from Michigan who joined Congress in the same generation as Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, ready to remake the world. A staunch member of the Religious Right, he once walked out of the National Prayer Breakfast when a speaker quoted from the Qur'an. But after losing reelection, Siljander dove into the Bible to look for the passage in which the Bible says it is our job as Christians to convert others in order to save them from eternal damnation. He couldn't find it; in fact, he couldn't even find a passage saying that Jesus set out to form a new religion. This discovery was the first step on a spiritual and political journey that started with an in-depth linguistic study of the Bible and led to the discovery that Christianity and Islam share many base words and concepts. In his role as ambassador to the United Nations Siljander began sharing his insights on the connections between Islam and Christianity, with surprising results. A Deadly Misunderstanding recounts Siljander's amazing discoveries as he travels to some of the most remote and hostile places in the world—deep into Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, and India—forging deep ties with both heads of state and religious leaders. What he has learned could radically shift the contemporary religious landscape and help heal the rift between Islam and the West. No Christian or Muslim will be unaffected after reading this book.


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Former Congressman and Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Mark D. Siljander takes us on an eye-opening journey of personal, religious, and political discovery. In the 1980s, Siljander was a newly minted Reagan Republican from Michigan who joined Congress in the same generation as Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, ready to remake the world. A staunch member of the Religious Former Congressman and Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Mark D. Siljander takes us on an eye-opening journey of personal, religious, and political discovery. In the 1980s, Siljander was a newly minted Reagan Republican from Michigan who joined Congress in the same generation as Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, ready to remake the world. A staunch member of the Religious Right, he once walked out of the National Prayer Breakfast when a speaker quoted from the Qur'an. But after losing reelection, Siljander dove into the Bible to look for the passage in which the Bible says it is our job as Christians to convert others in order to save them from eternal damnation. He couldn't find it; in fact, he couldn't even find a passage saying that Jesus set out to form a new religion. This discovery was the first step on a spiritual and political journey that started with an in-depth linguistic study of the Bible and led to the discovery that Christianity and Islam share many base words and concepts. In his role as ambassador to the United Nations Siljander began sharing his insights on the connections between Islam and Christianity, with surprising results. A Deadly Misunderstanding recounts Siljander's amazing discoveries as he travels to some of the most remote and hostile places in the world—deep into Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, and India—forging deep ties with both heads of state and religious leaders. What he has learned could radically shift the contemporary religious landscape and help heal the rift between Islam and the West. No Christian or Muslim will be unaffected after reading this book.

30 review for A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman's Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide

  1. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    I picked up this book in the context of journalistic research, looking for information about a national security case. While it actually contained none of what I was looking for, what I found instead was a touching and humane reflection on the personal journey of one man trying to find common ground between Muslims and Christians around the world. Mark Siljander was a former congressman often described in the media as a "Jesus freak", who underwent a profound spiritual transformation after readi I picked up this book in the context of journalistic research, looking for information about a national security case. While it actually contained none of what I was looking for, what I found instead was a touching and humane reflection on the personal journey of one man trying to find common ground between Muslims and Christians around the world. Mark Siljander was a former congressman often described in the media as a "Jesus freak", who underwent a profound spiritual transformation after reading the Quran and finding that Jesus was a prominent and highly-praised figure in it. This realization led him onto a path of building bridges with Muslims across Asia, Africa and the United States, including some of the most high-profile political figures of the past several decades. Unlike others, the bonds he tried to forge were based on common theological grounds, rather than simply material self-interest. As a student of languages, including ancient languages like Aramaic, he has some novel reflections on the overlap between the major religious traditions of the world that he shares here, and which he uses to argue for common ground among those seemingly divided across religions today. The most important part of Siljander's work in my view is his argument that none of the prophets of any religion ever sought to create a "religion." They simply attempted to call people to recognize and submit to the divine reality, and used essentially the same terms to do so. The tendency to create political communities and draw divisions against others is part of the dark side of human nature, not an outgrowth of any prophetic teaching. It reminds me of the powerful adage: "Islamists worship Islam, Muslims worship God," which could be applied to the adherents of most any religious group today. Many Christians, Buddhists, Jews and others also end up actually worshipping their community and their rituals, rather than looking at the transcendent beliefs (including the transcendent beliefs embodied and taught by Jesus Christ) that tend to bind us all together as human beings. This is the core of Siljander's realization, which he expands upon throughout the text. This was a lucid and touching book written by someone who could sincerely be described as a man of God.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Great book, great examples of how a Christian can make peace with Muslims. A must read due to a continued climate of mistrust and misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    Actually an interesting read Mr. Siljander does a good job of addressing the differences in our religions. He seems to make some concessions as to his beliefs when he is meeting with the leaders and heads of state, in order to open up dialog, but he makes the differences seem small enough to work around. Isn't that what Christianity is about tolerance of others beliefs? I guess the problem is when those "others" would force there way upon you. Convert, submit, or die as the saying goes. Wait that Actually an interesting read Mr. Siljander does a good job of addressing the differences in our religions. He seems to make some concessions as to his beliefs when he is meeting with the leaders and heads of state, in order to open up dialog, but he makes the differences seem small enough to work around. Isn't that what Christianity is about tolerance of others beliefs? I guess the problem is when those "others" would force there way upon you. Convert, submit, or die as the saying goes. Wait that wasn't a problem for our "Example" either.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I'm very glad that I read this book. It was surprising that I found a book authored by a "conservative Christian" to be so tolerant of other faiths and validating of my own attitude. I think it would be wonderful if every member of Congress would read this, and it would be interesting to hear my Mom's take on it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Great book and highly recommended for anyone who wants to see our world through different eyes but maintaining our faith.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cliff

    This book is difficult to rate because it's so many things. It's part personal journey, part linguistic exploration, part freelance diplomatic history, and part self-aggrandizement. Bluntly, it's as frustrating as it's author. Siljander was a fire-and-brimstone type that was elected to Congress and eventually went too far even for a Republican primary. This seemed (key word) to give him an ego-check that knocked him into a new frame of mind and when he continued on as a Deputy UN Ambassador and This book is difficult to rate because it's so many things. It's part personal journey, part linguistic exploration, part freelance diplomatic history, and part self-aggrandizement. Bluntly, it's as frustrating as it's author. Siljander was a fire-and-brimstone type that was elected to Congress and eventually went too far even for a Republican primary. This seemed (key word) to give him an ego-check that knocked him into a new frame of mind and when he continued on as a Deputy UN Ambassador and then on his own, he became much more conciliatory and wanting to tear down walls rather than build them. But as he was before a fire-and-brimstone type, he seemed to go to the opposite extreme, seeing no problem or danger in coddling radical Islamic theocratic dictators, just so long as we could say a nice prayer together. It landed him in jail when he ended up lobbying for a terrorist-financing charity to be delisted, as an unregistered foreign agent, using stolen USAID money. Of course that last part wasn't covered much in the book. And that's the real problem with this book. Siljander's admirable desire to learn from others doesn't stop for a second to think too much about who its learning from. He's got a number of fascinating linguistic discoveries about similarities between the Bible and the Quran which I do think are interesting and valuable. Yet he attempts to gloss over differences that are too big to ignore in ways that not only aren't convincing but discredit his larger, admirable, effort. In short: his ego changed sides but if it shrunk from his young-radical days, I don't see it. It's just masking itself a little better. I do think the basic premise, that there is a lot of misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims, and that there are a lot of similarities we don't think about enough, has a lot of truth to it. And some of the linguistic discoveries he makes about the meaning of a lot of words in the languages of the Bible and the Quran at least deserve deeper discussion. But it would be a lot easier if he acknowledged some major differences, and left the ultimate success or failure of reconciliation and redemption to God.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Usman

    I'll be honest -- I was not at all expecting to enjoy this book, and actually found it somewhat painful to read for the first third or so, as it came off as corny and elementary in its arguments and message early on. Thankfully, I stuck with it, and my perception improved substantially during the middle third of the book. Simply put, I think this is a worthy read for all, given the times in which we are living. In lieu of a proper review, I'm just going to copy and paste an email I sent to the f I'll be honest -- I was not at all expecting to enjoy this book, and actually found it somewhat painful to read for the first third or so, as it came off as corny and elementary in its arguments and message early on. Thankfully, I stuck with it, and my perception improved substantially during the middle third of the book. Simply put, I think this is a worthy read for all, given the times in which we are living. In lieu of a proper review, I'm just going to copy and paste an email I sent to the friend who loaned me the book, as I reached its last few chapters. I think this sums up my feelings pretty well: ----------- Coming back to this book now, as I sit in an airport in middle America (where people are swarmed around a TV spewing out garbage from Fox News, no less) and especially in light if all the recent hate crimes and mosque vandalizations and such, I'm definitely better able to appreciate its message and its potential to serve as a bridge between 'these people' and us. I suppose I initially wrote the book off as cheesy/corny because the non-Muslim folk I usually find myself around are either better educated or just indifferent with regard to the similarities/differences between Muslims and whatever group they identify with. Having been reminded of the fact that there are still just as many, if not more, people who are misinformed about Islam than those who fall into the informed/indifferent category, I think it's a worthwhile read. I do still cringe a little when reading the negotiation-related anecdotes, because they are kind of corny, but I suppose they're necessary in order to provide context and to validate the conceptual conclusions he makes. At the end of the day, it's a good book, and I'm glad I read it. It's definitely something that more folks should pick up, and I now regret having hated on something that has the potential to improve people's understanding of Islam and their perception of Muslims. I'd even go so far as to say that it should be required reading for a lot of folks (even some Muslims, since we can be equally ignorant). I'd give it a 3.75 out of 5.

  8. 5 out of 5

    lisa

    When I look at the news, I see how much help we need to love those we perceive as "enemies." In light of this, I highly recommend A Deadly Misunderstanding by Mark D. Siljander. Mr. Siljander was a congressman in the 1980s, then an ambassador to the UN. He began his career with many misperceptions about Islam, and a strong prejudice against Muslims. Realizing that his views were based in fear and ignorance, Mr. Siljander took the brave step of reading the Quran and discussing it with scholars an When I look at the news, I see how much help we need to love those we perceive as "enemies." In light of this, I highly recommend A Deadly Misunderstanding by Mark D. Siljander. Mr. Siljander was a congressman in the 1980s, then an ambassador to the UN. He began his career with many misperceptions about Islam, and a strong prejudice against Muslims. Realizing that his views were based in fear and ignorance, Mr. Siljander took the brave step of reading the Quran and discussing it with scholars and ordinary Muslims. Through his work he discovered many commonalities among Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and used these commonalities to build bridges. As a peacemaker, he focused on building friendships in his travels because "negotiating with an enemy may be a professional act; loving one's enemy is personal." In one fruitful example, he suggested a leader in a Sahrawi refugee camp would cease fighting the Moroccan government, and instead pray for six months. The leader agreed to this plan, creating space for hostilities to subside, and providing a glimpse of peace as a possibility. With prayer as his foundation, Mr. Siljander actively chose to follow the command of Jesus to bless all those he met. This book shares an interesting journey and sets a powerful example for living one's beliefs.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    A tremendously important work, in light of the rising tide of fear and distrust in the world. NOT the rising tide of jargonized nonsense like "Islamofascism" or "the great Satan", put forth by evil fundamentalist lunatics and repeated by half-wits of both sides. These name-callers are, themselves, part of the problem and are impediments to the solutions. Siljander (who attends my Church when time permits) puts forth a compelling, academically-sound case for massive agreement and confluence betwee A tremendously important work, in light of the rising tide of fear and distrust in the world. NOT the rising tide of jargonized nonsense like "Islamofascism" or "the great Satan", put forth by evil fundamentalist lunatics and repeated by half-wits of both sides. These name-callers are, themselves, part of the problem and are impediments to the solutions. Siljander (who attends my Church when time permits) puts forth a compelling, academically-sound case for massive agreement and confluence between Christians and Muslims, based on nothing less than the Muslim Holy Book, itself, the Koran. This book chronicles the path taken by Siljander for over two decades as he evolves and grows from a sincere, provincial Evangelical, to an enlightened, more aware Follower of Jesus, overjoyed to discover and then share with Muslims his devotion to the very same Jesus in the Koran, known as Isa. This book will be "hated by all the right people," intent on flailing over divisions rather than meditating on similarities. But thinkers in both Christian, Muslim, and other religious circles will be heartened and even granted an amazing hope that such differences need not divide, in light of the magnificence of the similarities.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    A DEADLY UNDERSTANDING is not a book for folks who already have strong preconceived politcal ideals. This book WILL challenge your prejudices and cultural perceptions, particularly regarding Muslims and detente toward Middle Eastern countries and their religious convictions. This book will also let you see a man, Mark Siljander, who is trying to live the "sermon on the mount" gospel and not just playing political and/or diplomatic games with people and countries. He was willing to put his life on A DEADLY UNDERSTANDING is not a book for folks who already have strong preconceived politcal ideals. This book WILL challenge your prejudices and cultural perceptions, particularly regarding Muslims and detente toward Middle Eastern countries and their religious convictions. This book will also let you see a man, Mark Siljander, who is trying to live the "sermon on the mount" gospel and not just playing political and/or diplomatic games with people and countries. He was willing to put his life on the line (literally) by applying many of Jesus' teachings as he lived out daily his striving to be a true peacemaker. Mark Siljander takes us behind the scenes of his political and diplomatic service to his country and mankind to reveal Jesus as the common denominator of peace.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This is a record of studies of Christian, Jewish and Muslim background and beliefs. The author, an Evangelical Christian, began with his initial distorted fear and hatred, but surprised himself by discovering that there were paths for understanding, and committed himself to building friendships among believers. He records much of his research, so this is an introduction to the linguistic roots of the three religions and fundamental ways in which they agree. Or don’t. We have added it to our libr This is a record of studies of Christian, Jewish and Muslim background and beliefs. The author, an Evangelical Christian, began with his initial distorted fear and hatred, but surprised himself by discovering that there were paths for understanding, and committed himself to building friendships among believers. He records much of his research, so this is an introduction to the linguistic roots of the three religions and fundamental ways in which they agree. Or don’t. We have added it to our library.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    This is a truely important book. It challenged not only my understanding of Islam, but my understanding of Christianity as well. Siljander tells the story of his own awakening and faith journey. By studying the Aramaic New Testament he discovered amazing similarities between Christianity and Islam. He then tells how these new discoveries allowed him to build friendships with important leaders in the Arab world and with Muslim scholars in the US.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    This book was a surprise love for me. I had it recommended on Facebook by someone I didn't know - but after reading it, my entire world looks different. I have to admit, I nearly put it down a couple of times - it was simply too challenging! However, I am so glad I stuck with it. It has reset my direction and hope, and I'm so glad I found it!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This was the first book I read to try and understand why Christians and Muslims don't get along. It is the story of one man's quest to make a change in the divide between these two religions, and though it is solely his story, it is filled with important insights into the broad amount of similarities between these two faiths. Very good read!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    interesting material about reading the Bible in Aramaic but first you have to wade through all of his BS. The author is full of himself, constantly talking about the great things he's done, the famous people he's met, and how humble he is. good message, arrogant messenger.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    This book changed my perspective on a lot of things. I agree with 95% of what is in this book and I think everyone should read it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Every Christian should read this....

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Met the author.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Well done!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam Fleming

    A must read for all who are concerned about the culture of hatred between Christians and Muslims. Siljander rocks!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ayman Fadel

    My review at Muslim Media Review My review at Muslim Media Review

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sadia Lateef

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Christenson

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jules Monk

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alice

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Cirincione

  30. 5 out of 5

    Camille Pronovost

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