A conversation on why Catholics need to dialogue with Muslims

Pope Francis accepts a program from Iman Khalid Latif, executive director of the Islamic Center and chaplain to students at New York University, during an interreligious gathering at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York. (CNS photo/Ray Stubblebine, pool)

“It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God,” Pope Francis said early in his pontificate. “But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people.”

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Many U.S. Catholics have not only ignored their Muslim brothers and sisters but harbor discriminatory views about Muslims at alarming rates.

Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, “a multi-year research project that connects the academic study of Islamophobia with the public square,” released a report in 2016 that documented how U.S. Catholics view Muslims. America’s national correspondent, Michael O’Loughlin, reported then:

When asked, “What is your overall impression of Muslims?” 30 percent of those Catholics polled said they held unfavorable views, 14 percent said favorable and 45 percent said they held neither favorable nor unfavorable views... Forty-five percent of Catholics said that Islam encourages violence more than other religions while 24 percent said it encourages violence as much as other religions.

Jordan Denari Duffner, an associate at the Bridge Initiative and author of the new book, Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic, joins us on this week’s episode of Jesuitical. Jordan discusses why she felt called to work in Catholic-Islamic dialogue, and why it’s an essential part of the Christian vocation.

In Signs of the Times, we discuss President Trump’s invocation of dreamers in his State of the Union address, and a Chicago priest who is on hunger strike in support of DACA recipients. We also provide an update on Pope Francis’ handling of allegations of sexual abuse in Chile, a rise in demonic activity and a limb of St. Francis Xavier making a road trip across Canada.

Links from the show:

Undocumented Loyola Medical Student to Join Durbin at State of the Union
Chicago priest pledges hunger strike to support ‘Dreamers
Pope Francis sends special prosecutor to Chile to investigate charges against Bishop Barros
Couple, married 70 years, renew vows—this time in church
St. Francis Xavier’s severed arm to visit Calgary in relic pilgrimage
Irish priest asks for back-up as demand for exorcisms rises ‘exponentially’

What’s on tap?

Hot Toddy
1 cup of tea
Whiskey (feel free to eyeball the amount)

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
2 weeks 6 days ago

Does the author believe that in order for a conversation to take place between a Muslim and a Catholic there has to be honest dialogue?

That would require that each tell the other what their religion believes and preaches. Will a Muslim agree to this?

Reyanna Rice
2 weeks 5 days ago

How many Muslims have you met to ask such a question? I find I could ask how many Catholics would agree to having someone from any other religion, even another Christian, tell them what they believe and preach. Catholics do not have the corner on open mindedness market. In some cases Catholics can be very closed minded.

Dionys Murphy
2 weeks 5 days ago

"That would require that each tell the other what their religion believes and preaches. Will a Muslim agree to this?"

The vast majority of Muslims are good, honest, kind, loving people. The answer to your disturbingly weighted and subtly racist question is, "yes." Perhaps you should learn from Muslims and try to be direct and honest about your own racism and bias instead of trying to cloak it in dishonest questions.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 5 days ago

Do you know what Islam preaches? Have you read the Quran? Have you read the Hadith?

Every time you use an ad hominem you say your own comments and arguments are specious. So I again as always thank you for agreeing with me.

Dionys Murphy
2 weeks 5 days ago

"Do you know what Islam preaches? Have you read the Quran? Have you read the Hadith?"

Yes, in Arabic. With context. As well as the history that informs which sects follow which Hadith and why. The same way that I was taught by the Church to read and understand the Bible. In the original languages, in socio-historical and theological context.

It is plain that what you have done is what is typical of the neo-'Evangelical' trash that doesn't bother to understand the deeper truth of any particular position. You've read it at best in English translation, without context and being sold to you with a particular, anti-Muslim bias that has turned Muslims into the new whipping boy of people such as yourself who pretend to be Christian but who don't follow the teachings or example of Christ, but instead try to sell a position of being holier-than-thou through putting others down without understanding even their basic humanity.

Shame on you.

Dionys Murphy
2 weeks 5 days ago

I'll even give you a pertinent example. The thing that you were likely trying to cowardly make a hint at that's often being sold by the neo-'Evangelicals' as proof that Muslims are 'bad' is the idea of "taqiyya." Perhaps if you weren't such a coward or some part of you didn't suspect that it was neo-'evangelica' propaganda, you would have named it outright instead of trying to sneakily hint at it.

Taqiyya is said, by the neo-'evangelicals,' to give permission to Musims to lie to people. The implication, for whatever reason, is that Christians don't lie (which is ridiculous at best and ironic given that what they say about Taqiyya is an outright lie). The implication is that you cannot trust what a Muslim says, even though there is a great deal in the Quran and Hadith about truth being a cornerstone of Islam and requirements regarding telling the truth.

Taqiyya in context says one thing to a particular sect of Islam. It says that if someone is threatening your life (trying to convert you at the point of a sword, as was often done by Christians to Muslims and Jews for many centuries), you may lie in that moment about being a Muslim without theological consequences. But that is the only time it is allowed -- when someone is saying, "I will kill you if you say you are a Muslim."

The real lie comes from people like you and the neo-'evangelicals' who claim it means Muslims can, and by implication do, lie all the time about everything. Irony at its best. Liars lying about other people lying.

Shameful.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 5 days ago

I rely on Jesuits whose native language is Arabic and ex Muslims whose native language is Arabic..

But again your personal attacks belie anything you say.

Ysais Martinez
2 weeks 5 days ago

Islam is the fastest growing religion because it cuts through the brokenness of the post-modern world: First Islam doesn't water down its doctrines. It gives it to the people without sugar coating. Such simplicity and straight forward is a clear advantage to the confusion and watered down Catholicism predominant in the culture. Oh, by the way, I am not dividing the church into left and right wing. Our church is not an American political party. What I mean is that the Church has decided to dance a tango with the culture and it ain't working. Islam fiercely refuses to dance such tango. Second, the resilience of Muslims when political, social, and cultural actors want to suffocate it is admirable. I recently read how Ataturk tried to drown Islam in Turkey --through democratic means-- yet pious Muslims resisted and today one can say pious Muslims are victorious in Turkey. Thanks to the leadership of president Erdogan who understands that 14 centuries of tradition cannot be thrown to the garbage for the fads of the moment. We have a lot to learn from Muslims: piety, resilience, respect for traditions, and a simplicity in the delivery of the message.

john _john
2 weeks 4 days ago

We have a lot to learn from Muslims: piety, resilience, respect for traditions, and a simplicity in the delivery of the message. That's a big bull!! Almost every religion, when they are dominant, is the same; hypocrisy!! You need to live in country where these people are in majority and feel what you call 'piety'!!

Tim Donovan
2 weeks 4 days ago

I'm acquainted with several Muslims (one of whom was my supervisor at work) and in my experience they are decent, reasonable people. Some years ago I read an interesting book, "A Short History of Islam," which provided a compelling case for the essentially peaceful teachings of the faith . Of course, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a notable exception, as a terrorist group. However, it's my understanding that many Muslim scholars have denounced ISIS as having seriously distorted the teachings of Islam to (wrongly) justify violence in the name of God.
I certainly don't claim to be knowledgeable about the intricacies of Islam. However, it's my understanding that some predominantly Muslim nations which follow sharia law permit no religious freedom. I will gladly accept correction from someone more well-informed, but I understand that in Saudi Arabia only Muslims can erect houses of worship and practice their faith. I believe that Christians, Jews, and people of other religions can be legally punished for attempting to practice their faith, even in the privacy of their home. Clearly, such a practice is reminiscent of our Church and many other Christian churches in past centuries ( or in some predominantly Catholic countries in the twentieth century, whose laws have been generally amended so that Catholicism is no longer the official state religion). One person who posted expressed some admiration for Muslims who often resist the influence of modern Western cu lture, and I agree that while our culture is worthwhile in many, if not most, respects (democratic principles, etc.) that in the past 50 or so years a number of practices that in my view are immoral are now largely tolerated, even defended as "rights." These include the legal right to the violence of abortion, and the common acceptance of cohabitation, as well as same-sex marriage. I might point out as another person remarked that our Church isn't a political party, so it's ultimately not a matter of being liberal or conservative. In point of fact, I' m politically fairly liberal. I oppose capital punishment, support stringent gun control laws, and support reasonable laws and regulations to protect our environment from degradation. I also support reasonable government assistance to the millions of Americans in need. These include among other people those who are disabled (I'm a retired Special Education teacher), homeless, elderly, mentally ill, veterans, people who are addicted to drugs, and those who are seriously ill. I also support humanitarian assistance for impoverished nations, and oppose unfair, disproportionate tax cuts for the wealthy. I favor war only as a last resort once all vigorous diplomatic efforts have been exhausted, and civilians must never be deliberately targeted. Also, I agree with the teachings of recent popes, especially Pope Francis, that nuclear weapons must never be used. Regarding gay marriage: I readily admit to being an imperfect gay Catholic. Years ago, I had sex with men, and because I regretted this behavior, I received forgiveness and consolation through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I do have a gay friend, whom I talk to occasionally on the telephone (he doesn't drive, and for health reasons I haven't driven in several years). I agree with the Church that gay people should be treated with respect and compassion, and not be the subject of violence. (I very well remember being taunted as a youth fairly frequently being called a faggot). In a similar sense, I think that as a group Muslims shouldn't be demonized.

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