Pope Benedict’s unfortunate speech has offended Muslims all over the world. The offensive words quoted by the Pope do not sound like they simply slipped through his lips-although we cannot read his heart-but they are certainly not the kind of statements a dialogue activist would utter. Many have questioned the Vatican’s sincerity in seeking dialogue with Muslims, and many others have manipulated this issue to justify their opposition to all kinds of dialogue activities. If we are to try to find something positive to say about this speech, then it is a reminder that “dialogue” is needed today more than at any other time.
At this point, it is important to note that the motives for Muslims to engage in dialogue with non-Muslims have their roots embedded not in the recent past, but date back to the seventh century. Dialogue is not a civilized virtue of modern times, but rather a duty upon every Muslim, who is following the footsteps of the Prophet of Islam. Dialogue is not a temporary activity, but a way of living that spans a lifetime. In the very first days of his mission, the Prophet sought every possible means of communication with his fellow townsmen; despite fierce opposition and in the face of all kinds of dangers and threats, he was the one who took the first step and initiated “dialogue.” This attitude was not only limited to the Mecca period when Muslims were few in number and powerless to defend themselves. The Blessed Prophet sent aid to Mecca when his hometown was suffering a deadly famine; this happened when Muslims had won battles against Meccan pagans and the city state of Islam was laying its foundations more strongly than any other establishment in the Arabian Peninsula. It is also well known that the Prophet’s shield was in the custody of a Jew when he passed away; he never stopped making peaceful contacts with non Muslims.
Some of the articles in this issue focus on some significant concepts like tolerance, jihad, and dialogue between Muslims and Christians. The lead article shows believers how to respond to “. . . the coarsest thoughts and the crudest ideas, without losing our temper.” “Mildness is reminded in such situations we cannot tolerate, a kind of mildness presented in the Qur’an as “gentle words” which “is the result of a tender heart, a gentle approach, and mild behavior.”
Galymzhan Kirbassov analyzes Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” theory.
Studying interstate disputes during the post-Cold War period, his analysis proposes a qualitative result that conflicts occur more because of other reasons than civilizational differences. Evan Radford’s piece explores the Islamic concept of “jihad” that is highly unpopular in the West. Radford thinks this unpopularity is a result of misinformation; Westerners and some extremists have misinterpreted jihad and use this concept as a veil and as a means to legitimatize their politically motivated violent activities.