ISNA Leaders Suggest Muslim/Catholic Dialog Improving


An Internet news portal is reporting on comments made by U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders about the interfaith event in Washington D.C held during the recent visit of Pope Benedict to the U.S. As a previous post reported, the event was attended by some 200 religious leaders including representatives of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and its affiliated Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). The current report cites remarks of Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, ISNA national director who led the Muslim delegation attending the event, who said:

… the interfaith meeting was “very successful,” because it expressed the commitment of both Islamic and Catholic leaders to improve dialogue…”These are symbolic gestures where we express our appreciation and our reverence to a leader who represents 1.3 billion Catholics,” said Syeed, “but the real progress is made when we are in touch with the Catholic Church here and all over the world … it has been moving forward for all these years. There have been problems, but since we are determined to carry on, we hope those problems will not distract us.”…

Syeed also commented on the scheduled “summit” of Catholic and Muslim leaders in November that will likely include a substantial representation from the global Muslim Brotherhood:

Dr. Syeed said the theme of the upcoming seminar would be a constructive one for both religions. “Love of God, Love of Neighbor’ is a main message of Christ, and Christians love it,” said Syeed. “Christians believe this is their mission. This is true within Islam as well. … It’s our duty to respect human beings as human beings.””God has created diversity and we have to respect that diversity,” Syeed told Cybercast News Service . “That does not mean that we have to dilute our religions.”

Finally, the report cited comments by an official of the Muslim Public Affairs Council explaining why the organization decided to boycott the Washington event:

Edina Lekovic, communications director for MPAC, told Cybercast News Service that the organization chose to decline the invitation “as a matter of principle, not protest.” “Based on a long track record of real substantive interfaith dialogue, we were initially looking forward to this meeting with the pope,” said Lekovic, “but when we found out that the meeting itself was going to be more ceremonial than substantive, we had second thoughts.”Lekovic said that many Muslims are concerned about some of the pope’s public actions, such as his recent Easter baptism of controversial Italian journalist Magdi Allam who was formerly Muslim, but now denounces Islam as an inherently violent religion. Still, Lekovic agreed that the “Love of God, Love of Neighbor” seminar is a step in the right direction. “That’s precisely the kind of forum that is needed to regain some kind of trust between the pope and Muslim leaders,” she said.

As a previous post suggested, It is likely that the varied organizational response by the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood to the papal visit is a coordinated attempt to preserve the benefits of interfaith dialog while retaining credibility in the Islamic world. This was accomplished by having ISNA/FCNA, the “religious” arm of the U.S. Brotherhood, attend the interfaith meeting with CAIR/MPAC, the “political” arms, taking a more critical stance.

These Catholic/Muslim dialog efforts followed followed the controversy which arose last year when the Pope made a speech in Germany where he “explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity and the relationship between violence and faith.” As previous posts have reported, the speech was followed by an open letter to the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury warning of the dangers to world peace in the absence of peace between Muslims and Christians. The letter, signed by a large number of global Muslim Brotherhood leaders, was drafted by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan who last year sponsored the Amman Message that was also signed by many Muslim Brotherhood leaders. As another post reported, global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi has alluded to a split in the Islamic world over the Jordanian initiative and opposes any dialog until the Pope apologizes. Under the reign of the previous Pope, the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi organizations such as the Muslim World League had been meeting with the Vatican under the auspices of the The Islamic /Catholic Liaison Committee which was formed in 1995.

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