Misplaced Confidence

For years, or even for decades, the Muslim activists in the western world, especially in the USA believed that parroting “Christians and Muslims share Abrahamic faith” will lull the Born-again Christians and neoconservatives to grant Islam the status of an equally acceptable religion and the Muslims as co-religionists. The Muslim writer hastened to write treatises…

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ABU IQBAL

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For years, or even for decades, the Muslim activists in the western world, especially in the USA believed that parroting “Christians and Muslims share Abrahamic faith” will lull the Born-again Christians and neoconservatives to grant Islam the status of an equally acceptable religion and the Muslims as co-religionists. The Muslim writer hastened to write treatises on “Jesus in the Qur’an” and “Mary in the Qur’an.” The Muslim leaders argued that the sheer size of the followers of two faiths makes cooperation essential.
Pope John Paul, as a strategy, met with the Muslims more than 60 times over the course of his pontificate. In May 1999, Pope John Paul II received a delegation of Iraqi Muslims who presented him Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an. The Pope bowed to the Qur’an and he kissed it as a sign of respect.
INTERFAITH DILEMMA
The Muslims who engage in “interfaith” dialogue conveniently forget that Islam rejects any ideology that is not based in “belief in God”, and “human accountability to God alone.”
Talking to a Christian, the Muslims believe they have won him over when they eagerly tell: “Jesus is a prophet of Islam” too. They don’t realise that it is the most blasphemous phrase for a Christian. He worships Jesus as the Lord God, and son of God, and a Muslim dares to bring Jesus to the status of a prophet, a human entity.
When some 138 senior Islamic clerics and scholars put their signatures on a 28-page letter titled “A Common Word Between Us and You” to Christian leaders, it was hailed as a breakthrough in interfaith dialogue and elicited reactions ranging from cautious optimism to almost breathless enthusiasm. The letter sought to recognise similarities between Islam and Christianity as a way of fostering mutual understanding and respect between the two religions.
The letter compared texts from the Bible and the Qur’an to argue that the Christians and the Muslims worship the same God. Both believe in “the primacy of total love and devotion to God,” and both value love of neighbour and a peaceful world. Referring to a passage in the Qur’an the document said: “As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them – so long as they do not wage war against the Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.”
Addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and 25 other Christian leaders, including the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the letter was released on October 11. Signatories include well-known figures from the Sunni, Shi’i, Salafi and Sufi branches of Islam, representing more than 40 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan. The document argued that the twin commands of love of God and love of neighbour provide common ground between the two traditions.
VATICAN’S REBUFF
The Muslim scholars were naïve to predict that their letter will eventually make any difference and that all will gleefully agree that there is no necessary antagonism between the two faiths. Vatican rebuked this massive outreach effort by 138 Muslim religious leaders and scholars who sent the letter to Pope Benedict XVI in an attempt to improve Christian-Muslim relations.
In a response to the letter, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in the Roman Curia, told the French Catholic daily La Croix, on October 26 that “a real theological debate with Muslims was difficult as they saw the Qur’an as the literal word of God”. “Muslims do not accept that one can discuss the Qur’an in depth, because they say it was written by dictation from God. With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the contents of faith.”
Another reading of his comments suggests that the Vatican does not want a dialogue with Muslims unless they change their belief in the Qur’an as a revealed book. Like most Christian theologians, the Muslims have to believe that sacred scriptures are the work of divinely inspired humans and therefore prone to error, contradictory interpretations, deduction and abrogation.
Cardinal Tauran’s comments echo Pope Benedict’s statement. In the summer of 2005, Pope Benedict devoted an annual weekend of study with former graduate students to Islam. During the meeting he reportedly expressed skepticism about Islam’s openness to change given the conviction that the Qur’an is the unchangeable word of God.
Vatican response to the Muslim outreach is significant because in his Regensburg, Germany speech last year Pope Benedict implied that Islam was violent and irrational.
Pope Benedict recently re-established an office for interfaith dialogue that he had shuttered. However the Roman Catholic Church has taken a hard line stance towards Islam since the death of John Paul II in 2005. Now it supports diplomacy as a tactical move to keep the Muslims engaged but not for theological discussion.
The Muslims should admit that their conception of God contradicts the very fundamental base of Christianity, Judaism, and all other Isms, and theirs is not a battle for a tribal or national supremacy. It is how Islam wants to equalise all God’s creatures and frees from the bondage of other humans.
The West has banished “God” from human life, and has rejected any place for any “religion” in human interaction. Islam places “God” in the very centre of all human activity. It is not worshiping God on a Sunday, Saturday or Friday that Islam imposes but asks every human to be aware of God every minute of his existence and prepare to give his account to the all-Knower.
The Muslims may say that they believe in God but most of them have forgotten the other half of their creed: Human accountability to God. Their characters are a living account of this rejection. If Pope has rebuffed the Muslim leaders he knows full-well that the very words: La Ilaaha illa-Allah mean Jesus is not the Lord God.