The Catholic world celebrated the news of the baptism of Magdi Allam, a non practicing Egyptian Muslim resident of Italy. The news was so overwhelming and rare in the Vatican that the Pope personally baptized the newly gained member to his dogma. Does this conversion show a defeat of Islam and a victory of the Vatican? Does it increase the strength of the Catholic world by one more person and the weakness of the Muslim world by one more faithful? Does it prove that Islam is losing its adherents to a dogma that claims to be led by the infallible?
Nothing is proven by these events. the conversion is just an another event in a world where millions of people change their ideas, perceptions and beliefs on a regular basis in the scheme of life.
The same day when the Pope was baptizing a non-practicing Muslim, some three Catholics converted to Islam in Las Vegas alone. (The author himself officiated the event) A few days ago, a Pew Institute study revealed that Catholics were leaving their church in America in unprecedented numbers. Does it prove that Catholicism has lost touch with its adherents and can no longer offer any reason for most people to identify with the church?
People have a right to choose whatever ideas they want to subscribe to. Islam recognizes this freedom when it declares "to you is your religion and to me is mine," or "there is no compulsion in matters of faith."
However, the religious establishments on all sides use the simple conversion of people as a victory on their part. They tend to believe that by publicizing these events they would establish the authenticity of their faith. They also believe that by making such announcements in public with much fan fare, they would demoralize the adherents of the opposite faith.
The action of the Catholic world's highest authority appears to be more provocative than theological. Ever since, he assumed papal authority, the new Pope is always looking for opportunities to provoke what he considers to be the biggest threat to the Catholic Church in recent times, namely the Muslim community. He views the presence of an increasing Muslim population in Europe a threat to Christianity and he views the conflict with Islam in Africa the most important battle of his papacy. The provocation serves three purposes. The first is that it provokes some Muslim circles who move beyond the realms of rationality in their response thus presenting a very ugly picture of the community. The second is that it tells Muslims that they are no match to the Catholic creed. The third is that it diverts the attention of his followers from the crisis that the Catholic Church has been part of for almost two decades.
Continuous law suits against priests accused of child molestation, and the reported financial misappropriation on the part of those responsible to handle the property of the world's largest property owner have been haunting the office of the infallibles for decades.
His actions are contrary to all that has been achieved by Muslims and Catholics especially in the United States for the last three decades. The two communities have worked together to develop a better understanding of each other without challenging each other's creed. They have published documents focusing on their understanding of issues such as marriage, poverty, immigration, submission to God etc.
The present pope seems to be totally neglectful of all these achievements. He is probably acting on the basis of the prejudices that the entire Christian world developed and promoted against Islam since its introduction in Europe. On the one hand he wants to have a dialogue with the Muslims, while on the other hand, he wants to provoke Muslims to influence a confrontational public discourse.
Muslims should be ready to open dialogue provided there is a genuine desire on the part of others to show equal respect and openness. The Pope does not seems to have any respect for any other religion including even the Protestant version of Christianity as his several latest statements suggest. Based on his statements and positions, it appears that he is not very well educated in the theology and his biases predominate his thinking about Christianity.
In medieval times in Europe , previous pope heads with this attitude were held accountable for many disasters their institution brought upon humanity. We hope that the current pope does not continue to incite the believing world towards hatred and confrontation.
Muslims in the meantime must declare their agenda for interfaith dialogue with the Catholic church and others. They must understand that the current pope has a political agenda that may not necessarily suit the best interests of dialogue. However, the path of dialogue must be pursued to ensure that people at the grass roots continue to relate with each other on the basis of a genuine desire to understand, know, and respect people of all faiths.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is Editor-in-Chief of the Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic society of Nevada, Las Vegas and acting president of the Muslim Council of America, a Washington-based newly formed groups of Muslim activists.
Where do muslims want dialogue with others? Only where they are in a minority, never when they are in the majority? Is there any dialogue between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt? Is there any dialogue between Muslims and Hindus/Buddhists in Malysasia? Of course, no.
Muslims and Christians have known each other for 1400 years? They still don't know each other? Come on. What are they going to talk about?
Moreover, muslims only want to have dialogue with "People of the Book", not with others. Why not? Why not with Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, Athiests, Agnostics, Animists, etc? They are people, too.
Yes, Pope has political agenda. Who does not? In Islam, there is no separation of Mosque and Politics. Why are you complaining about Pope's politics?
Frankly, to me, the whole concept of dialogue is plainly disingenous.
Let us see. Prince Charles has expressed an interest in Islam. Supposing he decides to become a Muslim. Who is going to officiate the ceremonies? Some obscure Imam in some obscure mosque away from the glare of TV? or some Grandest of the Grand Muftis of Mecca/Medina and Grandest of the Grand Ayotallahs, and in the most important mosque of the country under the full glare of TV? Will that be provocative?. Do I need to answer that question? Convesrsion has nothing to do with theology.
The author also writes " People have a right to choose whatever ideas they want to subscribe to. Islam recognizes this freedom when it declares "to you is your religion and to me is mine," or "there is no compulsion in matters of faith.".
Really? Then why are fatwas issued against the life of muslims who convert to other religions? Or is it my imagination? Are these fatwas unislamic? I must be deluding myself. Why did any muslim even care to notice the convesrion of Magdi Allam, whether officiated by Pope or some obscure priest?
I hate to say it Dr Abdullah. You are a well educated person. Let us stop being dishonest and hypocrites. People cannot ignore the realities and muslims cannot hide those ugly realities. Empty words don't convince any rational human being.