Prominent Muslim scholars are warning that the “survival of the world” is at stake if Muslims and Christians do not make peace with each other.
In an unprecedented open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars from every sect of Islam, the Muslims plead with Christian leaders “to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Pope Benedict are believed to have been sent copies of the document which calls for greater understanding between the two faiths.
The letter also spells out the similarities between passages of the Bible and the Koran.
The Muslim scholars state: “As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them – so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.”
The phrasing has similarities to the New Testament passage: “He that is not with me is against me” – a passage used by President George Bush when addressing a joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11.
The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, a non-governmental organisation based in Amman, Jordan, has organised the letter.
The Institute said: “This historic letter is intended by its 138 signatories as an open invitation to Christians to unite with Muslims over the most essential aspects of their respective faiths – the principles of love of one God and love of the neighbour.
“It is hoped that the recognition of this common ground will provide the followers of both faiths with a shared understanding that will serve to defuse tensions around the world.”
It continues: “Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders.
“Together they (Muslims and Christians) make up more than 55 per cent of the population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace.”
Among those launching the letter in the UK will be David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity, and Fellow of Selwyn College, University of Cambridge and founding director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme.
Aref Ali Nayed, a leading theologian and senior adviser to the Inter-Faith Programme, will also take part at the event in central London.