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