Rejecting Inter-Religious Dialogue

A Beliefnet article by Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld: Pope Says No to Inter-Religious Dialogue raises questions about  quotes from a recent book blurb written by Pope Benedict XVI. [See the New York Times for the details.]  I offer a few selected quotes from Rabbi Hirschfeld interspersed with my comments.

The alternative understanding of the Pope’s most recent comments is that he actually finds all other belief systems defective and their members best served by only a single outcome i.e. conversion to the Catholic faith.

He is a Catholic, isn’t he?

Can it be that he finds real inter-religious dialogue impossible because at all costs any conversation which accords full and equal dignity to other’s faith is impossible for him?

It could be, but I strongly doubt that case. In fact, it is Islam which is supremacist & intolerant, denigrating other faiths.  One commenter said that “G-d does not have a religion”.  Allah does not agree.

3:19. Truly, the religion with Allah is Islam. Those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) did not differ except, out of mutual jealousy, after knowledge had come to them. And whoever disbelieves in the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah, then surely, Allah is Swift in calling to account.

Too often it is people of different faiths deciding to bracket the particulars of their faith in order to gather for a few moments of kum-ba-yah. In that sense, the Pope is on to something, but he has it exactly backwards. Real interfaith dialogue IS possible, but only when we DO Not bracket that which we believe.

Dialogue can run into a brick wall when the two sides hold diametrically opposed positions. If Christians and Muslims discuss Jesus Christ, a Jew may find himself holding their coats and spectacles while they settle the dispute with their fists.  One side declares him to be the divine son of God sent to save mankind,   the other declares him to be fully mortal, Allah’s slave & messenger.  One side claims his crucifixion, death & resurrection, the other denies them.  If Christianity’s beliefs are false, then it is all in vain. If they are true, then Islam is superfluous.  The two positions can not be reconciled.

Dialogue demands difference, but it demands difference without denigration.

There is the crux of the problem. Islam denigrates Judiasm & Christianity and declares unremitting war upon them. The current interest in inter religious dialogue got its spur from a correspondence between  138 of the Ulema and Pope Benedict. The Ulema’s missive, titled “A Common Word Between Us and You“,  A common word originates in  the Qur’an.

3:64. Say: ‘People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.’ And if they turn their backs, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.'[Arberry]

Islam demands that Christians deny Christ. This is a demand that we embrace Islam; the same extortionate demand which was made in a letter dictated & dispatched by Muhammad to the Byzantine Emperor.

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. This letter is) from Muhammad, Apostle of Allah, to Heraclius, the sovereign of Byzantine…….. Peace be upon him who follows the Right Path. Now then, I call you to embrace Islam. Embrace Islam and you will be saved (from Allah’s Punishment); embrace Islam, and Allah will give you a double reward, but if you reject this, you will be responsible for the sins of all the people of your kingdom (Allah’s Statement):–“O the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship None but Allah….bear witness that we are Muslims.’ (3.64) [Sahih Bukhari 6.60.75][Further contextual details in 1.1.6]

What is there to discuss other than terms of surrender?

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