Kristeligt Dagblad reported last week that the National Council of Churches in Denmark, representing 15 denominations and 40 church organizations including the national church, had written a letter thanking the 138 Muslim leaders for their invitation to dialog and religious coexistence. "A Common Word Between Us and You" (official site) was sent to the Pope and other Christian leaders in October.
The Danish newspaper examined which Muslim leaders had signed the invitation and found several who had called for war, conflict and persecution of Jews.
The list includes Taissir Rajab Al-Tamimi, a judge in an Islamic court in Palestine, who had said in the past that "the Jews are destined to be persecuted, humiliated and tortured forever,and it is a Muslim duty to see to it that they reap their due. No petty arguments must be allowed to divide us. Where Hitler failed, we must succeed"
A month before the letter was presented to Christian leaders former Pakistani sharia judge Muhammad Taqi Usmani was quoted in the Times as saying that Muslims should live peacefully in countries such as Britain, where they have the freedom to practise Islam, only until they gain enough power to engage in battle.
Ekrima Sabri, former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and all of Palestine, had expressed himself against Jews and Israel many times. "There was never a Jewish temple on Al-Aksa [the mosque compound] and there is no proof that there was ever a temple." In case anybody doubts how he sees peace: "If the Jews want real peace, they must not do anything to try to pray on Al-Aksa." As for Israel's right to exist: "We have announced a number of times that from a religious point of view, Palestine from the sea to the river is Islamic."
Anders Gadegaard, chairman of the council and dean of the Copenhagen Cathedral, says it doesn't make a difference that several of the Muslim scholars had made problematic statements. He says they have not checked what each of the 138 signatories had said, and that they had responded to the open and positive letter inviting to dialog. He doesn't think that all Muslim spokespeople are responsible for what a little group might have said in a particular context, but if they repeat such statements which conflict with the declarations of dialog and peace, it will naturally be very difficult to progress.
It should be noted, though, the the National Council of Churches in Denmark did find the following statement in the invitation to peace and dialog problematic:
As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them—so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes, (in accordance with the verse of the Holy Qur'an [Al-Mumtahinah, 60:8] quoted above).
The Danish council therefore stressed in their response that nobody is waging war against Muslims on account of their religion.
The National Council of Churches in Denmark is far from the only one to have responded to the Muslim leaders' call for dialog and coexistence. The English archbishop, various other Christian leaders as well as the Chief Rabbis of Israel had written as well. The Council of European Bishops' Conferences and Conference of European Churches set up a Committee for Relations with Muslims in Europe. The Vatican intends to hold a dialog meeting sometime this spring.
Andreas Christensen priest of the Frihavn parish in Copenhagen says that for dialog to be meaningful it is crucial that both sides know who they're speaking with. What's their mandate, he asks, do they represent a majority and do they have political influence?
He praises the letter from the National Council of Churches in Denmark for being open, while theologically maintaining the differences between Christianity and Islam. Christensen says that such an initiative might show that a majority of Christians and Muslims in the world want to live in peace, and that only a few Christians want to battle Muslims, and vice versa.
Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)
See also: Christian Committee for Relations with Muslims, Vatican: Historic Catholic-Muslim meeting planned
A few more of the signatories:
Mustafa Ceric (Grand Mufti and Head of Ulema of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Issam Ahmed al-Bashir (Secretary General of the International Moderation Centre, Kuwait; Former Minister of Religious Affairs, Sudan) and Abdallah bin Bayyah (Professor, King Abdul Aziz University, Saudi Arabia; Former Minister of Justice, Former Minister of Education and Former Minister of Religious Affairs, Mauritania; Vice President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars; Founder and President, Global Center for Renewal and Guidance ) are all members of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, related to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Amr Khaled (Islamic Missionary, Preacher and Broadcaster, Egypt; Founder and Chairman, Right Start Foundation International) and Hamza Yusuf (Founder and Director, Zaytuna Institute, CA, USA) are both connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-Awa (Secretary-General of the International Union for Muslim Scholars; Head of the Egyptian Association for Culture and Dialogue), told the Washington Journal in August 2006 that suicide bombers is an understandable attempt to draw attention to political injustice and has nothing to do with Islam. In his book, "Religion and Homeland – Chapters in Muslim Attitudes Towards Non-Muslims” he writes that in a society with a Muslim majority Christian priests are forbidden from discussing religious issues, religious laws and Islamic Sharia.
Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)