Pope Benedict XVI:
“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Muhammad & Aisha
Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64: Sahih Bukhari Aisha: the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).
The Vatican responded Friday to the open letter sent at the end of Ramadan by 138 Muslim scholars to Pope Benedict XVI and a wide array of other Christian leaders. The response was somewhat deflating, given the mainstream media’s enthusiasm over the Muslim letter — an enthusiasm which the senders must have anticipated. Noting the Muslim scholars’ declaration that “the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians,” the Telegraph‘s headline was typical of the coverage: “Muslim scholars’ olive branch to Christians.” Reuters burbled about an “Unprecedented Muslim call for peace with Christians.” But was it really?
This week’s response from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, hardly seemed sporting. Tauran observed that the possibility of serious dialogue between Muslims and Christians was limited by the traditional Islamic understanding of the Muslim holy book: “Muslims,” he said, “do not accept that one can discuss the Koran 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.”
Tauran went on to call for reciprocity between the treatment of Christians in Islamic lands and the treatment of Muslims in the West, decrying the fact that Muslims are permitted to build mosques freely in Europe, but Christians face difficulties or outright bans when trying to build churches in Muslim lands. “In a dialogue among believers, it is fundamental to say what is good for one is good for the other.”
But that presumes an equality of religions, and that one can admit the legitimacy of the other. And that is the element missing from the proposed debate.
Vatican rejects ‘Islamic Love’ overtures:
On the basis of the letter alone, it’s surprising that there has ever been conflict between Muslims and Christians, or Muslims and anyone. The scholars say: “in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love.” Yet the “Two Commandments of love” were nowhere in evidence last August when an Egyptian convert from Islam to Christianity was sentenced to death by Islamic clerics. “The Two Commandments of love” have not saved Christians in Baghdad, where Islamic gangs knocked on doors in Christian neighborhoods, demanding payment of the jizya tax specified for non-Muslims by the Qur’an (9:29). Nor is Iraq the only problem area: in Egypt, Coptic Christians have suffered discrimination and harassment for centuries, and their plight is increasing. In Pakistan a prominent Catholic priest said in August 2007 that Christians are frequently denied equality of rights with Muslims and subjected to various forms of discrimination.
Â RESPONSE TO OPEN LETTER AND CALL FROM MUSLIM RELIGIOUS LEADERS TO CHRISTIAN LEADERS, 13 OCTOBER 2007:
Reading between the lines
On the surface the letter looks like a well intentioned and urgent plea for a better understanding between Muslims and Christians, so as to avert an apocalyptic war between the two largest religious blocs in the world.
If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace . . . the very survival of the world itself is at stake . . . So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us.
However, the letter goes on to lay the blame for all wars in which Muslims and Christians are involved on the actions of Christians.
As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them – so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes. [emphasis added]
This implies that the war against Islamist terrorism is a global war of Christianity against Islam, and that Christianity is the aggressor against Islam (which is the radical Islamist view). There is no sense of sorrow or remorse for the wrongs inflicted by Muslims on Christians historically, or indeed currently in many Muslim lands. There is no recognition that in many places things may be the opposite, with Muslims oppressing Christians and driving them from their homes (e.g. in Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan). There is no mention of the Christian communities in Muslim lands suffering other kinds of persecution and discrimination. There is no admission that Muslim actions could have played any part in the alienation between Muslims and Christians.