We often hear about the radical statements and fatwás of Muslims and about uncompromising Christian or secular activists who can appeal to populist sentiments and mistrust of the ‘other’. A major problem is that they also often refer to religious texts, which pours oil on the fire of the feelings of those who believe that particular religions are opposed to their own. It becomes even worse when the media, and sometimes scholars, misinterpret statements and highlight the radical statements of Muslims or Christians without putting them in context or without showing that many Muslim and Christian religious scholars disagree with the beliefs of some of their co-religionists.
We should not neglect radical statements and beliefs, regardless of who expressed them, and we certainly must not if it turns out that there is a large constituency who finds them appealing. Radicalism should be fought especially by people from the same religion. Muslim scholars should oppose radicalism within Islam and Christian scholars should oppose radicalism within Christianity. Fortunately, there are hundreds of such scholars, both Muslim and Christian, who do so. Sadly, the media are much more focused on radicalism than those who are opposed to it. Not only is their attention often one-sided, it is also usually deeply biased. It is counterproductive to make generalizations about Muslims and their beliefs. It pushes Muslims onto the defensive instead of encouraging them to address radicalism in their own communities.
In this paper, which was written for the University of West Bohemia, Pilsen, Czech Republic, I highlight two Christian and two Muslim scholars who have influenced my outlook on Muslim-Christian relations:
- Jesuit priest Father Dr. Christiaan van Nispen tot Sevenaer s.j. (b. 1938)
- Azhar scholar Dr. ‘Abd al-Mu’tī Bayūmī (1940-2012)
- Comboni priest Fr. Dr. Giuseppe Scattolin (b. 1942)
- Azhar scholar Dr. Hassan Mohamed Wagieh (b. 1954)