The lecture was picked up quickly by the mainstream media and was read by Muslims around the world much to their shock and dismay. (You can read its complete text here). Protests and calls for an apology by the Pope for being offensive to the beliefs of Muslims, specially as head of the world's largest religious community, followed. The Pope apologised. He said he was sorry (not for his words and thoughts but) for the way Muslims responded. The good part is that Muslims took this gesture as a positive sign.
What The Silent Muslim wondered all this time was: "Why aren't more Muslims coming forward to establish a dialogue and point out the obvious errors and misconceptions in the lecture - too easy to spot even for a lay Muslim?" An intellectual flaw needs intellectual correction.
Would not any intelligent person who read the Pope's comparative statements of Islam and Christianity be interested in knowing why Muslims feel so offended by a seemingly rational analysis? What exactly is Islam's position vis a vis reason and faith? And forced conversions? And 'holy' wars?
On October 12, 2006, thirty eight leading Muslim religious scholars and leaders from around the world took up the Pope's call to have a friendly dialogue and sent him an open letter stressing on their worship of a common God - the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad (peace be upon them all), the common values Muslims and Christians share, the good relations the Vatican has had in the past with the Muslim community.
"We share your desire for frank and sincere dialogue, and recognize its importance in an increasingly interconnected world. Upon this sincere and frank dialogue we hope to continue to build peaceful and friendly relationships based upon mutual respect, justice, and what is common in essence in our shared Abrahamic tradition..."
Excerpt of the Open Letter from Muslim Scholars
to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
The letter also clarifies various issues the Pope had raised about Islam in his lecture. Errors and oversimplifications are pointed out and with direct Quranic references, it is explained how Islam forbids compulsion and persecution of anyone for his faith, there is no such thing as a 'holy war' in Islam, God is just and merciful and therefore can never be capricious, He invites us to use reason which is one of His signs, and many more pertinent points.
Among the scholars and religious personalities that have collectively prepared and signed this letter are:
- Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Founder and Director, Zaytuna Institute, California, USA
- Shaykh Al-Habib Ali Zain Al-Abideen Al-Jifri, Founder and Director, Taba Institute, UnitedArab Emirates
- Professor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Dean, International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), Malaysia
- Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Senior Fellow of Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought (Jordan), U.S.A.
- Shaykh Dr. Ahmad Kubaisi, Founder of the Ulema Organization, Iraq
- H.E. Professor Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
- Dr. Muhammad Alwani Al-Sharif, Head of the European Academy of Islamic Culture and Sciences, Brussels, Belgium
- Shaykh Dr. Tariq Sweidan, Director-General of the Risalah Satellite Channel
- H.H. Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Uthmani, Vice President, DarAl-Ulum,Karachi, Pakistan
- Shaykh Abd Al-Hakim Murad Winter, Director of the Muslim Academic Trust, U.K.
- Grand Muftis of Egypt, Syria, Istanbul, Oman, Croatia, Slovenia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uzbekistan and more.
The complete text of the open letter to the Pope can be read and downloaded through the website of Islamica magazine here at the link below:Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI
For further information or interviews with Professor Tim Winter in the UK and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in the USA regarding issues related to the open letter, you could contact Islamica Magazine in the USA on 213-291-7191, in the UK on +44 (0)20-7993-2966, Jordan on +962-6-464-1179 or +962 777 608 449 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.