Anglican-Muslim dialogue affirms religious freedom

 — Sept. 13, 200613 sept. 2006

The recent controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed has exposed a disagreement between Western secular democracies and the Muslim community over appropriate limits on public expression. Agreement on when or whether there should be limits on free speech remains elusive. Such an agreement appears to be developing between Anglicans and Muslims, at least if a report released today is accurate. In a dialogue meeting last week between delegates of the Anglican Communion and the Al-Azhar Al-Sharif Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions, the participants reportedly found consensus on the right to comprehensive religious freedom and on the related problem of limiting public expression.

Dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Muslim community occurs in a variety of places, much of it at the local level. At an international level, dialogue between the two communities is more difficult because there is no Muslim leader or authority that can speak on behalf of all Muslims. In the hope of building a basis for future dialogue, in 2002 the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar agreed to establish a dialogue. Al-Azhar is the premier Egyptian university and centre of Islamic scholarship. It is attached to the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. The mosque and the university were established in the 10th century CE. Al-Azhar is recognized in the Sunni Muslim community as an authority in Islamic jurisprudence. Al-Azhar has also formed a joint committee for dialogue with the Vatican.

During the recent dialogue meeting held September 2-3, 2006 at Al-Azhar, the delegates explored the theme of “Freedom of Religion and Respect for Sacred Religious Values.” The controversy caused by the Danish publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed highlighted the importance of respect for religious communities and their convictions. The dialogue agreed that both Islam and Christianity affirm that freedom of expression must be limited by respect for others. A communiqué issued by the dialogue participants indicates that they “explored together the circumstances in which it might be right for limitations on the freedom of expression to apply, and all accepted that there are issues which affect people where sensitivity is clearly needed, which negatively affect people’s feelings and beliefs.”

The dialogue also noted that the European Convention on Human Rights recognizes limitations on the freedom of expression for the good of the wider community. They called upon the United Nations to draw up a convention, modelled upon the European Convention, that would set out conditions under which Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights might be limited in respect for religious sensitivities.

The communiqué from the dialogue has been published by the Anglican Communion News Service. The dialogue committee plans to meet again in London in autumn 2007.

Posted: Sept. 13, 2006 • Permanent link:
Categories: Communiqué, Dialogue, NewsIn this article: Anglican, cartoon controversy, interfaith, Islam
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Catégorie : Communiqué, Dialogue, NewsDans cet article : Anglican, cartoon controversy, interfaith, Islam

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