I know that this isn’t new but at least we know that Islam has scholars who are willing to discuss things and perhaps we may wish to discuss this. How effective they are is yet to be seen. The main issue is that Islam has no effective centralized force or spokesperson. Thirty eight scholars quoting he Qur’an that there is “no compulsion is religion” is not going to stop the daily daily rant that Jews are subhuman and the enemy of humanity and must be destroyed. Or that America is the “Great Satan”. I doubt that 3,800,000 scholars would have much of an effect. What they say isn’t much different that what I read or what I hear stated by my Muslim students. Yet, we still have the spector of hundreds of millions of Muslims ready to die in order to destroy.
Yet, even with all of those reservations it is still better to talk than to kill or be killed. This dialogue, begun by Pope Benedict, is one of the most encouraging events in history. If he had stopped with what Pope John Paul II had said that we all trace our faith back to the worship of the God of Abraham he would not have actually engaged Muslim debate. When asked my Muslim students are clear that Christians and Muslims do NOT worship the same God. In a real sense they are right. When we can get to that level of serious discussion we may find the way to peace and a renewed courage to evangelize once again. As my priest says, “If you don’t have the question of who Christ is correctly answered everything else is wrong.” That is a discussion that Protestants and Catholics ought to have to be sure, but also Catholics and Muslims.
This open letter was signed by 38 Islamic scholars from around the
world representing all eight schools of Islamic thought.