Is Islam Christianity’s greatest challenge? When Middle East expert C. George Fry took that position in a CHRISTIANITY TODAY article in 1969 (CT, NOV. 7, p. 9), letters to the editor ridiculed the notion. However, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, Muslims have achieved astounding international prominence.

Today, major world powers are becoming embroiled in the “holy war” raging between the Muslim nations of Iran and Iraq. Fry says the future of Islam, and of Christians throughout much of the world, hinges on the outcome of that war. In an interview with Sharon E. Mumper, associate director of the Evangelical Missions Information Service, Fry describes the issues at stake.

Why are Iran and Iraq fighting?

A geopolitical fault line runs through the area between the countries. People have been fighting over those boundaries and waterways for millenia. Also, there is ancient antipathy between Arabs and Iranians, who are different culturally and ethnically. The majority of Iranians are Persians who speak an Indo-European language. What makes today’s conflict different from past wars is the profound philosophical difference between the secular regime in Iraq and the theocratic regime in Iran.

If both are Muslim countries, why does Iran consider this a holy war?

Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution transformed the country into a society based on religion. Most Iranians are Shi’a Muslims, a sect within Islam. Only 17 percent of the world’s Muslims are Shi’ites. The Ayatollah Khomeini would like the world’s Shi’a Muslims to regard him as their leader. Their religion would become their citizenship, so their primary loyalty would be religious, rather than political. A ...

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