Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI
From Islamica Magazine
In an unprecedented move, an Open Letter signed by 38 leading Muslim religious scholars and leaders around the world will be sent to Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 15, 2006. The letter, which is the first of its kind in several centuries, was a collaborative effort signed by such prominent figures as the Grand Muftis of Egypt, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Istanbul, Uzbekistan and Oman, as well as leading figures from the Shia community such as Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri of Iran. The letter was also signed by HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, the Personal Envoy and Special Advisor to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Western scholars have signed the document, including California scholar, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Professor Tim Winter of the University of Cambridge.
The letter is being sent, in the spirit of goodwill, to address some of the controversial remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI during his lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany on Sept. 12, 2006. The letter tackles the main issues raised by the Pope in his discussion of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an ‘educated Persian’ such as compulsion in religion, reason and faith, forced conversion, the understanding of ‘Jihad’ or ‘Holy War,’ and the relationship between Christianity and Islam.
The Muslim signatories accept the Pope’s personal expression of sorrow and assurance that the controversial quote did not reflect his personal opinion. At the same time, the letter represents an attempt to engage with the Papacy on theological grounds in order to tackle wide ranging misconceptions about Islam in the Western world.
Christianity and Islam make up more than half of humankind in a rapidly interconnected world, the letter states, and it is imperative that both sides share a responsibility for peace to move the debate away from the anger of the streets toward a frank and sincere dialogue of hearts and minds that furthers mutual understanding and respect between the two religious traditions.