Media Statements from Cardinal George Pell and the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV)

I have been meaning to blog something about Cardinal Pell’s speech on “Islam and Western Democracies” given last week. Again, I need to be careful, because I don’t want anyone to think I am making a statement on behalf of the Archdiocese. As it is, I don’t have to make any comment at all, as I have come into the possession of two media statements, which, while not entirely in agreement, at least put the whole thing into some perspective.

The first is from the Islamic Council of Victoria, the second is from Cardinal George’s own office:



Islamic Council dismisses cardinal’s attack on Islam

Melbourne, 5 May 2005

Victoria’s peak Islamic body has today dismissed as misinformed recent comments by Cardinal George Pell that Islam is an inherently violent religion of threat to Western democracies.

Islamic Council of Victoria President Malcolm Thomas expressed his disappointment.  “We’ve just marked Pope Benedict XVI’s first year and celebrated the new Pope’s wonderful work in Muslim-Catholic relations,” said Mr Thomas.  “It’s a shame Cardinal Pell hasn’t followed the Pope’s lead.

“In any event, Cardinal Pell’s own interpretation of the Qur’an is of little social relevance.  If his argument is that Muslims are affected by the Qur’an’s teachings, he will be pleased to know that most Muslims don’t interpret the Qur’an the way he does.”

ICV executive committee member Waleed Aly took issue with Pell’s analysis: “Cardinal Pell is an intelligent man and undoubtedly an erudite Catholic theologian.  Unfortunately, his Islamic credentials, theologically and historically, are not so strong.

“You only need to scan his references to see this – they’re mostly a who’s who of anti-Islamic ideologues.  Cardinal Pell is right to be concerned over the Islam presented by these people.  The problem is that, to most Muslims, it’s unrecognisable as their faith.  There’s some pretty spectacular revisionism in this.”

ICV executive committee member and interfaith officer Sherene Hassan agreed:  “If Cardinal Pell’s approach to Qur’anic interpretation is to count the verses he thinks incite violence, then it’s no wonder he is misinformed,” she said.

“Such a response is to be expected when any text is read in isolation of its context.  I’m quite sure Cardinal Pell would not take such a simplistic approach to the Bible, or indeed, any other text.”

Nevertheless, Ms Hassan did not think the Cardinal’s comments would harm Muslim-Catholic relations in Australia.

“We have very strong, fruitful relationships with the Catholic church – both clergy and lay people.  Cardinal Pell himself has called for dialogue and understanding.  I don’t think this will all be undone because he made some mistaken comments.  We’re all a bit more robust than that.”

For more information or a comment please contact the ICV on (03) 9328 2067.

Friday 5 May 2006


Isolated suggestions that I am uninformed on Islam are clichés, smokescreens to distract, to divert attention rather than address basic issues which need to be discussed.

Islamic terrorists are not a figment of anyone’s imagination and the history of relations with Islam is full of conflict.

I continue to be completely committed to dialogue with Muslims, to supporting moderate forces on all sides.

I recommend that people read the Quran and my article in Quadrant (also on the Sydney Archdiocese website) and judge for themselves.

We need a lot of continuing dialogue, based on truth, history and the current situation.

+ Cardinal George Pell
Archbishop of Sydney

For more information, contact :
Marita Winters
Director, Catholic Communications
Level 11, 133 Liverpool St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9390 5300
Mob: 0419 243 957

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