Monday, February 25, 2008

Lucia New public "grammar" for reform of Islam

Want to understand violent religious extremism and how to deal with it? Read on ...

Pope Benedict provides “new public grammar” for reform of Islam,
says George Weigel

Boulder, CO, Feb 24, 2008 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- George Weigel, Catholic thinker and biographer of Pope John Paul II, delivered a lecture on Thursday on religion and world politics in which he argued that Pope Benedict XVI has provided a unique model for global understanding between Christianity, Western secularism and Islam.

In the lecture, Weigel also called on Muslim leaders engaged in inter-religious dialogue to acknowledge and vigorously condemn the specific abuses of human rights and religious freedom found among some Muslim nations.

During the lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder, sponsored by the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought, Weigel said that Pope Benedict XVI was uniquely suited to addressing world conflicts grounded in religious differences. Weigel believes that the Pope, especially in his 2006 Regensberg lecture, provides a “grammar” to world leaders that could help them understand and reform both the relativism of the secular West and the violence of Islamic extremism.

At his 2006 lecture at the University of Regensberg, the Pope said that religious violence and compulsion are rooted in the idea that God is pure will instead of a rational, loving being. He said that Christianity’s belief in a loving, reasonable God has helped Christians reconcile themselves to Enlightenment values of religious freedom and human rights, while aspects of Islamic theology have hindered such reform among Muslims.

Weigel countered the media portrayal of the speech as a “gaffe” for its perceived insult of Mohammed. Far from being a gaffe, he argued, the Regensberg address was an important reflection that considered questions important to world policy today. These questions included:

“Can Islam be self-critical? Can its leaders condemn and marginalize its extremists, or are Muslims condemned to be held hostage to the passions of those who consider the murder of innocents to be pleasing to God? Can the West recover its commitment to reason, and thus help support Islamic reform?”

Weigel argued that no one other than Pope Benedict could have framed the discussion in such a way. “No president, prime minister, king, queen, or secretary general could put these questions in play at this level of sophistication before a world audience,” Weigel said.

Pope Benedict’s lecture has given the world political community “a grammar for addressing these questions, a genuinely transcultural grammar of rationality and irrationality.”

“Far from being an exercise in theological abstraction, the Regensberg lecture was a courageous attempt to create a new public grammar capable of disciplining and directing the world discussion of what is arguably the world’s greatest problem,” Weigel continued.

Weigel also criticized some of the reactions to the Regensberg lecture. Though acknowledging that Muslim critiques of the West are often “not without merit,” Weigel argued that the October 2007 letter from the 138 Muslim leaders “sidestepped” the questions raised by the Pope’s lecture.

Muslim scholars addressed the letter, titled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” to global Christian leaders in pursuit of inter-religious dialogue. Many observers considered the letter an important breakthrough.

Weigel said the letter had spoken at length about the “Two Great Commandments” to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. However, Weigel claimed, the letter said nothing applicable to relevant issues of “faith, freedom, and the governance of society,” such as death threats against Muslims who convert to Christianity or the prohibition of Christian worship in Saudi Arabia.

He challenged the Muslim leaders to be more specific in future dialogue:

“Do these 138 Muslim leaders agree or disagree that religious freedom and the distinction between spiritual and political authority are the issues at the heart of the tension between Islam and the West, indeed between Islam and ‘the rest,’ and even more within Islam itself. Would it not be more useful to concentrate on these urgent issues of classical reason, which bear on the organization of 21st century society, than to frame the dialogue in terms of a generic exploration of the Two Great Commandments, which risk leading to an exchange of banalities?

“Why not get down to cases?” Weigel asked. He further asserted that authentic dialogue requires a “precise focus” and a commitment to “condemn by name the members of their communities who murder in the Name of God.”

Weigel also criticized the “secularization thesis,” which claims that countries become less religious as time advances. He argued that in fact the secularization of the West was the exception, rather than the rule. The secularization thesis, he said, has clouded the analysis of Western thinkers and politicians who cannot understand the religious basis of many world movements, including Islamic extremism.

The centuries-long Catholic encounter with the positive Enlightenment values of religious freedom and human rights, Weigel thought, could be a model for Christian-Muslim dialogue. While not compromising with what Weigel called the “chaff” of Enlightenment scientific atheism, past Catholic mistakes and successes could help Muslims navigate reforms of their own religion.

Weigel cited Pope Benedict’s 2006 Christmas address as evidence the Pope approved of a similar strategy. In that speech the Pope said:

“In a dialogue to be intensified with Islam, we must bear in mind the fact that the Muslim world today is finding itself faced with an urgent task. This task is very similar to the one that has been imposed upon Christians since the Enlightenment, and through which the Second Vatican Council, as the fruit of long and difficult research, found real solutions for the Catholic Church.”

Weigel’s lecture drew its content from his recent book, “Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action.” The lecture was co-sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society of Colorado.

Related Link: Pope Benedict provides “new public grammar” for reform of Islam, says George Weigel ~ Catholic News Agency

5 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

Oh dear! I barely managed to force myself through the quoted Weigel dribblings... embarrasing to all who share our Catholic faith.

The 'conflict between West and Islam' does not truly exist - it is a battle between capitalist occupiers (who happen to be mostly Christian) and the occupied (who happen to mostly be Islamic). The motives are oil, and ongoing profits for the arms industry (every Cruise missile used is another US$1m contract to replace it).

As for Weigel's demand that 'Islam denounce all their [specific] crimes', I didn't note (or expect) Pope Benedict to denounce all crimes by Catholics, not even just the crimes Catholics inflict on Muslims.

There are an awful lot of 'good Catholics' in the US troops in Iraq and Afhanistan, and it won't have escaped the local's notice that it is these Catholics that are killing their families.

Greater reconciliatoin between faiths will occur when we stop letting the greed that drives and is at the core of capitalism (the desire to make profit from someones else's labour) run our world.

Had Pope B16 said called for "adherents of both Islam and Catholicism to ponder our shared faith in a monotheistic, loving God, and the call that God made to lover our neighbours, irrespective of their faith or actions", then we may have seen a happy response from Islamic scholars and leaders.

Weigels quibbling over the 2 great commandments sounds exactly like that of the pharisees who Jesus was responding to when he distilled the 10 commandments to those 2. They missed the point of Jesus in their semantics, as Weigel does. If we focus on loving od and our neighbour, we deal with all the specific issues in reasonable fashion - even if not perfectly in agreement.

Now that would be tolerance that would make God smile :)

Lucia Maria said...

Let me guess, Anon. You're a Catholic and Socialist and proud of it too, right?

ZenTiger said...

The 'conflict between West and Islam' does not truly exist - it is a battle between capitalist occupiers (who happen to be mostly Christian) and the occupied (who happen to mostly be Islamic).

Could you explain to me Anon, how you reconcile those fundamentalists (and we are talking millions in this group) promote ideas such as "Jesus is the slave of Allah", that many Islamic openly declare their desire to convert the world to Islam etc.

Reducing this to a "capitalism and the west is all to blame" appears to conveniently ignore the religious dimension.

Is your "Death to all those who insult Islam" banner little more than "Death to all those who insult Islam for less than $89 per barrel"?

I don't quite see it myself, but I'm interested to hear if you can develop your theory any further.

(And I'm not saying wealth distribution is not a very important social issue, just not willing to ignore the other dimensions to mankind living on this planet).

ZenTiger said...

"If poverty and destitution, colonialism and capitalism are animating radical Islam, explain this: In March, the Taliban went to the Afghan desert where stood great monuments of human culture, two massive Buddhas carved out of a cliff. At first, Taliban soldiers tried artillery. The 1,500-year-old masterpieces proved too hardy. The Taliban had to resort to dynamite. They blew the statues to bits, then slaughtered 100 cows in atonement--for having taken so long to finish the job. Buddhism is hardly a representative of the West. It is hardly a cause of poverty and destitution. It is hardly a symbol of colonialism."

What is the link between Buddhists and the Capitalists anon?

Buddhists represent capitalist oppression of Islam

Greg said...

Who were the capitalist occupiers in the Ottoman empire?
Gosh, I never knew that Noam Chomsky was so popular amongst those parked outside Vienna in 1683.

More recently, has the US occupied Indonesia and Malaysia without anyone noticing? The dogs!

There are other ideas and historical commentaries in addition to Marxism.

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