Given the nearly daily interaction between Islam and western nations, it strikes me that there is minimal perception about the nature of this middle-eastern religion as it is commonly portrayed by the general media. My sense is that there are regular assumptions about Islam that are carry-overs from Christianity but not actually part of Islam itself. For instance, a few weeks ago in an interview with a Muslim cleric, the news commentator asked him directly, "Doesn't the Qur'an say that we are to love our enemies?" The cleric nearly swallowed his cud. It's a good idea, but it comes from Jesus, not Mohammed.
This, in turn, led me to wonder about whether or not Islam has a moral center, which is not quite the same thing as a theological center. Certainly Islam has a theological center, and it is that Allah is the only God and Mohammed is his prophet. Christianity has a theological center, also. "To us there is but one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ." At the same time, Christianity also has a moral center, first drawn from the Decalogue in the Torah and later from Jesus' commentary on the Decalogue in his Sermon on the Mount. Does Islam have anything similar? In my reading of the Qur'an and the Hadith, I can find nothing comparable to either the Ten Commandments or the teachings of Jesus about moral life.
Hence, to assume that Islam is, so to speak, "on the same page" as westerners, whose moral sensitivities are largely derived from Christianity (however far they may have strayed from the classical church), is to assume what, in fact, is not the case. The longer we hold such assumptions and attempt to come to the table for dialogue with Muslims, the harder it will be to make any real progress. One sees on bumper stickers the little sign spelling out "co-exist", using symbols from the world's great religions. This is a fine sentiment, but if cannot work if even one of those entities does not see it that way.