A Common Word Between Us and You and Mona Charen
God Bless Mona Charen.
For years she's been a beacon of intelligence and honesty in an often confused world.
Her recent comments on the publicity surrounding the issuance of "A Common Word Between Us and You" by 138 Muslim intellectuals once again shows why she is so worth reading.
The letter, addressed to Pope Benedict and dozens of other Christian leaders, was released by the Royal Jordanian Institute of Islamic Thought on October 11, 2007, had some encouraging things to say.
"Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians."
" The central creed of Islam consists of the two testimonies of faith or Shahadahsi, which state that: There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. These Two Testimonies are the sine qua non of Islam. He or she who testifies to them is a Muslim; he or she who denies them is not a Muslim. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad said: The best remembrance is: ‘There is no god but God’….ii "
Wonderful sentiments with which Christians, Muslims, and Jews can all agree.
But in an article in the Jewish World Review on October 18, 2007, Ms. Charen points out that one such letter does not a peaceful world make.
''You can read through this entire letter and never learn that there are Muslims all over the world currently interpreting their faith as a license to slaughter innocent human beings (very much including fellow Muslims). Moreover, the overall thrust of the document suggests that misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians (rather than problematic interpretations of Islam) is what threatens world peace.''
''If the Muslim clerics are sincere in wishing for peace and understanding, they should issue a document that:''
''(1) Denounces Islamists''
''(2) Rejects Islamists' violent interpretation of jihad''
''(3) Affirms the human dignity of non-Muslims''
''(4) Condemns Osama bin Laden, Aymin al-Zawahiri and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by name.''
''That would be historic. This letter is worse than a bromide, it's a dodge.''
Mark Tooley, in an article in FrontPage Magazine voices similar sentiments.
Both Charen and Tooley point out the limitations of this kind of interfaith dialogue, a theme that is echoed in my new book, Abrahamic Small Groups, co-authored with Dr. Rashid Ahmad.
In our book, we discuss the importance of supplementing interfaith dialogue at the academic and theological leader level with interfaith engagement at the individual and family level.
Dialogue is often just meaningless exchanges of platitudes. Engagement, on the other hand, is a bit more like "tough love."
Interfaith engagement allows me to ask my Muslim friends tough questions like this:
If Islam is a religion of peace, why don't you condemen the terrorist actions of Bin Laden ?
And my Muslim and Jewish friends should feel free to ask me equally direct questions.