On his NCRcafe blog, John Allen has given us a piece entitled “The Cross and the Crescent” (Nov 6). Its a summary of an address he gave in Dallas about the relationship between the Church and Islam under Benedict XVI. It is stimulating reading, and seems to be spot on from what I can tell. He lists the following as central to the new relationship:
1) the issue of religious violence
2) the issue of reciprocity
3) the essential commitment to dialogue under all circumstances
Then he mentions the importance of the upcoming trip to Turkey (“The trip merits your careful attention and, if I might dare to suggest, your prayerful support”), and the place of the United States in the equation. What he says about the latter (namely, that “Muslims in America may be going through a transition analoguous to that of American Catholics…prior to the Second Vatican Council”) also applies (mutatis mutandis) to the scene in Australia.
But I must quote what he says under point three above, ie. the essential commitment to dialogue:
…I believe Benedict XVI is the last, best hope of the West for a serious dialogue with Islam. Benedict is the lone figure of global standing in the West who speaks from within the same thought world that Muslims who are sympathetic to the strong religious identity of the jihadists themselves inhabit. Thus when he challenges Islam to reject violence and to embrace a healthy form of pluralism and the lay state, at least potentially he does so from within a common space of traditional moral values and deep religious commitment. He lays down his gauntlets as a concerned friend, pushing Islam to realize the best version of itself.
…While Joseph Ratzinger is certainly a reality, and while he harbors his doubts about the capacity of Islam to develop a culture of rational theological reflection given the basic commitment to a literal reading of the Qu’ran, he nevertheless also believes the stakes are too high, and the potential contribution of enlightened Muslims to the global debate are too important, to succumb to a zero/sum dynamic of permanent conflict. What Benedict XVI hopes to stimulate, in other words, is an Islamic reform, not a new Crusade.