News in Brief: Christian Scholars Apologize for Crusades
- Christian Scholars Apologize for Crusades
Tue. Nov. 27, 2007
CAIRO Reciprocating a goodwill gesture by 138 Muslim
scholars, more than 300 Christian scholars and
clergymen from across the globe have signed a letter
apologizing to Muslims for the Crusades and the
repercussions of America's so-called war on terror.
"We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past
(e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in
excesses of the war on terror) many Christians have
been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors,"
says the letter made available to the press at a news
conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday, November 26.
"Before we 'shake your hand' in responding to your
letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and
of the Muslim community around the world," added the
"Loving God and Neighbor Together" letter.
The Crusades were a series of military conflicts of a
religious character waged by much of Christian Europe
during 10951291, most of which were sanctioned by the
Pope of the Roman Catholic Church to originally
capture Al-Quds from Muslim rule.
The Vatican has never apologized for the Christian
"It is an unprecedented gesture to bridge the gap
between Muslims and Christians, who make up 55 percent
of the world's population," Muslim preacher Al-Habib
Ali Al-Jafri told the press conference.
Early October, 138 Muslim scholars and dignitaries,
including Jafri, sent a letter to the world's
Christian clergy, including Pope Benedict XVI, for
dialogue based on common essentials between Islam and
The call has already won plaudits from many
non-Catholic leaders, including Anglican Archbishop of
Canterbury Rowan Williams, Lutheran World Federation
head Bishop Mark Hanson, World Council of Churches
head Rev.Samuel Kobia and US Presbyterian Church head
Roman Catholic cardinals said Sunday, November 25, the
Vatican will have a positive response in the near
Actions not Words
The signatories of the new letter, mostly clergymen
from the United States, said they were deeply
"encouraged" and "challenged" by the Muslim letter.
"We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of
conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians
world-wide," they wrote.
"In this response we extend our own Christian hand in
return, so that together with all other human beings
we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love
God and our neighbors."
Miroslav Volf, founder and director of the Yale Center
for Faith and Culture who compiled the response
letter, said they hope to narrow all differences
between Muslims and Christians.
He hopes the Muslim and Christian letters would serve
as a springboard for a more serious and respectful
rather than a "polite ecumenical" dialogue between the
"We are persuaded that our next step should be for our
leaders at every level to meet together and begin the
earnest work of determining how God would have us
fulfill the requirement that we love God and one
Al-Jafri, the Muslim preacher, said Muslims would take
more positive steps in the days to come.
"We will hold more conferences and meetings at all
levels to enrich inter-faith dialogue."
Click to Read the Letter
Pope agrees to talks with Muslim leaders
John Hooper in Rome
Saturday December 1, 2007
Pope Benedict has invited leading Islamic authorities
to discuss a letter they sent to Christian leaders
last month urging a search for common moral ground.
The pontiff's formal reaction was made public
yesterday as the Vatican published his latest
encyclical, in which he said atheism had "led to the
greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice".
Replying to Prince Ghazi of Jordan, who arranged for
the letter to be sent to the Pope, Cardinal Tarcisio
Bertone said Benedict felt deep appreciation for the
initiative, "for the positive spirit which inspired
the text and for the call for a common commitment to
The original letter, signed by 138 Muslim religious
authorities, had invited Christian representatives "to
come together with us on the common essentials of our
two religions", and warned that the survival of the
world could be at stake if they failed.
When the Vatican did not immediately respond, there
were fears it might not wish to take part. But Bertone
assured the prince that "we can and therefore should
look to what unites us".
He said the Pope had been "particularly impressed by
the attention given in the letter to the twofold
commandment to love God and one's neighbour". He
proposed a joint working group that would include
officials from the Vatican department for
The Pope's second encyclical dealt primarily with the
Christian understanding of hope. But some passages
appeared to be directed at the readers of such
bestsellers as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and
Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great. Benedict
acknowledged that atheism had begun as a "type of
moralism", rooted in the idea that a good God could
not have made such an unjust world. But he said a
"world which has to create its own justice is a world
Wrongly arrested brother of 9/11 suspect wins damages
for wrong arrest
By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent
Published: 01 December 2007
The brother of a pilot wrongly accused of training the
11 September 2001 hijackers has succeeded in a High
Court bid to win damages for wrongful arrest.
Mohamed Raissi, whose brother Lotfi was the first
person accused of taking part in the attacks in New
York and Washington, secured victory after claiming he
was falsely imprisoned and unlawfully arrested days
after the attacks.
Mr Justice McCombe ruled in favour of Mohamed Raissi
yesterday, announcing that "there will be judgment in
his favour for damages to be assessed".
But a similar claim by his brother's wife, Sonia, was
rejected. Mrs Raissi and Mohamed Raissi were each
seeking damages in excess of £150,000 in the action.
Lotfi Raissi was arrested 10 days after 11 September
following an extradition request from the United
States. He and his wife were living in Colnbrook,
Berkshire, at the time. He was released in February
2002 and a judge ruled that there was "no evidence"
that he was connected to the 11 September attacks or
any form of terrorism. His wife and brother were also
arrested. Mrs Raissi, a French-born dancer who was
working as an Air France customer service agent at
Heathrow Airport, was released without charge after
Mohamed Raissi, now 35, was arrested at his home in
Hounslow and held for about 42 hours before also being
released without charge. The Metropolitan Police
denied liability and were granted permission to
In February, Lotfi Raissi lost his High Court battle
for compensation after judges said it did not qualify
for an award despite being held for nearly five months
at Belmarsh Prison.
Yesterday Mr Justice McCombe said the only issue in
each case "is as to the reasonableness or otherwise"
of the grounds on which each of the arresting officers
acted. He said the question to be answered was:
"Assuming the officer had the necessary suspicion was
there reasonable cause for suspicion?"
In the case of Mrs Raissi, he ruled that the factors
that the arresting officer had in mind "amply
justified the arrest". He said: "She had been with him
in a foreign country at a time when he might well have
been thought to have been engaged, at the same time
and at the same location, in the very training which
was being undergone by one of the known perpetrators
of the atrocities."
Mr Justice McCombe ruled that Mohamed Raissi's case
was "quite different" although he said he had "not the
slightest doubt" that the officer acted in "a
professional manner". He said: "He was simply thought
to be the close brother of a major suspect and the two
lived geographically fairly close to each other; each
had access to the home of the other in this country."
The judge ruled: "In my judgment those grounds were
not sufficient to justify the arrest."
Ahead of summit, Indonesia plants 79 million trees to
boost its green credentials
Indonesia has embarked on a grand scheme to plant 79
million trees in an attempt to boost its green
credentials ahead of a United Nations climate change
summit it is hosting in Bali next week.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was
photographed this week planting saplings with
government ministers, declared that "illegal logging
is our biggest enemy" and added: "We will show
Indonesia's strong commitment and action to preserve
the environment and save our planet."
Environmentalists, however, were unimpressed. In
recent years, Indonesia has been destroying its
forests at a faster rate than any other country. As a
consequence, it has the dubious distinction of being
the world's third-biggest producer of greenhouse
gases, behind the US and China.
As for its commitment to cracking down on illegal
logging, which is a massive problem in Indonesia, one
of the nation's most notorious timber barons, Adelin
Lis, recently walked free from court in the city of
Medan and promptly fled, possibly abroad, to avoid
Muslim Barbers Make Time for Brotherhood, Prayer
Inside Hyde Park Barber Studio, Abdul Karim Shakir
usually greets every customer with his friendly
"What's up, brother? Come on, I got you right here,"
he says, slapping a black leather chair as a welcome.
As he turns on his electric clippers and tends to the
cut, the free flow of conversation begins, ranging
from intellectual topics in religion and politics to
"Who's hogging the Cheese Nips?" and "What's for lunch
today?" But at specific moments, the buzz of the
clippers and the loud banter all stop for one thing:
At this historic barbershop, the latest incarnation of
an 80-year-old operation that has groomed and shaved
men from boxing great Muhammad Ali to the late Mayor
Harold Washington, four of the five barbers are devout
African-American Muslims who pray five times a day in
the back room.
The shop, formerly known as the Hyde Park Hair Salon,
was ousted last year from its old location on 53rd
Street as part of a University of Chicago
redevelopment plan, which led to a split and two
barbers breaking away.
This fall, the business reopened in a new location and
under a new name, but the shop retains its laid-back
atmosphere and subtle spiritual dimension. The reborn
business now fills an unlikely niche in which haircuts
and faith combine to form a popular community space.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims Give Thanks Together
(Rochester, N.Y.) AP - Christians, Jews and Muslims
gathered in worship together Thursday in Rochester's
annual interfaith Thanksgiving service.
It was the 133rd time leaders and followers of
different faiths have come together to celebrate
Organizers believe makes it the oldest such continuous
observance in the nation.
This year's gathering was held at the Temple Beth El
on Winton Road South.
Rabbi Matthew Field of the host congregation says the
service enables participants to be more conscious of
the ways in which their lives have been blessed.
Money raised during the service benefit Rochester
Roots, an organization committed to the creation of a
locally based sustainable food system, and the
American Jewish World Service, whose aim is
alleviating poverty abroad regardless of race,
religion or nationality.
Muslim Scholars Seek Reconciliation with Christians
It is called A Common Word Between Us and You. It is a
letter, signed last month by 138 Muslim scholars from
around the world and addressed to Pope Benedict and
other Christian leaders. It stresses the importance of
finding common ground between the two faiths.
Priscilla Huff reports.
From Friday prayers in a mosque in Iran to Sunday
services in a church in middle America, different days
and places of worship divide Islamic and Christian
Conflict between Islam and Christianity has existed
And the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the United
States in 2001, and the U.S.-led response in
Afghanistan and Iraq have strained relations even
more. Now, representatives from Islam are hoping a
piece of paper can begin to resolve the differences.
Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America
explains the genesis of the letter. "The letter
begins with a verse from the Koran. It says, go ahead
and invite your brothers and sisters from the people
of the book, that is, the Jews and Christians, and
emphasize unite on your common word."
Bin Laden: Europe must quit Afghanistan
The al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden, called on
European governments to end their military cooperation
with the US in Afghanistan in a new audio message
With his fifth public message this year, bin Laden
sought to exploit tensions between European capitals
and Washington over the ongoing Nato military campaign
He reiterated that he was responsible for the
September 11 attacks on the US, not the Taliban, who
ruled Afghanistan at the time.
"The American tide is ebbing," he said in a message
addressed directly to the European public. "It is
better for you to restrain your politicians who are
thronging the steps of the White House."
Robert Fisk: A different venue, but the pious claims
and promises are the same
Haven't we been here before? Isn't Annapolis just a
repeat of the White House lawn and the Oslo agreement,
a series of pious claims and promises in which two
weak men, Messrs Abbas and Olmert, even use the same
words of Oslo.
"It is time for the cycle of blood, violence and
occupation to end," the Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas said on Tuesday. But don't I remember Yitzhak
Rabin saying on the White House lawn that, "it is time
for the cycle of blood... to end"?
Jerusalem and its place as a Palestinian and Israeli
capital isn't there. And if Israel receives
acknowledgement that it is indeed an Israeli state
and in reality, of course, it is there can be no
"right of return" for hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians who fled (or whose families fled) what
became Israel in 1948.
And what am I to make of the following quotation from
the full text of the joint document: "The steering
committee will develop a joint work plan and establish
and oversee the work of negotiations (sic) teams to
address all issues, to be headed by one lead
representative from each party." Come again?
Archbishop thrown into row over US Middle East policy
· Muslim magazine hardens thrust of wide interview
· Conservative Christians hit back at Williams
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, found
himself plunged into political controversy yesterday
after remarks made during the course of a wide-ranging
interview for a Muslim magazine were translated into
an all-out attack on American policy in the Middle
The archbishop told Emel magazine in what it described
as "a series of profound views expressed in serene
tranquillity" that the US had lost the moral high
ground since the terrorist attacks of September 11
2001, and that Washington's attempts to accumulate
influence and control in the region were not working.
He was quoted as saying: "It is one thing to take over
a territory and then pour energy and resources into
administering it and normalising it. Rightly or
wrongly, that's what the British empire did - in
India, for example. It is another thing to go in on
the assumption that a quick burst of violent action
will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on
and other people will put things back together - Iraq,
The Sunday Times interpreted the remarks as implying
that the US was the "worst" imperialist nation and
that the crisis was caused by its actions and its
misguided sense of its own mission.
Lawyers Targeted in India Blasts
LUCKNOW, India At least 13 people, including many
lawyers, were killed in a series of near-simultaneous
blasts outside courthouses in three cities in northern
India on Friday, November 23.
"I believe it is the handiwork of groups who are
trying to spread terror in our country," said junior
Home Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, reported Reuters.
Nine people were killed in Varanasi, one of India's
most sacred Hindu cities, in the populous state of
Four people were killed in Faizabad while there were
no casualties in the state capital Lucknow.
At least 59 people were also wounded in the blasts.
True Islam Image in London Conf.
LONDON Bringing 50,000 Muslims from around the
world, the third Global Peace and Unity (GPU)
conference opens in the British capital London on
Saturday, November 24, with a focus on correcting
stereotypes on Islam and British Muslims.
"The Global Peace and Unity is an opportunity to
present a true image of British Muslims amid a torrent
of negative media reports," GUP director Mohamed Ali
"When Islamophobia is on the upswing in Britain, such
meetings are of vital importance," added Ali, also
president of Islam Channel, the organizer.
The two-day gathering, held at the Excel Conference
and Exhibition Center, brings together luminaries and
celebrity guests from the four corners of the globe.
Prominent among attendees are Egyptian preacher Amr
Khaled and Saudi scholar Sheikh Salman Al-Oudah.
Celebrity Muslim singers will also take part in the
event including Yusuf Islam, Jermaine Jackson, brother
of US pop star Michael Jackson, and Malikah Shabazz,
the daughter of Malcolm X.
Also attending are British government officials,
including Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair.
"We seek to liaise with British authorities and
parliamentarians, and send the message that there is
no contradiction whatsoever between being a devout
Muslim and a good British citizen," said Ali.