A Common Word Between Us And You

Evaluating the Muslim Open Letter

On 12 September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a speech at the University of Regensburg which also contained some comments on Islam that elicited protests by Muslims from around the world, see the Wikipedia article Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy. It is no surprise that Muslim leaders came to the conviction that public critique of Islam from such a high-ranking and influential person needed a public response. On October 12, 2006, 38 top Muslim scholars and clerics, published an Open Letter to the Pope (cf. this response). On October 11, 2007, one year after the release of the open letter to the Pope, a larger group of 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals sent another open letter, entitled A Common Word Between Us and You, to Pope Benedict and the leaders of other Christian denominations.

This latter declaration has received responses from many people and institutions. The most highly publicised response was written by a group of four academics from the University of Yale, entitled Loving God and Neighbor Together. This response has been endorsed by over 300 Christian leaders from around the world. But it has also received a good measure of critique.

The Muslim letter, A Common Word Between Us and You, is a carefully crafted document, containing subtlety that is not easily detected, and some statements may mean something different than they appear to say at first glance. It is a large document which cannot be evaluated in only a few paragraphs. In the following, we present links to comments and evaluations of both the Muslim open letter as well as the Yale response. These links are mostly of a critical nature since we feel that a counterbalance and deeper reflection is needed to the often uncritical praise and support of these documents. The first entries in the two lists of responses are carefully written comprehensive replies, the latter entries are postings on blogs that pick out one or two issues that they are commenting upon. On the blog postings, sometimes the discussion that comes after the blog entry is valuable as well.

Responses, evaluations, questions and comments on the Muslim letter:

Responses, evaluations, questions and comments on the letter from Yale:

More reflections on "A Common Word" and some further actions (e.g. the Muslim Christmas Greeting) and reactions:

The group at Yale and some of the signatories to that letter have responded to a few of the points of critique that have been raised against the Yale response. I am not convinced by most of these arguments. However, to be fair, and to make it easy for the readers to see all the pro and contra arguments in this discussion, in the following I am presenting a list of those that I am aware of. Again, many of these answers are found on blogs, and the comments on them are occasionally interesting as well.

If our readers know of further articles analyzing or responding to the Muslim open letter "A Common Word ..." or any of the Christian responses which would be valuable to be added to this page, I would be grateful to be informed about them.

Jochen Katz

Further developments

A letter of 144 Christians (including 77 former Muslims) was sent to the Pope at the occasion of the Catholic-Muslimm dialogue meeting in Rome:
Original letter in French, English reports about it on Asia News and Jihad Watch.

On 25 February 2008, a Muslim open letter to the Jews was published. It is reported in a number of newspapers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.), but hardly anyone gives the actual text of the letter. The letter and more background can be found at the Woolf Institute.

A Common What? — Yale hosts a Christian-Muslim "reconciliation" conference--behind closed doors. (Wallstreet Journal, 16 November 2008)
Western Christian Dhimmitude Versus Islamic Intransigence (reflecting on the above article).

Responses to declarations issued at follow-up dialogue meetings:

Muslim Letters
Answering Islam Home Page