Monday, May 08, 2006

How Joseph Ratzinger Sees Islam - An Excellent Essay

Here's an excellent essay on how Pope Benedict sees Islam. The essay is written by Samir Khalil, an Egyptian Jesuit, and offers a wide ranging commentary. Some of the most interesting ideas in the article follow:
But the key point that he tackles is that of shari’a. He points out that:

“the Koran is a total religious law, which regulates the whole of political
and social life and insists that the whole order of life be Islamic. Shari’a
shapes society from beginning to end. In this sense, it can exploit such
freedoms as our constitutions give, but it cannot be its final goal to say: Yes,
now we too are a body with rights, now we are present [in society] just like the
Catholics and the Protestants. In such a situation, [Islam] would not achieve a
status consistent with its inner nature; it would be in alienation from itself”.

This alienation could be resolved only through the total Islamization of
society. When for example an Islamic finds himself in a Western society, he can
benefit from or exploit certain elements, but he can never identify himself with
the non-Muslim citizen, because he does not find himself in a Muslim


For Benedict XVI, dialogue must be based on the centrality of the person,
which overrides both cultural and ideological contrasts. And I think that,
getting under ideologies, religions can also be understood. This is one of the
pillars of the pope’s vision: it also explains why he united the Council for
Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Council for Culture, surprising everyone.


The essential idea is that dialogue with Islam and with other religions
cannot be essentially a theological or religious dialogue, except in the broad
terms of moral values; it must instead be a dialogue of cultures and


The pope has understood this important aspect: discussions on theology can
take place only among a few, but now is certainly not the time between Islam and
Christianity. Instead, it is a question of tackling the question of coexistence
in the concrete terms of politics, economy, history, culture, customs.


In this, I think that Benedict XVI has stated more exactly the vision of John Paul II. For the previous pope, dialogue with Islam needed to be open to collaboration on everything, even in prayer. Benedict is aiming at more essential points: theology is not what counts, at least not in this stage of history; what counts is the fact that Islam is the religion that is developing more and is becoming more and more a danger for the West and the world. The danger is not in Islam in general, but in a certain vision of Islam that does never openly renounces violence and generates terrorism, fanaticism.

The article speaks for itself and shows a dramatic strategy on the part of the Vatican in focusing on cultural dialogue rather than inter-religious dialogue, where there is precious little common ground.

One final quote from the article from Pope Benedict himself:

“It has been said that we must not speak of God in the European constitution,
because we must not offend Muslims and the faithful of other religions. The
opposite is true: what offends Muslims and the faithful of other religions is
not talking about God or our Christian roots, but rather the disdain for God and
the sacred, that separates us from other cultures and does not create the
opportunity for encounter, but expresses the arrogance of diminished, reduced
reason, which provokes fundamentalist reactions.”

This shows a profound understanding of the grievances of Muslims; it is not Christian culture but the excesses of our postmodern culture that create offense. World leaders should listen closely to the Pope's message.

Thanks to Relapsed Catholic and Dhimmi Watch for the link to the story.

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