Al-Azhar Comes to the Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church will host a “Christian-Muslim Summit,” March 1-3, 2010.

Four main speakers and twenty other participants will attend what the cathedral call a "gathering of high-ranking Christian and Muslim leaders for a candid discussion of matters affecting Christian-Muslim relations and peacemaking efforts worldwide." But if this summit is true to form and like all such past events, it will just be another exercise in dhimmitude for most, if not all, of the Christian participants. They will fall all over themselves in their efforts to be inoffensive to Islam.

On a website page decorated with Islamic/Arabic art, the participants of the summit are introduced in the typically self-important tones which the National Cathedral reserves for interfaith events. "The Principals," include two Muslims, Professor Dr. Ahmad Mohamed El Tayeb, president of Al-Azhar University in Cairo and Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad Ahmadabadi, professor of law at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran (once known as the National University of Iran, now "Martyr University"). Al-Azhar, the home to such interesting fatwas as death to apostates who leave Islam and approval of adult suckling, was recently referred to by President Barack Obama as "a beacon of Islamic learning."

His Eminence Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and ultra-liberal John Bryson Chane, D.D., the Episcopal Church’s bishop of Washington are the Christian "Principals" in the summit. There is some hope that Cardinal Tauran will show the same courageous and forthright spirit that he showed when he criticized the Archbishop of Canterbury for suggesting that some aspects of Shari’a in Britain were unavoidable. In another interview he declared the world to be "obsessed with Islam" and said that obsession was "holding Christian dialogue hostage."

Besides "The Principals" there are other participants, referred to as "The Twenty," including eight other Muslims along with Anglicans/Episcopalians, Catholics, and two Jewish observers. Among the Muslim participants, there are three others from Al-Azhar University, Prof. Dr. Mohamed Abdel Fadil M. Abdel Aziz, the Vice President, and two women professors. All of the Muslim participants in the summit are considered "moderate." But even a little research raises questions about the truth of their commitment to peace and religious freedom as we in America would define these concepts.

The summit hopes to "influence governments to promote peace and reconciliation efforts worldwide." But the description of the summit on the National Cathedral’s website does not take seriously the differences between Christianity and Islam. It portrays them as morally equivalent.

"These initiatives must be taken," the cathedral urges, "to engage leaders across faiths and nations in the search for what Jesus called "the Peace of God that passes all understanding" and what the Qur’an teaches: "O ye who believe! Enter into Peace whole-heartedly" (Surah 2:208).

Well, it was actually St. Paul, and not Jesus, that spoke of "the peace of God that passes all understanding," (Philippians 4: 7). Jesus offered His peace in John 14: 27, which he contrasted to the peace offered by the world. But one can forgive the National Cathedral for the error since they don’t quote the Bible too often.

In their desperate efforts to find a verse from the Koran that sounds amenable to religious freedom, the National Cathedral summit organizers either made a deliberate omission, or were ignorant of the fact, that when Surah 2: 208 speaks of "ye who believe," the believers do not include non-Muslims. "Enter into Peace" it says. It’s that tricky "peace" as in "Religion of Peace" that really means "submission" to Islam. Ironically, the very verse that they use to justify a Christian-Muslim summit undermines and contradicts the whole premise.

The March 1-3 summit will consist of private meetings, ending with a Wednesday evening public dialogue between the participants. The dialogue, moderated by Washington Post associate editor David Ignatius, is only open to invited guests and to selected members of the media.

But just as in 2006, when the cathedral hosted the former president of Iran, Sayyid Mohammed Khatami, the far side of the street across from the cathedral should be lined with Iranian Americans, and this time with Coptic Americans, Pakistani Christians, and others who have been marginalized by Islamist regimes, as well. At the 2006 event, hundreds of Iranian Americans and other advocates for freedom and democracy in Iran carried flags, banners, and posters. Some posters featured photos of young Iranian

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