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Inter-Religious Dialogue or Mirage

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Ozcan Tikit


Europe has decided to announce 2008 as a year of inter-religious dialogue. Different conferences and events were conducted in the Old World and many Muslim countries to establish inter-religious dialogue and closer ties between churches and mosques. The last conference on inter-religious dialogue was held in Madrid in July at the initiative of the Saudi Arabian king Abdullah bin Al-Saudi.

Prior to this conference, in his meeting with the Saudi Arabian King in 2007, pontiff Benedict XVI asked to protect rights and lift restrictions imposed on the worship of 1mln Catholics in this country.

When proposal on inter-religious dialogue was first initiated by the Turkish philosopher Fatullah Gulan, he was accused of masonism. This dialogue was described as impossible by many Muslim scientists and mostly by muftiyas of the Saudi Arabia.

In fact, though inter-religious dialogue can solve many religious problems, there are certain setbacks for its realization. However, representative of three religions are not fully ready to realize dialogue.

Benedict XVI’s statement made during his meeting in Germany about jihad and Islam caused disagreements in the Islam world. “Show me what novelties did Muhammad bring? This religion is nothing more than brutal and inhuman call for spread with the help of sword,” Benedict XVI said in his speech in Bavaria University on 12 September.

This event prompted disagreements of Muslims and even the then Foreign Minister of Turkey Abdullah Gul officially asked Pontiff to cancel his visit to Turkey. Despite this, visit of Pontiff to Istanbul was success.

Word’s of Bologna cardinal Caffara, who commented Pontiff’s visit to Istanbul, deepened the gap between Islam world and Vatican even further.

Cardinal Caffara said inter-religious dialogue is possible only with Jews, but dialogue with Muslims can only be held on such issues as way of life and education.

Later Vatican officials said Quran verses about jihad hinder inter-religious dialogue. However, the key claim by Vatican was lack of a unified system of governance of Muslims unlike Christians and Jews. Because, Vatican needed to choose with whom to establish dialogue – with Salafite Saudi Arabia, Shiite Iran or Turkey, who though partially, could not maintain Islam and Democracy together.

Reforms should have been held to end the main dissatisfaction in the church. The largest reform was to create a single governing system. Shiites and Sunnis should have joined. At that time the King of the Saudi Arabia for the first time in the history of the country had officially invited the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in December 2007, to make pilgrimage to Hajj. Despite draft dialogue between the religious groups, put forward by the Saudi Arabia, was unsuccessful later a number of conferences were held on this issue by most Arabian countries. However, none of the conferences yielded anticipated results. Because, Sunnite Arabian countries were afraid of the Iran’s possible influence on the region and establishment of Shiites’ half moon. Establishment of the Sunni half moon (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and Lebanon) was a real danger for Salafite Saudi Arabia.

One of the factors, which hinder improvement of inter religious dialogue, is radicalism by some Muslims and their incomplete integration into the European community. The relevant factor, which hinders the dialogue, is that the occupations of Iraq and Israeli-Palestinian problems still have not been settled. Under the Bush administration, the military operations in Iraq were directed against terror and promote spread of democracy. However, Muslims accept these actions as a new crusade.

Touching upon the Palestinian problems, the unbalanced policy of Israel in the occupied territories led to non-recognition of the country by Muslim countries and spread of anti-Semitic views.

The inter-religious dialogue is capable today to solve many problems. However, politicization of the issue shows that the project will not be implemented soon.

Rufiz Hafizoglu, Editor of the Middle East desk of TrendNews

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