An extraordinary thing happened a week ago. Thirty-eight Muslim scholars and chief muftis, from across the Muslim world, jointly replied to the Pope's speech at Regensburg (and more have associated their names with this document, since). It was presented to the Vatican's envoy at Amman...
One of the points the Pope has made, about the difficulty of engaging in dialogue with Islam, is to know who speaks authoritatively for it -- as, for instance, the Pope can speak for Catholic Christians. The document answers that question. In effect, the signatories reply, "Here we are." Here, for Muslims as well as Christians to read, is an authoritative contemporary statement by men who DO speak for Islam. Not for "moderate Islam", whatever that could mean, but for the living religion itself. And they speak in forthright contradiction of the welter of idiotic fatwas issuing from Afghan caves, the Sunni Triangle, and the North London Central Mosque...
The signatories renounced and condemned violence against Christians in the name of Islam. They accepted without qualification the Pope's post-Regensburg clarifications, and both accepted and applauded his call for dialogue. They unambiguously denounced and rejected all terrorist interpretations of the word "jihad"; they insisted on the priority of Surah 2:256 of the Koran ("There is no compulsion in religion"), stating explicitly that it is not obviated by later Koranic passages or Hadiths. They went so far as to aver that the declaration of Jesus in Mark 12:29-31 expresses the essence of all Abrahamic religion -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish.
That is Mark's version of the Gospel message that there are "two great commandments". The first is to love God with all thy heart and soul and mind; and the second, to love thy neighbour as thyself. (And please, secular humanists, note the order in which those commandments are always given: first God, then man.)
The signatories agree with the Pope that the dialogue between Christianity and Islam must be founded in reason. They admit, just as Christians admit, there are limitations to human reason, for what is divine goes beyond what humans can know. But what is divine is not incompatible with reason, and within the sphere of human relations, between peoples who do not confess the same faith, reason is the only sound guide.
It is an interesting read. A couple of points jump out at me.
The signers insist that a jihad is a sacred struggle, which may or may not be a 'holy war.' Of course the same can be said of crusades and it would have been nice for them to have acknowledged that fact.
It may be true that the Islamic conquests were political rather than religious in nature. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of little ways in which political control leads to religious conversion.
On that last point, one humanist has a provocative idea about how Islam spread so quickly among its conquered peoples:
As with other areas under Islamic conquest sex was used not only to satisfy the carnal appetites of the conquerors but also as some sort of population policy. Ghosh writes: "The Arabs not only imposed their ruthless rule and totalitarian creed on the countries they conquered; they also populated these countries with a prolific progeny which they procreated on native women. Every Arab worth his race 'married' scores, sometimes hundreds of these helpless women after their menfolk had all been killed. Divorce of a wedded wife had been made very easy by the 'law' of Islam. A man could go on marrying and divorcing at the rate of several women during the span of a single day and night. What was more convenient, there was no restriction on the number of concubines a man could keep. The Arab conquerors used these male privileges in full measure." Ghosh sees this as the main cause why the population of territories conquered rapidly became within decades Moslem.
Back to my main point, if something can be built on this, Pope Benedict XVI's short tenure might end up as historically significant as John Paul II's was.
[UPDATE: Scott, a California half-gyopo of Medea Sin fame, adds some interesting observations from his own experiences in a Korean-American church. Check it out in the comments section.]
Ahhhhhh, Tuesday. My first class doesn't start until 1:40. I think I'll do a morning post.
While I was doing some research (man, I love doing research and that's not a joke), I came across this interesting article from the Washington Post that was reprinted in Model Minority and then posted this forun. That second link is followed by some interesting commentary. I recommend it.
It is so interesting I'm going to post the whole thing (The article is almost a year old, so I don't think I'm doing anything bad. Someone who knows about newspaper copywrite law let me know). I'll also add a few thoughts of my own. OK, here we go:
By David Cho
The Washington Post
May 4, 2003
Isaac Chung and Richard Harvell both can trace their young careers to spiritual journeys they made while they were roommates at Yale University.
Chung, who is Korean American, started down a new path when he joined Yale's chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ. By the time he graduated, he felt that God was calling him to drop his plans to study medicine and instead become a Christian witness in the entertainment industry. Now 24, he is attending film school in Salt Lake City.
Harvell, who is white, sought fulfillment in Buddhism and other religions native to Asia. He had intended to become a physics professor but instead took two years off from college to backpack through Europe and "figure out who I was." He ended up in Switzerland, spending much of his time with a group of Zen Buddhists, and, at 24, he has returned there to teach public school.
In a religious sense, Chung and Harvell traded places, each one embracing the faith of the other's forebears. But neither of them noticed the irony because so many other Asian and white students at Yale were doing the very same thing. Indeed, the 120-member Christian fellowship to which Chung belonged was about 85 percent Asian, while the Buddhist meditation meetings at Yale were almost entirely white.
Yale is hardly the only university where this is occurring. Asian Americans are rapidly becoming the face of Christianity on many college campuses across the country, joining evangelical clubs in large numbers and, in some cases, starting their own Christian organizations. The trend is most pronounced at elite private universities, where Asian American enrollment is high, but it also has been evident at public colleges, including the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia. Meanwhile, in smaller numbers, white students are increasingly gravitating toward Buddhism, Taoism and other Eastern religions.