Is there anything the Church can learn from the umma, the worldwide community of Muslims?
Yes. I mean, this is one of the reasons for dialogue. For instance, when I am talking to Muslims I am remind-ed very strongly of the biblical doctrine of the unity of God. Christians sometimes talk of the Trinity in a kind of trigger-happy fashion but, whatever else we may say about God, our starting-point must be that God is one.
Is there anything Christians can do to help the umma to rid itself of religious extremism?
Well, in a way it’s up to Muslims themselves, but yes, I think we can, for instance, in the context of dialogue, urge Muslims to say something about freedom of beÂlÂief: freedom to express one’s beliefs, freedom to change one’s beliefs. In my dialogue with [the ancient Islamic university] al-Azhar al-Sharif, which I led for the AnÂglican Communion for many years, freedom was alÂways on the agenda. Just before he died, I did a joint lecture in Cairo with the sheikh of al-Azhar, Sheikh [MuhÂamÂmad] Tantawi, and he said that people are free in Egypt to believe whatever they like – it is not the business of the state and it’s not the business of religion. I think that is a very significant adÂvance. Similarly, the Grand Mufti of Egypt has issued a very progressive fatwa declaring that apostasy from Islam is not punishable in this life.
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