Opinion: "A Muslim Visits the Vatican" by Iftekhar Hai

April 6, 2006

Source: San Mateo County Times


On April 6, 2006 the San Mateo County Times ran an opinion piece by Iftekhar Hai, president of the United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance. Hai writes, "As a Muslim, I never dreamed of attending Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, but last week, I joined a group of 60 Bay Area clergy at the ceremony elevating Archbishop William Levada to the role of cardinal... I was pleased that Cardinal Levada met with us several times, obliging to pose for photographs with great enthusiasm and kindness, although he was clearly exhausted. In the meantime, throughout the week, our interfaith group developed a bond of trust and friendship. Pope John Paul II was loved by Muslims immensely, and I told my fellow travelers that I want to maintain the same ties with Pope Benedict... But one member of our group, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed concerns that Pope Benedict, in contrast to his predecessor, has not shown any sign of reaching out across faiths. I optimistically responded that 'Maybe he will change in time,' but then I heard something else that made my heart sink: Pope Benedict has said that Muslim Turkey has no place in Christian Europe... [M]y companion brought up another controversial rumor: Pope Benedict has said he wants the church to think about Christianizing India, my native country. If these statements are true, my peace-building between religions is going to be rough. As a Muslim interfaith leader, I need to find out what the Vatican really wants and how we can resolve these thorny issues with love, compassion and forgiveness. I hope this pope and his cardinals will follow Jesus' famous saying, 'Do not judge others, lest you be judged.' This motto holds more wisdom now then ever before."