Interreligious Dialogue with Islam: Counterproductive at Best

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Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb embrace during the International Meeting on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates (February 2, 2019).

This year marks the second anniversary of the Palm Sunday Massacres in Alexandria and Tanta, Egypt, which killed 47 Christians and left over 120 injured. Tens of thousands of Christians have been slaughtered since by Islamists and continue to be persecuted simply because they, in the eyes of the perpetrators,  do not submit to the will of Allah. Christians (Catholics, members of Orthodox churches, Protestants, and non-denominational communities) have looked onto the Catholic Church authority for intervention. Instead, they feel disillusioned, if not misled, by the interreligious meetings promoted by Pope Francis with the Islamic world, which have been part of his agenda since the outset of his pontificate. In 2014 for the first time in Vatican history, the pope allowed for the reading of Islamic prayers and Quranic readings as he met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Vatican City, a gathering designed to pray for Middle Eastern peace. Adding to the ambiguity was when Francis this past February co-signed with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the Document on Human Fraternity during his visit to the United Arab Emirates; it declared that “religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood;” — as if the Gospels incite, let alone command Christians to carry out violence.

Part of the tragedy in the Islamic world, which the interreligious dialogue has yet to have tackled, is that many laws are embedded in sharia law, which the religious body uses to exercise a quasi-absolute authority over the Muslim faithful. In this case, the punishment for apostasy is based on the hadith (teachings attributed to the Islamic prophet Mohammed), which states, “Whoever changes his [Islamic] religion, then kill him;” — this verse, incidentally, is used by Islamic adherents to kill Christians and non-Muslims. The Church’s present-day approach with the Islamic world, which advocates the uniformity of both Islam and Christianity in that both religious share the same Abrahamic faith tends to be  pretentious since Muslims ironically find such comparison offensive. The reason is that they deny the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: “They [Christians] have certainly blasphemed who say, Allah [God] is the Messiah, the son of Mary,” while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord:” for there is no God except one God Allah. They have certainly blasphemed who say, ‘Allah is the third of three’.”—Sura 5, 72

The Vatican has nevertheless equated the pope’s position, especially in light of his trip to the UAE and to Morocco in March, as with his encounters with the rest of the Islamic world, to St. Francis of Assisi’s voyage to Egypt in 1219, when St. Francis met the Sufi-inclined Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. The difference is that the saint’s purpose was conversion, not reciprocal “understanding.” One can concur that dialogue is to be sustained by the awareness that there are common values across cultures, because these values are rooted in human nature, such as the defense of the institution of the family, which is founded on marriage between male and female and opposition to abortion. The dialogue with Islam appears to have been counterproductive, at best, since it has yet to have succeeded in putting a halt to sharia observances in Muslims countries where non-Muslims are degraded and women are exploited as a man’s property.

When we claim that Christianity and Islam are similar to one another, as it seems to be, what we essentially do is give analytical priority to the classification of “religion” as constituted by the historical experiences of both Western and Eastern Europe. We can then conclude that there is a categorical equality in value between them that makes it significantly important to speak of Islam in paradigmatic terms of Christianity. If this is the case, we forebear to give sufficient attention to whether there are inherent, fundamental, or categorical qualities with regard to Christianity that render it essentially different from Islam, different to the point that it so severely diminishes the utility of the analytical classification of religion as a meaningful analysis for Christianity or any other religious entity. For example, with regard to the matter of equality between a man and a woman, Christian doctrine embraces the natural law principle that both are equal. In Islam, the supremacy of the religious law denies this equality. 

As a Catholic priest, I sought Holy Orders because of what our Lord Jesus Christ’s last command before returning to the Father: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This was not a request but a command to all of us who have been baptized in His name. 

As we begin Holy Week, let us call to mind those Christians who literally have to carry the burden of the Cross. Let us also reflect on what Jesus did. He did not dialogue with the Romans or the Sanhedrin—nor did He take the sword as the Prophet Muhammad did—which would have kept him from the torturous suffering He underwent on Good Friday. Rather, He stayed firm to the truth in order to bring the fullness of God’s peace and love to all. 

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I invite everyone to please take a look at my book Islam: Religion of Peace? The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up. Everything you wanted to know about Islam and what you can do to keep it from taking over our society is in this book! Check out some of the blurbs:

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Amid all the public discussion about the true nature and derivation of the global jihad threat, too little attention has been paid to the myriad ways in which Islamic law is actually not benign or good for individuals or societies, but in its pure form actively detrimental to the wellbeing of both. In this important book, Fr. Mario Alexis Portella illustrates how Sharia contravenes natural rights in numerous particulars, and causes whole classes of people (notably women and non-Muslims) lasting harm. All Catholic leaders engaged in “dialogue” with Muslims should prepare for that “dialogue” by reading and studying this book. — Robert Spencer, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad

“If you have friends or family members who still think Islam is a religion of peace, give them this book. Mario Portella delves into the Quran, Islamic law, and the history of Islam to show that hostility toward unbelievers, and violence against them, are constants in Islamic doctrine and practice. Find out what the West has let itself in for by allowing Muslim migrants in huge numbers to settle in Western countries — read Islam – Religion of Peace?: The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-up.” — Pamela Geller, author of Fatwa: Hunted In America and President of the American Freedom Defense Initiative

Rev. Mario shows us why we cannot give in to the pressures of political correctness by remaining silent in this struggle. We must shine a spotlight on extremists, recognize the challenges they pose, and fight back in the arena of ideas. — Rev. Majed El Shafie, President & Founder, OFWI.org

The new millennium ushered in a new era filled with attacks orchestrated by radical Islamists targeting our civilization. Because of the sophisticated social media methods adapted and eloquently used by the Jihadists, the brutality that the Eastern Christians endured for 14 centuries was put on display for the world to see. This savagery encouraged many Muslims to leave their faith and become secular, creating a new space for real teaching and real dialogue. This book and the message it shares is a must-read by all who are prepared to have an earnest conversation. — Juliana Taimoorazy – Founder and President of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council

Book is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07J1ML98C?pf_rd_p=1581d9f4-062f-453c-b69e-0f3e00ba2652&pf_rd_r=7MVXB3SKWVH14KCCHN0F

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/islam-mario-alexis-portella/1129630361?ean=9781973635550

WestBow Press: https://www.westbowpress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001168034