Turning Love Into Policy

FAITH IN ACTION By Katherine Marshall Depending on who you listen to, the Common Word is an extraordinary opportunity, a … Continued


By Katherine Marshall

Depending on who you listen to, the Common Word is an extraordinary opportunity, a watershed event that promises to counter threats of a “clash of civilizations,” or yet another interfaith dialogue in which narrow groups argue about the meaning of life and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

All of those views were expressed at the annual Brookings Institution U.S.-Islamic World Forum last weekend in Doha, Qatar, where participants discussed security, the global economy, the Arab-Israeli conflict, science and technology — and religion and the pluralistic document known as the Common Word. Many leaders at the Doha event opted for the harder discussions, but the room where faith was the topic was crowded and those who engaged included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Amr Khaled, the Egyptian evangelist and inspiration for young people across the Middle East.

What’s the Common Word? In the furor over the Pope’s Regensberg speech that riled Muslims across the world, a group of 138 Muslim scholars signed a letter in October 2007 addressed to the leading lights of Christian institutions — eminences, archbishops, Metropolitans, and so on. It stressed the important common ground that links Islam and Christianity, above all the two central and shared commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor as you do yourself. In stressing common ground it acknowledged differences and invited dialogue. Since then many have added their names to the list of signatories and a series of weighty meetings — at the Vatican, Yale and Cambridge Universities — have brought groups of leaders and scholars together, producing a series of responses. All are in the same vein: there is much common ground to build on and love is the common commandment.

The challenge at Doha was to take this promising start, and the aura and authority of its high level leadership, to the larger Christian and Muslim “flocks”, thus promoting the understanding and sense of common purpose that must be the foundations for peace in our plural world. Scads of ideas emerged. Not surprisingly communications and media were common themes: How can we make love newsworthy? How to spread the word? And what, asked Yale scholar Joseph Cummings, would a “policy of love” look like?

Plenty of thorny questions come up. What does this have to do with other faiths besides Christianity and Islam? What about non-believers? Madeleine Albright asked how extremists can and should be engaged; others noted the tiny representation of women among the various signatories of the documents. The Obama theme of mutual respect and mutual interests as a foundation for relationships with the Muslim world was stressed repeatedly, but few offered tangible suggestions about how to translate the noble and important ideas into practice. And it was hard to forget that self-respect is linked to jobs and jobs are more problematic than ever as the global economy seems to be in free fall.

Amr Khaled offered some vivid testimony on the Common Word’s appeal to those we all most need to reach – young people. He spoke recently about the Common Word at a large event, with some 40,000 people, in Sudan. Afterwards, as he drove away a young Sudanese girl chased his car, rapping on his window. Is the message about common ground among faiths REALLY in the Koran, she demanded? He cited the verse, and reemphasized the message and she darted away, smiling.

Washington’s Episcopal Bishop John Chane recalled an old Native American parable. A grandfather tells the child that he, like all people, has two wolves inside him. One represents revenge, anger and bitterness, the other compassion, curiosity, and love. They compete. “But which wins”, the grandchild asks. “It depends which one you feed, the grandfather replied. It’s that good wolf, the positive force of religion and interfaith understanding, that we want and need to nourish.

Judging from the oasis of good will around the Doha discussion, the Common Word is an excellent place to start.

Katherine Marshall is a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, a Visiting Professor, and a senior advisor for the World Bank.

By Katherine Marshall | 
February 18, 2009; 1:39 PM ET

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  • Jihadist

    Hello Ms. Katherine Marshall,The Prophet PBUH : “Do you love God? Love your fellow men first.” And may I add, fellow women in case some men interpret and understood “fellow men” to be just men. An interfaith dialogue on the Common Word? Turning “Love” into policy? At the annual Brookings Institution U.S.-Islamic World Forum last weekend in Doha, Qatar? Not many women signing the Common Word documents? I wonder. No wonder. This definitely non-eminent and lesser light Muslim woman prefers the Common Word to be Justice and Justness to start in the family first and for women especially. After all, justice and justness is the heart, the impetus of calls in in the Qur’an for amity and peace between individuals, intra-group and inter-group relations. There was another more interesting dialogue going on “Musawah” – A Global Meeting for Equality and Justice. Five days in Kuala Lumpur which started on 13 February. Initiated mostly by Muslim women for Muslim women on their rights, specifically in Islamic Family Law. And I see that the Doha “Common Word” wants to have themes on “love” to spread the word. How about -the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” as a theme song to promote the notion and Musawah will, in response and/or as their own theme song, Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” Better yet, her “Better Be Good to Me”. Making “justice and justness” a policy is easier than “love”. One don’t have to “love” a person, but one can love the notion of, and to be just and to respect a woman, someone of a different race or religion on their rights as women or someone of a different race or religion. So, what says if we bring the Common Word of “Justice and Justness” to our Catholic sisters too, especially in developing countries, on rights of women in marraige, including on family planning etc? Or the eminent leading lights in this Muslim-Christian dialogue on the Common Word of “Love” are really dim bulbs on priorities and the simple notion that love and mutual respect begins at home and for the distaff members of their respective flocks? What is good for the ganders is is good for the female geese and the flock. Never mind, and all the same, that Common Word – Love, is the outcome of those fellows starting and fighting over what was said and what was meant on this and that religion. They cooked their own goose and are now seeking to goose-step with a Common Word. Best regards

  • Jihadist

    Oh, why not? I have some time to make a very short and iffy case against “Love”….Love is trite. Love is banal. Love is full of contradictions. There are terms and phrases on “love” that are dubious and spurious – love hurts, love stinks, a thin line between love and hate, a love-hate relationship, tough love etc.One can love someone and go for S&M with that someone. A case of love of leather, whips and pain? One can love someone and not understand nor respect them. A case of blind love? One can respect someone and not love them. A case of fear and loathing but having no choice but to have to live with them? Love is an emotion like hatred. It cannot be forced on or controlled once the feeling is there. A case of having to subsume or modify emotions? The Common Word, “Love” is just that, common and commonly abused and misused by individuals, groups and countries – I love my cat. I love shabu-shabu. I love God. I love my country. One need more than love to ensure peace and amity. Moses PBUH is mostly about law. Jesus PBUH is mostly about love. Muhammad PBUH is mostly about justness. “Love” should be tempered with justness and justice in law and in life as there are human emotions leading to actions deem as crimes of passion. There is also notions and expressions of love such as killing for the love of one’s race or religion or country and seen as hatred by the other recipients of such “love”. Love stinks. Love hurts. Love grows. Love dies. Love needs work to sustain love.

  • Anonymous

    In the name of God, the Almighty, the Most

  • Jihadist

    CCNL : “Love, Islamic Style (for those eyes that have not seen)”Actually, “love” Islamic style also allows a randy fellow to have up to four wives. Save those fellows from cheating and lying and skulking around to avoid being caught by their wife or the media. And the mistress and children be legit. Oh yes, “love” Islamic style also lead to some interpretations and notions of “72 virgins” in heaven. Uhhh! Ummmm!!!Oh ye sex prudes of the world!

  • Jihadist

    In the name of God the Compassionate, the MercifulBy the epoch

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    It never ends with the Reality Challenged, Obfuscating, and Partially “Crossanized” Jihadist as she again demonstrates she has no clue about the horrific, hate-filled and dictatorial passages of the worst book ever written, the koran.Jihadist, clean up your operating manual and get back to us after you do. Until then, the 24/7 news from the world of Islam continues to demonstrate that the koran is the worst book ever written.

  • Jihadist

    In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the MercifulSay : We believe in God

  • Jihadist

    In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the MercifulGod it is who sent the Book to you,And those in whose hearts is distortionAnd those deeply rooted in knowledge say,———————————————–In the Name of of God, the Compassionate, the MercifulIndeed, religion with God

  • Jihadist

    In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the MercifulServe God

  • Jihadist

    Ooops! Almost forgot some verses of Suras on “Justice” as “policy”:In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the MercifulGod commands justice, doing good———————————————-In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the MercifulYou who believe————————————————-And oh by the way…In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the MercifulHelp one another to do what is right and goodAnd oh yes, In the name of God, the Compassionate, the MercifulBe tolerant and command what is rightCheersJ

  • Anonymous

    O you who believe, stand with justice as witnesses to God, even if against yourselves, or the parents or the relatives. Even if he be rich or poor, God is more worthy of them, so do not follow your desires from being just. And if you twist or turn away, then God is Expert over what you do.

  • Jihadist

    …follow not the lusts of your hearts————————————————-We have sent you down the Book in truth ————————————————-We sent aforetime Our Messengers with Clear SignsThe blame is only against those

  • Jihadist

    And further on justice, rights and Common Words…”O people, listen to my words, for I know not whether I will be with you for another year. Your lives and property are sacred and inviolable amongst one another. Remember that you will appear one day before your God Who shall demand from you an account of all your actions. Wrong not and you shall not be wronged. You have rights over your wives, and your wives have rights over you, so treat them with kindness. Know that all Muslims are brothers, and you are one brotherhood. You are all equals, and enjoy equal rights and have similar obligations. Nothing that belongs to another is lawful unto his brother, unless given out of goodwill. Guard yourself from committing injustice. Do not tyrannise your people, do not usurp their rights. Let those who are present tell those who are absent. Perhaps those who are told afterwards may remember better than those who have heard it now.”The Prophet’s PBUH Farewell Address. And why would Muslims (especially OIC member states’ governments) need to “write” another Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam for men and women as a “guide”? Common Words for Muslims and Muslim governments: Rights. Equal rights. Justice. Obligations.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Again and again, The Reality Challenged Jihadist fails to reiterate the horror, hateful and dictatorial passages of Islam.A synopsis of said passages:O Islam, Islam, violent Islam,O Islam, O Islam, violent Islam,O Islam, O Islam, violent Islam,Save us from these Islamic FEMs,Born, Bred, and Brainwashed too,

  • Jihadist

    Uhh! CCNL. Let me see how it goes if I replaced some words in your, er, verse : O America, America, violent America,O America, O America, violent America,O America, O America, violent America,Save us from these American FEMs,Born, Bred, and Brainwashed too in America First That sounds like quite sweeping incitements of, er, bigotry.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Yes, indeed Americans and other Christian-related democracies have their problems with violence, hate and prejudices and some of it stems from the mythical OT and highly embellished NT. These problems are being addressed as noted by the move by Conservative Jews declaring the OT to be mostly myth. Ditto for the “Crossanization” of the NT especially in regards to prejudices against women and Jews. Unfortunately, the analogous corrections of the worst book ever written aka the koran are not being done because of the death threats to anyone who tries as spelled out in the horrific passages of the koran. With said threats being supposedly handed down by Allah via a “pretty, wingie, talking, fictional thingie” named Gabriel makes one scream out, “THE SIGNIFICANT STUPIDITY OF IT All!!!!!”But maybe The Jihadist could be the first bold Muslim to try and succeed working from within the restrictions of Islam. Considering the daily beheadings, stonings and bombings by koranic driven Islamics, her chance of success is basically nil. But who knows, maybe she will become the Gandhi of Islam!!!

  • Jihadist

    CCNL Violence, hate and prejudices can be found in individuals and groups regardless of what their faith or philosophies say about it. Nor do secular civil laws can stamp out violence, hate and prejudices on race, religion and gender. Revising and/or editing the holy texts devoid of passages recounting violence, hatred and prejudices are not going to eliminate them in human self-interest. The Conservative Jews may declare Old Testament to be mostly myth. If so, then the Promised Land to a Promised People is also a myth. Are the Conservative Jews willing to acknowledge that? Or, are things more complicated than they seem in eliminating violence, hate and prejudice in Europe against Jews by the creation of a state in the Middle East? Or was it selective, politic and pragmatic considerations of what is “myth”? The “Crossanization” of the New Testament especially in regards to prejudices against women and Jews, comes after the UN Declaration on Human Rights and subsequent human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Most countries of the world are State Parties to CEDAW, but not the US. As for the reason, look it up. There will still remain prejudices for some women and all Jews in certain areas, including and especially, being Pope. The truth and reality is that, with or without religion, there are clubs of like-minded sorts and quite exclusive clubs too, of shared values and purposes. And these clubs do expel members by their own terms, conditions and restrictions of membership. How do I apply to be a member of the NRA? It is restricted only to Americans by law? And there is nothing I can do about that?

  • Jihadist

    Aref Ali Nayed? The Jordanian who was in Malaysia before at the International Istitute for Islamic Thought at the Doha Meeting on the Common Word?And Amina Wadud, who was at the International Islamic University in Malaysia before, was at the Kuala Lumpur meeting on Musawah. Interesting. Aref Ali Nayed in pursuit of inter-faith “love/compassion” among men. Amina Wadud in pursuit of intra-faith “justness/justice” between men and women. Looks like they both have their work cut out in their area of interest and focus as per faith-based initiatives. May God guide them both always.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    And as usual The Jihadist “ducks” the problem with the worst book ever written, the book that serves as the operating manual for every Islamic suicide bomber on the face of the earth. She says she cannot do anything about it. Why not? Fear of her husband and local imam that is why. Fear by the way that is based on the horrific passages of the koran!!! What a sad and sorry situation!!!!

  • Jihadist

    CCNL : “Fear by the way that is based on the horrific passages of the koran!!! What a sad and sorry situation!!!!”Horrific, is it not? For Muslims are asked to fear God instead of men? Fear of fellow men and to turn the other cheek is not in the nature of Muslims really riled up on something. Or there won’t be Muslims with stones, second or third hand M16s and homemade rockets going against troops of countries with nukes. The passages of the Qur’an are only horrific to those who are unjust, who are oppressive, who are corrupt, who took what is theirs against their will. It is a sad and sorry situation for those who want to impose their will against unwilling Muslims.

  • Jihadist

    Oops! Almost forgot. The Qur’an is obviously the best religious Book for this Muslim and other Muslims. It is shorter than other holy texts. It has prescriptive passages, spiritual/mystical passages, narratives of events, parables, analogies, metaphors. It is the Book that introduce Muslims to see and think on the interconnectedness of man and man, man and his environment and the world, man and the universe, man and God. To see coherence in the seemingly incoherence of the incoherent. To discover and understand by empirical observations and evidence on the cycle of life, life itself, and process of creation as being closer to God. To bring justness and justice for balance among fellow men and the world. The Qur’an is Uncreated and created. The Qur’an is “Uncreated” as the Word of God, the Book of Guidance – messages and reminders in verses direct, in verses elliptical, in verses allusive. The Qur’an is of it time and place and yet for all time and place. The Qur’an is “created” as a compilation of the Word of God as Guidance, as Recitations. Everything that follows the compilation of the Book are commentaries, elaborations and interpretations as it is meant to be on and for the Straight Way, the Right Path for man as an individual and a community. Leave my religious text alone as it obviously has no meaning for you, but disturbed you much all the same, and to focus on yours whatever it was and is :)

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    As can be seen by her commentaries, The Reality Challenged and Obfuscating Jihadist is still blinded by her Islamic brainwash. We again offer free of charge the Five Steps to Deprogram/Deflaw Islam:Using “The 77 Branches of Islamic “faith” a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point– In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true “faith” (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings.” i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs. “1. Belief in Allah”aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc.” should be added to your cleansing neurons.”2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence.”Evolution and the Big Bang or the “Gib Gnab” (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the “akas” for Allah should be included if you continue to be a “creationist”.”3. To believe in the existence of angels.”A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/devils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hittites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No “pretty/ugly wingy thingies” ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as fairies and “tinker bells”. Modern devils are classified as the demons of the demented. “4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore.”Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels/”pwtfft”s to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans. Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the uneducated masses in line. Today we call them fortune tellers.Mohammed spent thirty days fasting in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a “pretty wingy thingy” named Gabriel. Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic violence i.e. turning Mohammed’s “fast, hunger-driven” hallucinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

  • Jihadist

    CCNL : “As can be seen by her commentaries, The Reality Challenged and Obfuscating Jihadist is still blinded by her Islamic brainwash.”Aha! Resorting again to the 5 Step Programme to “brainwash” an alleged “brainwashed” Muslim with Crossanism? That notion is blinded and blinkered beyond belief. Anyway, this brainwashed believer in Islam is now mentally and spiritually cleansed and cannot be mentally polluted and spiritually degraded anymore with Crossanism, Sartreism, Socratesism and other such intellectualism, materialism and temporalism. Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.:) Cheers

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    And the Jihadist remains Reality Challenged and Obfuscating but Now Partially Crossanized as she still is blinded by the errors and flaws of Islam. Attempts to deprogram and deflaw her will however continue as it will will with all those who have fallen under the spell of “angelic” and/or resurrecting body hallucinations.

  • Jihadist

    CCNL : “Attempts to deprogram and deflaw her will however continue as it will with all those who have fallen under the spell of “angelic” and/or resurrecting body hallucinations.”Ah, the key word is “attempts”. “Attempt” away. You did call me a “terrorist” before and never apologise. So, I take it as part of “attempts” for God knows what and why……Cheers

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