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Because Regensburg was such a “blunder”

posted by awelborn

Today from the Vatican:

In the light of the Open Letter “A Common Word” signed by 138 Muslim scholars, and the response of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, through the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a Delegation of the Signatories of the Open Letter met with a Delegation representing the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Vatican City) in the offices of the same Pontifical Council on Tuesday, March 4th and on Wednesday, March 5th 2008. Five participants from each side participated in the meeting.
The participants were:
Catholic Participants:

1. His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Louis TAURAN, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
2. His Excellency Archbishop Pier Luigi CELATA, Titular Archbishop of Doclea, Secretary, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
3. Msgr. Khaled AKASHEH, Head Officer for Islam, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
4. Fr. Miguel Ángel AYUSO GUIXOT, M.C.C.J., President, Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies.
5. Prof. Dr. Christian W. TROLL, S.J., Visiting Professor, Pontifical Gregorian University.

 Muslim Participants:

1. Sheikh Professor Abdal Hakim MURAD, President, Muslim Academic Trust, UK.
2. Prof. Dr. Aref Ali NAYED, Director, Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, Amman, Jordan.
3. Dr. Ibrahim KALIN, SETA Foundation, Ankara, Turkey.
4. Imam Yahya PALLAVICINI, Vice-President, CO.RE.IS. (Comunità Religiosa Islamica), Italy.
5. Mr. Sohail NAKHOODA, Editor-in-Chief, Islamica Magazine, Amman, Jordan.

In order to further develop Catholic-Muslim dialogue, the participants agreed to establish “The Catholic-Muslim Forum” and to organize the first Seminar of the Forum in Rome from 4 to 6 November 2008. Twenty-four religious leaders and scholars from each side will participate. The theme of the Seminar will be “Love of God, Love of Neighbor”. The sub-themes will be “Theological and Spiritual Foundations” (1st day) and “Human Dignity and Mutual Respect” (2nd day). The Seminar will conclude with a public session on the 3rd day. The seminar participants will be received by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

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fly in the ointment

posted March 5, 2008 at 10:06 am

Does anyone know from their reading how many muslims are influenced or controlled to some extent by these 138 leaders? For example, is it 100,000 or 100,000,000? Has any research gone into this? While any conclusions of such meetings may be binding on a centralized Catholicism which has one palpable leader, how binding are any of the conclusions of these meetings on the multi millions of people that compose a decentralized Islam?

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posted March 5, 2008 at 10:38 am

Pay no attention to what imams say in languages other than Arabic. What they preach at Friday prayers is a much more reliable guide to their real intentions.
Become familiar with the meaning of the terms hudna and taqiyyah and how these concepts enter into relations between Moslems and non-Moslems. Consider whether Islamic tradition recognizes any rights that non-Moslems possess which Moslems are bound to respect.

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posted March 5, 2008 at 12:32 pm

The story that the term “a common word” comes from? Not a very nice context. I’m not sure why the media lets these Muslim folks get away with this kind of stuff.

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posted March 5, 2008 at 12:38 pm

D’oh! I forgot to mention said context.
Most telling of all perhaps may be the fact that the title of the document, “A Common Word between us and you,” comes from a Qur’anic verse (3:64) calling non-Muslims to Islam: “Say: ‘O People of the Book! Come to common terms [a common word] as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.’ If then they turn back, say ye: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.'” Mainstream Islam considers the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ to be example of the association of “partners” with Allah — thus this verse is saying, Discard Christianity and become Muslims, and we will have achieved a common understanding between us and you.

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David H. Lukenbill

posted March 5, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Easily the most important schedule of meetings between Christianity and Islam in our lifetime.

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fly in the ointment

posted March 5, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Very interesting since it is a passage against the Trinity and the letter itself to Rome was festooned repeatedly with the anti Trinity subtext quoting Christ several times in the place where He says words…” ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”…they meaning it differently than He was saying it.

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Chris Sullivan

posted March 5, 2008 at 1:37 pm

I think the offensive comment in the Regensburg speech was a blunder.
And the speech also contained other inaccuracies about Islam.
But it’s very good to see the dialogue continuing so at least both sides can properly understand each other.
God Bless

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J. Christian

posted March 5, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Isn’t it interesting that the Catholic participants have some variation of “interreligious dialogue” or “Islam” in their titles, yet none of the Islamic participants have “Christianity” or “interreligious dialogue” in their titles?

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Jamie Hunt

posted March 5, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Regensburg Blunder? Nay, in Richard John Neuhaus’s thoughtful phrasing, it was the “Regensburg Moment”
“… In the Vatican and in the Catholic journalistic world, there were voices that joined in the tut-tutting of an uncouth and unlearned pope who had disrupted the dialogue with a “religion of peace.” The nitpicking pedantry of some Catholic experts on Islam was given prominent display in the world’s press. But, from Catholic and other Christian leaders, along with Jews and some secular intellectuals, there was also an outpouring of support for what the pope had the wisdom and courage to say. They recognized that momentous issues of long-term consequence had at last been joined in a way that made possible and imperative continuing debate.
“Regrettably, the official response of the Catholic bishops conference in this country, issued by Bishop William Skylstad, the conference president, was not helpful. The tone was condescending and patronizing, almost apologizing for the pope’s inept disturbance of our wonderfully dialogical relationship with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We are assured that, despite his unfortunate statements, he really does want peaceful dialogue. I paraphrase, of course, but the statement was anything but a firm defense of the pope, never mind an effort to explain what he actually said. It might have been written by a public relations firm engaged in damage control, and possibly was.
“But for many others, the words spoken on September 12, 2006, and the responses, both violent and reasonable, to those words may, five or twenty years from now, be referred to as “The Regensburg Moment,” meaning a moment of truth. As I say, it is by no means certain, but it is more than just possible.”

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Fr. Steve

posted March 5, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Platitudes and generalities have done little good in advancing the conversation between religions. Further, if the conversation between religions cannot tolerate a frank discussion concerning real differences and particularities of belief, it is essentially dishonest. The Regensburg Address was a profound moment of clarity and truth.

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posted March 5, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Fr. Steve is exactly right. Seeking to come to a mutual respect while honoring one another’s differences does not involve disregarding those differences or ignoring serious problems in the interest of politesse.
And just how many of those who castigate the Pope for his remark, oft-quoted out of context, likewise challenge other religious figures who have issued critical remarks about faiths not their own?

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Clare Krishan

posted March 5, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Any indication of what branches (Sunni, Shia, Ishmaili etc.) and which of the four schools of jurisprudence the 24 espouse?
Here’s a link to AsiaNews IT lengthy article by Fr. Samil Samir SJ
which I excerpted under Rod Dreher’s posting at
__SNIP__”Perhaps instead of seeking fault with the clearly expressed precepts of Islam, the fault lies in the warm and fuzzy moralistic therapeutic deism that so many of our Christian churchmen prefer to dialog with so tolerantly – see Arab Catholic Fr Samil Samir at
” ‘…it’s possible that all this work will go right down the drain. It seems to me, in fact, that the Muslim personalities who are in contact with the pope want to dodge fundamental and concrete questions, like human rights, reciprocity, violence, etc, to ensconce themselves in an improbable theological dialogue “on the soul and God”. Let’s take a closer look at the problems that have emerged…”
In a letter from Sunni Arab Moslems “A Common Word between Us and You” 138 scholars have agreed to enter into discussions with the Vatican to look “at what unites” Islam, Christianity, and the other religions. Verdict of the Christian Arab at AsiaNews IT?
…”The greatest danger of the letter of the 138 is in its silences, in what it does not address: there is no reference, for example, to the problems of the international community in regard to the Muslim community, or to the real problems within the Muslim community. The Ummah finds itself at a very delicate point, in a phase of widespread extremism and radicalism among a significant segment of Muslims, which is a form of exclusivity: those who do not think as we do are our enemies. This is evident every day in the Muslim press, and we see violence and attacks in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, among Sunni and Shiite Muslims, or against Christians or Jews, or simply against tolerant Muslims… “
“Instead of ‘unity,’ the pope suggests looking for what we have in common “Without ignoring or downplaying our differences”. Fr Samir’s advice applies to us all “we can be brothers and different, brothers who disagree. This is a golden rule in the area of religion and dogma.”
The first big difference is theological – faith in one God. Islam requires that nothing be placed alongside of God. But Christians place Jesus Christ next to God. The pope lists 3 “common things”:”
“___belief in the one God, the provident Creator;
___God, the universal Judge “who at the end of time will deal with each person according to his or her actions”;
___we are called “to commit ourselves totally to him and to obey his sacred will”.
“The pope then proposes to his 138 interlocutors a concrete application: a preliminary round so to speak, to seek common ground at two levels:
“___a) The first is that of identifying values capable of guaranteeing “mutual respect, solidarity and peace”. “Respect” here also means that there are differences that must be guaranteed and welcomed. For example, a Muslim can say to a Christian: I do not agree with what you believe, that Jesus has a human and divine nature…//.. But leave me the right to say, for example, that Mohammed was not sent by God. I can acknowledge that he was a great personality on the human and political level, a social and spiritual reformer, that he also brought negative contributions, but not that he was a prophet..//… In short, there is no such thing as a “taboo” topic, but there are only taboo means and methods, because these are violent and disrespectful.
___b) human life as “sacred”. This ethical dimension embraces a very wide field, which ranges from the rejection of abortion to the natural end of human life. But it also includes non-violence, which is one of the noblest forms of respect for human life.”

“The Pope then lists 4 points that he deems appropriate at that level of preliminary dialog for the 138 to consider:
___1) Human rights. This is the first foundation of dialogue;
___2) Objective knowledge of the religion of the other.
___3) Sharing of religious experience.
___4) A commitment to educating the young.”

Their response? I’ll let the reader decide if its at the level of debate our constitution promotes and defends…
“The reply, signed by Ghazi Ibn Talal, prince of Jordan, is dated December 12, 2007. After a few introductory remarks, the letter says that they accept the idea of dialog,… (in the fifth paragraph of the text) they propose a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic, and explain:
“By ‘intrinsic’ I mean that which refers to our own souls and their inner make-up, and by ‘extrinsic’ I mean that which refers to the world and thus to society”.
“They propose starting on the basis of the letter that they wrote, “A Common Word Between Us and You”, and concentrating on “the unicity of God and the twofold commandment of love of God and neighbor”. Everything else belongs to the extrinsic dimension, including social concerns. Why … only “intrinsic” things? I think they’re afraid of confronting the complete reality of the two religions.”

So re: #8, rather than waiting for Islamic scholars of INTRINSICs to study anti-instrinsics so that they may debate us on our terms, I’d be happy to see Islamic scholars of EXTRINSICs with titles like “Prof of Islamic Political Philosophy” or “Prof of Islamic Natural Law” on their team. Our team would then have something to go on – y’know an academic record that one could ponder over to glean some understanding. But their’s is an ethic of relativism as Regensburg so ably demonstrated. The only form of debate permitted them under their tradition is legalistic – on their terms, under their law (the INTRINSIC topic they suggested and the Vatican graciously scheduled for the first day). The interesting stuff will happen on the second day if our team prepares well – what answers will feed the “communio” ie provide the food for thought at the next meeting in two years? My guess is that they’ll put the barricades up at the end of day one and deny that loving one’s neighbor involves acknowledging freedom of conscience… and this is where folks like Condi Rice should be very concerned, since the whole Western “spreading democracy” civil religion mantra kinda falls flat when even the Iraqi Constitution leaves it up to the tribal affinities to decide what version of Sharia Law they wish to apply in enforcing putative “constitutional rights” … (under Sunni legalism any four Muslim men, usually senior clan sheiks, constitute a legal quorum for passing judgement, whereas Shia legalism reserves that privilege to a class of religious scholars , the Imam clerics Imam that anticlerical Sunnis don’t recognize (and whose juridical precedents are mutually anathemitized)
Sound like the pre-colonial religious wars of Catholics vs Protestant princes ? Yupp!
That’s where I sense the Pope wishes to encourage the Muslim world to engage in real political pluralism, to help heal the serious divisions that hold their part of the world back from the entrepreneurial and cultural flourishing experienced in all the other post-imperial territories (Singapore, Taiwan, S. Korea Japan etc) that were open to the Catholic mission field… rather than accepting the patently immoral Pax Mercantilia a la UAE, Dubai, Bahrain Sauda Arabia, where huge commercial fortunes are built on the backs of immigrant labor denied the dignities of family life and public exercise of religion. Indeed their are keen similarities in this dialog on EXTRINSICs with China that may prove crucial in supporting the Uighurs of the Eastern Autonomous regions where the huge oil deposits are enriching the Han technocrats at the expense of the native Muslims… (see your tax-payers dollars in action here “Constituting the Uyghur in U.S.-China Relations: The Geopolitics of Identity Formation in the War on Terrorism”
Pray for them, all of them…

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fly in the ointment

posted March 5, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Granted that the speech was great in its asking for a God who accords with the rational….aside from that great part….do you think the elderly nun in Somalia would have been shot and killed if this quotation from the Emperor was prudently left out and everything else remained the same?
” “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.”
Neuhaus seems to make light of that detail because it was from another’s lips but the Pope does not denounce it or comment that the Church also spread the faith at times by violence…Neuhaus writes: ” Perhaps the pope should have chosen a less “brusque” (his characterization of the emperor’s statement) example from history…” There is no perhaps about it; it is media quotable as sound bite in a violent world where such a sound bite can bring trouble as it did to Gaza and other Palestinian areas and to the nun and is not germane to the essay as a whole which has one more problem given below.
What Neuhaus also neglects is that the content of the quote from another’s lips remains uncensored as an Islam problem only (spreading faith by war)…. and yet within a half century of the quotation’s given time period..1402, Portuguese Pope Nicholas V granted Portugal the rights of violence, imperialism and slavery to spread Catholicism in 1455 in Romanus Pontifex (confirmed by three subsequent Popes). Here…. from that bull which is online in may places… is Pope Nicholas V’s words:
“We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit — by having secured the said faculty, the said King Alfonso, or, by his authority, the aforesaid infante, justly and lawfully has acquired and possessed, and doth possess, these islands, lands, harbors, and seas, and they do of right belong and pertain to the said King Alfonso and his successors…”
Can you see how a Muslim who actually did read the whole speech may take the speech as associating peace with Catholicism and spreading faith by war with Islam….despite evidence to the contrary within a half century of the quote that Catholicism also spread faith by violence at certain times … and that aspect neither Neuhaus nor the Pope ever mentions?

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posted March 5, 2008 at 10:12 pm

FITO, the folks who killed the elderly nun in Somalia are moral agents too. Never forget that.
Besides, there is a point for Westerners in the quotation: how much did the errors of Islam influence Western thought? How much of the late medieval / renaissance Christian impetus (e.g., that bull you noted by the Pope in 1455) to spread the faith by the sword owe to the influence and competition from the East from 700 AD on (particularly a little dust-up in 1453 involving the Saracens)? Doesn’t make it right, of course.
As a Christian, you can’t seriously reject the quote, can you? Mohammed could not have ever improved on the Gospel; to say he could violates our Lord’s promise to lead the Church into all truth, doesn’t it?

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posted March 5, 2008 at 11:33 pm

1. Thank you Maureen for bringing our attention to the context of the slogan that the Islamic scholars have chosen. I am afraid I am mistrustful of the Islamic agenda.
I think the smartest and brightest of them understand that the Pope’s challenge in the Regensberg address had to be answered; and their answer? Read the full context of the slogan. The MSM sleeps through all of this, as do many well meaning Christians.
2. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Sullivan that the quote in the Regensberg address was offensive. Much modern Western commentary on the Crusades have focused on the violence of Christians and given the other protagonists, ie, the Musselman, victim status; the Byzantine emperor’s quote presents the other side of the story. For the beseiged at the time, like the Byzantine emperor, the Moslems were the bloodthirsty oppressors whose religion motivated them to violence. I do not believe for a minute that the Pope was saying that Christianity has not seen its share of violence; what he was pointing out was the other side of the story, the untold side. Because that is what is happening in today’s world too. The unspoken truth is that Islam in its foundational precepts (unlike Christianity in its religious precepts), prima facie, encourage violence against and subjugation of unbelievers. What and how Christian followers (including this Portuguese Pope) abuse their religious principles are more than well known: in fact, most of the “liberal” world loves to remind Christians of their “violent” “exploitative” history and therefore how it does not lie in the mouth of Christians to criticize anyone else. Just read Karen Armstrong. But the danger in that attitude is in how being one-sided, it slides into being blind-sided. The Muslims of today are not victims of the West. It is long overdue for the Western world to take a hard honest look at how Western culture has been indulging in a never ending, exhausting, one sided exercise of self-criticism (necessary but it’s been done to excess) and losing confidence in itself, leaving its children in a cultural vacuum and thereby abandoning the future.
3. It seems to me that the Regensberg speech blew open the prevailing mindset among intellectual and political elites in the West that “Islam” among all the religions of the world, is above criticism. Don’t know why, maybe oil and money and ironically, the slight whiff of violent reprisals affect us all. Any violent act perpetrated by Moslems in the name of their religion or by their theocracies is quickly poohed poohed as “not true Islam”. What is true Islam? Is Saudi Arabia’s sharia law true Islam or not? Is the Taliban brand true Islam or not? Maybe these recent developments will encourage the Islamic world to show us what true Islam is. I doubt very much there would have been this so-called Islamic initiative but for the Regensberg speech. Again, the MSM sleeps through what to me seems a plain fact; as do many well meaning Christians who refuse to give credit where credit is due (not surprising really.) Regensberg may have been an example of tough love, but it sure was effective. I would bet that the outcome will be more effective than years and years of polite interreligious dialogue. I see signs of it ; the more moderate Islamic world is motivated to show that Islam is a peaceful religion (and by inference, that the Pope was wrong.) No more excuses. If that is how we get to religious freedom in Islamic countries, respect for Christian minorities, freedom to preach and practice our faith freely and proudly in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Afghanistan and Turkey, I’ll take it anyday (I do not think it will, but I pray it will).

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fly in the ointment

posted March 6, 2008 at 10:51 am

I said the quote was imprudently put out there in a world where the media not only waits for the sensational and sound biteable moment but especially does so in the case of a Pope. When he was Cardinal Ratzinger in 1997 in a French magazine interview and he said therein that Hinduism had a “circle of hell” in the concept of incarnation and Buddhism was “self involved”, he drew fire then based on those two phrases and he was not even Pope and it was in a magazine. So this is not terra incognita to him or should not be.
We can’t ask the world to go to confession for their sins if we are incapable of confession as a system and blame others for having sins in our own history ….though those other religions did constitute part of that temptation.
E.g. the bull Unam Sanctam in 1245 AD said that every creature was subject to the Roman Pontiff and that laid the groundwork for the Portuguese Pope intellectually in 1455 AD to take that phrase… not spiritually… but carnally and therefore he felt free to arrange the fates of non Christians and to let Portugal take their property and lives because they were subject to him in the wrong acceptation of that phrase from Unam Sanctam. And the Church accepted in her decretals the Roman law concept of just titled slavery which can be found in Aquinas/ST/Supplement/on marriage..where he gives the decretal cites in the same century as Unam Sanctam. So that too set the stage for the Portuguese Pope to do what he did….slavery in the decretals/ subjection of every creature to the Pope in Unam Sanctam….we don’t have to blame Islam for absolutely everything including our sins.
In 1494 a Spanish Pope, Alexander VI..from the Borgia family… would imitate the Portuguese pope and give the exact same rights of conquest to the Spanish King for the other side of the world. NicholasV…the Portuguese Pope of 1455 prevented future interference like Pope Paul III’s bull against slavery in 1537 by nullifying in advance any contradictions of his bull in the future “by any authority whatsoever”….which was enough for Portugal who was then last out of the slave trade in the 19th century though by then she had drifted away from the Church itself.
The Church is Holy in her sacraments and dogmas not in her history. Mary was perfectly Holy in her behaviour and in her history. She is the Mother of God and the Church is not the Mother of God but the Bride of Christ and according to Vatican II She travels the path of repentance which Mary never did have to travel. So it is not good to put too much makeup or mascara on Her faults when they do come before us and part of apologetics is exactly that makeup process which we don’t need if we really believe in the Church 100%…not in her behaviour but in her dogma and sacraments. The people…clergy and lay who are her behaviour…come and go…the sacraments and dogma stay for all time and are Holy.

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Jamie Hunt

posted March 6, 2008 at 1:36 pm

The western media is free, and thus free to reduce the sublime to the ridiculous. Which it does. Often. Nonetheless, I reject the notion that the Pope should hedge his speech to avoid their lash.
With respect to the nun in Somalia: were it not the Pope’s speech, the fanatics would have (and have) found another pretext to murder. They always do.
Your accounting of our faith’s failings is bracing and necessary. I await similar introspection from the Pope’s Muslim interlocutors.
In vain, do you suppose?

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fly in the ointment

posted March 6, 2008 at 3:43 pm

No I’m not hopeful…I actually think (as Pope Benedict does) that their scriptures allow for their violence for sharia’s worldwide spread while not allowing for the worst behaviour of the extremists…as here in Bukhari who is canonical for most muslims and is forbidding what we see from Al Qaeda:
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 258:
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
“During some of the Ghazawat of Allah’s Apostle a woman was found killed, so Allah’s Apostle (Muhammed) forbade the killing of women and children.”
They have however no new testament that corrects the place of aspects of violence in their priorities as we do. While Samuel in our Bible was correct to kill Amalek in the OT since Saul did not kill him as ordered by God, his hacking him to pieces “before the Lord in Gilgal” was a signing that is no longer within the Christian range or panoply of signs. It signed then total separation from pagan values prior to grace (Jn1:17) as did the dooms and that is achieved in us by grace so that violence as sign and as help against contamination by the world’s values….is over. But Islam has no NT….not assured source of grace like the sacraments.
It is the muslim hadiths of people like Bukhari (who above is good as to women and children) that are more frigthening than the Koran because there in the hadiths is enshrined as canonical scripture the principle of killing due to insult…here in the following is Muhammed ordering a killing of a man who has insulted him and Allah; and a man named Muhammad bin Maslama volunteers to do the killing and uses friendliness to disarm the victim:
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 270:
Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah:
“The Prophet said, ‘Who is ready to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has really hurt Allah and His Apostle?’
Muhammad bin Maslama said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Do you like me to kill him?’
He replied in the affirmative.
So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to him (i.e. Ka’b) and said, “This person (i.e. the Prophet) has put us to task and asked us for charity.” Ka’b replied, “By Allah, you will get tired of him.” Muhammad bin Maslama said to him, “We have followed him, so we dislike to leave him till we see the end of his affair.” Muhammad bin Maslama went on talking to him in this way till he got the chance to kill him.”
Totally reminiscent of many moments as when the 9/11 killers blended into our culture as family men as they studied how to fly large planes…and what Craig meant by “taqiyyah”…deception.

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posted March 8, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Father Steve mentions real differences so how about starting with the God of the Bible and the Allah of the Koran; are they truly the “same” ?

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