Greetings of peace and love to you.
Just as Christianity was not the source of the problem in the Inquisition or the Crusades or the actions of members of the KKK, just as Buddhism is not the source of the problem in the ethnic cleansing of Burma - the religion is not the problem. Whenever someone, regardless of their religion, is speaking and acting without politeness, respectfulness, and love in their words and actions—beware.
Beware of religious arrogance, which leads to extremism, which leads to extremists committing atrocities in the name of their religion for a wide range of reasons. Each individual must choose to live and spread the message of love and peace and unity for all - that is the essence of all the religions. And in the face of those who do not make this choice, we must again choose, to the best of our ability, not to contribute to messages of fear or hate, and instead to be of those who carry and spread messages of love, peace, mercy, justice and freedom for all without separation.
Beware to whom you lend credibility. If I have a question about Christianity, I would not take the question about Christianity to the Hinduism professor; rather, I will go to the professor of Christianity because she's recognizable as a pious practitioner of Christianity and recognized scholar in the field. If you know someone who grew up in the U.S. a practicing Christian, devout, devoted, and who later converted to another religion and used their experience of and knowledge of Christianity to criticize Christianity, would you consider them an expert in Christianity? I would not; to me the expert in Christianity is the one who is recognizable as a pious practitioner and scholar of Christianity. Please consider - I gained deeper understanding of and appreciation for Christianity after converting to Islam because of the extensive studies in Islam. In my experience, this growth of understanding and appreciation is common in those who truly are experts in their religion; in those who know their religions well - they grow in their respect and appreciation for other religions as they study their own. If a person’s words and actions indicate a lack of respect and appreciation for other religions, consider that this person may not yet know their religion well (regardless of how many people have deemed him or her an expert).
Beware of the potential to confuse polemics with truth or expertise. Beware of oversimplification and misrepresentation. If you truly seek to understand Islam, or any religion, do so from credible sources, like The Cambridge Companion to the Qur'an or the Oxford University Press translation of The Qur'an by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem. Question anything you hear or read about another religion that is said or written by someone who is not a pious practitioner of that religion. For a glimpse of what the vast majority of Muslim scholars believe, see http://www.lettertobaghdadi.com/. I also recommend A Christian View of Islam by Thomas F. Michel, S.J., and A Muslim View of Christianity by Mahmoud Ayoub, as well as The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists by Khaled Abou El Fadl.
Beware of becoming insular. Get to know people of different religions. Talk to each other about your respective experiences of faith, divine inspiration, and feeling God’s presence. Learn about each other’s families and loved ones. Eat together, pray together, fast together. First come to know one another before exploring your respective beliefs. And when you do explore them, first focus on the similarities. Then, after coming to know each other and to appreciate your commonalities, respectfully explore differences with humility. Rather than trying to persuade one another of your ‘rightness,’ leave all of your differences for God’s decision.
And while we await God’s decision regarding our differences, let’s choose to be the love.
My first exposure to Islam was through Shaykh Muḥammad al-Jamal al-Rifa’i, a teacher at the Blessed Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, one of the three holiest sites in Islam, who has students in the Holy Land, Europe, as well as North, Central, and South America. I was especially attracted to Shaykh Al-Rifa’i’s teachings by one of his statements in particular, “If the Muslims, Jews, Christians, and the people of any other religion, knew their religion well, there would only be one religion, the religion of love and peace and mercy.” This statement felt true to me, and it felt like what I will call an ‘inherent truth,’ like it was a truth that struck a chord somewhere within my heart, a place of inner knowing. This statement especially resonated with me as a counter-position to my childhood experience attending a conservative Christian church where one of the teachings seemed to be that we, the members of the church and those who believed exactly as we did, held the truth exclusively, and by extension, held the privilege of salvation exclusively. As a child, teenager, and young adult I struggled with reconciling this church teaching with my experience of friends and classmates of various religious backgrounds who seemed to honestly and earnestly love God and seek to know God and serve God.
Dear family, friends and acquaintances,
I feel compelled to speak out because of anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic speech and crimes occurring throughout the world, because of the proliferation of anti-Muslim sentiment among the posts and likes of my family members, because of the deplorable misrepresentation of Islam in North American media.... I feel compelled to make it abundantly clear to any of you who are unaware of this change in my life – I converted to Islam three years ago.
Before converting to Islam I read teachings based on the Holy Qur’an and the sayings of Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him, for seven years. I did not convert to Islam until 1) through a process of multiple readings and spiritual growth, I began to glimpse some of the meaning of the symbolic/allegorical language of the Qur’an, and 2) I believed I could commit wholeheartedly to follow its precepts.
What my heart longs for you to know is that Islam for me has been an ever-increasing experience of connection to God and an ever-increasing experience of Divine Love. When I did not know whether God existed or whether He had rejected me, it was a Palestinian Muslim Shaykh who held my hand and would not let it go, literally, while he kept repeating to me, “You are Habīb,” i.e., you are the beloved, the one who carries the deep love of God, the love for God, the love that is from God and to God. It is through Islam that my belief in God was renewed. Is it through the teachings of Islam that I gained faith, and through faith, the strength to face my mistakes and begin the process of transformation through God’s grace. It is through Islam that I left the secular lifestyle that I had been living. It is the teachings of Islam that brought me peace after the death of my mother, when the grief of her death piled on the grief of my father’s death and brother’s suicide. It was through Islam that I began to experience healing of the childhood misconceptions about myself and God. It is through Islam that I have learned that God is always with me. It is through Islam that I have learned that God is always guiding me and caring for me in mercy and compassion. It is through Islam that I now know, without wavering, without hesitancy, without doubt, that God is always holding me in the hand of His Love.
Accordingly, I invite you to consider what you may not know. I invite you to question anything you hear or read about another religion that is said or written by someone who is not someone you know to be a pious practitioner of that religion. Are you aware that there is an industry in the U.S. devoted to spreading misinformation about Islam and Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him? Did you know that when Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him, first received revelation, he went with his wife Khadijah to consult her cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal, a learned Christian? That it was a Syrian Christian who told him when he was only a child that he was going to be the seal of the prophetic line, that when a group of Christians from Najran came to meet him they prayed in his mosque, that the Christian king of Nejus sheltered the Muslim immigrants? That while the Qur’an contains verses that criticize some Christians and Jews, it also contains verses that praise some Christians and Jews? That Islam is seen as a continuation of the same message of Judaism and Christianity, that these religions have in common a belief in the unity of God, the oneness of God, and in doing good deeds? That the ethical character taught by these religions is essentially the same – don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, do follow the golden rule? That they hold a common belief in the immortality of the soul, that we will be held accountable for our human actions, that ultimate judgment belongs to God alone? That a common belief is in the reflection of God’s wisdom in the cosmos, i.e., in natural phenomena (the Christian word for this is Vestige Dei)? That Muslims also believe in the virginity and sanctity of Mary (there are more verses in the Qur’an about Mary than in the New Testament)? That Muslims also believe that Jesus is a messenger of God and that he will return at the end of time? That Muslims also revere Jesus’ teachings of radical compassion; his teaching to approach all with openness, without discrimination, without prejudice based on faith or race or occupation or social status; his willingness to break through social conventions of the day? Did you know that many Muslims believe that being a muslim means to willingly surrender oneself to God through the path that He has chosen for you, so that a person who surrenders to God through Christianity is a muslim, just as a person who surrenders to God through Judaism is a muslim, just as a person who surrenders to God through Islam is a muslim?
I invite you to remember that there is historical precedent for peaceful coexistence, that conflict doesn’t have to be, that we can realize peaceful coexistence today. If you are going to explore differences, I invite you to do so with respect, with compassion, with humility, with kindness, with politeness. In fact, if you are going to honestly, earnestly, sincerely seek to understand differences, I invite you to first build trust – first pray together, first fast together, first know each other’s hearts. I also invite you to consider whether you might be willing to leave it to God to decide between us on our differences. I invite you to choose to focus on common ground rather than on areas of dissent. I invite you to remember that we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, that we are all brothers and sisters. I invite you to consider that God created each of us, and He created our differences so that we might better know ourselves and each other, and thereby grow in knowledge and understanding of Him. I invite you to choose love. I invite you to give love.
May God’s peace be upon you. May He guide us all to unity. May He guide us all to mercy, justice, love, peace and freedom for all without separation.
With faith in and love for Him. With wishes of peace and love for you.
 Please bear in mind that two things are required for the interpretation of any verse: 1) understanding of the context, and 2) understanding of the spiritual principle that underlies the verse.