On Friday, a representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and 137 other Muslim leaders and scholars sent a unique, 29-page open letter titled “A Common Word Between Us and You”, intended to further understanding between Muslims and Christians worldwide, to Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and more than 20 other Christian leaders.
Within the unprecedented open letter, signed by CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, the Muslims state, “Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”
The open letter comes at a time when many analysts and policy makers in the West are very concerned, and some of them certain, that the “war on terror” is being used by many Islamic extremists, including those ensconced within the Iranian government, to further the idea that the mainly Christian Western world and its Jewish ally, Israel, must be engaged in a jihad, or “holy war”, to overthrow their power around the globe and establish a brave new world of oppressive sharia law and mandatory conversion of all to Islam.
Jihad is praised, to some even demanded, by the Koran, the book of Islamic holy scriptures, and is considered righteous defense of Islam-to the extremists, even if that “defense” means going on the offensive and using terrorism tactics to spread Islam.
The extremism of the Islamic radicals is known to have inspired former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to have quipped, “The harder we work, the behinder we get.”
Pope Benedict the XVI last year publicly called for peace between all Christians and Muslims, saying before a meeting of envoys from leading Muslim nations that he has a profound respect for Islam and for Muslims and that he believes religion and violence are mutually exclusive.
Benedict gave his adddress after many prominent Muslims had expressed outrage at the Catholic head’s use of a quote from a 14th-Century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaiologos, which stated: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Palailogos was one of the last Byzantine Emperors. The surving half of the Roman Empire in the East, the Byzantine Empire was known as a bastion of deeply theological Christianity and high Greek culture, and had been continuously attacked throughout the centuries by the Islamic Arabs since only four years after Mohammed died in 632 C.E. Manuel II Palaiologos inherited a greatly diminished Empire, which was only about 50 years away from falling to the Muslims entirely.