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Freedom of dress is part of our freedom of expression

Is it too much to suggest that at the heart of the Western manner of dress is a reverence for the face, and that this springs from a religious impulse?

By on Tuesday, 19 April 2011

PA.
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Pakistan France Veil
A supporter of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-i-Islami attends a rally to condemn the ban imposed on the burqa or veil in France (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

PA. 10565761 Pakistan France Veil A supporter of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-i-Islami attends a rally to condemn the ban imposed on the burqa or veil in France (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

I caught sight of a “burkini” the other day – that is a lady wearing what is supposed to be a sharia-compliant bathing costume. These costumes have not won universal approbation but this is Britain and we are a tolerant bunch, so if someone wants to wear a burkini, that is fine by most of us. And the same goes for the full face veil, the burka or the niqab.

There is very little chance that anyone will try to do here what has been done in France, namely ban the burka, as Andrew Gilligan points out in a very sensible article in the Sunday Telegraph.

On the whole it is best that governments do not decide what people can and cannot wear. Historically such legislation has often been aimed at the Catholic Church. Clerical dress is still illegal, for example, in Mexico, thanks to the anti-Catholic laws passed under president Plutarco Elias Calles.

If anyone should start a campaign to restrict the way Muslims dress in this country, then the Catholic Church should be vocal in its opposition.

However, this is not to say that the increasing use of the niqab should be a matter of indifference to us. Everyone knows that the way you dress is a sign of what you believe about yourself and your place in the world. It is certainly worth trying to understand what it is that veiled women are trying to tell us; it is remarkable that the politicians have, as Gilligan points out, not been interested in their views. It is also undeniable that the niqab and the burka are not Western dress.

But does non-Western mean anti-Western? And for that question to make sense, we need to work out what we mean by Western, and what exactly we mean by Western dress. After all, just as the Islamic world has its code of dress, so do we – though of course our dress code is not written down anywhere, and neither do we ever give it much thought.

The trouble with any talk of clothing is that it often degenerates into a row about public decency, without any discussion of the positive. Well, what is the positive point of Western dress?

We wear clothes, surely, to enhance our human dignity. And we never ever cover our faces as a matter of course, because the face is the sign of our individuality, an individuality that comes to us as a gift from the Creator. Indeed the face is called “human face divine” by the poet Milton. He counts the loss of it as the saddest thing inflicted on him by his blindness:

Thus with the year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer’s rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of Nature’s works to me expunged and rased,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
– Paradise Lost (bk. III, l. 40)

To show your face to others is to give them an insight into the glory of Creation. To damage the face is to deface the work of God. To be denied sight of the face is to be cut off from the cheerful ways of men – there is so much that is comforting in the sight of a happy face. Is it too much to suggest that at the heart of the Western manner of dress is a reverence for the face, and that this springs from a religious impulse?

The other thing that underlines the Western approach to dress is its individuality – an individuality that reflects the fact that we are all very different, one size most surely does not fit all, and that we like and enjoy being different from each other. That we do not have a uniform and that we do not want one is surely an ethical position. Freedom of dress is part of our freedom of expression – again, a freedom given to us by God.

  • Bwaj

    No it isn’t. In fact it isn’t even in the Qur’an – I’ve read it. It comes from Iran and Catholics should not be defending false religions whose members would behead us or blow us up.

  • John

    I’m sorry Father you are wrong with this. Islam is the utlimate heresy on this Earth, nothing they do should be defended. Opening Burquas is to invite Islam right in.

  • Ugly Fish

    Hmm, now what was it in scripture? Love your enemies… I don’t think that was conditional upon them agreeing to stop being your enemies. Remember the ones who would ‘behead us or blow us up’ aren’t in the majority and all of them are our neighbours.

    Yes they are wrong – bottom line. But don’t forget that those who take these garments for religious reasons (1. allowing that some may be coerced into it. and 2. Yes it is in the Qur’an – depending upon your interpretation of 24:30-31and 24:60 [by negative inferance] as two examples) are actually trying to do something that would be pleasing to their God. The only fault is that they do not know our God.

    Whilst I don’t agree with Islam and cannot condone the extremeist elements I do recognise that the large proportion of law abiding and peaceful muslims are simply seeking God where they think he is. If anything we should be praying for them to encounter the Lord in their lives and for their subsequent conversion and if that means treating them like our neighbours in the meantime and looking out for their rights then so be it. After all, we might just manage to act like the disciples of Christ that we profess to be – you never know, practicing what we preach make an impresson on someone.

    Or, you know, we could just carry on going to church every Sunday and wait patiently for the rapture. Like La-docia… (Rev 3:14 onwards)

  • Quareitur

    Fr. Lucie-Smith will fit right into the dhimmitude.

  • Anonymous

    Though we as Catholics view Islam as a false religion, the Catholic Church is still an advocate of religious freedom. PJP2 was a huge advocate. We have to remember that God created all humans with free will, that includes even freedom to not follow truth. Also the only true judge is God, therefore we as Catholics or anyone else is not any place to tell a person of another tradition what to wear. Any step towards God is still better than no step. Even if Islam is clearly not the wholeness of the truth, it it still is a step towards God. The Catechism states that we as Catholics believe that we have the fullness of the truth but it is important to recognize that other faith traditions have parts of the truth, thus they must be respected and tolerated.

  • Bwaj

    No it is not. It denies the divinity of Jesus, it denies Jesus is the Son of God Who is Lord, it denies the Holy Trinity and it denies the crucifixion of Jesus without which we would still be damned. It comes under 1 St. Jn:4.3. It is also because we hold the above beliefs Muslims are commanded to kill us – however, this would make us martyrs. It is not a case of ‘we as Catholics view Islam as a false religion’ – it is the true God Who says it. Other Christian religions have an element of truth – other religions do not. St. Paul warns us not to provoke God’s wrath by worshipping with false religions that is apostasy and idolatry. Following a certain religion is not even a step towards God read 1 St. Jn:4.3.

  • Bwaj

    There is no ‘Rapture’ – that is a Protestant heresy invented in the USA in the 1800s.
    When Our Lord returns as King it will be as the judge and every eye will Him – even those who pierced Him – as well as those who did not believe in Him.
    I do pray for those who follow other religions to be forgiven and converted – however, many Catholics and other Christians seem to be treating non-Christian religions as ‘equal religions’ or having a measure of the truth which they do not or being equal paths to salvation which they are not. Such a view would have been condemned by St. Peter and St. Paul as heresy and apostasy. Also Our Saviour does not say those who do not know the truth will be saved – He said they will be given a lesser punishment than those who know the truth (the Gospel) but refuse to do do it by preaching it to others and the most important message of the Gospel is to receive forgiveness and salvation a person must ‘”DO PENANCE”‘, believe in Him and be baptized.
    There are many Muslim majority countries which had originally belonged to Christians until we welcomed them in and when they were sufficient in number they took over them by force. Christians, especially, Catholics who refused to accept which is what is required under shar’iah law are persecuted and very often killed so become Martyrs.
    There are few ‘peaceful’ Muslims – you haven’t read the Qur’an which tells Muslims not to befriend Jews and Christians or they will be treated like us if they do (Qur’an:5.51ff). I am pleased some Muslims are peaceful but this is not because of what their book tells them like you seem to imply. The Qur’an says nothing about the Burka or the full face veil. Muslims are also told it is not a sin to lie to us with their lips telling us what we want to hear while believing the opposite in their hearts.
    Perhaps you should try going to Saudi Arabia or another Muslim majority country with a Bible, Prayer Book or Rosary? This was in zenit.org only this week. You’d be lucky if they were only confiscated and you are put on the next flight home.
    It sounds to me like you care more for the rights of those who follow a false religion than for Catholics and other Christians who have been shot or beheaded or hanged in Muslim majority countries? Why don’t you check out ‘Barnabas Fund’ and ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ – that might open your eyes.
    Ali Agca’s attacked the Pope because he was a Muslim Turk in the ‘gray wolves’ – he even threatened to shoot him in a letter he wrote in 1979 if the Holy Father visited Turkey.
    Our divine Saviour did not say He came to bring peace but ‘dissension’ between those who accept Him and those who reject Him. We must choose whether we believe Our Lord or not – if we do we can not say any other religion leads to God or has part of the truth because they don’t.

  • Bwaj

    I think by faith traditions you will find it means other Churches and Ecclesial (Christian) Communities.

  • Bwaj

    It is one thing to wear a head covering where the hair is covered but the whole face is visible – quite another to hide all the face apart from the eyes. Anyone who wishes to come to another country has to abide by it’s rules not the other way round as the PC brigade would have us do.

    ‘Muslim fanatics to burn effigies of royal couple and turn wedding into ‘a nightmare”
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1378527/Poppy-burning-Muslims-protesting-crusades-plan-demonstration-outside-Royal-Wedding.html

    ‘Al Qaeda deputy urges Muslim women to become ‘holy warriors’ to defy French ban on burqa’
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1298316/Al-Qaeda-deputy-urges-Muslim-women-holy-warriors-defy-French-ban-burqa.html

    ‘Britain is losing its battle against Islamic extremists… says French MP who banned the burqa’
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1320757/Jacques-Myard-Burqa-ban-French-MP-says-Britain-losing-battle-Islamic-extremists.html

    ”Wear a headscarf or we will kill you’: How the ‘London Taliban’ is threatening women and trying to ban gays in bid to impose sharia law’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377780/London-Taliban-targeting-women-gays-bid-impose-sharia-law.html

    ‘Veils thrown out of court’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-434279/Veils-thrown-court.html

    ‘Woman fined for erratic driving caused by niqab headscarf impairing her vision’
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1286485/Woman-fined-erratic-driving-niqab-headscarf-impairs-vision.html

    ‘Gunman disguised in burka and sunglasses robs cash courier’
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1273588/Gunman-dressed-burka-sunglasses-robs-cash-courier.html

    ‘Man dons burka to flee anti-terror police’ (9/10/2006) http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23370138-man-dons-burka-to-flee-anti-terror-police.do: ‘A man at the centre of an anti-terrorist hunt in Britain is alleged to have escaped capture by evading surveillance officers after disguising himself as a Muslim woman dressed in a burka.’

    ‘Man dons burka to flee anti-terror police’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-409376/Man-dons-burka-flee-anti-terror-police.html

    In St. Mtt:25.31-46 it is my own belief Our Saviour said He will judge people and nations on how they treat His brethren, the members of His Mystical Body, the Catholic Church.

  • Peter

    Who cares what women wear? It’s what they don’t wear that should concern us.

  • Christianfriendskenya

    Wearing a burqa pe se is not immora/sinful. What would be immoral/sinful is being FORCED to wear one if indeed as some claim the Koran does NOT demand or require it. This would simply be a diabolical oppression of women as is female circumcision. Others may wear or use the burqua to commit all manners of crimes. These are merely criminals in disguise and must be differentiated from the former.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Absolutley not!
    I reject dhimmitude completly, as I practice my faith as of right, and not as a privelege granted to me by any earthly power. I do not need anyone’s permission to believe, or to associate freely with other believers. The dhimmi status granted to Christians in the Ottoman Empire is sometimnes painted as “enlightened”. It was nothing of the sort.

  • Quareitur

    So why do you grovel for the supposed right of Muslims to bring their frankly vile and medieval barbaric religion and practice it to full, when Christians are slaughtered as flies in their lands?

    When was the last time you wrote an article on the righteous indignation, we should feel for Christians suffering under the tyranny of Mohammed’s followers? Or about the need to pray for the conversion of Muslims before they die and are judged by God?

  • Quareitur

    The sad thing is we have Catholic priests who who defend the rights of these people to do these outrageous things, in the name of ecumenism. I hear some Muslims are even overjoyed at the prospect of John Paul II being beatified, after his shameful capitulation in Damascus in 1993, where he asked St. John the baptist to “protect Islam”.

    Amazing that the Catholic church still survives it’s leaders and priests. I suppose that is proof that God hasn’t abandoned his church.

  • Anonymous

    PJP2 organized the largest gathering of religious leaders in Morocco in August of 1985 thousands of religious leaders across the world where he called for religious tolerance and for the exploration of respected faith traditions (in particular Islam since Morocco is a Muslim country). Moreover the Catechism of the Catholic Church was commissioned as well as written by PJP2, therefore he wouldn’t include in it anything that is contradictory to his previous messages on behalf of the Church. Thus respect for religious traditions include Islam.

    Also PJP2 wrote several encyclicals on Islam and the Muslim world they are available on the Vatican’s website.

  • Anonymous
  • DBMcGinnity

    Boy!, You would be great fun to be with on a Stag Night. Women care what they wear, and women are people. “It’s what they dont wear that should concern us”. Why is that a problem? Did you mean them wearing thongs or not wearing knickers, or something else?

  • Anonymous

    Not in tradition, but in terms of belief much is the same. As holy books they share the Old Testament, the Gospels (of which they believe to be derivatives of the ‘Original’ Gospel given to Jesus from God, and also the Psalms.

    That constitutes the Majority of the Christian Bible.

  • Bwaj

    Even Vatican II does not teach this – it says Muslims and Christians both believe in a single God – compared to Polytheists who worship many gods or Pantheists who worship nature – Pantheists. John Paul II had no right to say this nor to bow to the Qur’an and kiss it.

  • Bwaj

    No Paul, it is heretics who make such a stupid claim. Even Vatican II does not teach this – it says Muslims and Christians both believe in a single God – compared to Polytheists who worship many gods or Pantheists who worship nature – Pantheists. John Paul II had no right to say this nor to bow to the Qur’an and kiss it. In fact believing the rubbish you have just come out with is very probably the Apostasy foretold in the Scriptures which many ‘believers’ would fall into. The Qur’an tells Muslims that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jesus and the Apostles were Muslims not Jews which is nonsense as this religion was only created in the mid-7thc. AD. Muslims therefore do not believe in the Old Testament nor do they believe in the New Testament – there is no ‘original’ Gospel given to Jesus from God. If you believe this you are a heretic. There are four Gospels, coming to the Catholic Church, from Jesus Christ the Only-Begotten Son of God (St. Jn:3.16) Who being God the Word incarnate (St. Jn:1.1,14) is ‘God-with-us’ (Is:7.14
    St. Mtt:1.23) so is God therefore the Gospels came from Jesus, the living Word of God, Who is God to the Catholic Church by the blessed Apostles. These Scriptures tell us Jesus is Lord, God incarnate, Son of God and the Second Person of the Divine Trinity Who suffered and died on the Cross so our sins can be forgiven and Satan driven out. By His Resurrection we have been given new life. The ‘Gospel’ referred to by Muslims is a post-6th heretical work known as ‘The Gospel of Barnabas’. Our Scriptures, although not finally sealed until AD382, was more or less complete by AD100 (Read: Canon 85 of the ‘Canons of the Holy Apostles through Pope Clement’).

  • Greg Garda

    In the second Vatican councill this is clearly outline. And belief is part of tradition. Anythng the holy father does is justified because he is the sovergn head of the Church, and Jesus’ representative on earth. Kissing a Quran does not mean worshiping it, it simply shows respect towards a religious faith. And respect is what any faith deserves. You dont have to believe in it or accept it, but respected. Hence love thy enemies and the golden rule.

  • Saunders9

    True freedom of dress then allows one to wear nothing! Is there total freedom in anything? Is there freedom in Saudi Arabia to wear my rosary around my neck? Can I attend Mass in Pakistan without having my Church burnt down? French ban on the burkha? I think it’s pure common sense and I applaud it. We have to get our christian identity back. If these muslim type people want to wear that paraphernalia I suggest they go and live in a Muslim country where they fit in. I for one as catholic would never live in a muslim country because I don’t like that religion. I respect the muslim faith and I’m tolerant of it but personally believe the ban on the Burkha is a good thing. And by the way in my job I’m not allowed to wear a rosary around my neck but hey a burkha – go ahead. How this country has changed. Did that in a muslim country I would probably face the death penalty.

  • Anonymous

    As a Catholic I believe in the Bible in the way she interprets it, if I believed in the Bible as Muslims do I would convert to Islam, which is not something I am going to do. I also do not believe in an ‘original’ Gospel from Jesus, nor in any of the Torah.

    The point I am making is that in sharing many religious books there is a significant connection. Also in believing that Jesus received from God his ‘Gospel’ (which has been lost according to them), we can see the love and respect they have for Jesus as a prophet.

    I also think it is inappropriate accuse or suspect people of being heretics. God will be the judge of that. Lay out the facts and let one judge for themselves. In this case I believe you have interpreted what I am saying in the wrong way, I am not a heretic.

  • Quareitur

    “Anythng the holy father does is justified because he is the sovergn head of the Church, and Jesus’ representative on earth.”

    Just because someone is Pope does not mean every single action they do, is an inspiration of the holy spirit. God alone knows, that such thinking has got the Catholic church into deep proverbial. JP II’s actions towards the Koran were disastrous at best. In former times, there is no way such a pope would have been raised to the altars. Sadly now anything is possible.

  • Bwaj

    The Church belongs to Jesus Christ – the Pope is supposed to serve Him not seek popularity with others. Why don’t you read Gal:1.6-10 and 1 Cor:10.16-22 where we are warned not to provoke God’s wrath by worshipping with other religions? It is one thing to respect a human being – quite another to say I respect your religion which says Jesus is not God and commands it’s followers to behead, crucify or blow up my fellow believers because they believe in the Catholic Faith.

  • Bwaj

    I suggest you read the Bible – Jesus is God and He does not tell us to respect the false religion of others. Aren’t you forgetting the cleansing of the Temple?

  • Bwaj

    I will say again – Muslims do not believe our Gospels – they believe in a heretical false gospel called the Gospel of Barnabas, written in the late Middle Ages, after the Qur’an. It claims Our Lord denies being God or the Son of God and it says He was not crucified. Since 9/11 I have studied Muslims really believe as compared to what they tell us and compared to what Church leaders and politicians claim. Let me put this another way – even cardinals in the Vatican thought Pope JPII had gone too far with Islam. There are many things the Holy Father said and did I love but being accomodating towards other religions is not one of them. I am pleased you profess to be a Catholic. Muslims do not believe in Jesus as a prophet – they say Isa is a prophet but not the Son of God. In one sense they are correct. Isa according to some converts from Islam actually means Esau. They also believe Isa’s mother ‘Maryam’ was the sister of Moses and Aaron.

  • Bwaj

    It is not for me to judge Pope John Paul II as his intentions, although I believe they were in error, will have been well meant. Please don’t tell me Popes are always infallible on everything – that is what Protestants claim we (Catholics) believe – but we do not. A Pope is only infallible when making a pronouncement on faith and morals or when speaking ‘ex cathedra’.
    To make a decision ‘ex cathedra’ binding on all the faithful he would have to say those who do not hold to this belief are in danger of ‘spiritual shepwreck’ (or words equivalent to it). Please read: ‘Infallibility’ in ‘The Catholic Encyclopedia’. Nowhere did the Holy Father ever say this http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm#I
    What are binding on the faithful are the three Creeds and the Oecumenical Councils. Vatican II, Pope John XXIII said, was not a ‘dogmatic’ but ‘pastoral’ council. If every action and statement made by a Pope was infallible all male Catholics (and other Christians) would have to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses – remember in Galatians Chapter 3 St. Peter was corrected by St. Paul because he refused to sit with Gentile believers out of fear of the Jewish believers who said Gentiles could not be saved unless they were circumcised and accepted the Law of Moses? Did St. Peter not accept he had erred? So Papal infallibility does not apply to every act and every statement.

  • Bwaj

    In the ‘Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: Lumen Gentium’ http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html: ’17. As the Son was sent by the Father, so He too sent the Apostles, saying: “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world”. The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of the earth.Wherefore she makes the words of the Apostle her own: “Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel”, and continues unceasingly to send heralds of the Gospel until such time as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves continue the work of evangelizing. For the Church is compelled by the Holy Spirit to do her part that God’s plan may be fully realized, whereby He has constituted Christ as the source of salvation for the whole world. By the proclamation of the Gospel she prepares her hearers to receive and profess the faith. She gives them the dispositions necessary for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error and of idols and incorporates them in Christ so that through charity they may grow up into full maturity in Christ. Through her work, whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also cleansed, raised up and perfected unto the glory of God, the confusion of the devil and the happiness of man. The obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his state. Although, however, all the faithful can baptize, the priest alone can complete the building up of the Body in the eucharistic sacrifice. Thus are fulfilled the words of God, spoken through His prophet: “From the rising of the sun until the going down thereof my name is great among the gentiles, and in every place a clean oblation is sacrificed and offered up in my name”. In this way the Church both prays and labors in order that the entire world may become the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and that in Christ, the Head of all, all honor and glory may be rendered to the Creator and Father of the Universe.’

  • Bwaj

    ’19. The Lord Jesus, after praying to the Father, calling to Himself those whom He desired, appointed twelve to be with Him, and whom He would send to preach the Kingdom of God; and these apostles He formed after the manner of a college or a stable group, over which He placed Peter chosen from among them. He sent them first to the children of Israel and then to all nations, so that as sharers in His power they might make all peoples His disciples, and sanctify and govern them, and thus spread His Church, and by ministering to it under the guidance of the Lord, direct it all days even to the consummation of the world. And in this mission they were fully confirmed on the day of Pentecost in accordance with the Lord’s promise: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and even to the very ends of the earth”. And the apostles, by preaching the Gospel everywhere,(145) and it being accepted by their hearers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gather together the universal Church, which the Lord established on the apostles and built upon blessed Peter, their chief, Christ Jesus Himself being the supreme cornerstone.

    20. That divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles, will last until the end of the world, since the Gospel they are to teach is for all time the source of all life for the Church. And for this reason the apostles, appointed as rulers in this society, took care to appoint successors.

  • Bwaj

    I don’t accept what Pope John Paul II has said. As for what he said about Muslims worshipping the same God,which they don’t,even Muslims and the Qur’an states this. It is only moderate Muslims who claim they do and they are not recognized in the Qur’an which warns them not to befriend us (Christians and Jews) – see Sur’ah (Chapter) 5.51-57 so it can be said Muslims who sincerely would like to be friends with us are very brave. The Holy Father I believe said the opposite in his book ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’.

  • Bwaj

    I quote here: ‘A very different discussion, obviously, is the one that leads us to the synagogues and mosques, where those who worship the One God assemble. Yes, certainly it is a different case when we come to these great monotheistic religions, beginning with Islam. In the Declaration Nostra Aetate we read: “The Church also has a high regard for the Muslims, who worship one God, living and subsistent, merciful and omnipotent, the Creator of heaven and earth” (Nostra Aetate 3). As a result of their monotheism, believers in Allah are particularly close to us.

    I remember an event from my youth. In the convent of the Church of Saint Mark in Florence, we were looking at the frescoes by Fra Angelico. At a certain point a man joined us who, after sharing his admiration for the work of this great religious artist, immediately added: “But nothing can compare to our magnificent Muslim monotheism.” His statement did not prevent us from continuing the visit and the conversation in a friendly tone. It was on that occasion that I got a kind of first taste of the dialogue between Christianity and Islam, which we have tried to develop systematically in the post-conciliar period.

    Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside.

    Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.

    Nevertheless, the religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer. The image of believers in Allah who, without caring about time or place, fall to their knees and immerse themselves in prayer remains a model for all those who invoke the true God, in particular for those Christians who, having deserted their magnificent cathedrals, pray only a little or not at all.

    The Council has also called for the Church to have a dialogue with followers of the “Prophet,” and the Church has proceeded to do so. We read in Nostra Aetate: “Even if over the course of centuries Christians and Muslims have had more than a few dissensions and quarrels, this sacred Council now urges all to forget the past and to work toward mutual understanding as well as toward the preservation and promotion of social justice, moral welfare, peace, and freedom for the benefit of all mankind” (Nostra Aetate 3).

    From this point of view, as I have already mentioned, the meetings for prayer held at Assisi (especially that for peace in Bosnia, in 1993), certainly played a significant role. Also worthwhile were my meetings with the followers of Islam during my numerous apostolic trips to Africa and Asia, where sometimes, in a given country, the majority of the citizens were Muslims. Despite this, the Pope was welcomed with great hospitality and was listened to with similar graciousness.

    The trip I made to Morocco at the invitation of King Hassan II can certainly be defined as a historic event. It was not simply a courtesy visit, but an event of a truly pastoral nature. The encounter with the young people at Casablanca Stadium (1985) was unforgettable. The openness of the young people to the Pope’s words was striking when he spoke of faith in the one God. It was certainly an unprecedented event.

    Nevertheless, concrete difficulties are not lacking. In countries where fundamentalist movements come to power, human rights and the principle of religious freedom are unfortunately interpreted in a very one-sided way-religious freedom comes to mean freedom to impose on all citizens the “true religion.” In these countries the situation of Christians is sometimes terribly disturbing. Fundamentalist attitudes of this nature make reciprocal contacts very difficult. All the same, the Church remains always open to dialogue and cooperation.’ http://saif_w.tripod.com/interesting_articles/nonmuslims/the_pope_abt_islam.htm

  • Bwaj

    Even St. Peter erred but he too was a great Pope and is now a great saint so I do not believe the Holy Father’s errors regarding Islam mean he was not a great Pope on other issues of the Faith – especially, when defending explicit and implicit doctrines, dogmas, devotions and practises of the Catholic Faith which have been with the Catholic Church since the first or second century AD.

    I believe Our Saviour will have forgiven any error he made in good faith nor do I believe anything I have written should cause any doubts about his beatification. In fact as Ali Agca in 1979 wrote he would shoot the Holy Father if he came to Turkey and the Holy Father, although he was not killed, did suffer from his injuries I believe he is a Confessor who endured a white martyrdom.

    Agca said if the Holy Father came to Turkey he would shoot him because he was the leader of the Krusader (Catholic) religion sent by the west to prevent Turkey siding with powerful Muslim nations around the world. For those who are querying what I’ve written – ‘This Day in History’ on ‘The History Channel’
    for 13 May (1981) is where this information comes from. His 1979 letter, which they quote, says:
    ‘Western imperialists who are afraid of Turkey’s unity of political, military, and economic power with the brotherly Islamic countries are sending the Crusader Commander John Paul under the mask of a religious leader. If this ill-timed and meaningless visit is not called off, I will definitely shoot the pope. This is the only reason that I escaped from prison.’ http://www.history.co.uk/this-day-in-history/May-13.html;jsessionid=B9410E3F828903D3323CBE7F10FF06FF ‘The History Channel’ also tells us Agca was a member of ‘the gray wolves’ which is anti-Communist and when arrested in 1981 he said he alone was responsible for the attempted assasination of Pope JPII – i.e. there was no Communist link.

    This is my final word on this subject so I will not be answering any comments to what I have written.

  • Dcruz

    Muslims will have all the freedom and this will be their right according to the sharia law .

  • Bwaj

    From ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’.

  • Bwaj

    Not only did Our divine Saviour instruct us to pray for our enemies as well as those who hate us and forgive them but we had to go to them and preach the Truth – are we being truthful if we let them believe by following their false religions they will be saved and go to Heaven? No. In fact it also shows we don’t really believe our own Faith – if we did we would say with certainty everyone who does not accept Jesus and be baptized (or desire to be baptized) is condemned.

  • Bwaj

    I will clarify – it is quite another thing to say ‘I respect your religion which says Jesus is not God and commands it’s followers to behead, crucify or blow up my fellow believers (brother and sister Catholics) because they (like me) believe the Catholic Faith.’ I also believe every Christian who accepts the three Catholic Creeds is a potential Catholic.
    Perhaps ‘The Catholic Herald’ could publish online and in it’s paper the whole ‘Creed of St. Athanasius’.

  • Anonymous

    Bwaj I don’t think you understand what I am saying. All other belief systems apart from Christianity, from our (Christians’) point of view are heretical. Equally all other religions think the same of Christianity – that we are the heretics. That is the nature of having different religious beliefs.

    You really don’t need to point out to me the many ways in which they are ‘mislead’ because I don’t claim they have, or believe the truth. You cannot deny that some beliefs of the nature of God are shared. They believe in a singular God, they believe in the Old Testament and the believe Jesus was a great prophet.

    Do Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus or Atheists believe anything anywhere near as close as what Islam does to Christianity, not a patch! Do they share and of the same books, no. Do they believe Jesus was a prophet for God, no. Do they hold the Old Testament as one of their books, no.

    Simply in believing that Jesus received (I stress the word believe), a Gospel from God (although we believe otherwise), there should be great respect at least on superficial terms for parts of both religions. We could hardly call them ‘Christ haters’, or ‘Jesus deniers’ – as he is one of their holiest men – regardless of the truth of him bringing a Gospel.

  • Bwaj

    No they don’t. Muslims believe it was Ishmael not Isaac who was offered up by Abraham, they believe the Promise God made to Abraham will come through Ishmael not Isaac, they replace everything in the OT e.g. that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons, etc.,. were Muslims (even though Islam was not created until the 7thc. AD), not Jews and Israelites. I know this because I examined the Qur’an to see what Muslims are really taught – not the nonsense pro-Islamic appeasers come out with. According to the Qur’an Mary the Mother of Jesus was the sister of Moses and Aaron. The Qur’anic name for Jesus is Isau which some sources claim actually translates not as Jesus (or it’s Hebrew equivalent) but as Esau. Referring to the NT – they reject this entirely. They deny the Holy Trinity, they reject Jesus is the Only-Begotten Son of God, they deny Jesus is God and Lord, they deny He was crucified and therefore deny the Resurrection. They claim we are redeemed by works alone – following the Qur’an (which we aren’t) and if we refuse to convert to Islam Muslims should fight and kill us (Christians) until we either convert and accept Islam (which is explicit apostasy leading to damnation) or agree to pay the ‘jizya’ (‘poll tax’) acknowledging Islam to be the true religion then we will be allowed to practise our religion, however, is this any less a form of apostasy leading to damnation? It is claimed Jesus said explicitly He is not the Son of God and is not God (more nonsense coming from the ‘Injil’ (Gospel of St. Barnabas)). It is claimed in the Qur’an He forbade believers worshipping Him. More nonsense – St. Thomas called Jesus ‘”my Lord and my God”‘ (St. Jn:20.28) and before the Ascension the Apostles worshipped Our divine Lord (St. Mtt:28.17). St. Paul tells us everyone and every creature in Heaven, on earth and under the earth will proclaim Jesus ‘”Lord”‘ and bow before Him because it is God’s will (Phil:2.5-11). Those who opposed Him in life or rejected Him after having the Truth will still have to call Jesus God incarnate and Lord. They will also have to kneel before Him – but if they deny Him and die denying Him – they have sealed their own damnation. The Qur’an claims Jesus foretold the coming of Muhammad in the Gospels which He did not and that Muhammad would be ‘the seal of the prophets’. Nonsense. The last prophet was Jesus the Only-Begotten Son of God. No book can be added to divine Revelation after ‘The Book of Revelation’. Anyone who adds one forfeits his salvation. Yet the Qur’an claims to supersede and replace the OT and NT just as Islam claims to replace Christianity. Be very careful – other religions do not and never have had any truth in them no matter what Vatican II claims. Put another way God enlightens mankind not through other religions but through the natural law.

  • Bwaj

    Four Myths about the Crusades
    By Paul F. Crawford
    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=1562

  • Bwaj

    Four Myths about the Crusades
    By Paul F. Crawford
    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=1562

  • Anonymous

    John, as a Catholic you must respect freedom of religion. Freedom to believe what you want is a right we gain in living in a free country. If we deny this right to others, then we can hardly demand OUR freedom of religion in places where Christians are in the minority – such as in Pakistan where the Herald has covered religious persecution.

    Now I’m sure you don’t want to be a hypocrite John…

  • Anonymous

    Saunders9 You cannot complain of OUR lack of religious freedoms in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, whilst supporting the very same to a different religious minority here.

    Now I’m sure you don’t want to be a hypocrite Saunders9….

  • Anonymous

    I hope you do realize which newspaper your quoting

  • Anonymous

    ‘Christians are slaughtered as flies’ don’t be ridiculous please. Where? And how about the hundreds of thousands of Muslims killed in Iraq and Afghanistan – and then we complain about Islamic extremism, I call that making your own bed.

    For such a ‘frankly vile’ religion do you not find it odd that they have Jesus as one of their great prophets and share the Old Testament with us as one of their religious books.

    Now I’m sure you don’t want to be a hypocrite Quareitur…