Resurrection? Ascension? What?

Reuters is definitely my favorite source for international religious news. But this story out of Srinagar, India, could use some help. Headlined "Visitors banned from Kashmir's Jesus shrine," it tells about a local Muslim fight over a shrine. And in so doing, it gives terribly short short shrift to the most fundamental Christian teachings:

Renewed debate over whose remains are actually in the Rozabal shrine, which attracts hundreds of tourists to the capital of lndia's only Muslim-dominated region, has led caretakers to close it to visitors after allowing access for several years.

A decades-old theory that Jesus survived the crucifixion and spent his remaining years in Kashmir had drawn many people to Rozabal, a single-storey shrine with a traditional sloping roof located in a congested residential area of the capital Srinagar.

Locals believe the shrine is the tomb of Muslim preachers and scholars Youza Asif and Syed Naseer-ud-Din. They don't appreciate increased traffic. So where in the world did this Jesus idea come from?

"Some Christians from the West claim it is the grave of Jesus and they had approached us with a request to exhume the remains for carbon dating and DNA testing. But we refused," Mohammad Amin Ringshawl, the shrine's caretaker, told Reuters.

Really? Christians who reject the teaching of Christ's death, resurrection and ascension? Who are these people? From the West? Okay, that's a pretty big portion of the world. But the only actual name associated with the theory comes here:

The idea that Jesus survived crucifixion and visited Kashmir was first raised in the 1973 book "Christ in Kashmir," by local journalist Aziz Kashmiri. Several other books followed it.

"Jesus Christ, after crucifixion, migrated from his native land, reached and settled in Kashmir, completed his mission, passed away, and was laid to eternal rest," Kashmiri writes in his book.

Local Muslim scholars and historians, however, ridicule Kashmiri's theory. Muslims revere Jesus as one of God's prophets, but they do not believe he died during his crucifixion.

I think that last paragraph may be a bit too specific. It is true that Muslims don't believe Jesus died via crucifixion. But some don't believe he was crucified at all. They think that, well, something else happened. Such as that someone else was crucified in his stead. The relevant verse from the Koran would be:

And for their unbelief (are the Jews cursed) and for their having spoken against Mary a grievous calumny, and for their saying 'Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an Apostle of Allah!' Yet they slew him not, but they had only his likeness. And those who differed about him were in doubt concerning him: No sure knowledge had they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they really did not slay him, but Allah took him up to Himself and Allah is Mightly, Wise!

In a sense, the Kashmiri tomb story almost sounds more like a heresy of Muslim teaching than of Christian teaching about Christ. But if a story is going to claim that some Western Christians deny Christ's death on the cross, resurrection and ascension and, what's more, believe he ended up in Kashmir . . . couldn't we at least find one of them?

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