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Jesuit journal challenges "moderate" Islamic leaders

Rome, Mar. 02 ( - An influential Jesuit journal has challenged moderate Muslim leaders to intervene to curtail the violent protests over cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed.

In an editorial that will appear in print later this week, Civilta Cattolica argues that Islamic fundamentalists have deliberately inflamed public protests against the Danish cartoons. The editorial also calls upon European leaders to defend the fundamental priniciples of their own culture.

Civilta Cattolica is regarded as an authoritative publication whose views reflect those of the Holy See, since all articles published in the Jesuit journal are reviewed in advance by the Vatican Secretariat of State.

The editorial appearing in the March 4 issue observes that many Muslims have been the victims of a propaganda campaign aimed to stir up outrage against European institutions. The 12 cartoons that are the focus of the worldwide demonstration were published in a Danish newspaper last September, Civilta notes. The public outrage that reached critical mass nearly four months later was the result of a concerted effort to cause religious conflict, the editorial states.

While conceding that the cartoons were clearly "blasphemous" by Muslim standards, and a deliberate offense against Islamic sensitivities, Civilta Cattolica goes on to say that "one cannot use a few caricatures as the pretext for unleashing a violent confrontation against the West."

The violent expressions of outrage in the Islamic world fail to recognize the good-faith efforts by Western countries to protect the rights of Muslims, the magazine says. The Western world, the editorial argues, "cannot accept an Islamic fundamentalism that cultivates hatred against the West in predominantly Muslim countries." Islamic propagandists, the magazine says, are attempting to blame all the current ills of the Muslim world on the West.

While it is reasonable to ask the West to avoid offending religious beliefs, Civilta Cattolica argues, it is equally reasonable:

.to ask those who profess themselves to be "pacifist" or "moderate" Muslims, who say that Islam is "a religion of peace," to oppose all forms of fundamentalism and all efforts to create or promote divisions and sentiments of hatred between the peoples of the West and those of the Islamic world, between Christians and Islam.

The Jesuit journal goes on to ask Western leaders to end their "inertia and silence" regarding violations of religious freedom in the Islamic world. Citing the "principle of reciprocity" that Pope Benedict XVI mentioned in his February 20 meeting with a new ambassador from Morocco, the editorial said that Western governments should demand that religious minorities in the Islamic world receive the same respectful treatment that Muslims enjoy in the West.

As long as leaders remain silent in the face of religious-freedom violations by Muslim governments, Civilta Cattolica says, their passive attitude will provide encouragement to both fundamentalists in the Islamic world and anti-Muslim extremists in the West. Both Islamic leaders and Western governments must accept their responsibility to ward off a "clash of civilizations," the editorial concludes.



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved