16 I ORLD NEWSW Passion Islam I November 2008
Pope Benedict seeks Muslim
help to defend moral values
Pope Benedict XVI has urged Muslim entitled A Common Word was one of against the … anti-religious forces of the
religious leaders and scholars to join several the Vatican was conducting with modern world, and joining effort should
Christians in defending their common Muslims. bring us closer together.”
moral values and respect for human rights The Vatican has also participated in Nasr, an Islamic studies professor at
despite theological differences between interfaith talks launched this year by Saudi George Washington University in the US
them. Arabian King Abdullah, who will meet at capital, said both faiths have been violent
In an unprecedented Vatican audience, the UN in New York with other heads of at times and neither had a monopoly on
the Pope received a 29-strong delegation state to further promote his initiative. using force.
of Muslims from the Middle East, Africa, These and other dialogues reflect a Muslims believed in religious freedom,
Asia and Western countries who last year new urgency Muslim leaders have felt after he said, but would not allow “aggressive
invited Christian churches to redouble proselytising in our midst that would
efforts to improve interfaith relations. destroy our faith in the name of freedom”.
The meeting came two years after the Delegation head Mustafa Ceric, the
Pope gave a speech hinting Islam was Grand Mufti of Bosnia, reminded Pope
violent and irrational, which sparked angry Benedict that his predecessor John Paul
protests in the Middle East. II had prayed for him during the four-year
The Muslims formed their group to siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s.
refute that speech and seek better mutual After the speeches, the Pope walked
understanding. around the ornate hall greeting each
“There is a great and vast field in which delegate and talking with them.
we can act together in defending and Delegates at the closed-door talks
promoting the moral values which are part called them frank but cordial, with
of our common heritage,” the German- the September 11, 2001 attacks on the participants openly discussing their
born Pope told his guests, including 29 US, the “clash of civilisations” theory and differences.
Catholic experts who have been holding the pope’s 2006 speech in Regensburg “The discussion is not getting derailed
closed-door talks with the Muslims. showed a widening gap between the where it could get derailed, if someone
“We should thus work together in world’s two largest faiths. wanted to do that,” one delegate said.
promoting genuine respect for the dignity Benedict said the Catholic-Muslim Before the audience, Benedict
of the human person and fundamental Forum, the official name for this dialogue received the new Egyptian ambassador
human rights, even though our now set to take place every two years, was to the Vatican, Lamia Aly Hamada
anthropological visions and our theologies “now confidently taking its first steps”. Mekhemar, and told her the Vatican would
justify this in different ways.” Also addressing the meeting, Islamic like to see Catholic churches built at “the
Benedict noted this meeting with the philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr said: new tourist sites that have developed in
group linked to the dialogue invitation “We should join together in the battle recent years”. – Reuters
UAE setup helpline to
understand Islam better
rulings based on Islamic law comply organisers putting the number at about
with the government’s moderate 3,700 calls a day.
religious stance. The helpline staff work in teams, with
“The hardest questions I am six men and two women on six-hour
asked involve sex. I feel shame, shifts and a skeleton staff takes calls for
but I have to answer the questions “religious emergencies” during the night,
because it is my duty,” Mufti the report in the British daily said.
Abdulrahman Ammoura said. Callers have a three-minute time slot
His advice counts as an official and have the option of choosing service in
fatwa in the UAE, under new rules Arabic, Urdu or English.
issued by the General Authority for The authorities are surprised by the
Islamic Affairs and Endowments. overwhelming response. “We were not
A group of 48 Islamic scholars prepared for the popularity. Already, we
Muslim clergies in the UAE have put in
and Imams man the call centre get more calls than Emirates Airlines,”
place the world’s first Islamic helpline in an
telephones from morning till evening and one official said.
attempt to root out extreme interpretations
deliver rulings in an attempt to root out With growing popularity of the service,
of Islam by extremists.
extreme interpretations of Islam. plans are being sketched to employ extra
The UAE, which established the call
Muslims from all over the world 50 muftis and open satellite centres
centre three months ago, ensures that the
are reaching out to the helpline, with elsewhere in the Muslim world.
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