The Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Azhar University want to shake hands with the new Pope Francis. One of the first pledges he has made is to embrace interfaith dialogue with the Muslim world. Will he become the latest dupe of the “moderate” Islamists?
Pope Francis is a critic of Pope Benedict’s 2006 speech in Germany where he quoted a Byzantine Emperor that said “show me just what Mohammed brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
It caused a rupture in relations between Muslim authorities and the Vatican, with almost 40 Muslim scholars signing a letter of protest. Five churches were attacked in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reinforcing the negative depiction of their religion that they were so offended by.
Pope Benedict said he was “deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims” and “These were in fact a quotation from a Medieval text which do not in any way express my personal thought.” It fell short of the direct apology that was demanded.
He tried to make amends by praying inside Turkey’s Blue Mosque and visiting Jordan in 2009, where he reflected upon the “common history” of the Abrahamic religions. He visited more mosques than any other pope, entering twice as many as his predecessor.
Pope Benedict’s reaction to the killing of 23 Egyptian Coptic Christians in a church bombing in 2011 was the last straw for Al-Azhar University. His offense was demanding that Muslim countries do more to protect non-Muslim minorities. Al-Azhar University suspended its dialogue with the Vatican because of his “repeated treatment of Islam in a negative way.”
Now, Al-Azhar University and the Muslim Brotherhood are reaching out to Pope Francis for a fresh start. The International Union of Muslim Scholars, a body led by Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, said it is ready to engage the Vatican.
“We will work together for an integrated system of moral values and we will remain united to fight injustice, corruption and violations of human dignity in the world,” the Islamist group said.
As is often the case with Islamist interfaith outreach, there is a political objective. The Union emphasized, “We will remain united in defending the legitimate rights of the Palestinian and Syrian populations.” Qaradawi has previously shown his commitment to genuine dialogue by refusing to participate in interfaith events that include Israelis.
Pope Francis needs to know who is trying to become his interfaith liaisons. Qaradawi has also said that meetings with Christians are a “waste of time” because “they do not recognize Muslims and say that Muhammad…is dishonest and that he created [the] Koran and attributed it to himself.” On the other hand, Qaradawi views Islam as tolerant because “Muslims recognize Christianity, Jesus Christ, and his book and religion.” He also demands an apology for the Crusades, as if Islam’s history is absent of blemishes.
In other words, Christians are unreasonable because they don’t worship Mohammed. Islam is tolerant because it includes Jesus, even though it denies the central tenets of what Christians believe about him. What Qaradawi is advocating isn’t true interfaith dialogue. It is dawaa and a form of jihad.
Qaradawi’s dawaa-disguised-as-interfaith was on display in a speech he gave in Egypt in February 2011. He assured the Coptic Christians that the Brotherhood wishes them no harm. Then, he tried to lead everyone in Islamic prayer—including the Christian attendees.
The Muslim Brotherhood condemns anti-Christian violence by more hardline Salafists and points to it as proof of its “moderate” credentials. Every time the Islamists offer to protect Christians, they are actually advocating for an Islamic State. In such a state, Christians are protected if they pay the jizya tax. Egyptian President Morsi reportedly said that once Egypt becomes a Sharia state, Christians will have three choices: Convert to Islam, leave or pay thejizya.
A professor at Al-Azhar University, Dr. Mahmoud Shu’ban, said the same thing. He stated, “If non-Muslims were to learn the meaning of ‘jizya,’ they would ask for it to be applied—and we will apply it, just like Islam commands us to.”
Pope Francis should also be aware of how the Islamists plan to restrain Christianity. The Sharia-instituting Egyptian constitution says that “insulting prophets and messengers is forbidden.” This prevents non-Muslims from criticizing Islam when discussing their beliefs.
With Sharia as the law of the land, Christians can even be prosecuted for “blasphemy” for simply proclaiming their faith. Islamist judges can cite Sura 5:72 that says, “They do blaspheme who say: (Allah) is Christ the son of Mary” or Sura 5:73 that says, “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah.”
These same Islamists who talk of friendship between Christians and Muslims want to kill any Muslim who leaves the faith. Recently, Qaradawi frankly admitted, “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn’t exist today.”
Christians are also threatened by Islamists for standing against the creation of a Sharia state. The previously-mentioned Dr. Mahmoud Shu’ban of Al-Azhar University approves of the murder of Egyptian opposition figures (Muslim and non-Muslim) that dare to oppose the Muslim Brotherhood.
Brotherhood cleric Wagdy Ghoneim, who preached at rallies for Morsi during the presidential campaign, sounds like a pleasant interfaith partner when he says to Coptic Christians, “Respect yourselves and live with us and we will protect you…when you live in my country, it is forbidden for me to be unjust to you…” Then, he finishes with “but that doesn’t mean we are equal. No, no, no.”
He also warns Christians that their protection comes with conditions. He warned, “if you conspire and unite with the remnants [opposition] to bring Morsi down, that will be another matter…our red line is the legitimacy of Dr. Muhammad Morsi. Whoever splashes water on it, we will splash blood on him.”
The Pope and other Christian leaders must not be lulled into a false sense of security by the smooth semantics of the Islamists.
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.