“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Muslims Hope Pope Will Continue Dialogue

Muslims around the world extended a welcoming hand to Pope Benedict XVI, hoping he will promote harmony between the two religions, while Islamic conservatives found common cause with the new pontiff’s hard-line cultural stances.

Muslims around the world extended a welcoming hand to Pope Benedict XVI, hoping he will promote harmony between the two religions, while Islamic conservatives found common cause with the new pontiff’s hard-line cultural stances.

From Pakistan to Syria, Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, hopes were widespread that Benedict will follow in the path of his predecessor, John Paul II, in reaching out to the Islamic world. Few showed concern over reservations that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger showed in the past about dialogue with other religions.

The announcement of the new pope was heavily covered by Arab television stations Tuesday. The popular satellite channel Al-Jazeera broke into its programming to show the first puffs of smoke coming from the Vatican chimney and continued with a live feed from St. Peter’s Square until Benedict emerged to deliver his first words.

Muslims in the Middle East urged the new pope to focus on the two issues preoccupying them: protecting Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem following threats by Jewish settlers to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque in July and supporting Iraqis amid daily violence that has killed thousands since Saddam Hussein’s ouster two years ago.

“Our main concern is the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples, and we hope the new pope will be firm in ending their ordeal,’ Subhiyeh Muhammad, 65, a retired Jordanian teacher, said. “I also hope he will consolidate dialogue between Muslims and Christians as Pope John Paul II did.’

Benedict follows a pope who was warmly regarded by Muslims for reaching out to the Islamic world and for vocal political stances popular with Arabs, particularly his calls for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. John Paul II was the first pope to visit a mosque and pushed for dialogue with Islam.

John Paul spoke out against the U.S.-led war in Iraq and criticized the security wall Israel is building in the West Bank. He also called for Jerusalem to be open to Jews, Muslims and Christians with no one state having sovereignty.

He also was the first pope to recognize the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, meeting with him several times, and visited a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem during a 2000 visit to the Holy Land in recognition of the refugees’ plight.

At the same time, John Paul built unprecedented bridges between the church and Jews, becoming the first pope to visit a synagogue, frequently condemning anti-Jewish prejudice and establishing diplomatic relations with Israel in 1993.

Sheik Salah Keftaro, a prominent Syrian Islamic cleric who accompanied John Paul on his historic visit to Damascus’ Omayyad Mosque in May 2001, said he hoped Benedict also would visit his country.

“We hope to maintain close and intimate relations with the new pope,’ said Keftaro, who keeps a picture of John Paul in his office. “The late pope took brilliant and daring stands, and we hope the new pope would follow his example.’

As a cardinal, Benedict made sure John Paul’s efforts to reach out to other religions didn’t overstep certain bounds. His 2000 decree “Dominus Iesus,’ which framed the role of the Catholic Church in human salvation in an exclusive manner, upset Protestants, Jews and other non-Christians.

Benedict, in a message after celebrating his first Mass as pontiff on Wednesday, suggested he will follow a more moderate path, promising to “continue the promising dialogue with different civilizations that was started by my cherished predecessors.’

In 2002, Benedict said of Islam, “It is true that the Muslim world is not totally mistaken when it reproaches the West of Christian tradition of moral decadence and the manipulation of human life. Islam has also had moments of great splendor and decadence in the course of its history.’

Sheik Fauzi al-Seif, a Shiite Muslim cleric in the Saudi eastern city of Qatif, said when it comes to moral issues, Muslim and Christian religious leaders speak the same language.

One of those common issue, said prominent Pakistani Islamic cleric Anis Ahmad, is the challenge from “secularization of society.’ He noted “a common concern’ in addressing the spread of AIDS through ethical, religious and spiritual means, rather than by advocating “safe sex.’

“Muslim scholars and the Vatican should collaborate in fighting the spread of condom culture by strengthening moral fiber, religious commitment and the active role of family in fighting this social evil,’ Ahmad said.

In Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, Maulana Mohammed Usman, a cleric at the Jamia Ulum-ul Islamia seminary, said Benedict “should work not only for brotherhood and better relations with the Muslim world but also try to restrain the forces that have grudges against Muslims.’

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said the pope can play a role in bringing harmony “into the thinking of the world, which today is divided in all kinds of theories of clash of civilizations.’

2016-10-24T07:30:46+00:00 April 21st, 2005|Categories: News|