Beware Of Muftis Bearing “Interfaith” Letters!

Patrick Poole, in “What the Islamic Scholars Forgot to Tell the Pope” at Pajamas Media, has uncovered even more evidence that the much-celebrated “Common Word” document from last October was not a sincere effort at interfaith outreach, but was solely designed to fool the credulous.

Last October, the international media establishment was abuzz over a letter sent by 138 Islamic scholars representing the elite of the worldwide ulema to Pope Benedict, entitled “A Common Word between Us and You”, in response to his papal address at Regensburg in September 2006. The letter extols the common bonds between Muslims and Christians, and their common belief in the love towards neighbors. It further declares that “justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbor.” Many Christian leaders have responded by welcoming this effort and affirming the Islamic scholars’ letter.

The letter was the product of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan, and its chief scholar, Sheikh Said Hijjawi, was one of the 138 signatories (#49). In fact, according to the introduction, the letter was presented by the Institute to the Islamic scholars gathered at a conference held at their facilities in September 2007.

There is one thing, however, amidst all the flowery overtures, theological discussion, and representations of religious pluralism that the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute and the 138 Islamic scholars forgot to mention: The Institute, which operates a website,, which it calls “the largest and greatest online collection of Qur’anic commentary, translation, recitation, and essential resources in the world,” includes in an “Ask the Mufti” section a number of fatwas on apostasy issued by the Institute’s chief scholar, Sheikh Hijjawi, that call for the death of Christian reverts (Christians converting to Islam and then returning to the Christian faith) and Muslim apostates. Further they state that if the Christian reverts and Muslim apostates are not killed, they should be deprived of all rights and accorded the status of non-persons.

Read it all, and follow the links at PJM.

“A Common Word Between Us and You” was, you may recall, received with great enthusiasm by the mainstream media at the time of its release. Noting the Muslim scholars’ declaration that “the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians,” the Telegraph‘s headline was typical of the coverage: “Muslim scholars’ olive branch to Christians.” Reuters burbled about an “Unprecedented Muslim call for peace with Christians.” But was it really?

On the basis of the letter alone, it’s surprising that there has ever been conflict between Muslims and Christians, or Muslims and anyone. The scholars say: “in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love.” Yet the “Two Commandments of love” were nowhere in evidence last August when an Egyptian convert from Islam to Christianity was sentenced to death by Islamic clerics. “The Two Commandments of love” have not saved Christians in Baghdad, where Islamic gangs knocked on doors in Christian neighborhoods, demanding payment of the jizya tax specified for non-Muslims by the Qur’an (9:29). Nor is Iraq the only problem area: in Egypt, Coptic Christians have suffered discrimination and harassment for centuries, and their plight is increasing. In Pakistan a prominent Catholic priest said in August 2007 that Christians are frequently denied equality of rights with Muslims and subjected to various forms of discrimination.

The persecution of Christians is the primary indication, but by no means the only indication, of the letter’s inadequacy as the basis for any real dialogue between Muslims and Christians. Genuine dialogue must focus, or at least be cognizant of, the reality of what separates the two parties. Nothing can be resolved, no genuine peace or harmony attained, except on the basis of confronting those differences.

While saying they want to build on common ground, the Muslim scholars (amid copious Qur’an quotes) never mention Qur’an 5:17, which says that those who believe in the divinity of Christ are unbelievers, or 4:171, which says that Jesus was not crucified, or 9:30, which says that those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are accursed, or 9:29, which mandates warfare against and the subjugation of Jews and Christians. Why should they mention these unpleasant passages in the midst of trying to build bridges? Because they are precisely the obstacles to such bridges. It seems reasonable to suggest that verses like these would need to be addressed in some way, even if only to give them some benign interpretation, if there is to be any true and honest dialogue.

Most telling of all perhaps may be the fact that the title of the document, “A Common Word between us and you,” comes from a Qur’anic verse (3:64) calling non-Muslims to Islam: “Say: ‘O People of the Book! Come to common terms [a common word] as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.’ If then they turn back, say ye: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.’” Mainstream Islam considers the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ to be example of the association of “partners” with Allah — thus this verse is saying, Discard Christianity and become Muslims, and we will have achieved a common understanding between us and you.

Anyway, the new revelations about Sheikh Said Hijjawi come hot on the heels of the publication of the new paperback edition of Dinesh D’Souza’s lamentable and preposterous farrago, The Enemy At Home. Its publication means that, relentless book-flogger and dead-horse-beater that he is, D’Souza feels compelled to turn from his more recent activities as a latter day von Hügel (about which there is nothing to say but “get you gone, Von Hügel, though with blessings on your head”) to resume his earlier incarnation as the John Esposito of American conservatives. In “Muslims Who Renounce Violence,” he assures us — because, after all, he spent his childhood in India, read a couple of books by Bernard Lewis, and is therefore an unrivalled expert on all things Islamic — that all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well, if we but “negotiate respectfully but firmly with traditional Muslims, building on shared values.”

Which “traditional Muslims”? Why, only a wretched, frothing “Islamophobe” would ask such a question! D’Souza himself huffs at them, implying that “traditional Muslims” with whom conservatives can and should ally are as plentiful as the sand on the seashore: “Where, these savants inquired, are the traditional Muslims? Clearly the exposure of some on the right to the Muslim world was limited to the viewing of clips of Bin Laden videos on the Fox News Channel.”

I am, of course, one of those “savants.” And since D’Souza has dragged this horse out for yet another beating, allow me to risk straining the patience of longtime Jihad Watch readers by reminding you that contrary to his oft-repeated misrepresentations of my position, I never denied the existence of D’Souza’s “traditional Muslims” — i.e., cultural Muslims who are not waging jihad against non-Muslims. What I asked him was to to name a traditional Muslim with whom he recommended we ally. He never came up with anyone, and still hasn’t, except Ali Gomaa, Mufti of Egypt, whom the New York Times identified in August 2006 as a supporter of the jihad terror group Hizballah, whose leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has repeatedly made genocidal anti-Jewish statements.

Anyway, D’Souza has apparently found some “traditional Muslim” companions for his Hizballah Mufti in the 138 signers of “A Common Word Between Us and You.” In his new piece he says: “Certainly some relief was in order, because Muslims who seek common cause with the West, or at least with the Christian West, are far preferable to those who seek to destroy us.”

Thus while noting the lack of reciprocity in the treatment of Christians in Islamic countries, D’Souza is largely positive about the “Common Word” document, here again committing the blunders of that most dangerous (to himself, and his reputation as a thinker) of all ignorant men, the man who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And now Sheikh Said Hijjawi can be counted among the many who have fooled him.

Posted by Robert at February 26, 2008 9:45 AM