Opinion: "Gregory Baum and the New Muslim Intellectuals"

February 18, 2006

Source: Toronto Star


On February 18, 2006 the Toronto Star ran an opinion piece by Stephen Scharper, who teaches in the department of anthropology at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Scharper writes, "Rejecting Huntington's analysis [that there is an irrevocable 'clash of civilizations' between Islam and the West], [Gregory Baum, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at McGill University and one of Canada's pre-eminent Roman Catholic theologians] instead embraces the 'Ten Commandments of Peace' composed by Pope John Paul in 2002. The Fifth Commandment states: 'We commit ourselves to frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as an insurmountable barrier, recognizing instead that to encounter the diversity of others can become an opportunity for greater reciprocal understanding.' Taking this call for dialogue to heart, Baum has engaged in a 'great spiritual adventure,' discovering the creative work of contemporary Muslim intellectuals striving to be faithful to the Qur'an and the Tradition while remaining open to the challenges of modern society. Citing a 2002 conference in Leyden, Holland, which brought together Muslim scholars from Africa, Asia and Europe, Baum notes that emerging intellectuals in Muslim countries reject theocratic regimes as contrary to the Qur'an, which proclaims that the only sovereign is God. And Muslim thinkers in Western pluralistic societies contend that the Qur'an calls Muslims to advance justice and peace while promoting the common good within their country and the world as a whole. Baum, as a Catholic theologian, has great empathy for these new Muslim intellectuals. 'In the Catholic church,' Baum writes, 'the encounter with modernity has also produced turmoil, condemnations, debates, and new ideas. The papacy repudiated modernity in the ninetieth century, it rejected democracy, the liberal State, the rights of man, separation of Church and State as well as the principle of religious liberty.'"