Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 25, 2006
Grounds for dialogue with Islam
By GLEN ARGAN
The fierce reaction of some Muslims to Pope Benedict's quoting of a 14th century Byzantine emperor during a talk the pope gave at a German university has a couple of ironies.
The pope's point in the talk was that Muslims and Christians may have solid ground for a "dialogue of culture," ground that neither share with the secular West.
The pope's criticism of Western intellectualism echoes - not contradicts - that of Muslims who say that while the West has prosperity and technology, it misses the main thing - a relationship with the Creator.
Pope Benedict laid the ground for deeper dialogue with Islam, a dialogue that may well take place once cooler heads prevail.
The other irony was that the pope's mere quoting of an emperor who thought Islam brought violence roused an intemperate response. It was as though those who burned churches were arguing, "If Christians call us violent, we will bomb their churches, kill their priests and nuns, and hunt down the pope to prove our faith is not evil and inhuman."
This is one segment of Islam with which dialogue may be rather strained.
With whomever dialogue occurs, however, it must include an emphasis on reciprocity. If past atrocities are to be discussed, the discussion will have to include not only Christian terrorism, but also the Muslim variety.
There will also be an insistence that religious freedom is essential in every society. Mosques and the practice of Islam are welcomed in the Western world; similar openness must be assured in Muslim countries. People of all faiths should be able to build churches and temples and openly practise their faith without fear.
Until there is reciprocity and the jihadists learn to behave themselves, people in the West will be walking on eggshells every time they speak about Islam.