December 21, 2015

Re: "Muslims are the first victims of Islamic terrorism." by Fr. Ron Rolheiser (WCR, Dec. 7).

"Is Islam a religion of peace?", Cardinal Ratzinger answered, "Well, we can say that there are elements of peace within it."

Rolheiser's column missed Pope Benedict's nuance.

Three points. "Nothing is inherent in either the Qur'an or in Islam itself that morally or religiously undergirds such violence." Indeed?

Christians are rightly asked to examine seriously whether the "blood curse" text of Matthew 27.24-25 might not promote anti-Semitism. Would we not owe our Muslim sisters and brothers the same respect of querying the textual import of Sura 9.73 ("Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home")?

There are modernist interpretations of such "violent" texts forbidding soul slaying as haram - but these voices must be explicitly heard. To exclude substantive dialogue about this with Muslims in the West is to disrespect Islam's complex reality - the "liberal" bigotry of marginalizing religion ("all religions are the same") that is the mirror bigotry of the troglodyte xenophobe ("all Muslims are terrorists").

Secondly, the Koran is to the Muslim what Jesus Christ (not the Bible) is to the Christian. The uncreated inlibration of the word of Allah (Koran) and the uncreated Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity (Jesus Christ) are clearly distinct foundations for peace as the Koran explicitly denies the Incarnation of Jesus Christ who is peace itself for the Christian.

Since the word "peace" refers a Christian to Jesus Christ and a Muslim to submission to Allah, only careful conversation elicits ethical principles that practically coalesce.

Finally, "Islamic militants no more speak for Islam than Hitler speaks for Christianity." Really? Hitler was an apostate who detested Catholicism and embraced neo-paganism. This silly (and perhaps offensive) comparison minimizes the struggle within global Islam to provide a coherent response to militancy.

Christians are still learning to allow the Gospel to efface our desire to find justification for violence. We are obliged to support our Muslim neighbours as they allow the "elements of peace" inherent in Islam to shine.

Fr. Stefano Penna