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Blog Spotlight: “Dhimmi Watch” reports on two views from church leaders re: Islam

May 20, 2007

Dhimmi Watch posts this report, “Bishop suggests closer monitoring of mosques,” from swissinfo. An excerpt:

One of the Catholic Church’s leading experts on Islam says the Swiss authorities need to keep a closer eye on the country’s mosques.

Pierre Bürcher, assistant bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, tells swissinfo it is what goes on inside mosques rather than the construction of minarets that poses a greater threat to peace.


swissinfo: You say that relations are improving at a religious level. But aren’t they constantly being undermined by global political events?

P.B.: Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is a major challenge at the start of the 21st century and in recent decades the Catholic Church has made a priority of establishing contacts with other religions. Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II have said this dialogue is vital for the future of our society.

At a political level, both at home and abroad in Iran and Syria, we have always been well received by the various authorities. The difficulties stem from a very small extremist fringe, which poses enormous problems but does not represent true Islam.

swissinfo: Christians in some Middle East countries do not enjoy anything like the same religious freedoms as Muslims in Switzerland. Was there any indication during your visits to the region that this might eventually change?

P.B.: Fortunately in Switzerland we have freedom of religion and worship; in other countries the situation is somewhat different. If you take some Gulf states, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Christians are free to worship and it is often the emirs themselves who provide land for the construction of a church.

But in Saudi Arabia there is neither freedom of religion nor worship, yet there are many Christians who live and work there. I hope the day will come when it will be possible for Christians to worship in Saudi Arabia. We need to continue to put pressure on the Muslim authorities and the Saudi government for this to change.

At the same time we now have this initiative in Switzerland against the construction of minarets, which shows there is a certain amount of extremism here as well.

We need to learn how to live with each other, otherwise we will run into major problems.

swissinfo: Indeed, this initiative is clearly a reaction to the spread of Islam and Islamic law in Switzerland. Where does the Catholic Church stand on this issue?

P.B.: It is essential that we respect the laws laid down in Switzerland and we cannot allow them to be fundamentally undermined by another way of thinking, such as sharia law.

It’s true that the minaret is a symbol for Muslims but it is not an essential part of a mosque and we should not get fixated on it. What goes on inside a mosque is much more important, because it’s there that the Koran is taught and where you can have people stepping out of line. It is in this place of worship that the khutba [Islamic sermon], which is often politicised, and all the anti-Western or even terrorist teaching can take place.

Do the authorities really know what is going on and whether it is legal? This seems far more important to me than whether you can build a minaret or not.

swissinfo: So you’re saying the authorities need to keep a closer eye on what’s going on inside mosques in Switzerland?

P.B.: Yes, because one needs to be aware that in Muslim tradition, politics, culture, society and religion are all entwined. We are touching here on a fundamental difference between two religious concepts and the slightest tolerance in this domain will be extremely damaging for peace and co-existence. It is because of this that mosques in many Muslim countries are coming under increased surveillance and the khutba is always monitored.

Robert Spencer comments:

Anti-dhimmitude from the assistant bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, although of course he knows that the jihadists “don’t represent true Islam,” while also noting that trouble seems to arise when “the Koran is taught.” In any case, it remains a pity that those who, according to virtually everyone, represent true Islam seem to have left the intellectual and theological field within Islam to those who don’t.

And then this report, “Jesuit discusses Christian appreciation for Islam’s prophet Mohammed,” from Catholic News Service. An excerpt:

While Christians cannot share Muslims’ faith in Mohammed as the last and greatest prophet, “Christians must decisively distance themselves from every insult against Mohammed and, in addition, must try to recognize and appreciate his exceptional historic personality, his role as founder of Islam and the extraordinary place he occupies in the faith, piety and religious thought of Muslims,” Father Troll said.

True respect for Muslims and for their faith, he said, requires Christians to “investigate that which in the life and teaching of Mohammed is acceptable or even exemplary and admirable for Christians, but also those aspects of his life and teaching that, from the point of view of Christian faith, would seem problematic and unacceptable.”

Greg at Dhimmi Watch opines:

One expects that Fr Troll and the Vatican are trying to be diplomatic. That’s fine, but what comes across is an uncritical attitude of appeasement – as is by now commonplace. There is no reason to insult Islam or Muslims, but, from a Christian point of view, it would seem appropriate to keep in mind the countless martyrs who met their end at the hands of Muslims, the centuries of jihad that turned Christian North Africa, the Holy Land, and Turkey into Islamic tyrannies, and the Islamic mandate to conquer Christian civilization. Perhaps this is what Fr Troll means by the “problematic and unacceptable” aspects of Islam?

and in the Comments section, Hugh Fitzgerald, also of Dhimmi Watch, presents this test:

Choose One View that better reflects reality:

That of

Pierre Burcher, assistant bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg

Or that of

Father Christian Troll, “professor of Islam and of Muslim-Christian relations at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, Germany.”


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