.- Pope Benedict XVI’s recent remarks about Islam, which were received with violent protests in some parts of the Muslim world, has opened channels for true Muslim-Christian dialogue, says Reuel Marc Gerecht in an editorial published Sept. 21 in the Wall Street Journal.
Gerecht, a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, considers the Pope’s speech at the University of Regensburg a “welcome change from the pabulum that passes for ‘interfaith’ dialogue.”
“Since 9/11, his lecture is one of the few by a major Western figure to highlight the spiritual and cultural troubles that beset the Muslim world,” he writes. He goes so far as to lament that the Pope did not indicate how to counter the “troubles” of Islam.
“He should,” writes Gerecht, “since that would begin a real, painful but meaningful dialogue, which will surely cut both ways between the West and Islam.”
Gerecht urges both Muslims and Westerners to take up the invitation to frank dialogue launched by the Pope’s speech, and he bemoans the West’s quick reaction to avoid confrontation and take up a “public position of liberal tolerance.”
“No one wants to offend, so we assume a public position of liberal tolerance, hoping that good-willed, nonconfrontational dialogue, which criticizes ‘our’ possibly offensive behavior while downplaying ‘theirs,’ will somehow lead to a more peaceful, ecumenical world,” he writes.
“Let us be frank: There is absolutely nothing in the Pope's speech that isn't appropriate or pertinent to a civilized discussion of revealed religions and ethics,” he argues.
Gerecht claims many people in the West, and many Muslims themselves, know there is “something amiss” inside Islam though they refrain from admitting it publicly. Muslim clerics also often avoid critiquing their own faith, he says.
Gerecht believes the Pope accurately identified two key characteristics about Islam, which have contributed to its relationship with the modern world.
“The prophet Muhammad, the model for all Muslims, established the faith through war and conquest,” Gerecht writes. “And the image of God in Islam … is a cleaner expression of unlimited, almighty will than it is in Christianity.
“When radical Muslims take a hold of this divine fearsomeness, it can untether itself quickly from ‘conventional’ morality, thereby allowing young men to believe that the slaughter of women and children isn't an abomination,” Gerecht states. “In that sense, Muslim jihadism, like fascism, rewrites our ethical DNA, turning sin into virtue.”
“We need to talk and argue about these things,” Gerecht insists. “We need to stop treating Muslims like children.
“To his credit, Benedict has at least tried to approach the invidious issues that will define any helpful discussion,” he concludes. “Westerners are doing Muslims an enormous disservice — a lethal bigotry of low expectations — by telling the pontiff to be more diplomatic.”