Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Catholics and Muslims

The flap over the mosque near ground zero in New York has set me to thinking about several things in regard to our understanding of the Muslim religion. I am not writing this blog entry to take a stand on that issue, but I do think that several things need to be pointed out.

I certainly appreciate the sensitivity to victims of 9/11, but sensitivity notwithstanding we sometimes need to point to facts rather than emotions. And one fact is that the Muslim religion did not take down the World Trade Center towers. Islamic extremists who distort Islam performed that terrible deed. Another fact is that the US Constitution makes it impossible to ban the construction of a house of worship on private property. All this having been said I do hope that the Immam and some of his followers could sit down with political leaders from New York and come to some common agreement. Right now it seems that they're talking through the airwaves but not directly to each other.

I also believe that this debate has surfaced a great deal of Islamophobia. I am not saying that all opponents of the project are guilty of this, nor has most of it come from New Yorkers, but from people all over our country and elsewhere.

When there is fear and anger there is usually ignorance. As a Franciscan, an order entrusted by the Church with Catholic-Muslim dialogue, I believe that we need to learn more about Islam. We need to understand where we agree with Muslims, and where we disagree as well. Maybe each one can take it upon him/her self to try to engage a Muslim in informal discussion about their faith. Perhaps we can try to read literature which explains the Muslim faith.

Here are a few interesting points of which you may not be aware:

1. Allah is not another god. Allah is God. If you go to Mass, say in Lebanon or Syria, it will be in Arabic and the prayers will be directed to Allah, the Father of Jesus. Allah is the Creator. Yes, Muslims believe some different things about Allah than we do, but Allah is God.

2. Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet.

3. Muslims believe in the Virgin birth of Jesus and honor Mary.

These are a few things to ponder. I'm sure there is a lot more.

Finally, if the New York mosque is built perhaps they could contact local Christian and Jewish clergy and establish a program for dialogue. I'm going to write a letter to my provincial in New York and suggest that we Franciscans might explore that possibility.


  1. John, it's good to have a voice of sanity in all this. I am appalled at the ignorance. We are just handing those terrorists a great victory.

  2. I appreciate your views on the Mosque being proposed for the 9/11 site. Having read many books on Islam and the Koran, frankly there are many beliefs of the Islam religion that scare the heck out of me.

    When the Arabs allow the building of a Synagogue in Mecca, then I believe there might be an opportunity coming together to dialogue.