You hear it all the time: What are Muslims doing to reach out?
Last week, 138 Muslim leaders from around the world released an open letter to the pope and Christian leaders. The “document,”:http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en&page=option1 called “A Common Word Between Us and You,” opens:
Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.
The document’s release received plenty of national media coverage. But there seems to be very little buzz about it.
It’s easy to find conservative blogs that that have taken a, shall we say, skeptical slant on the whole thing. Otherwise, there’s been mostly quiet.
A group of Yale scholars did release their own “document,”:http://www.ptsem.edu/news/a-common-word2007.php saying they were “deeply encouraged and challenged” by the Muslims. The Yalies wrote:
We applaud that A Common Word Between Us and You stresses so insistently the unique devotion to one God, indeed the love of God, as the primary duty of every believer. God alone rightly commands our ultimate allegiance. When anyone or anything besides God commands our ultimate allegianceÃ¢â‚¬â€ a ruler, a nation, economic progress, or anything elseÃ¢â‚¬â€we end up serving idols and inevitably get mired in deep and deadly conflicts.
The Muslim letter stresses the common belief in one God among the Abrahamic religions, quoting Scripture to make the point:
What all these versions thus have in commonÃ¢â‚¬â€despite the language differences between the Hebrew Old Testament, the original words of Jesus Christ in Aramaic, and the actual transmitted Greek of the New TestamentÃ¢â‚¬â€is the command to love God fully with oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s heart and soul and to be fully devoted to Him. This is the First and Greatest Commandment for human beings.
It goes on to emphasize “love of the neighbor” in Islam, as well as Christianity and Judaism. The letter states:
As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against themÃ¢â‚¬â€so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes, (in accordance with the verse of the Holy QurÃ¢â‚¬â„¢an)…
After stressing, again, that the survival of the world may hinge on cooperation among its two largest faiths, the letter says:
And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony.
So what now?
David Ford, Director of the Inter-Faith Program at the University of Cambridge, told “TIME”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1670291,00.html magazine:
This is a determination by mainstream, traditional Muslim scholars and authorities who cover all the branches of Islam, and that’s very unusual. It is unapologetic Ã¢â‚¬â€ but not aggressive, not defensive Ã¢â‚¬â€ and is genuinely hospitable in all directions. It’s also modest. It doesn’t claim to be the final word; it’s ‘a’ common word.
But John Cullinan of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom wrote on “National Review Online”:http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ODA3ZWEzYzBiY2E4M2U1NGJhZmQ4M2ZmMmFjOWY4YjE= that the letter is vague, lacking in substance, and doesn’t address Western concerns about passages in the Quran that appear to endorse violence.
And he asks what the letter’s writers mean by “war” against Muslims:
Where exactly do Christians as such Ã¢â‚¬â€ or Western states Ã¢â‚¬â€ Ã¢â‚¬Å“wage war against Muslims on account of their religionÃ¢â‚¬?? Unless the authors are willing to be more forthcoming, a useful exchange of views must await another day.