Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, is sweeping westward, as the moon is sighted. (If I am wrong about that, please forgive me: I'm an infidel, and not up to speed on what details of what all the varieties of Islam believe. I briefly discussed Eid in another post, and would appreciate knowledgeable comments.)
A Very Nice IdeaI don't know if the upcoming end of Ramadan is what prompted "an unprecedented open letter signed by 138 leading scholars from every sect of Islam, the Muslims plead with Christian leaders "to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions" and spell out the similarities between passages of the Bible and the Koran."
MaybeThe Times (UK) quoted part of the letter: "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."
"Oppress." That's par for the course, I'm afraid. "Oppression" seems to have been a favorite word for getting sympathy, ever since "workers of the world unite" became a catch-phrase.
As far as the idea of talking to find out what common ground Christianity and Islam have, that's fine: providing that it's discussion, and not a photo-op or platform for speeches.
I'm disappointed by the apparent assumption that the 'Christian west' is trying to oppress poor, innocent Muslims. It may seem that way, to those who believe that the Great Satan America was supposed to collapse along with the Twin Towers.
The process of freeing Afghanistan from the Taliban must have come as a terrible shock. And the prospect of a free Iraq, delivered from a brutal dictator by non-Muslims can't be helping.
I'm with Ruth Gledhill, the Times religion correspondent, at least to an extent.
She quotes Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, a leading Anglican expert on Islam, and the Bishop of Rochester. He was born in Pakistan, and is glad that over a hundred Muslim leaders want to talk with Christians. "But what I would stress is that dialog between partners must be conducted in the integrity of each faith," he said. "One partner cannot dictate the terms on which dialog must be conducted. This document seems to be on the verge of doing that."
The Muslims, naturally, are strict monotheists. And, they think that Christians should be, too. That's where the trouble starts, on a theological level. Dr. Nazir-Ali said: "One thing the document implies is that Christians have compromised their monotheism. It does this by implication, with all the business of saying we must agree that God is only one and not associated with partners, that we must not take others for Lord. It refers to various verses in the Koran which accuse Christians of taking Jesus and others as their Lord besides Allah." (Emphasis is mine)
Caution! Religious Content!If you don't like to read religious stuff, skip the next paragraph.
(A little background may be needed here: Christians, aside from a few groups that didn't like the idea, believe in a Triune God. Not three gods: one God, three persons. If you find that hard to understand, join the club. It's a Mystery. Literally. "The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the 'consubstantial Trinity.' The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: 'The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e., by nature one God.' In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215): 'Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.'" - excerpt from the Catholic Catechism.Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. You may remember him. He's the fellow who gave a $10,000,000 check to New York City after the 9/11 attack, and then said that the United States "must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack." And that the United States "should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause...."
Somehow, I don't think this "dialog" is going to go all that well. And, when at least some of the Muslims are disappointed, I'd say that the odds are that Christians, and particularly the Pope, will be blamed.
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