“Though 82, Benedict XVI is moving on all fronts: Lefebvrists, Anglicans, the Orthodox, Jews… He is trying to reunite all those factions and denominations and groups in the West that share common beliefs in the eternal destiny of human beings, in the sacredness of human life (since human beings are “in the image and likeness of God”), in the existence of a moral standard which is true at all times and in all places (against the relativism of the modern secular culture), in the need for justice in human affairs, for the rule of right, not might.“
My response: “As one of a growing number of Western Muslims who share all of these ‘common beliefs’ (except that God has an image — us — which is a rather anthropomorphic and narcissistic idea) it seems to me that Benedict XVI is not quite moving on ALL fronts. Why are Muslims left out? …If you (or the Pope for that matter) would be willing to discuss this on one of my radio programs let me know.”
I’m still waiting for Moynihan and/or the Pope to get back to me. So in the meantime I decided to address an open letter directly to Benedict XVI, bypassing the middleman.
Dear Pope Benedict XVI,
I am curious about why your recent efforts toward inclusivity and dialogue have ignored Western Muslims like me.
The West (North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand) includes more than 50 million Muslims and fewer than 10 million Jews. So why are Jews on this list of Westerners you’re trying to reach out to and include, while Muslims are not? It certainly isn’t because Jews are more religious, and less prone to secular relativist worldviews, than Muslims!
Your Holiness, if I didn’t know you were Infallible, I would suspect you of Islamophobia. (See quotes from your Regensburg lecture below.)
Below is the opening of an article of mine that will soon be published in a book entitled: Reasonable Religion: Atheists and Theists Discuss Religion, to be published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, through its Lexington Books imprint. You may also be interested in a book I edited entitled 9/11 and the American Empire v.2: Christians, Jews and Muslims Speak Out. I would be happy to send you personally autographed papal copies of these books for your Vatican Library if you so desire.
Meanwhile, if you are ever in the mood for a little friendly interfaith dialogue, I would be honored to have you as a guest on one of my radio shows.
Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to hearing from you.
PS 9/11 was an inside job!
* * *
Is Islam Reasonable? In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture in Regensburg, entitled “Faith, Reason and the University — Memories and Reflections”, in which he contrasted a Christian view that “not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature” with an Islamic view, as interpreted by Catholic theologian Adel-Theodore Khoury, that God transcends rationality as well as everything else. The papal speech drew criticism from Muslims and others not only for its apparent attempt to equate Islam with unreason, but especially because it quoted without disapproval the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The Regensburg lecture predictably incited anger among Muslims and joy among Islamophobes. James Schall, the Catholic political scientist who sees the U.S. invasion of Iraq as part of a much-needed war on Islam, wrote a book extolling the speech.
The controversial passages of the Pope’s speech exemplify a common Western discourse portraying Islam as a religion of violent fanaticism and Muslims as essentially unreasonable people. Thus we are led to ask, is Islam reasonable? Is there any sense in which Islam as a religion, and Muslims as adherents of that religion, may be shown by rational argument based on empirical evidence to be any more or less reasonable than anyone else? Would a reasonable person who is neither Christian nor Muslim, neither Western nor Eastern, when confronted by the most salient differences between Islam and Christianity, conclude that Christianity is the way of reason, and Islam the way of unreason? . . .
– Kevin Barrett, “Is Islam Reasonable?” From Reasonable Religion: Atheists and Theists Discuss Religion, to be published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, through its Lexington Books imprint. For the rest of the article, you’ll have to buy the book.