Muslim leaders must be more outspoken about violence in the name of religion, a senior Vatican official urged yesterday.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Pope’s principal adviser on Islam, said that while the majority of Muslim clerics condemned acts of terrorism, they needed to be more vocal about jihad, especially because of its frequent appearances in the Qur’an.
The cardinal made the remarks after a lecture, given in London to an audience of students, Catholic clerics and figures from other religions. It was one of several public appearances during a rare visit to the UK.
He said: “In the Qur’an you have several interpretations of jihad – violent and holy. Most Muslims are condemning war made in the name of religion. The problem is that in the Qur’an you have good and bad jihad, so you choose.
“There is no worldwide authority who can interpret the Qur’an, so it depends on the person you have in front of you. Sometimes you should like religious authorities to be more outspoken about violence in the name of religion. But Muslims believe the Qur’an is the divine word of God, so it is a problem.”
He said it would be “easier” if there were a single Islamic authority to negotiate with. “It’s a great difficulty there are many voices of living Islam.”
The cardinal is president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and has been tasked with improving relations between the Vatican and Islam.
Tauran, the former Vatican foreign minister, has not shied away from difficult issues since his 2007 appointment. He has criticised countries, notably Saudi Arabia, which do not allow freedom of religion.
He expressed hope, however, that a summit of Islamic scholars and Catholic officials, to be held in November, would yield positive results.
The meeting, organised following an appeal from hundreds of Muslim scholars for closer ties with Christianity, will not be attended by representatives from Saudi Arabia or Iran, two regimes that place severe restrictions on religious freedom. “Of course we would like to see someone from Saudi Arabia. But we will meet them in another context. We talk to the interlocutors who come, we do not choose them.”
His remarks came as the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, said that radical Islam threatened to fill a “moral vacuum” in Britain arisen as a result of a decline of Christian values. Writing in the newly launched political and cultural magazine Standpoint, the bishop claims that the church dissolved its influence over the country’s morals during the social and sexual revolution of the 1960s.