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Author Topic: Muslim scholars' open letter to Pope Benedict  (Read 2301 times) Average Rating: 0
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Philokalia
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« on: October 19, 2006, 08:58:22 AM »

Some Muslim scholars have taken up the Pope's challenge to discuss Faith and Reason. What would be an Orthodox response to this Muslim response http://www.indcatholicnews.com/musltext217.html

OPEN LETTER TO HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,
Do not contend with people of the Book except in the fairest way.

(The Holy Qur'an, al-Ankabut, 29:4)

Your Holiness,

With regards to your lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany on September 12th 2006, we thought it appropriate, in the spirit of open exchange, to address your use of a debate between the Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and a "learned Persian" as the starting point for a discourse on the relationship between reason and faith. While we applaud your efforts to oppose the dominance of posi-tivism and materialism in human life, we must point out some errors in the way you mentioned Islam as a counterpoint to the proper use of reason, as well as some mistakes in the assertions you put forward in support of your argument.

There is no Compulsion in Religion

You mention that "according to the experts" the verse which begins, There is no compulsion in religion (al-Baqarah 2:256) is from the early period when the Prophet "was still powerless and under threat," but this is incorrect. In fact this verse is acknowledged to belong to the period of Quranic revelation corresponding to the political and military ascendance of the young Muslim community. There is no compulsion in religion was not a command to Muslims to remain steadfast in the face of the desire of their oppressors to force them to renounce their faith, but was a reminder to Muslims themselves, once they had attained power, that they could not force another's heart to believe. There is no compulsion in religion addresses those in a position of strength, not weakness. The earliest commen-taries on the Qur'an (such as that of Al-Tabari) make it clear that some Muslims of Medina wanted to force their children to convert from Judaism or Christianity to Islam, and this verse was precisely an answer to them not to try to force their children to convert to Islam. Moreover, Muslims are also guided by such verses as Say: The truth is from your Lord; so whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve. (al-Kahf 18:29); and Say: O disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion (al-Kafirun: 109:1-6)...

Forced Conversion

The notion that Muslims are commanded to spread their faith "by the sword" or that Islam in fact was largely spread "by the sword" does not hold up to scrutiny. Indeed, as a political entity Islam spread partly as a result of conquest, but the greater part of its expansion came as a result of preaching and mission-ary activity. Islamic teaching did not prescribe that the conquered populations be forced or coerced into converting. Indeed, many of the first areas conquered by the Muslims remained predominantly non-Muslim for centuries. Had Muslims desired to convert all others by force, there would not be a single church or synagogue left anywhere in the Islamic world. The command There is no compulsion in religion means now what it meant then. The mere fact of a person being non-Muslim has never been a legitimate causus belli in Islamic law or belief. As with the rules of war, history shows that some Muslims have violated Islamic tenets concerning forced conversion and the treatment of other religious communities, but history also shows that these are by far the exception which proves the rule. We emphatically agree that forcing others to believe-if such a thing be truly possible at all-is not pleasing to God and that God is not pleased by blood. Indeed, we believe, and Muslims have always believed, that Whoso slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, it shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether (al-Ma'idah _5:32__).

Something New?

You mention the emperor's assertion that "anything new" brought by the Prophet was "evil and inhuman, such as his alleged command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." What the emperor failed to realize-aside from the fact (as mentioned above) that no such command has ever existed in Islam-is that the Prophet never claimed to be bringing anything fundamentally new. God says in the Holy Qur'an, Naught is said to thee (Muhammad) but what already was said to the Messengers before thee (Fussilat __41:43__), and, Say (Muhammad): I am no new thing among the messengers (of God), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow that what is Revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner (al-Ahqaf, __46:9_).Thus faith in the One God is not the property of any one religious community. According to Islamic belief, all the true prophets preached the same truth to different peoples at different times. The laws may be different, but the truth is unchanging...



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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2006, 10:49:33 AM »



Something New?

You mention the emperor's assertion that "anything new" brought by the Prophet was "evil and inhuman, such as his alleged command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." What the emperor failed to realize-aside from the fact (as mentioned above) that no such command has ever existed in Islam-is that the Prophet never claimed to be bringing anything fundamentally new. God says in the Holy Qur'an, Naught is said to thee (Muhammad) but what already was said to the Messengers before thee (Fussilat __41:43__), and, Say (Muhammad): I am no new thing among the messengers (of God), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow that what is Revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner (al-Ahqaf, __46:9_).Thus faith in the One God is not the property of any one religious community. According to Islamic belief, all the true prophets preached the same truth to different peoples at different times. The laws may be different, but the truth is unchanging...


+ Irini nem ehmot,

Here's my question: If Mohammed did not 'bring anything fundamentally new' then what purpose does Islam serve, or what would be the point in converting?  I mean, if there isn't a more clearer revelation of God provided by Islam, then it would seem to me to serve no purpose at all.  Christianity is the fuller revelation of God hinted at by Judaism (at least, that's my take on it).  If Islam is not a fuller revelation of God hinted at in Christianity, then why bother with it at all?

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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2006, 11:33:43 AM »

Here's my question: If Mohammed did not 'bring anything fundamentally new' then what purpose does Islam serve, or what would be the point in converting?  I mean, if there isn't a more clearer revelation of God provided by Islam, then it would seem to me to serve no purpose at all.  Christianity is the fuller revelation of God hinted at by Judaism (at least, that's my take on it).  If Islam is not a fuller revelation of God hinted at in Christianity, then why bother with it at all?

Muslims claim that they are reiterating the truth shown to Abraham, that was afterward corrupted by the Jews and Christians. So, they claim that are not bringing anything new, but at the same time Islam is trustworthy and the other Abrahamic religions are not.
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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2006, 11:36:05 AM »

Forced Conversion

The notion that Muslims are commanded to spread their faith "by the sword" or that Islam in fact was largely spread "by the sword" does not hold up to scrutiny. Indeed, as a political entity Islam spread partly as a result of conquest, but the greater part of its expansion came as a result of preaching and mission-ary activity. Islamic teaching did not prescribe that the conquered populations be forced or coerced into converting. Indeed, many of the first areas conquered by the Muslims remained predominantly non-Muslim for centuries.

How about this:  then what about the 'jizzya' or religious tax forced upon the non-Muslims?  What about the kidnapping of young buys to be made janissaries - I'm sure that wasn't just "exceptions that prove the rule" but rather systematic?
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« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2006, 11:41:29 AM »

How about this:  then what about the 'jizzya' or religious tax forced upon the non-Muslims?  What about the kidnapping of young buys to be made janissaries - I'm sure that wasn't just "exceptions that prove the rule" but rather systematic?

Wasn't the tradition of making janissaries a traditional Turkic practise, and not ascribable to Islam?
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« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2006, 11:46:29 AM »

Wasn't the tradition of making janissaries a traditional Turkic practise, and not ascribable to Islam?

But didn't the same concept exist in other cultures and was called something different - or are you saying this just started with the Turks and spread to other Islamic peoples?
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« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2006, 11:58:34 AM »

But didn't the same concept exist in other cultures and was called something different - or are you saying this just started with the Turks and spread to other Islamic peoples?

The latter. And did it even spread to other Islamic peoples? The Ottoman Empire is infamous for the practise, but I've not heard it ascribed to other nations (and I could be wrong).
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« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2006, 03:43:49 PM »

How about this:  then what about the 'jizzya' or religious tax forced upon the non-Muslims?  What about the kidnapping of young buys to be made janissaries - I'm sure that wasn't just "exceptions that prove the rule" but rather systematic?
Unlike the way that Jews were treated in Christendom you mean?

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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2006, 03:56:53 PM »

Unlike the way that Jews were treated in Christendom you mean?



They were treated with kid gloves. As they should be.
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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2006, 04:08:04 PM »

They were treated with kid gloves. As they should be.

So Spain and Portugal weren't part of Christendom
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Portugal.html#Expulsion%20from%20Portugal


Quote
During the reign of King Joao I (1385-1432), Jews were forced to wear a special habit and to obey a curfew. Joao’s successor, King Duarte (1433-1438), introduced laws forbidding Jews from employing Christians. A reprieve took place during King’s Alfonso V’s rule, when many of these restrictions were repealed.

In 1492, King Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain expelled all the Jews from Spain. More than 150,000 Spanish Jews came to Portugal seeking permanent refuge. King Joao II of Portugal allowed them to enter because he was preparing for war against the Moors and wanted to take advantage of their wealth and expertise in weapon-making. At a price of 100 Cruzados a family, 630 wealthy Jewish families were granted permanent residence. A number of craftsmen, skilled in making weapons, were also allowed to become permanent residence. The rest were permitted to stay in Portugal for eight months, upon payment of 8 cruzados per adult. At the end of those eight months, shipping was still not available, so the King forfeited Jewish liberty and declared the remaining Jews slaves.

Another tragedy befell the Jewish community in 1493, when the King ordered the separation of Jewish children from their parents. Seven hundred children were sent to the newly discovered island of Sao Tome, off west coast of Africa. In 1993, descendants of those children held a ceremony commemorating the event.



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« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2006, 04:11:35 PM »

Unlike the way that Jews were treated in Christendom you mean?

Why do you apply the same standards to Christianity and Islam? Christianity is the true faith, and Islam is a heresy. Different rules.
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« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2006, 05:13:11 PM »

Why do you apply the same standards to Christianity and Islam? Christianity is the true faith, and Islam is a heresy. Different rules.

So Christianity should be held to higher standards. And if Muslims treated Christians better than Christians treated Jews then that is something we need to be aware of.


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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2006, 05:41:58 PM »

Why do you apply the same standards to Christianity and Islam? Christianity is the true faith, and Islam is a heresy. Different rules.

What rules might they be that would be different from "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and "You shall love your neighbor as your self"?

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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2006, 05:44:00 PM »

So Christianity should be held to higher standards. And if Muslims treated Christians better than Christians treated Jews then that is something we need to be aware of.

It is the duty of Christian rulers to protect the Church. If Jews had to be pushed to conversion or exile through taxation or threat of imprisonment, then the rulers acted justly. Meanwhile, Muslims seek to spread a heresy, so it is their actions that are worthy of condemnation.
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« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2006, 05:44:49 PM »

What rules might they be that would be different from "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and "You shall love your neighbor as your self"?

Pushing a people to join the Church is ultimately a sign of love.
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« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2006, 05:49:46 PM »

"Pushing"?  With what?  Words or punitive laws or taking their property or taxing them or with threats or bayonets?

Persuasion by treating those not like oneself as one would like to be treated on the most basic levels would seem
preferable.

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« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2006, 06:06:17 PM »

Pushing a people to join the Church is ultimately a sign of love.

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How could anyone possibly believe that?
Charlemagne did this so-called "act of love", baptising the Saxons by the sword...and the result? A "Western" Church and an "Eastern" Church, and never the twain shall meet. Charlemagne's "act of love" began the division of Christendom, and ultimately, the Schism.
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« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2006, 05:44:52 AM »

How could anyone possibly believe that?
Charlemagne did this so-called "act of love", baptising the Saxons by the sword...

St Vladimir baptised the Kyivans by the same method, and the Church recognized the baptisms as valid and hails him for his prudent leadership.
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« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2006, 08:14:08 AM »

St Vladimir baptised the Kyivans by the same method,
The Constantinople-Rus Treaty of 944 clearly demonstrates that there was already a large community of Christians in Kiev even then.
I think if you are going to make this claim, the onus is on you to prove it.
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« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2006, 08:19:12 AM »

The Constantinople-Rus Treaty of 944 clearly demonstrates that there was already a large community of Christians in Kiev even then.
I think if you are going to make this claim, the onus is on you to prove it.

The hagiography claims that the citizens of the city were driven into the Dnipro at sword-point and, though many thousands were baptised unwillingly, the baptisms were still valid.
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« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2006, 11:50:35 AM »

If we started worrying about whether people agreed to being baptized, we would have a big problem with infant baptisms. The baptism is there; it's up to the baptizand to life it out.
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