Vatican and the Muslim world still at odds

Perceived Slights Have Left Many U.S. Muslims Wary of Pope

NEW YORK — Pope Benedict XVI has said he would like to reach out to the Muslim community through dialogue, and Muslims were included in the pontiff’s meeting with interfaith leaders in Washington on Thursday night. But many Muslims in America remain wary, saying the pope has created the impression that he is insensitive to their faith.

There are several perceived slights that linger in the memories of Muslims. This pope started off on the wrong foot with his lecture, September 2006 lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany, in which Benedict quoted a Byzantine Christian emperor saying that the prophet Muhammad brought “things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Several incidents since then have nudged Muslims further away.

“I don’t think he did enough to apologize,” said Omar T. Mohammedi, a member of the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

Conversion and religious freedom remain major, thorny issues in the relationship between the Vatican and Muslim countries. Some Muslim countries prohibit Muslims from converting, and punishments can include the death penalty — a position that Catholics find an anathema.

Some Muslim leaders invited to meet the pope in Washington declined, citing the controversies over the Regensburg lecture and conversion. “I didn’t attend,” said Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who was invited to the interfaith meeting. “The invitation was to be involved in the ceremonies and the pageantry, but not in authentic, in-depth discussions on issues affecting Catholic-Muslim relations today.”


The sustained animosity between two great religions do not encourage peaceful coexistence. Mutual respect and trust is lost … for now. Islam is at its most sensitive right now. Islam is on the defensive from knee jerk reactions from other religions who blame a whole religion for the actions of a few. This swings both ways. Radical Christians and Radical Muslims have done more damage to each of their religions than a ‘second coming’ of a messiah. For the majority of moderate spectators, the whole situation is more of a circus side show with deadly consequences. Politics inserted into religious rhetoric is a deadly mistake. Religion inserted into politics is a deadly mistake. Moderates from both sides must step up and calm the waters. As long as these two religions remain so sensitive to the words and actions of the other, there will never be peace. Defections from both religions will increase as a result. Religion must remain a source of comfort and guidance for the individual soul. This is lost when the religion demands enormous personal sacrifices such as displacement, injury and death. Are we all not the children of a higher power? Politics have made us the pawns of political interpreters of that higher power. How does anyone embrace such a religion based on politics? Both Christianity and Islam have histories of violence, in the name of faith. This is today. This should no longer be necessary.

Crossposted on TruthHugger


2 comments to Vatican and the Muslim world still at odds

  • Thank you Jacob.
    – I agree, all the Abrahamic religions are guided more by their leaders than through individual study. Individual leaders often hold power over their followers through fear or promise. Scrutinizing these leaders often results in misguided animosity toward anyone who asks the wrong questions. Too many followers must go along with these leaders for their own safety or status.
    The children of Abraham have fractured into sects and divisions that seek to control the politics of any given state. There are so many leaders spouting so many different interpretations of their holy books that pure forms of these religions get buried and obfuscated. The resulting power struggles among these leaders often result in confrontation and violence.
    – You are correct that religion itself is not to blame. Believers themselves often have no personal issue with other religions. But, wars and conflicts are initiated by leaders using religion as a weapon to rally support and increase their power base. Too many religious leaders remain in a tribal chieftain mindset … which worked 50 or 100 years ago. There also may be a deeper agenda at work to reduce the world population using weapons manufacturers (my own conspiracy theory).
    I truly believe any Religious leader who use religion as a weapon and encourages inflicting any harm to others should be treated as a criminal.

  • Jacob Rempel

    The writer identifies the two religions as “great” and I assume the writer means that as both being essentially good, valid, and important. In these remarks I will not question that opinion. However, I think the expression “animosity between two great religions” is not quite accurate as a truism. Your article refers to statements by certain organization leaders, not the millions of mutually friendly individual religious persons of differing religious beliefs. My personal observation and much readin shows very comfortable friendships among individuals with differing religious understandings. Clearly the public declarations of the Popes and Muslim leaders do not reflect the sentiments of their presumed followers. I believe they speak more or less as religiously social organization leaders maintaining their status. They also accepted ambitious secular leaders support to promote their causes. As well, I rather doubt the assertion that much war violence has been religious in motivation. Wars have happened between tribes and nations with essentially secular leadership using religious dogma to rally their people and soldiers for violent “defence”, which usually was not defence either, but rather ambitious aggression for more territory and power. I include in this comment the crusades and the so-called religious wars which disrupted the feudal system and introduced the system of national states. I think the wars among various Arab, Persian, Kurdish and African groups are similarly power struggles among wealth and power hungry leaders, often personally criminal. What do you think?

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