In view of the lavish praise offered by prior posts, I feel almost guilty and unspiritual in offering my own rather restrained assessment here. But here goes anyway.
If you are involved in ministry to and among Muslims, then you will find this book to be a most valuable resource. If you are involved in evangelism and missions work in Muslim majority environments, not only will you find this book to be a valuable resource, but you will regard it as a "must read." If you haven't yet looked into the broad frontier of historical issues surrounding Islam, a book like this invites an exploration into the now vast literature on such matters.
Dr. Jabbour's discussion is built upon imaginary characters who bring various indictments against the West and express dissatisfaction at the way Christians view Muslims. These characters are, however, composites of real people known to Dr. Jabbour. This gives the narrative a lively energy, but it does mean that the entire book is anecdotal, and therein lies both its strength and (in my consideration) a weakness. Real people (even if cast collectively into an imaginary synthesis and given an Arab name) are real people who have experienced real things and have real emotions. One cannot question their feelings. The problem I see with this is that the anecdotal materials put forth by Dr. Jabbour can be countered by other anecdotes and testimonies that carry equal authority. The story of Ahmed's "sister" is a case-in-point. Reading her testimony, one would gather that Egyptian Muslim women are enlightened, well-educated professionals who enjoy many benefits from the Islamic culture. What, however, makes her statements more authoritative or reality-based than, say, the writings of Nonie Darwish (also Egyptian), Wafa Sultan (Syrian), or Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Somali)?
The author allows the imaginary "Ahmad" to state his concerns freely,and although the author expresses some misgivings about Ahmad's grievances, for the most part his challenges are very gently stated. Dr. Jabbour's goal is to foster a listening ear among Christians, to allow "Ahmad" to get it all out there in the interests of creating opportunity for dialogue. Again, this is fine if you want to read a personal experience book, but some readers (myself included) might like to see some more clarity as to where Dr. Jabbour thinks Ahmad is overlooking some things. For example, Ahmad indicts the Crusades (an almost default declaration raised against Christianity), but the reader might benefit from clues as to recent revisionist literature concerning that subject that challenge the popularly accepted "facts" communicated in Ridley Scotts's movie about the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven. But again, that direction is not the author's intention so I won't make too big a point of it. (I don't want to critique the author just because he did not write the book I might be looking for!)
This book is about personal history. As such it is very interesting. It does leave the impression, though, that western concerns about the Islamist and the larger Islamic movement in the world are quite a bit off base, and could be solved by addressing certain "legitimate grievances" in the Muslim world. These grievances center around three points of departure: (1) the Crusades (the default indictment of Christian history automatically raised by just about everybody looking for indictments); (2) western colonialism and its destructive influence on Islamic civilization; (3) the Israel/Palestinian problem. Suffice it to say here that every one of these "legitimate grievances" could meet a response from other anecdotal composite characters who would testify that all of these indictments have their roots in Islamic practice and history itself. This being the case, I'm not sure that the statements of the imaginary "Ahmad" are all that impressive, however one might be inclined to allow them to go unchallenged in the interests of building a relationship. Nevertheless, as an example of lending a respectful listening ear in the interests of building a relationship that could lead to mutual understanding, Dr.Jabbour's book is a fine example.
I also thought the title was just a tad problematic. A more accurate phrasing might state: "The Cross through the Eyes of the Crescent." The book's structure is grounded in the series of indictments brought forth by "Ahmad," which leads Dr. Jabbour to write much about what is wrong with Christians' attitudes. Just for fun, I'll pose another imaginary composite character--let's call him Jake the "redneck Christian" (to appropriate Dr. Jabbour's language), who has some questions of his own for "Ahmad." Regarding the Crusades, the Roman Catholic Church has publically expressed sorrow, repentance, and appealed for forgiveness, over the Crusades, and those wars are generally viewed as an embarrassment by the widest swath of Christians. What more would you like to see? Ahmad, you say that the Crusaders attacked "our" lands over many years. Yes, they did, but how did they become "your" lands in the first place? What made your conquests good and their attempts at re-conquest bad? Ahmad, it is generally acknowledged by many scholars that Islamic civilization--once the greatest civilization in the world--went into precipitous decline long before the rise of the great western colonial states, and that this was a matter of intra-Islamic conflict (this conflict is hinted at, but not pursued here, by Dr. Jabbour). How would you address this historical reality in today's context? And Ahmad, how would you address the reality that thousands of Palestinian Arabs were forced from their homes in the post-WWII years by Palestinian leaders themselves, some of whom were key figures in the conception and execution of the "final solution" jointly favored in the Arab-Nazi alliance of that time?
My point here is that "grievances" are easy to arouse and state. Almost inevitably there's always a balancing one in view that is just as "legitimate" in the mind of the holder as any others. Dr. Jabbour seems to say that hearing grievances is a good place to start; yet the examples he gives of other composite characters--Muslims who came to Christ--seem not to have started out with grievances but are people with a prior and genuine curiosity about Jesus. Thus, the question arises as to whether those examples actually illustrate his starting point with "Ahmad." In any event, my curiosity is aroused as to how one might get beyond the grievance utterance. At some point this has to happen.
Given these criticisms, the book nevertheless arouses very interesting questions from "Ahmad." A couple stand out especially. Why couldn't one consider, for example, whether the Hebrew hero Samson was a "terrorist" (especially from the Philistine perspective)? Of even more weight is the question as to why Christians feel closer to Judaism than to Islam, given Islam's respectful position toward Jesus and his works, his Virgin Birth, and prophetic power? Of special value is the author's clarification of what is probably a big misunderstanding, and that concerns comparisons between Jesus and Mohammed. That is not the comparison to be made, Ahmad says. The more direct and appropriate parallel would be Christianity's affirmation of Jesus as God's perfectly expressed Word, with the Muslim belief in the Qur'an as God's perfectly expressed Word.
This review is of the book itself and does not take into consideration the Addendum, which I intend to access and study. Also, this is the first book by the author that I have read, and I recognize that he has probably addressed some of my concerns in other writings. I am not really familiar with his broader body of work.