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Truth & Power (12/27/06)


” Dialogue only has meaning if it respects the autonomy of the other; absent that respect we have monologue. It is for each religious community, or those from each community who choose to participate in inter-religious conversation, to determine the terms under which he or she enters that conversation, the goals of the conversation and expectations from the process.

.True conversation may uncover areas of convergence but is most important in helping to understand areas of divergence. The question for participants is: Is that divergence threatening or problematical, or can it be a source of enlightenment and enrichment by broadening the perspectives and insights on the experience of being human that one gains from one’s own religious tradition” Rabbi GordisIn a faith based discourse, while the other person is talking, if you have the habit of jumping in and saying how your faith has a ‘better’ solution, or a ‘better’ system or an world saving answer…you are not communicating.

You are not open to listening to the other’s point of view. You are too eager to flaunt your best, instead of understanding it. You have driven the conversation into conflict. You have denigrated the other in your mind thinking that they are less than good and that ‘THEY’ need to listen to you. You might as well pack and go, nothing will be achieved.

In a true dialogue, where the intent of all the parties is to to understand ever one’s point of view and then formulate an an understanding to figure out what to accept and what not to accept. How do we go about accepting each other, as both have a right to life.

Your column, or article is welcome, please keep it to 600 Words and be precise in stating what you are planning to communicate. Please send to WMCarchives@gmail.com with your name, address, phone number and a paragraph description of you.

Mike Ghouse

Truth and power

For many Muslims today, ‘inter-religious dialogue’ often looks suspiciously like religious coercion.By Reza Aslan December 24, 2006 Boston Globe

IN 2000, WHEN POPE BENEDICT XVI was still Cardinal Ratzinger, he penned a peculiar tract entitled “Dominus Iesus,” in which he laid out the ground rules for inter-religious dialogue. The future pope wrote that it is perfectly fine for Catholics to engage other faiths in religious discourse. But, he cautioned, one must never “close one’s eyes to the errors and illusions” of other religions. Nor should one lose sight of how “gravely deficient” those religions are when compared with Catholicism.

Such a position is perhaps to be expected from a pope who believes that quoting a 14th-century Crusader’s absurdly archaic views on Islam is an invitation to dialogue.

Having repeatedly criticized his predecessor’s tireless efforts to reach out to Muslims as bordering on religious relativism, Benedict has focused his papacy on the issue of “reciprocity” in inter-religious dialogue. By this, the pope means the perfectly reasonable expectation that Christians in Muslim lands should have the same freedoms as Muslims in Christian lands to propagate their faith.

Of course, there is no question that much of the Arab and Muslim world has a poor track record when it comes to tolerance of non-Muslims, let alone promotion of inter-religious dialogue.

But there was a time, a mere 400 years ago, when Rome considered inter-religious dialogue to be most effectively facilitated by a Grand Inquisitor, while Muslim Spain, Baghdad, and Cairo opened their gates to Christian and Jewish scientists, philosophers, and theologians, many of whom enjoyed the patronage of the royal courts.

To be sure, this tolerance of Jews and Christians had less to do with the precepts of Islam than with the fact that the Muslim world was basking in a golden era of scientific achievement and religious experimentation. In other words, the Muslims of the era had an unshakable confidence in their cultural, economic, political, and even religious dominance over the region.

If this historic commitment to inter-religious dialogue has now given way to religious repression and brutal intolerance, it is not because Islam’s view of “the other” has changed. It is because the power dynamics of the region have changed.

Today, in large parts of the Arab and Muslim world, many Muslims consider themselves to be under siege by what they perceive to be the unrelenting hegemony of the “Christian West.” For many, “inter-religious dialogue” often looks suspiciously like religious coercion, and Christian proselytizing is sometimes difficult to distinguish from the still fresh, still bruising, memory of colonialism.

None of this is to excuse religious oppression in the Arab and Muslim world. The pope is right to demand greater freedoms of faith and expression in particularly conservative countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, where Islam’s historic commitment to religious pluralism has long been forgotten.

But while an argument can be made that inter-religious dialogue should have a purpose, it should not be to shed light on the “errors and illusions” of your neighbor’s faith.

One should never forget that what we call interr-eligious dialogue is rarely divorced from the dynamics of power between religions. For those, like the pope — and many other conservative Christian, as well as Muslim and Jewish, believers — who believe that such dialogue must begin with the prima facie recognition that one’s own religion represents Truth, this is an important lesson indeed.

Reza Aslan is a scholar of religions and the author of “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam” (2005).

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