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came a story about an inter-faith service (minus Muslims for some reason) which used the Qur'an as a centre-piece and focus, which was placed on the steps of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Sacramento, California, USA.

I made a comment and had an exchange with someone named David which I think you might care to read.  No doubt there will be more of these misguided events.


From Kinana


The Interfaith Service Bureau (ISB) of Sacramento should not have even been allowed to use the steps of the Cathedral.  For 1400 years the Quran and Mohammed have inspired the more devote Muslims of the umma to kill Christians and destroy Churches.  What blissful ignorance the ‘Franciscan priest from another parish, who read a short scripture passage’ must enjoy.


If the ISB really wanted to make an ‘expression of care and concern for our Muslim neighbors’ they would have taken on board what their own statement alludes to and what the French historian Ernest Renan said:

“Muslims were the first victims of Islam. Many times I have observed in my travels that fanaticism comes from a small number of dangerous men who maintain others in the practice of this religion by terror. To liberate the Muslim from his religion is the best service that one can render him.”


From David:

Wow, a lot of the comments [12 at the time of this comment, including mine] above show that people here did not read the letter very carefully. It was pointed out that the event was not an endorsement of Islam but a gesture of goodwill towards American Muslims. It is sad that people cannot see the difference and must view this with suspicion.

Another comment suggests that it is wrong for the Church to engage in interfaith rituals. And yet, from the halls of Congress to the Vatican, Catholic clergy regularly participate in interfaith meetings.

So where's the scandal in all of this? The only thing that caused concern came from the mouth of a Presbyterian minister and not from anyone within the Church. I thought that this letter made that clear.

Then there are some comments which suggest that Islam is evil and therefore we should not extend our goodwill to Muslims. If this is true, then I suppose that Pope Benedict should not have prayed in a mosque with imams in Turkey. Wake up, folks! We're called to be generous in our relations with people of other faiths! What's wrong with a little graciousness and generosity?


From Kinana




Having the quran as THE centre piece in an event which includes hymns and scripture readings means what exactly?  I imagine that most people can see the logical connection that if the textual foundation of Islam, i.e. the Quran, is the focus then the event indeed endorses Islam or at least can be reasonably construed to mean more than just a gesture of goodwill towards Muslims.  The statement by the ISB says one thing but its actions say another. 


You make a common disconnect.  No-one here has yet made a comment wishing ill-will toward Muslims.  Any negative comments are related to the teachings of Islam.  Criticising a belief system is different than disparaging the believer of that system.  Dialogue with Muslims is something we should all be involved with, as well as learning for ourselves what the Quran says.


From David

Kinana said, "You make a common disconnect. No-one here has yet made a comment wishing ill-will toward Muslims."

OK, that's fair. Then no one here would mind praying with Muslims in a mosque such as Pope Benedict did.

As long as no one blessed the Koran with holy water and incense, I'm pretty sure that this event was pretty harmless. If Benedict could pray inside of a mosque, then can't we give a token of respect for the faith of Muslim's outside of a Church? Can't we respect what has been for many people their only road to holiness? By condemning their book, you not only condemn the bad teachings but also the good teachings which are in acccord with Christianity.  If you do this, you forfiet the right to friendship with them.


From Kinana




By agreeing with me, you seem to accept the distinction between Islam, the belief system; and Muslims, the people who self-identify with Islam.  I am glad you see the difference.


But confusingly you later speak about ‘respect for the faith of Muslims’ which suggests that you really do not see the difference.


Which is it?  My understanding of Islam and the sort of behaviour it encourages in Muslims leads me to disrespect it; and to feel sorrow for Muslims caught up in its web.  From your other comments it is clear to me that your understanding of Islam is different than mine. 


I am not sure about the detail of what the Pope did.  And the detail is important.


From David

Kinana said: "By agreeing with me, you seem to accept the distinction between Islam, the belief system; and Muslims, the people who self-identify with Islam. I am glad you see the difference."

I do see that. But I'm also saying that dialoguing with Muslims involves an overture of friendship. Friendship is not possible without recognizing that we share certain values.  It’s a matter of fact that Muslims would have learned these values from Islam, from the Koran. To that extent, we should respect their belief system for bringing them thus far to God's truth.

Personally, I do not care for Islam to the extent that it contradicts the Christian faith. But I do respect many of its basic tenants: devotion to God, prayer, asceticism, regard for the poor, and holy pilgrimage.


From Kinana


I think you are trying to make connections or linkages which do not work and are not necessary.  I am all for friendship with Muslims, and I try to live this out in my own life.  But you claim too much when you say it is a ‘fact’ that what makes friendship possible with Muslims is Islam because of the shared values found therein.  What makes for a good friendship?  Many amazing and wonderful factors!  And the friends in my life are of different beliefs and none.  You have not made your case.

Muslims, like other people, learn from many sources.  Islam is only one.  You credit the good you find in particular Muslims, who you may know or know of, to Islam.  I suggest to you that such a cause and effect linkage is not proven.

So back to the subject at hand which is the subject of this thread.  Giving ‘respect’ to ‘their belief system’, which you cling to, via respect for the Qur'an is not necessary for friendship to develop. 

As regards to your second paragraph you do not list values so much as activities (prayer, asceticism, pilgrimages) the content of which you do not elaborate on.  And what does ‘devotion to God’ mean when it is precisely the notion of God that is at the heart of this discussion!


From David


You make two claims. The first is that shared values are not the only basis for friendship. Do you know of any others? The second claim is that Islam is not the only source of values for Muslims. Please name them.

As regards your last paragraph, let me quote the CCC #841:

"The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

This is a quote from the Vatican II document Noestre Aetate [Nostra Aetate], section 3.

And so I can say with reassurance that the basic tenants of Islam serve to "adore the one, merciful God."


From Kinana


I will try to state things more clearly.  I did not say that ‘that shared values are not the only basis for friendship.’  I do not see those words in what I wrote.  Indeed, shared values are the basis of friendships but just because you or I are friends with Muslims does not mean that we share values with Islam or that Islam is friendly to non-Muslims. 

You ask about other sources of shared values.  I suggest they are our common sense, common humanity, shared cultural values, and shared familial values. etc.  In that mix are many different belief systems.  Can you sort out the wheat from the chaff?  I cannot.  I am only saying that I believe you have overstated the case when you claim that it is a ‘fact’ that what makes friendship possible with Muslims is Islam because of the shared values found therein.   I contend that it is not a ‘fact’ that Islam, and only Islam, that makes it possible for Muslims to be friends with non-Muslims.  I would argue just the opposite.

I do not see how the quote from the Vatican II document Noestre Aetate, is a response to my last paragraph.  It would be easy to read too much into this quote.  But if that is your assurance I would ask you to elaborate. 

In this context of quoting church sources let me quote what Pope Benedict XVI said in his September 12th, 2006 at the University of Regensburg, Germany.  He quoted the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who wrote down a series of dialogues he had (perhaps in 1391) with an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.  The Pope said:

‘…the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".’

And, of course, it is the Qur'an which you give respect to, think is worthy of being placed on the steps of the Catholic Cathedral and the focus of some sort of prayer event, that is not only the foundational text of Islam it also proclaims Mohammed to be the perfect example for all of humankind until the end of time.

Thank you


From David


'You ask about other sources of shared values. I suggest they are our common sense, common humanity, shared cultural values, and shared familial values. etc. In that mix are many different belief systems.'

The point I'm trying to make is that religion is the basis of values, cultural and otherwise. To speak of our common humanity is to evoke religion because religion teaches us what it means to be human. Cultural norms are ultimately validated or negated by what one's religion says about them. For example, Christian cultures reserve a high place for reason because Christianity teaches that God is reasonable and will not contradict Himself. Muslim cultures have much less of a place for reason because Islam teaches that God may contradict Himself if He chooses. In terms of common sense, a religion will teach its followers whether the senses are to be trusted (Christianity) or to be despised (Gnosticism). One may argue that philosophy might also teach a person values. But this is primarily for atheists who do not believe in revelation.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

This does not contradict what I've said. It is no contradiction to say that the Koran contains a lot of wisdom and yet to say that the "new" material, as states the quote above, was false. None of the wisdom would have been new since Christianity predates the Koran by centuries! No doubt the new material, which was not given by Jesus, was bad! But that doesn't mean that there isn't a lot to like in the Koran.

‘I do not see how the quote from the Vatican II document Noestre Aetate, is a response to my last paragraph.’

I brought up Noestra Aetate because you called into question the Muslim concept of God. I wanted to show that, while there are certainly differences between the two faiths, there are also commonalities which would make interreligious events fruitful. It states that "together with us [Christians] they adore the one, merciful God...."


From Kinana


I think we are getting closer to an understanding of our different positions.

This discussion about friendship I suggest is getting off topic and a distraction.  I completely agree with you that friendships are important and that includes friendships with Muslims.  Even though the Quran forbids friendships with non-Muslims I think we need to offer friendship to Muslims and hope for reciprocity.

You contend that 'the Koran contains a lot of wisdom.'   For that reason you support the Quran being on the Cathedral steps in some sort of prayer event.  I disagree for the reasons previously stated.  Also you support the event and the use of the Quran as a gesture or sign of friendship with Muslims, in that you feel it is right to show a sign of respect to that which they respect (i.e. the Quran).

It might be fruitful for me to know what ‘wisdom’ you find in the Quran. 

You must be aware though that the Quran itself declares that a Muslim must believe in the whole of the Quran and not just parts of it.  This would require you to understand the Quran as perceived by Islam and not pick and choose just the nice bits which appeal to you.  These nice bits may be superseded by not-so nice bits (a processed mentioned in the quote by the Pope).  Also for a Muslim, the Quran supersedes/updates the Old and New Testaments because Islam teaches that the Bible has been corrupted.  Given these two caveats, and in order to move this discussion on a bit, it would prove valuable to find out what is there to ‘like in the Koran.’


29 September 2010


End of discussion (so far)

Tags: Friendship, Kinana, Sacramento

Views: 76

Replies to This Discussion

A good discussion and a lot of work.

When I hurriedly scanned the URL I got "../on reported blessing of quran nuclear reactor.html"
So I thought, "ok, so now the Christians are going to bless Iran's nuclear reactor as a sign of peace and reconciliation. Well, its what I expect".

From an ideology that lost to Islam over half its land, lost most of its major Christian centres including its capital, lost hundreds of millions of dead, and is still losing parts of millions worldwide (1/2 million in Sudan alone); from an ideology that still refuses to acknowledge its failure and loss; from an ideology that has forgotten all its history prior to the 20th century - such a gesture is what I would expect. Whether its crass stupidity or a form of religiously sanctioned cowardice is for others to decide.

David is so confused, I fear you may have taken on a life's work there. But I will just make a few points as my two-penny worth.

1. Friendship
(a) We make friends with people we like. Politics and religion don't often come into it.
(b) But here aren't we talking about alliances? That is, an agreement between two organisations or their representatives, to work together? Then in that case those organisations need to carefully scrutinize each other's agendas to see they are not making a mistake or even tricked.
(c) As a matter of pure protocol, one acts in a relaxed and open manner, even at a murder trial - its just a lot less tiring that way.

2. Good Bits
He keeps banging on about the good bits in Islamic scripture, even tho its pretty obvious he has read very little. But this is bizarre. Would he do the same for Nazism? or Pol Pot?
Then you have to ask, why is he doing this? Is he also reaching out to the 4 schools of Tibetan Buddhism? They need friends because they have lost their homeland, and their teachings are full of some of the most remarkable concepts you can find. Ahh yes, but they aren't blowing us up or cutting our throats are they? So lets just ignore them. Lets instead try get those nice Islamic groups on our side and hope that they kill everyone else first and leave us alone because we are so nice. Hmm, I feel that cowardice word floating back again.

3. Noestre Aetate
Ahh, now I finally understand why he wants to bond his group with Islamic ones - David also just loves to practice Taquiya! How can a quote from the vatican define the Islamic position? "You cannot be serious!" And at the centre of that quote is a word that is totally undefined - "God". (When I talk about definition I mean in measurable physical terms, or some construction on those, not in some religious mental universe). So let me see if I've got this right.
* David strongly believes in [undefined]
* Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin also believed in [undefined]
* Therefore David is a huge fan of Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin

Ahh, I'm getting bored with this now.

Thank you for pursuing this discussion.

You are correct -- I agree anyway with you. There are indeed many ‘different traditions of interpretation within Islam.’ There is one for every Muslim! So how many does that make?! Without a central authority, who is to say which is correct? Answer: no one! Where does that leave us? Lost in the morass of opinion and wishful thinking.

So what is Islam? If a Muslim says Islam is one thing and that one thing is not reflected in the Quran then it is a safe bet that such an opinion is very much a minority one, maybe a minority of one. But then that is my opinion.

But let me take another angle. It seems to me then that your ‘certainty’ means that you recognise that some (of course, not all) groups of Muslims/traditions of Islam are inspired by the Quran to impose Sharia law on people like you and me and, in effect, to enslave us. That being the case, would you say that your support for the use of the Quran during some sort of a prayer event – without discrimination or clarification – is misguided?

Am I correct?

You say: ‘Therefore, I am not comfortable with supposing that all traditions give more value to the not-so nice teachings than to the nice ones.’ We cannot pursue this point until you suggest a verse you think is a nice one.

In your posts you also mention the Sufi tradition. I will end with one quote from an Indian Sufi theologian from the early 17th century named Sirhindi: ‘Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam.’
since the issue of the verses of the Quran seemed a significant branching off of this discussion i decided to start another discussion devote just to this issue. you can find it here.

i look forward to your response there.

i will add a different comment here soon.


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