Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 25, 2006
Local Muslim feared pope's comment may have ended dialogue
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Pope Benedict's comments responding to Muslim outrage over a speech in Germany were "really helpful," says a prominent member of the local Muslim community.
Larry Shaben said he feared the pope's quoting of derogatory comments about Islam by a medieval Byzantine emperor may have led to a breakdown in dialogue between Muslims and Christians.
"But it has not happened because Pope Benedict's comments on (Sept. 17) were really helpful, although there is a nagging concern that he didn't disassociate himself from the quote. He did say they were not his words, but those of the gentleman from that period of time," said Shaben, chair of the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities.
Shaben was the first Muslim elected to a provincial legislature in Canada and served as a cabinet minister under former premiers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty.
After reading a copy of Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech, Shaben said he thought the speech had not been properly reviewed before presentation.
"There were some things that were not accurate. For example, the revelation in the Koran that there can be no compulsion in religion. Whoever was doing the research said this was an early revelation, but it was not. This was a later revelation after Islam was well established. This was a huge miss on the part of those who were advising the pope."
Shaben was one of several dignitaries on hand at City Hall Sept. 17 to launch the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony.
Ironically, the launch of the Phoenix Society came the same day as the pope said he was sorry for the reactions of some to his speech in Germany.
To Shaben, the incident magnified the importance of having forums available like the Phoenix Society.
He said he believes the relationship among Edmonton faith communities "is strong enough as a result of our history, that we will handle (the controversy) in a way that we will continue to talk."
The morning of Sept. 17, Shaben attended a meeting with some 30 Muslim representatives from across Alberta. He said they "were impressed by the creation of the (Phoenix) Society."
Shaben said some people want to encourage friction among the faiths. But the new society aims to overcome any friction by building stronger relationships.
Last Christmas Eve graffiti was sprayed on the Beth Shalom synagogue. Leaders of all faiths came together to denounce the event.
"Our society might become a model, you never know," Shaben said. "But its effectiveness depends on the people involved and their commitment to it."