The First Year of Benedict's Papacy Regarding Islam

September 22, 2006

Source: Q News

On September 22, 2006 Q News published a commentary by Abdal Hakim Murad, "In the immediate aftermath of the election of Joseph Ratzinger to the Papacy, Muslim reactions to the new pontiff were diverse and confused. Turks were dismayed by his very public opposition to their membership of the European Union, a view rooted in his conviction that ‘Europe was founded not on geography but on a common faith.’ Others pointed to the absence of any mention of Muslims from his inaugural address (a fact welcomed by the Jerusalem Post) as a hint that Vatican willingness to open minds and hearts to dialogue with Islam was now at an end. Despite this, however, some Muslims, most notably Akbar Ahmad, welcomed the appointment of a man of considerable seriousness and intelligence, in the hope that he would reinvigorate the world’s moral debate. This Muslim ambivalence seems set to continue, partly thanks to the fact that a year into his papacy, Ratzinger has not spoken or written in any substantial way about Islam, realizing, perhaps, that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. His Polish predecessor had certainly recognized Islam’s immense importance, and had sought to encourage a friendly Muslim view of the papacy. This bore fruit in a remarkable outpouring of Muslim commemorations upon his death. The Shaykh al-Azhar described his demise as ‘a great loss for the Catholic Church and the Muslim world. He was a man who defended the values of justice and peace.’ The then Iranian president Khatami praised John Paul as a master of three spiritual paths: philosophy, poetry, and artistic creativity. Yusuf al-Qardawi commended his opposition to Israel’s ‘apartheid wall,’ and asked Muslims to offer their condolences to Christians. In Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman said that ‘even though some have launched a Crusader war against Islam, the pope’s voice was for bringing peace to the world.’ Overall, the Muslim world’s affection for John Paul was clear."