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My friends back in the Middle East (Letter to Editor)

My friends back in the Middle East (Letter to Editor)

Author: Greg Kane
Publication: Irish Independent
Date: September 21, 2006
URL: http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=53&si=1691429&issue_id=14664&printer=1

I write in response to the recent over-reaction by Islamic clerics to the now controversial speech made by Pope Benedict during his visit to Bavaria.

I am an Irish citizen.

I suppose you could call me a lapsed Catholic.

Nevertheless, I am one who is interested in understanding the beliefs of others, as it helps us to live and do business with them.

My wife and I lived in the Middle East for six years from 1999 to 2005 and, as part of my work, I have visited all of the countries in the region with reasonable frequency.

I count many ordinary Muslims of both the Shia and Sunni traditions among my friends.

I am well acquainted with several Muslim scholars, one of whom has spent many years working on Christian-Muslim dialogue and spent several years working on the subject in the Vatican.

Like many others, over the past five years or so, I have been concerned by the question of "Islam and the sword" and over the past few years I have conducted an informal survey among followers of the Islamic and Christian faiths.

I can only request that you take my word for it, but when I've asked a Christian which item from the "story of the life of Jesus" he or she would like to have in his or her possession, they usually respond with one of a variety of items, along the lines of "a nail from the cross," "a thorn from the crown of thorns" and so on.

When I have asked followers of the Islamic tradition the same question, and, again, please take my word for it, I have asked at least 50 ordinary Muslims this question, they have responded, without exception with "The Sword of Mohammed."

One often hears Muslim clerics in the media explaining how Islam is a religion of peace.

This may well be, but based on the, albeit very informal data, which I have collected over the past three to four years, the importance, which ordinary Muslims attach to a symbol of violence at the core of their beliefs is quite telling.

On a final point, when Pope John Paul II was shot by a Muslim, to the best of my knowledge there were no riots in the streets of the western world.

No embassies of predominantly Muslim countries in western states were torched.

No products of Muslim countries were boycotted.

Greg Kane,
Dublin 11

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