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Religion and Society

A Word to be Read and Spread in the Muslim World

A Word to be Read and Spread in the Muslim World

Notwithstanding the misunderstandings and the exploitations, the lectio magistralis of Joseph Ratzinger in Regensburg seems to have given rise to an exchange of messages which cannot be undervalued.


As we are aware, the Islamic authorities are often influenced by the regimes of the countries where they live, but on this occasion it would seem that the need not to interrupt communication at a religious level has prevailed in respect of any potential reticence or orientations, more or less imposed. Indeed, the document does not linger on the polemic points which have predominated in the preceding intervention but seeks to return to the essence of the two respective traditions in order to identify common elements.


If the Koranic quotations abound, the biblical ones are not absent, with a style in substance honest and based on the need to seek harmony between the two principal world religions. It is true that the message does not explicitly address also the Jews, referred to together with Christians as the "People of the Book" by Islamic belief, but on the one hand it is understandable that the text has not wanted to broaden (and complicate) a theme which is already in itself delicate and well contextualised by the recurrence. On the other hand it is favourably striking that the opening biblical quotation which is explicitly addressed to the Jews has not been omitted for a self-serving purpose: "Listen, Israel ", a term which is in certain circles taboo.


Even the language betrays an effort towards proximity, where it underlines the two principal commandments which accompany the Jewish-Christian message and the Muslim one: love of God and love for one's neighbour. Such elements as absolute monotheism, fear and obedience to the Creator fundamental to the Islamic conception are not dissimulated in order to please, but are reread from a universal perspective which attempts to go beyond different sensibilities and forms of expression with the clear intention to bring out shared tendencies and preoccupations.


The only weak point would appear to be the fact that one is evidently dealing with a document which has been thought out and written with the addressees in mind, but it is also our duty to give it the necessary importance so that even in the Islamic world it is recognised and valued, especially where discriminated minorities are present and various forms of tension if not conflicts which still involve ethnic-religious aspects.


To limit oneself to say that one could have done more or even worse, completely snub these words pretending to be the only authentic holders of criticism and self-criticism would mean losing out on an opportunity which awareness and a sense of responsibility would instead induce to value for the common interest.


We conclude these brief reflections by quoting in this regard an emblematic literary passage : "Those races which had been living door to door for centuries yet had never had neither the desire to know each other, nor the dignity to tolerate one another. The defenders who, exhausted, in the late evening leave the field, at dawn I find them at my bench, still intent on extricating the filthy tangle of false witnesses; the stabbed corpses which were offered to me as proof evidence for the prosecution, were often those of sick people and those who had died in their beds and which had been stolen from the embalmers. Yet every hour of truce was a victory, even if precarious just like them all; each rectified dispute created a precedent, a guarantee of that to come. I was little interested in the fact that the agreement attained was exterior, imposed, probably temporary; I knew that good and evil are a question of habit, that the temporary prolongs, that the external things penetrate the internal ones, and that the mask, in the long term, becomes the face. Given that the hate, the bad faith, the delirium have long-lasting effects I do not see why they could not have also frankness, justice and benevolence. To whom was it important the order at the frontier if I could not convince that second-hand Jewish dealer and that Greek butcher to live one alongside the other in tranquillity?". (M. Yourcenar, Memories of Adrian)

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