Monday, September 25, 2006

Parsing the Pope's words; having a "dialogue"

The Pope hosted Moslem leaders in a conference today, giving a five-minute speech that sounded conciliatory, at least from the short excerpts published (I can't find a full transcript). Although he didn't offer an apology for his previous remarks, the topic was working together to overcome historic enmities between the two faiths.

The feeling tone was good, too. The Pope "greeted [the envoys] one-by-one, clasping their hands warmly."

Iraqi Albert Edward Ismail Yelda seemed happy: "The Holy Father stated his profound respect for Islam. This is what we were expecting...It is now time to put what happened behind and build bridges."

Al Jazeera televised the speech in its entirety. The Vatican, in an unusual move, offered an Arabic translation of the text in its press releases.

So, according to Mohamed Nour Dachan, an Syrian-Italian-Moslem "The dialogue goes on....The dialogue is a priority for both Muslims and Christians."

Ah, that wonderful buzz-word, "dialogue." It's an article of faith that "dialogue" is the first step to understanding. And, of course, it can be; it's sort of like that well-known goal of all marriage therapists, "communication."

But both these things depend on other elements being present for their success. There's no doubt that some Christians and some Moslems do have common goals, and productive dialogue is possible between them. But for those Moslems who don't share those goals, all the dialogue in the world will not alter a thing. Islamist totalitarian Moslems are not interested; "dialogue" with other faiths tends, for them, to be a tool to stall for time or to trick the enemy.

And, in fact, moderate Moslems who are interested in such dialogue seem afraid of the Islamist totalitarians, as well they should be. They are their enemy, too, as well as ours. Note the following details in the article about the Pope's talk:

Nearly all the other envoys left without speaking to reporters. The embassies of Egypt and Turkey said their ambassadors would have no comment. The Iranian, Indonesian, Lebanese and Libyan embassies did not answer their phones.

It's interesting that the quotes showing approval of the Pope's speech were from the Iraqi and the Italian. They are free to speak. What about the others? And what would they say if they could speak? Because one of the main thrusts of the Pope's words was reciprocity in allowing religious freedom, and in the goal of ending religious intolerance.

Islam is a supersessionist religion. It prohibits proselytizing by other religions, and the punishment for Moslem apostates is still death. Those facts are not consistent with the Pope's words about religious freedom, try though we might to believe otherwise.

Could this change? Of course. Christianity changed in its supersessionist and even violent strains. But there has to be the will to do so, the time to do so before some sort of world conflagration, and enough of those famous "moderate Moslems" brave enough to do so in the face of the threats against them to make a difference.

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