Sunday, October 22, 2006

Regensburg Revisited

The very object in question...
(Image from

Today's blog entry is more in the nature of a report than an analysis, for the issues are already beyond my ken ... and beyond my allotted time.

One of my readers, Erdal, who knows a great deal about the history of Islam, notified me of an open letter from a number of illustrious Muslim scholars in courteous reply to the Pope's Regensburg speech. Here's what Erdal wrote:
Sorry to intrude on this thread, but the official answer and rebuttal to the Pope's lecture is in. All the eight schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam are represented, 38 top clerics. This is as close to a definitive, official answer as it will ever get. Actually, this is totally without precedent.

Read it all! They cover all the "hot iron" topics, including a surprising answer to Manuel II Paleologus' question:

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

It is:

"What the emperor failed to realize -- aside from the fact... that no such command has ever existed in Islam -- is that the Prophet never claimed to be bringing anything fundamentally new.

I bet you didn't see that one coming, huh?

Link to pdf of open letter
Thanks to Erdal for this message and link. No, I didn't see that coming, though I'm familiar with the Muslim position that Muhammad brought nothing new -- the corollary of which is that extant Judaism and extant Christianity are deviations from the original revelations and that Islam is Allah's corrective to those deviations.

Anyway, I've finally had time to read -- and recommend that others read -- the letter, which is a bit long but not overly so (and an easier read than the Pope's Regensburg lecture). I've also checked with the Catholic magazine Chiesa, which often reports on Catholic issues, and it has a number of articles related to the controversy, including one on the open letter from the Muslim scholars and one on the official, definitive version of the Pope's Regensburg address, replete with footnotes.

For those interested, the complete, official texts of the Pope's lecture in both the original German and the English translation can now be read online.

As for the open letter from the Muslim scholars, it is a welcome development. Between the Pope's lecture and this letter, there is still much room for many questions and much discussion. I would like to see a joint Catholic-Muslim study on the issues raised. Protestant and Orthodox scholars could also be included, I suppose. Be that as it may, a lengthy study by experts with the aim of publishing the results could be useful, perhaps even for the Muslim world at large since it might enable respected Muslim scholars to present a unified statement defining the official Islamic position and criticizing the Islamists.

I say "might" because my impression is that Islam's lack of an authoritative office for pronouncing official doctrine on its faith and morals leaves it as chaotic as Protestant Christians, who can never agree on much of anything.

Still ... such a study could provide a lot of useful information and valuable insight.


At 7:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

For those interested, there's a discussion of this issue over at Ambivablog.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:31 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

You would think that the Muslim clerics would have offered the letter to the world after 9/11. If in the interest of peace, to send it to those congregations that were inspiring the youthful terrorist.

At 4:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Right, Hathor. I've noticed that Muslim clerics are quick to respond to perceived slights against Muhammad or Islam but slow to criticize Islamists ... or so it has seemed to me.

It would be interesting to check the writings of the signatories to this list to see what their position is on various issues related to Islam.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In an article in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, Egyptian Mufti Sheikh Dr. 'Ali Gum'a (=Ali Jumu'ah of the open letter, only a different transscription) expressed his support of the "jihad" of Lebanon's resistance and stated that the lies of the "Hebrew entity" expose "the true and hideous face of the blood-suckers... who prepare [Passover] matzos from human blood."


I'm always delighted when prominent moderate Muslim clerics are prepared to forgive the pope's appaling attack on Mohammed, and accept his apology...

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous comment above is mine. I marked the wrong box.

At 6:15 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Erdal, that would be Ali Jumuah, the grand mufti of Egypt? Thanks for noting this. It's always good when a genuine 'moderate' speaks out...

I had anticipated some embarrassments in the writings of some of these signatories, but the blood-libel stuff about matzos is simply bizarre.

Unfortunately, it's also a rather common libel in the Arab Muslim world, from what I've read, at any rate.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mullah Mohammed-Ali Taskhiri (another of the open letter group), head of the "Global Association of Affinity of Islamic Denominations” ..., is currently attending a conference in Egypt (February 2006) and called on all forces loyal to Teheran to organize attacks on foreign embassies and consulates in multiple countries.

At 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link for the post above. And I swear I didn't pick and choose! These were the first two guys I looked up (I thought I'd try the influential ones first).

This antisemitism runs deep... I went to school in the 60s, quiet times, in Turkey, not even an Arab country, and I still couldn't help feeling unease (actually more like revulsion), when I first met jews, 20 or so years later, and I didn't improve much since. Like touching a spider... I always felt pretty stupid about it.

At 6:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Erdal, thanks for the extra link.

I wonder if these 'scholars' even recognize any contradictions between their open letter and their other writings.

Really depressing ... but not especially surprising anymore, based on past disappointments.

Jeffery Hodges

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