Open Letter to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
In an unprecedented move, an Open Letter signed by 38 leading Muslim
religious scholars and leaders around the world will be sent to Pope
Benedict XVI on Oct. 15, 2006. The letter, which is the first of its kind in
several centuries, was a collaborative effort signed by such prominent
figures as the Grand Muftis of Egypt, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo,
Istanbul, Uzbekistan and Oman, as well as leading figures from the Shia
community such as Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri of Iran. The letter was
also signed by HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, the Personal Envoy
and Special Advisor to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Western scholars have
signed the document, including California scholar, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
Hanson, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University in
Washington, D.C., and Professor Tim Winter of the University of Cambridge.
The letter is being sent, in the spirit of goodwill, to address some of the
controversial remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI during his lecture at the
University of Regensburg in Germany on Sept. 12, 2006. The letter tackles
the main issues raised by the Pope in his discussion of a debate between the
medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an ‘educated Persian’ such as
compulsion in religion, reason and faith, forced conversion, the
understanding of ‘Jihad’ or ‘Holy War,’ and the relationship between
Christianity and Islam.
The Muslim signatories accept the Pope’s personal expression of sorrow and
assurance that the controversial quote did not reflect his personal opinion.
At the same time, the letter represents an attempt to engage with the Papacy
on theological grounds in order to tackle wide ranging misconceptions about
Islam in the Western world.
Christianity and Islam make up more than half of humankind in a rapidly
interconnected world, the letter states, and it is imperative that both
sides share a responsibility for peace to move the debate away from the
anger of the streets toward a frank and sincere dialogue of hearts and minds
that furthers mutual understanding and respect between the two religious
The official and full English version of the text along with the complete
list of signatories will be available on the Islamica Magazine website
( http://www.islamicamagazine.com ) on Oct. 15, 2006.The official Arabic version will
be available from leading Arab presses in the Muslim world.