A few days after Christian de Chergé’s death on May 21, 1996, his mother opened a sealed letter and read what he had written three years earlier. Islamic terrorist groups had begun killing foreigners in Algeria, where De Chergé, a Frenchman, was prior of a Trappist monastery. Anticipating his own death, he wrote down his last testament.
When someone asks me why Muslims don't denounce terrorism, I suggest that he or she Google the words “fatwa against terrorism” (80,000 hits), or name cities in the Muslim world that held major demonstrations against the 9/11 attacks (Tehran, Karachi). Most Muslims do not approve of terrorism. Their response to it is fear—fear of extremists who seem unconstrained by mainstream Islamic law, fear of a son or daughter becoming a "holy warrior," fear for the future of an entire faith community.
Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have voted not to hire professors or administrators who promote charismatic Christian practices, such as speaking in tongues. The board overwhelmingly adopted a statement October 17, two months after a fellow trustee noted his personal use of tongues during a sermon in the chapel of the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary.
I have been involved for 25 years in fruitful conversation with Muslims, and I have read the Qur’an and a lot of literature about Islam. But I confess that Emperor Manuel II Paleologus (Paleologus meaning Old Word) was not on my mind before Pope Benedict XVI launched his entry into the newsrooms of the world.
Now that the dust has settled from l’affaire Regensburg, it’s a good time to think about what makes for genuine interfaith dialogue. One thing is clear: the reactions to Pope Benedict XVI’s address, as reported by the media, allowed little scope for dialogue. People took sides with tedious predictability.
In an unprecedented meeting with Muslim envoys on September 25, Pope Benedict XVI called for “authentic dialogue” between religions and cultures. He also said Christians and Muslims “must learn to work together” to safeguard the world “against all forms of intolerance” and “all manifestations of violence.”
Minnesota lawmaker Keith Ellison won the Democratic primary for his Minneapolis-area congressional district September 12, paving the way for him to become the first Muslim in Congress. Ellison, who was elected as a state representative in 2002, took 41 percent of the vote, beating six other contenders in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
While doing research for a talk on religion and violence, I kept running into accounts of people who selectively quote the Qur’an to show how it commits Muslims to killing “us” infidels. That research inspired dour thoughts of the sort that I do not often let intrude on this page.