When even "Sentire Cum Ecclesia" has to whisper…

Spengler (a writer whom I enjoy reading immensely) wrote a piece some time ago called “When even the Pope has to whisper”. Now he has a related column entitled “The Koranic Quotations Trap”. Both peices are well worth reading. I point you too them because, while I would also like to explore such questions in this forum, “I do not want rocks thrown through my window” (as Nino Culotta, the pseudonymous author of “They’re a Weird Mob“, wrote in his preface)…or worse.

Since reading Sandro Magister’s “Final Appeal” to save Christian Iraq on Monday and listening to >Rosie Malek-Yonan and >Fr Kahil Samir SJ on the Religion Report yesterday, the volume has been turned up for me on what has long been a vague twinge of the conscience–the fact that I work in the area of interfaith relations, and yet (just as Palestine-Israel questions are usually out of bounds for Muslim-Jewish dialogue in this country) so in our Christain-Muslim dialogue in Australia, the current treatment of Christians in many (not all) predominantly Muslim countries goes without mention.

But I don’t know exactly what to do about it. Sure, I get the advice about what I should tell “those people“, but our dialogue partners would (rightly) protest that they are not the ones committing these atrocities. See for instance the article about Hirsi Ali and her fight against female circumcision in yesterday’s edition of The Age. The Islamic Women’s Welfare Council here in Melbourne is right to protest that “we don’t do that” and “it isn’t Islamic”, but the problem is that it IS being done by people who ARE calling themselves Muslim (and, as she points out, Christian also, but I have no facts to know whether that is true or not). Blaming Melbourne Muslims for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam against Christians overseas is obviously not the way to go. That will achieve nothing.

I guess the thing that we have to say to our dialogue partners here in Melbourne is: We know you are not the ones doing this. We know you are not intending to introduce such practices in Australia. And we hear you when you say of atrocities against human rights “this is not authentic Islam”, and when you say “Islam is a religion of peace”, and when you quote the Koran as saying: “There is no compulsion in religion”. But what we want to know is what can we do together to help those members of the Ummah (the Muslim Brother/sisterhood) overseas to understand this in the way that you do. We want to know what we can do to foster the same interpretation of Islam overseas that we see you modelling here in Australia.

Now in actual fact, things are happening in this regard, thanks to the Islamic Council of Victoria. In just the last six months, the Commission has welcomed three groups of young muslim scholars (six men and four women) from Indonesia brought out to Australia by the ICV. These young people–philosophers, lecturers, youth workers, public thinkers–were all associated with Islamic reform movements in Indonesia. They are up against a huge battle–against fatwahs that they believe go totally against the grain of authentic Islam–but they are beginning to do the work that is necessary to allow Islam to find a way of peacefully coexisting with and contributing to human society as a whole. They are, in fact, beginning to address just those issues that Spengler raises in his articles. I hope they don’t get rocks thrown through their windows…or worse. More than that, I pray that God–Allah–will give them courage to continue their witness to “authentic” Islam.

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