Religion and the Open Society Symposium: Session One: Religion, Pluralism, and Freedom of Inquiry

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This event is part of the Religion and Foreign Policy Symposia Series, which is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.

This event is part of the Religion and Foreign Policy Symposia Series, which is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.


TIMOTHY SAMUEL SHAW:  Good morning.  We like to be prompt at the Council on Foreign Relations, as many of you already probably know.  So it's three minutes after 9:00, so we should get started.

Good morning.  I am Timothy Samuel Shaw, adjunct senior fellow for Religion and Foreign Policy here at the Council on Foreign Relations.  And on behalf of my colleague and friend, Walter Russell Mead, with whom I work on religion and foreign policy, I'd like to welcome you to this symposium this morning on religion and the open society.

Before I forget, I want to emphasize that this symposium is on the record.  I would also like to ask you to please turn off your cell phones or BlackBerrys or "CrackBerrys," as they're sometimes called, and anything else that might make any noises.  So please turn those off now.

I also want to let you know that this symposium is going to be webcast, and we have a few dozen people watching this through the Web.

This symposium is part of a series of symposia designed to help American foreign policymakers and thinkers to understand religion for what we believe it is; namely, not a marginal and a declining force in world politics but a central and growing force in world politics.

We have already had symposia on religious conflict in Nigeria, on evangelicals and U.S. foreign policy, and we will soon have a symposium on religion and the future of China, which will take place here at the Council on June 11th.  So perhaps you can arrange to join us for that.

To make this series of symposia possible, we are indebted to the vision and generosity of the Henry Luce Foundation, and we're honored and delighted that the president of the Luce Foundation, Michael Gilligan, will be with us this morning.  And we're very honored that several members of the board of the Luce Foundation are with us as well.

The topic again this morning is religion and the open society.  The importance of this topic is perhaps obvious.  Religion is, as we've believed, a growing force.  We believe that the forms of religion expanding in the world are intense, devout, often very conservative.  And it's important, if not crucial, to ask whether this global growth of religious intensity can not only be reconciled with freedom and openness, but harnessed to advance the values of freedom and openness, the values at the heart of democratic societies, particularly because the fastest-growing forms of the world's two largest religions, Christianity and Islam, with 2 billion and 1 billion adherents respectively, that the forms of these religions that are growing the fastest are probably the most theologically and morally conservative forms of those religions.

And that fact raises this urgent question about whether intense and muscular forms of religion can be reconciled with the elements of free and open societies, not just democratic procedures but acceptance of pluralism, acceptance of freedom of inquiry, acceptance of conceptual innovation of various kinds.

This question has been asked and posed in various sharp forms for a very long time.  I noted that the great philosopher Bertrand Russell, at the end of an article in The New York Times Magazine in December 1951, put together what he called a liberal decalogue.  This, he said, was not in replacement of the old decalogue but as a supplement to it.

Bertrand Russell's first commandment in his liberal decalogue was "Do not feel absolutely certain of anything."  In other words, the way to establish the values of freedom and openness is to ensure that we don't have too much certitude or dogmatic conviction.

If that's true, that dogmatic conviction and openness are directly opposed, that would pose the question we have today in a very sharp form indeed.  Is it possible that dogmatic belief, conviction, are reconcilable with openness and freedom?  Bertrand Russell thought that was not the case.

We're exploring today whether there are ways in which the resources, the theological resources of Christianity and Islam, are not only reconcilable with but also can be harnessed to advance the values of freedom and openness.

And we also want to address the question, given that no religious tradition or community is absolutely static or fixed in time, how are Christianity and Islam evolving in ways that bear on the task of building societies that are free, open, democratic, or open to innovation?  How are the most rapidly changing and evolving forms of these religions influencing the development of free societies?

Again, I want to very much acknowledge our debt to Walter Russell Mead, my colleague.  And I should say that any praise or blame that you'd like to assign for this symposium and its underlying premises should go to Walter, because he discusses many of these ideas in his fascinating recent book, "God and Gold," and argues that, contrary to the beliefs of people like Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell, dogmatic conviction is not necessarily opposed to the development of free societies and that religions can take dynamic forms that actually advance freedom and openness.  And these are ideas that, since Walter will be presiding over the second session, that we'll be exploring further.

With that, I'd like to turn things over to George Rupp, who will be presiding over the first session.  Thank you again.

GEORGE RUPP:  Thank you very much, Tim.

Tim has done all of my homework in terms of context-setting and asking you to turn off your cell phones and the like.  So I will proceed immediately to introducing our panelists.  But let me reinforce the welcome he's expressed to all of you and also to those of you who are looking at this program over the Worldwide Web, since this is webcast both across the country and around the world.  We're delighted that all of you have joined us.  And we're especially pleased that our three panelists have joined us.  The introductory materials about them are in the programs that you received, so I will only give very brief highlights.

All the way to your right is Mustafa Akyol.  Mustafa is a Turkish journalist who's written extensively on issues of religion and secularism.  He writes regular columns in the Turkish press and also is widely published in American periodicals, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other more niche publications.

Dalia Mogahed is a senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.  With John Esposito, she is the co-author of the book "Who Speaks for Islam?  What a Billion Muslims Really Think."  And as Tim's setting up of this set of issues or questions we're looking at makes clear, that's a directly germane question for all of us as we look forward.  Dalia also has appeared regularly in opinion columns and news columns in this country and abroad.

Peter Berger, directly to my left, is professor emeritus of Religion, Sociology and Theology and director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University.  He's previously taught at the New School for Social Research at Rutgers and at Boston College.  He has numerous publications in theoretical sociology, sociology of religion.  Many of them are listed in your program.

To give you a sense of the span of what he's written over four decades, let me mention three books that are not listed among those in your program.  With Thomas Luckmann, those of us at a certain age learned about sociology of knowledge by reading "The Social Construction of Reality," published in 1966.  "The Heretical Imperative," published in 1979, I think, had a significant influence on Protestant theological institutions; and then "Questions of Faith:  A Skeptical Affirmation of Christianity," published in 2004.   Peter has been widely published and continues to be a leading thinker on this set of issues.

Now, all three of you, in various ways, have argued that religious conviction is compatible with pluralism and freedom of inquiry.  That's a position that puts you at odds not only with some religious voices, but also with what I'll label prescriptive secularists.  You may all have your own ways of labeling those people.

What we'd like to hear in the course of the morning is further reflections from you on both the range of religious positions in various traditions and then also the ways in which those traditions interact with secular voices that are often critical, not only of fundamentalists or radical religious positions, but of all religious positions.

Dalia, let me start with you.  Who does speak for Islam?  Give us a sense of the range of voices on the relationship between Islamic views and democratic values.

DALIA MOGAHED:  Thank you.

Well, we polled in 140 countries at Gallup.  Now, I focus on countries with majority Muslim populations or places with significant Muslim percentages, around 40.  And what we found is a huge amount of diversity, of course, ranging from Egypt, where the majority say that they want Shari'a as the only source of legislation, all the way to Turkey, where the majority say that it should not be a source of legislation at all.

So when the question is asked, "Who speaks for Islam?" the answer is a billion Muslims do, and it's very different depending on who you ask.  And that diversity is what we have to make a lot of room for.  Unfortunately, what has happened, especially since 9/11, is a vocal fringe.  Whether it be the religious voice or an anti-religious voice has really monopolized the conversation.

RUPP:  It might be helpful, since one of the great virtues of your polling is to take multiple countries -- and you just referred to a couple of instances -- but maybe go through the roster of major Muslim majority countries and give us a little bit of a flavor of how they differ.

MOGAHED:  Sure.  Well, if we start in Turkey -- and it's one of the only countries where a majority, in fact, say that Shari'a should not be a source of legislation, so we found that in 2005, 57 percent of the Turkish population said that there should be no role for Shari'a in legislation.

Now, the three choices were it should be the only source, or a source but not the only source, or not a source at all.  And Turkey was the outlier in that a majority said it should not be a source.

Now, some people who have been observing Turkey often say that Ataturk would roll in his grave if he found out that only 57 percent said that Shari'a should not be a source of legislation.  But that's kind of one side of the spectrum.

Now, in the middle you find Indonesia and Iran, interestingly.  So Indonesia actually -- Iran looks very much like Indonesia, where the majority want Shari'a as a source but not the only source of legislation.  But only a small minority want Shari'a to play no role at all.

And then on the other side is Egypt.  Egypt was the country with the largest percentage, a majority of both men and women, who said that Shari'a should be the only source of legislation.  Interestingly, in all of those examples, the majority do not want religious leaders to directly craft legislation.  They want them either as advisers or to play no role at all.

RUPP:  We'll come back to that, and I'm sure there'll be questions about particulars in one country or another.

But let's turn to you, Mustafa.  Tell us about the relationship between Islam and secularism.  Dalia has touched on that, but it's an area you know a great deal about; and the question about Islam's relation to secularism and then how both of them relate to democratic values.

MUSTAFA AKYOL:  I think we should start by asking which secularism.  What kind of secularism are we speaking about?  And in Turkey, now the debate is not on whether we should be a secular state but what kind of secularism we should accept.  And thanks to Dalia about mentioning the 57 percent which do not want Shari'a.

There are also studies within Turkey, and it shows that even the, like, 43 percent which might be sympathetic to the idea of Shari'a, when they're asked -- I mean, the whole society is asked, "Do you want the excesses of Shari'a, the very harsh measures of Shari'a, like stoning?" the answer is 2 percent.  Only 2 percent have said yes.

So for many conservative Muslims, Shari'a is like justice.  Do you want it?  I mean, it's just government, just rulers.  Yes, we want that.  But when you really go down and ask details, it might turn out to be different.

And one interesting study in Turkey was that during the so-called Islamic or mildly Islamic government we have since 2002, which is conservative as it defines itself -- (inaudible) -- justice and the role of one-party government, the demand for an Islamic state declined.

Polls show that in 1999, 15 percent said, "We want an Islamic state."  Now it has decreased to 7 percent, because for that 15 percent, Islamic state was a state which would save them from the secular repressive attitudes of the -- secure repressive methods.  For them, an Islamic state would be something which would allow them to go to the campus with their head scarf.  But now, since they understand that this is possible in a secular but not necessarily secularist regime, they say, "Oh, yeah, we want that kind of secularism."

Actually, in Turkey now, the big debate is whether we should follow the French way or the American way in these matters.  And the conservatives are saying, "We should follow the American way."  And interestingly, right now the government is being accused by the judiciary, the secular judiciary, for collaborating with the United States to establish mild Islam in Turkey.  This is one of the accusations brought to the government by the judiciary right now.

RUPP:  Can you say a little bit more about mild Islam?

Mustafa is a Council regular.  He was here last week as well in a very, very interesting discussion of interpretations of Hadith.  And that seems to me -- I'm not asking you to repeat what you said there, since some of the same people are in the room, but to use maybe that as a window on what this mild Islam might look like, as distinguished from the more polar extremes.

AKYOL:  Of course, in the -- I mean, I would make a mistake if I say, "This is mild Islam, and every Muslim should be accepting that."  I mean, I think societies find their own ways.  And I believe each Muslim society, each Muslim nation, finds its own way towards a more democratic or liberal perception of Islam.

But if you look at the Turkish case, you see there are two different dynamics here.  One is a theory about a democratic mild or moderate, whatever you call it, Islam, which is articulated by intellectuals and theologians.  They say, "Well, the Shari'a is basically a -- (inaudible) -- construction.  Much of the Shari'a is historical.  It's not eternally valid.  We can change things.  We can question the Hadith."

So the idea is it's been there since the 19th century.  Islamic scholars or intellectuals make these ideas.  But will the society be willing to buy that idea?  That's a different question.  And I think that depends on the modernization of the society.  And what we have seen in Turkey in the past decade is that society has modernized, and the Islamic part of the society included, because in the past in Turkey there was the secular ruling class and there were the religious proletariat, if you will.  They were pushed out of the public square.

But now we've seen the rise of an Islamic bourgeoisie, and Islamic middle class, Islamic intellectuals, which say, "Yes, we are happy to be modern.  We don't want to live like the Saudis live.  And how can we do this?"  And now, then, the idea of -- the modern ideas articulated by the intellectuals find audience in the society.

And I think there are two issues to keep in mind.  I mean, modernizing the society itself -- and that's through democracies, that's through free markets, it's through economy, which brings economic rationalization, which makes people think about how the world works.  And then they look at their text and they think -- if they care about stock market, they just can't look at their text in a way that they've looked in the Middle East.  They have to re-understand it.  And you have theories out there which articulate how you can re-understand it.

And in Turkey we see, I think, these two trends coming together.  And the recent project, the Hadith revision in Turkey -- the Turkish Religious Directorate Affairs, which is the official body about religion, has decided to revise the Hadith collection, which is much of the Shari'a, because Hadith are sayings from Muhammad.  And to put them into context, leave some of them aside and create a whole new collection.

And one of their concerns was the status of women in Islam.  There are some not very nice Hadiths about the status of women.  And they've said, "Well, these are not what our prophet has said.  These are medieval traditions which have infiltrated into Islam, and now we are leaving that aside."  And why they have the passion to do this, because it is a society which says men and women are equal, of course equal.  Why -- (inaudible) -- differently?

So when you face that question, you have to address it in some way.  And I think that brings us kind of, if you will, revision or modernization process within Islamic tradition.

RUPP:  Okay.  Well, thank you very much.  I'm sure there will be more particular questions of you as well.

So far we've focused attention on the range of positions within Islam.  And Peter, maybe you could back our lens up a bit and talk about the ways in which other religious traditions as well grapple with this polarity, let's say, between fundamentalism or authoritarianism, on the one side, or modernism or relativism on the other side.  Draw a larger map.

PETER L. BERGER:  Well, I think I was five years old when my mother taught me, "When you're in somebody else's house, you must never criticize your host."  But I must tell you that this physical arrangement is one of the most uncomfortable I've been in for many years.  And it's not the panel lineup, it's the police lineup and I'm sorely tempted to confess I'm guilty -- (laughter) -- but I will try to overcome this physical disadvantage.

Look, I think we -- we have a working group at my research center at Boston University called Between Relativism and Fundamentalism.  And I think one can argue that these two are reverse sides of the same coin.  The coin is modernization, which contrary to what many people still believe, does not secularize necessarily.  What it does is it pluralizes.  And what that means is that no religious tradition in most of the world can any longer be taken for granted.

And it's possible, I think, to -- well, it seems to me that from the point of view of any serious religious believer, but also from the point of view of a democratic society, one wants a middle position which is neither relativistic in which all questions of truth become irrelevant -- so the television interview of an Aztec priest who believes that the gods require endless blood sacrifices:  "Yes, we do."  "How interesting; tell us more" -- okay?  That's one end.  And the other end, of course, is fanatical absolutist intolerant fundamentalism.  How does one establish a middle position?

Now, obviously, there's no time now to go into how I would do this as a Christian, but I think one can outline a few general conditions of what are the requirements for such a position.  In any -- I think any religious tradition is capable of doing this -- at least any I can think of, other than Middle American Aztec religion, which is not terribly relevant today, thank God.

But you mentioned hadith can be reinterpreted.  Of course, I think there are a number of basic conditions.  And perhaps the most basic condition is that people in a religious position accept the fact that it is no longer taken for granted.  It becomes a voluntary act of believers -- a reiterated voluntary act, which means that religious institutions, even if they have a very different tradition, become in fact voluntary associations.  What happened to the Catholic Church is a wonderful example of this.  Certainly a very alien idea and the church has been dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the fact of religious freedom and in fact, legitimizing it theologically.  That's very crucial -- the voluntariness of religion.

Another thing, I think, which is very important, is the distinction between the core of a religion and a periphery, which is negotiable.  The core is there -- this is a truth which we believe in but the periphery is negotiable.  And that can be done in different ways and different traditions:  Muslim or Christian or Jewish or what have you.

There are a few others which I think are less central.  There is the acceptance of the religiously neutral state -- or at the least state which does not coerce people into any particular religion.  There is a way of defining the other as something not an enemy, but possibly an interesting interlocutor -- and some other conditions one could list.  But these are, I think, very basic ones.  And as one thinks about the topic of this conference, it seems to me that is the direction in which one should think.

RUPP:  Well, let me ask you -- clearly, with the amount of time we have in this initial exchange, I appreciate the fact that you cannot go into detail in all of the cases that could illustrate this intervening position.  But let's take the United States:  Part of the challenge any such discussion faces in the United States is the role that evangelical Christianity or even fundamentalism has played for almost 30 years.  I mean, it played a role long before that, but the role in recent decades.  Why don't you just talk a little bit about that movement and how it fits into your typology?

BERGER:  Well, Tim Shaw heads a project of our institute on the new evangelical intellectuals.  And I think in the public awareness and the media -- certainly in academia -- there's still a very distorted view of evangelicals as, I don't know, barefoot people who chew tobacco and vote for Ku Klux Klan or something like that -- which was never accurate, is totally inaccurate today.

So I think the mentioning of evangelicals and fundamentalists in one sentence is already a distortion.  Yes, there are some evangelicals who are fundamentalists.  There are some secularists who are very much fundamentalist.  And true as every tradition that one can think of -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever -- that exists in the United States.

So I don't know.  I think evangelicals are increasingly becoming important in the public scene, not just for political reasons, but for cultural reasons.  They're increasingly -- well, very much what you said about Turkish conservative Muslims.  They've become middleclass.  They have higher education.  They can no longer be brushed aside as provincial ignoramuses and that's very significant.  And the political alignment may change.  It may already be changing in this election, but I think the cultural presence of evangelicals will continue and become increasingly important.  And I think it should be recognized by the people who are not themselves evangelicals as a significant component of the American society.

RUPP:  Okay.  Thank you.

Let's take just one more very -- just very quick response from all of you to a common question.  And then we'll open for observations from the floor.

What do you -- how do you appraise the prospects for dialogue or non-hostile forms of interaction among religious traditions?  Maybe we'll just go in order across the -- starting with you, Mustafa.

AKYOL:  Yeah.  Maybe I just should -- I'd like to add one thing before that.

I think in the 20th century, we have seen that there is nothing which makes the secular mind more reasonable than the religious mind.  So, I mean, secular tyrannies have been out there.  They're still out there.  I mean, being secular, being not defined by religion, doesn't make people necessarily open minded and tolerant and accepting as we were, you know, told.  Communism is a wonderful example, I guess.

RUPP:  And what's proscriptive secularism?

AKYOL:  Proscriptive secularism -- I mean, North Korea is a secular republic.  You know, it's not the nicest place on earth.  So the idea that -- so if secularists try to push within outside of the public square, they become a tyrannical force and then religions start to fight against it.

And for many Muslims, this has been the history of the last like century.  There have been various secularist dictators who wanted to modernize their countries by force, try to change their culture, the way they dress, the way they live.  The shah in Iran was a great example.  And then you have a reaction.

If you tell the religious people that, well, you have a space in this multicultural and this pluralistic setting, are you willing to accept that you have a place, that you should also accept other people's places?  I think -- then you can start a dialogue.  Because other way, I think it's like a zero-sum game -- either they will win or either we will win.  And if you will win, we will push them all the other way.

So I think accepting the pluralism and accepting the fact that modernization doesn't secularize, which is a very important, I think, point made by Dr. Berger.  It's good to engage in this in the first place.  If you -- if modernization is described to you as a process which will secularize you at the end and you should secularize to be modern, why would you engage with that?  You start to fight against it.  I think --

RUPP:  Okay.  So now a word about how you would appraise the prospects for interaction of non-hostile sorts, whether dialogue or other forms, among religious traditions -- do you have any sense of that?

AKYOL:  Well -- (inaudible) -- has a nice coat.  I mean, tolerance is not indifference to differences as if differences make no difference.  So we shouldn't start by saying, hey, we should all be like this and then start to dialogue.  We should accept that we are different, but there should be some limits.  We should say that there should be respect for human life.  There should be respect for the right for others to exist.  And there should be a common ground.

And after that common ground, anybody who accepts that can engage and can start -- we can start a dialogue.  And that's what we desperately need.  I mean, especially within the Islamic world and the Western world.

RUPP:  Dalia?

MOGAHED:  Well, I guess if your question is, "how would I appraise it?"  I think the prospects are very positive.  And the reason I say that is because as we analyze the mammoth study that we've done, we've found is that the opinions that people profess of other countries really fall along policy and not cultural or religious lines.

So for example, we find that the opinions of Europe -- whether it's France or Germany -- are neutral to positive, whereas opinions of the United States and Britain are very negative.  So the way people see countries, whether they celebrate or express negative opinions, really are driven by that country's perceived policy and not their religious differences.

The other thing that I think gives us some hope are initiatives that have actually happened in the last year or so.  For example, the common word initiative where 138 of the most prominent Muslim scholars wrote an open letter to Christians around the world calling them to a common word of love for neighbor and love for God.  And that has started a series of dialogue events, including with the Vatican.

So not only are we looking at public opinion and seeing that there's hope for dialogue and non-adverse interactions, but we actually see it happening on the ground.

RUPP:  Good.


BERGER:  Well, I would say the prospects are very good unless they're stopped -- stopped by either secularists or religious fundamentalists who want to impose their will.  If that does not happen, if there's freedom of communication, I think it's almost inevitable that the prospects will be good.

Let me make one point in this connection:  When people talk about interreligious dialogue they mean people like us sitting around the table -- unfortunately, there is no table here -- but sitting around the table and having, you know, intellectual conversations.  That's fine.  I'm all for it.  Vatican does it, World Council of Churches, whatever.  But it's happening on the street level, which is much more significant, because it involves millions of people.

If I may be personal for a moment, my oldest son is married to a Hindu and they have two children.  When my granddaughter -- they lived in Washington -- was about five, her best friend was a little girl across the street whose parents were missionaries for Jews for Jewish.  And these two little girls were having theological discussions for each other, which I wish I had taped.  They were fascinating!  They tried to come to terms with each other without demonizing each other.

Well, this is happening by the millions in every modern or modernizing society.  And this is an enormous effect.  So unless the government or some other force -- terrorist, whatever -- stops this conversation, I would say the prospects are very good that major traditions come to amicable terms with each other.

RUPP:  Thank you.

Well, I deliberately -- you said, dialogue or other forms of non-hostile interaction, because I agree with you.  I think what's going on on the ground in pluralistic societies is by far more important than what happens in academic institutions -- even including Boston University, hard as that is to believe.

We would now like to invite all of you into our conversation.  If you have questions -- let's say, speak only if you have a question or at least you can frame what you have to say in interrogative form.

Wait until the microphone gets to you.  Then stand up, give us your name and your affiliation.  Please keep the questions brief and at least in interrogative form and we will then let our panelists respond.

Yes.  Wait until you get the mike, please.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  My name is Olin Robison, Oxford University.

Peter, I'm sorry there's no table for you.  I'm glad to hear someone make the distinction between evangelicals and fundamentalists.  I grew up in area which was both -- some people are both.  I'd like to think that perhaps I'm not now.

I would like to hear the panel, especially Dalia, comment on the archbishop of Canterbury's recent statement, which he says was not properly interpreted in the press and I really don't know.

For those who don't follow this, I spend a great deal of time in the U.K. and the archbishop, who is frequently misunderstood -- so he says -- basically made a statement in which he talked about Sha'ria law saying there should be a two-track system in the U.K. whereby -- the press at least said that he said, I do not know -- that there should be one track of law for Muslims and one track of law for everyone else.

Anyway, would you all comment on the Reverend Dr. Williams and his seeming foot-in-mouth problem?  But as you can see, that's my prejudice, but be that as it may, could you comment on what he said -- what he is said to have said?

MOGAHED:  Well, my understanding of what he in fact said is that -- first of all, I'll just give you the context:  He was speaking to a group of lawyers and it was a legal lecture and it was a very nuanced legal lecture with terms of arts that were for a specific audience that understood this nuance.

And my understanding of what he said was, it's inevitable that the British legal system will have to make room for arbitration on certain legal matters such as family law and in some cases, rules of -- basically non-interest bearing loans and things like that -- Shari'a compliant financing.  And that this would have to be -- would also have to guarantee equality of women, and that it wouldn't have to not violate British law, but that to make this kind of allowance for Muslims in Britain is something that inevitably, you know, Britain will have to do.  There are already similar allowances for some aspects of Jewish law.

That is what he said.  The word "Shari'a" seems to sort of make people -- sort of this kneejerk reaction to the word and people immediately think of, you know, hands being amputated.

So it was more -- I think the reaction that the British press had to that statement and the way it was sort of misunderstood is more a testimony to the misunderstanding of that concept of that word.

And Noah Feldman -- I don't know if he's here yet, but he will be speaking on the next panel -- in his column, article in The New York Times, he kind of goes through this a bit.

But really, when we look at what people mean by the word "Shari'a" we've gone to -- we've done a lot of research on, what do you mean by Shari'a compliance?  What we really find over and over is people are talking about economic and social justice.  So women will say Shari'a -- they associate it with justice for women.  People think Shari'a means minority rights.  So we can't sort of assume we understand what that word means, as much baggage as it has accumulated.  We really have to look at what believers believe it means -- what they interpret their own sacred law to mean.

But I hope that helps as far as the archbishop's statement.

RUPP:  Other comments?

AKYOL:  Well, maybe I can -- well, again, I mean, I'm not very sure about what he meant, but the Ottoman Empire had these multiple legal systems.  Muslims, Jews and Christians had their own legal traditions, but the Ottoman Empire had to abolish this in the 19th century and bring a civil, equal law for all citizens, because that system didn't work.

I mean, in the Middle Ages, a Muslim and a Christian would hardly have anything-together common.  They were living in their communities, but the more interaction in the society increased, then you start to have legal cases between the Muslim and the Jew and the Christian every day.  And it became such an uncontrollable system, then that's why in the 19th century Ottoman's had to bring this universal civil code for all citizens regardless of their, I think, citizenship.

So if you're living still in a modern age, and if there's a nation state, I think it should have a standard law for everybody.  But like you can maybe create a niche -- like inheritance.  I mean, you can think of some regulations which will not override the national civil code, but which can maybe supplement.  But it should be done carefully.  I mean, you can't just say Shari'a is compatible, because the understanding of Shari'a might differ from one group to another and there are some extreme cases, as we know.

RUPP: Okay.  Yes -- all the way in the back.

QUESTIONER:  Jim Dingman, IMN World Report.

I was wondering of the panel can comment on the gulf between the Christian perspectives critically looking at the writings of the Bible, and the perception in the West that there's an uncritical look at the Koran.

For example, since the 19th century there's been a growth of a critical look at the New Testament -- Albert Schweitzer.  And certainly, in the post-war period the critical Jesus Seminar out at Berkley, et cetera.  There's a constant looking at the Bible critically and seeing it very differently.

And we know that from articles in -- I think it was in Atlantic or Harper's -- that kind of movement in the Muslim world has been repressed politically.  I was wondering what your take on that is.

RUPP:  Okay.

Counterintuitive though it may seem, why don't we start with Peter on that.

BERGER:  Well, I think one of the most interesting episodes in the history of religion is late 18th century and then very strong in 19th century when starting in protestant theological faculties in Germany, scholars used all the critical apparatus of modern scholarship at the Bible -- not to the intention of debunking the Bible, but making it more alive.

This is difficult, I think, in a Muslim context.  With hadith you can do it, but with the Koran it's much more difficult.  And I think it's a mistake to equate the Koran and the Bible -- as at least as I understand Islam -- you have to equate the Koran with Christ -- the preexistence of the Koran, the eternity of the Koran, et cetera.  So this is very difficult.

I think with higher education, with a knowledge of historic scholarship, it's going to be very difficult to avoid looking at one's own sacred scriptures using modern historical scholarship.  And I think that's very positive.

Let me -- when I mean, perhaps, I can say in one sentence:  I recently had a conversation with an evangelical.  I'm theologically very liberal Lutheran.  And I said I have some difficulties with evangelicals.  And this interlocutor said, well, why?  What do you mean?  I said, well, the use of the Bible.  And then I said, look, you say the Bible is the word of God.  I would say the Bible contains the word of God, which seems a similar statement, but is really vastly different.  When you say the Bible contains the word of God, you can then -- there's a core here, which is God speaking to human beings.  But around us at the periphery again -- that I mentioned before -- there's a lot of things that are historically relative, contingent and negotiable.

How this can be done from a Muslim point of view it's not for me to say.  I think sooner or later, the question will arise and be very difficult to avoid.

RUPP:  Mustafa?

AKYOL:  Actually, I mean, there is a tradition in Islam -- there is a debate over the nature of the Koran in the history of Islamic civilization.  The -- (inaudible) -- and the traditionalists in the very early centuries debated on whether the Koran is a created or an uncreated book.  And it was an important -- I mean, there was a theological and practical war over this for a few centuries.

And the people who said the Koran is an uncreated book said that the Koran existed before the whole universe ever existed.  And it was with God and it came down in the 7th century.  The other people said, well, the Koran was how God spoke to the society of the 7th century.

So this meant that -- I mean, for the people who said the Koran is created, they also implicitly accepted that the context of the 7th century influenced the text of the Koran.  Now, this idea was -- like, this was debated in the early centuries of Islam and it was left aside.  And the idea that the Koran is an uncreated book basically dominated.

But what you see now, for example in countries like especially in Turkey, there are like a group of theologians right now who just still -- now, took the idea again.  And it was actually started by Azur Rhakman (sp) who was a scholar in the U.S. in Chicago.  And he actually revived some of these basic ideas.

And they say theirs is the historicity of the Koran.  And the context, again, of the society in the century influenced the text.  It was the one word that God spoke to that society by taking into the consideration the norms of the times so we can understand it in a less literal way.  So that would be one way of approaching it.

But of course, people -- they are saying the Koran is not divine at all, and that's a point of view, but Muslims would not accept that and remain as Muslims.

BERGER:  If you say it was not divine, you'd cease being a Muslim.

AKYOL:  Yeah.  Sure.

MOGAHED:  Right.  Yeah.

RUPP:  Okay.  Yes?

QUESTIONER:  Charles Strohmer from the Center for Public Justice.

Dalia, you mentioned that in Egypt a majority of the Muslims would like to see Shari'a as the only source of legislation.  How much does the Muslim Brotherhood sort of influence that majority opinion?  I mean, since its inception, the brothers have seemed to have had, you know, different sort of swinging back and forth views and philosophies.  And even today we hear conflicting reports about what they might be doing.

Can you help on that?

MOGAHED:  Well, I think it's entirely possible that the Muslim Brotherhood does influence that point of view.

I think in regards to Egypt especially, the current constitution already says that Shari'a should be a source of legislation.  So when you have a majority saying, well, this is the way it is now and the majority are asking for change -- the way I read that number, 65 percent saying Shari'a should be the only source of legislation -- is if the current government is already claiming to have Shari'a as a source, then lets, you know, let's increase whatever amount of Shari'a we have to something higher, because it's really associated with good governance.  It's associated with the rule of law.  And it really, interestingly, correlates very strongly with the fact that Egypt also is the country with the highest percentage who say that moving toward greater democracy will help Muslims progress.  So they're highest on those two measures:  Shari'a as the only source of legislation and moving toward greater democracy.

So it's more a measure of a level of frustration with the status quo and a call for more accountability to government.

RUPP:  Yes?

QUESTIONER:  Shari Arazur (ph).

My question is for you, Dalia.  You talked about the fact that there are fringe Muslim voices that seem to dominate or monopolize the conversation.  Originally, I come from Pakistan and I kind of know how difficult it is for a moderate voice to be actually properly heard, because you get totally shouted down.

So the real issue, in a sense, is they may be fringe, but the fact is that they actually exercise power far in excess of their real supporters.  And is there any idea as to what can be done to actually change that to begin a dialogue, because right now, a dialogue within the Muslim countries isn't possible?

All the dialogue that I know seems to take place between Muslims and the West, and that's totally a false dichotomy in large measure.  The real dialogue hasn't really started, which is within these Muslim countries.

What can be done to facilitate and encourage that dialogue so that the fringe voice can be -- their antenna can be lowered a little bit and the moderates can be strengthened?

MOGAHED:  That's a really difficult question, actually.

One thing we have to keep in mind is that internal dialogue is made much more possible when people feel less under siege.  So the problem -- the main problem is that we find all over the world people have this sense of being completely threatened, under siege --

that there's this imminent threat of an invasion or just of a cultural hegemony.  And so that sense of threats elevates them and amplifies the voices of extremists -- of people who are claiming to stand up for -- against cultural hegemony of the West or for the core values of the society.  So that perception has to in some way to away for that internal dialogue to happen.

The other thing is really what we're trying to do at Gallup is this idea of helping people be heard, of giving voice to the silenced majority.  You know, democratizing this debate so it isn't just about who has access to the airwaves; that we actually start to look at this debate from a more representative and scientific point of view using survey research.

RUPP:  Yes.  No, I'm sorry.  I guess just one of you.  Go ahead, yes.

QUESTIONER:  Good morning.  I'm Syed Z. Sayeed, religious life advisor from Muslim Student Association, Columbia University.

I have two points that I want to make, and the following questions:  I think within the public we should also attempt to recognize that there is an intellectual fundamentalism.  People who go to colleges and universities and get to higher levels of education, they develop a certain kind of mental structure, which is not as open as it should be, because they are higher -- you know, highly educated people.  So we need to address that.

And secondly, I think if we look at the history of Islam during the prophet's time, it was basically a challenge to that kind of intellectual fundamentalism.  People take things for granted and they don't want to reflect on that at all, so the Prophet presented an alternative, and we see that there was a tremendous struggle.

This hegemony that you've pointed out between the dominant culture is really threatening people who want to think freely everywhere.  Even in this country we are under siege.  We can't speak up.  So that needs to be addressed if we really want to have open societies and free dialogue.

And if you'd like to comment on that -- thank you.

RUPP:  Maybe you could just pass that microphone one row forward.

Yes, comments on that question dispensed with the interrogative form, but the question is there anyway.

AKYOL:  Well, there is something called the opium of the intellectuals, as one French writer once described -- Raymond Aron.

Yes, but then you have intellectuals who oppose that line of thinking.  And I think Dr. Berger is a great example of that, I think, in that sense.  The secularist thesis that societies should secularize -- it was there for a long time, but then some people saw that and they say, no it's not.  So you had this paradigm shift.

And right now, if you think there's this paradigm which is not very objective or honest about Islam or any other religion, then it's time to work and make your case at, again, the intellectual level.  I mean, intellectuals might be stubborn, but they open to challenge -- I mean, open to speak and you can challenge, and if you put your case in a good way, I think it will have an audience.  And that's where this society is.  And despite the sacred fundamentalism -- I mean, the society here is -- despite all their efforts -- is open and you can make your case.

(Inaudible) -- in terms of the point that was raised had a very good phrase.  He talked about the diverse culture, which is this international intelligentsia.  And I would say, basically, the statement I would make, and  this majority of sociologists of religion would agree, the world today is intensely religious.  There are two exceptions. Secularization theory was a mistake.  Okay, fine.  But the two interesting exceptions -- one is geographical -- Western and Central Europe, which is a fascinating case.  I think it's one of the most interesting issues in the sociology of religion.  Why is Europe so different?  Not the United States, Europe.  And the other is this international intelligentsia, which is much more heavily secularized than the general population in most countries with the exception of Europe.

I can't go into why this is, but let me say this is changing for the reasons that have already been discussed, because intensely religious people who tended to be -- (inaudible) -- proletariat, not the -- participating in intellectually respectable conversation are becoming more middle-class, are becoming more educated and therefore their presence, even in a diverse culture, is becoming more noticeable and influential.

RUPP:  Well, this is a further example of the way this is changing.  Just think of American political alliances.  I mean, we did, after all, support the Shah -- as you pointed out, a hard-line secularist.  And we have been allied with those Turkish elements that have been most secular reductionist or prescriptive and we have moved to the point of recognizing -- at least in the case of Turkey -- we're still very confused by --

AKYOL:  Unfortunately.

RUPP:  -- Iran.  But at least in the case of Turkey, where we recognize that an Islamist -- "mild Islamist" to use your term, government in fact represents the popular will and has, by far, better prospects than a secular fundamentalism that is trying to push back the clock.  Those are two examples where the U.S. policy -- which I find myself amazed, noting positive turns in U.S. policy.  But there are two examples, that seem to me quite clear.

Yes, Don.  Oh, I'm sorry.  The -- yes, we have one -- we have a waiting question who was --

(Cross talk.)

QUESTIONER:  -- Baer Holdings.

Turkey.  Why is that the anti-American feeling is so strong?  Is it religious, is it economic or is it political?  And I'd like to know from the survey point of view, what was the group you surveyed and from your point of view, Mustafa, is the street different than the survey?

AKYOL:  In Turkey or in the world?

QUESTIONER:  No, in Turkey.

AKYOL:  In Turkey.

Okay, well -- is it my turn?  (Off mike.)  Okay, well, in Turkey, yes.  There's a strong anti-Americanism.  And in trusting that this is more related to the Kurdish issue, not the other -- you know, these -- the -- when the United States occupied Iraq -- you know, the Kurds became the ally of the United States.  And for many Turkish nationalists which constitute a great majority of the population, the Karzai bete noire -- I mean, there shouldn't be any Kurdish entity on Earth and rise of the Kurdistan in the north made UNCHR and made all the state establishment and much of the Turkish nationals very angry.  And they have become basically anti-American because of that.

There's also concern for the humanitarian situation in Iraq.  I mean, people say, why the U.S. started this war and because of the situation of the country.  But for Turkey to especially -- the Turkish nationalists will have gone anti-American.  And interestingly, at the same time, the Turkish nationals are now choosing the governing party -- the -- (inaudible) -- party which you can call mildly slumming -- they call themselves conservatives or just Muslim democrats.  They accuse them for being too soft and too pro-United States -- too soft on or too pro-United States.  And actually, the recent best-seller in Turkey, for example -- a secularist best-seller -- is a book which accuses the Islamist prime minister to be a secret Jew who works with the Elders of Zion in order to destroy Turkey's national ethos and its secular Ataturk Kemal's Republic.

So incessantly with that -- anti-Americanism is strong, but it's not coming from an Islamic background.  It's coming from a nationalist background, which I think should show us that the Islamic realm is very complex and sometime the forces that we attribute to Islam might be coming from different national or local sources.

MOGAHED:  Just to add a few things, we did measure the opinion of Turks in 2001 as it related to the United States.  And the majority actually had favorable views of the United States, and it was one of just a handful of majority Muslim countries where there were majority-favorable views.  But that has dramatically changed.  When we measured again in 2005, I think only 30 percent had favorable views and it actually has just gone down in the last measurement.  So this was -- this isn't a very old problem in Turkey.  It -- just in 2001, the majority had favorable views.

The other thing is we've done a lot of analysis on anti-American sentiment and have looked at religiosity and found that there is no correlation.  So anti-American sentiment or even sympathy for extremism or anti-American terrorism does not correlate with religiosity.

RUPP:  Okay, I called you earlier, Don.

Up front here.

QUESTIONER:  Don Shriver from Union Theological Seminary.

Almost 400 years ago, Pastor John Robinson sent those Pilgrims off from Holland to America with the cautionary "God has yet more light to break forth from God's holy word."  Of any religion, I'm always curious, what is the principle that makes change in religious interpretation both possible and mandatory?  I'd like to ask of -- the Muslim members of this panel what is that principle in Islam?  In the Christian case, we can say that the principle of change is the Holy Spirit.  What is it that -- in interpretation of the Koran, for example, that is the theological principle that mandates and makes possible changing interpretations?

AKYOL:  Well, in the Islamic tradition, there is this notion called ishtihad, which is -- which is the Jurist's opinion -- an opinion-making process based on the sources of the Koran and the Sunna.  And one -- I think one of the big issues and it's a very known -- it's a cliche, but it's true -- in Islam is that the -- this -- the gates of the ishtihad, as it is called, was set to be closed down in the -- you know, in the end of Medieval Age.  And because Islamic scholars created the Shari'a and the basic sources -- and they read all the books.  And so Muslims stopped thinking and reforming about this.

And this went on until the modern times because Muslims had created a vast code of law and thinking, and they were winning with this for a long time and they didn't bother to ask about this.  But when they realized that the Europe is -- Europe is not strong and they started to lose wars and everything -- the moment that they realized that something has gone wrong, then started their efforts to open the gates of ishtihad to bring new efforts.  So it's just like kind of awakening.  It started in the 19th century.

But different answers were given why we -- what went wrong.  Some people said well when -- what happened was we stopped being religious enough.  We abandoned our religion, so let's go back to the sources and get -- to get more religious and maybe sometimes radically religious.  Some people said, "It's not religion.  It's just -- we just -- we did not modernize and evolve ourselves.  We did not update ourselves."  That would be the modernist line.  Some people said, "It's because of Islam that we are backward."  And then -- you know, you had this different secularist line of thinking.  But Islam has in itself a tradition which says, like the ishtihad, "You can -- as world changes, you should change your law, your -- it's not a theology.  It's not your ideas about God which will change.  But you have the theological justification to change your laws and the way you interpret your religion."  And that's ishtihad.

MOGAHED:  I just wanted to add that -- you know, I heard it once said and this is, I think, very true, that the closing of the doors of ishtihad is itself an ishtihad.  So if that means a -- an opinion of a scholar and even the fact that they were closed at all is disputed and is under debate.  So it's not -- it isn't as clear-cut as we may think.

The other piece that I just wanted to add to everything Mustafa said was that there -- there' is the difference between the principles and then the law.  So principles of Islam don't change -- they're considered timeless values -- but that by its very nature, Islam has to, in terms of how it's applied, change from time to place -- time and place.  And that -- you know, Muslims understand this to be its strength and its resilience and the reason that it can accommodate a society as different as China and Indonesia, or Morocco and Nigeria.  And so -- I mean, my understanding is that is a mandate, not only an allowance.

RUPP:  Okay, we'll get you -- yes?

QUESTIONER:  Joseph Loconte with Pepperdine University.

Thank you, panel.  A very provocative discussion here so far.

This year we're going to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- the adoption of that document, as you know.  And probably -- certainly one of the most important articles was Article 18, the Religious Liberty Article.  And the person who argued most forcefully for that article, I believe, was Charles Malik, the Lebanese delegate to the commission, an Arab intellectual and a believing Christian.  And his argument was if we don't allow freedom of conscience, then we're not allowing people to move from one faith to another faith tradition -- that we're not allowing people to become.  And somehow that will debase human dignity.  If people can't change -- if they don't have the freedom to change -- to become, then human dignity is debased.

My question then is where is the Islamic world, do you think, on this fundamental article in the Universal Declaration, freedom of conscience?  Because if it is the cornerstone of liberal democracy as many would argue, than unless the centers of Islamic influence get this right, it's hard to be hopeful about real change politically.


AKYOL:  Well, a good question.  And you point to a very important problem in the Islamic world, which is a lack of religious freedom, unfortunately -- not in the Koran, but in the post-Koranic Islamic tradition -- the Shari'a, there is a rule which says apostasy is a crime and it's punishable by death.  And we have seen how horrible -- you know, it's -- we have seen the horrible results it has given -- it is still giving in some Muslim countries and Christians who convert -- I mean, Muslims who convert to Christianity simply be threatened or even killed because of this law.  And there has -- there have been intellectuals -- Muslim intellectuals or thinkers -- theologians -- who criticize us a lot -- severely and say we should get rid of this because first of all, it's not in the Koran.  And they say it is contradictory to the -- to Koranic verses like -- which says there's no compulsory religion.

And these are also -- scholars point out to the fact that the idea of not allowing apostasy was a political idea which became religious over time.  After the death of Prophet Muhammad, the caliphs suppressed the rebellions against the Islamic state -- it was a political rebellion and you crush it.  Then later on, the Jurists who looked at that case said that, "Oh, so people who abandon Islam should be punished?"  The caliphs abandoned the -- you know, rebellions against the state.  So a political concept became religious and just -- it became, unfortunately, a part of Islamic tradition.  That's a great problem Muslims face -- question and I think get rid of.  And there are people who debate this a lot, yeah.

MOGAHED:  It is debated right now.  The -- and just to add to what Mustafa said about Muslim intellectuals, people like Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, has actually given an opinion on apostasy and said that whereas historically it was tied with citizenship, so apostasy was a type of treason.  So it was interpreted as just like treason is punishable by death, leaving one's faith is like revoking one's citizenship.  And that is no longer the case in a modern nation-state and therefore, his opinion was that -- you know, that that no longer applies.  So it's been debated and not only in sort of the intellectual class, but in very orthodox, traditional circles and that's the conclusions that many are coming to.

RUPP:  Okay.

Well, I think for our last question, we'll go to Walter as we -- and view it as a transition to the next session.


QUESTIONER:  Walter Mead, Council on Foreign Relations.

I'm following up a little bit on Don's question where he asked about theological principle in Islam that would support reexamination or re-questioning.  And certainly, we've been hearing this morning that there is in the world even very pious, conservative and orthodox Muslims -- a lot of intellectual and theological ferment.  I've heard people talk about the idea that even if the Koran is an uncreated book that existed before the universe, people's understanding of the Koran -- the understanding of an individual of theological apparatus with which you approach it is obviously created is -- and to confuse one's theological apprehension of the Koran with the Koran itself is -- would be viewed by some scholars, I suppose, as an active idolatry almost.

MOGAHED:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTIONER:  And I'm wondering -- and Peter can maybe chime in, too, from the standpoint of the way Protestants have looked at the Bible -- is this an important theological principle and is it really shaping the -- influencing the way people are approaching some of these issue today?

AKYOL:  One thing I would say, Walter, is that -- I mean, I can't -- on this panel I shouldn't be speaking for Islam.  I think one thing one should keep in mind here is that there's an enormous tradition of philosophical thought in Islam.  I mean, when Christian Europe was basically living through a kind of barbaric period intellectually -- though less, perhaps -- less so than many of us think -- but anyway, you had an enormous flourishing of critical, philosophical thought in the Muslim world.  And I think this tradition is not dead, that it can be revived.  And once you -- once reason is put into place as a dominant principle, it's extremely difficult to stop where that reason goes.

And the disconnection, I'm tempted to quote one of my favorite lines from a great Muslim thinker, namely al-Ghazali, with whom I identify because he was a professor in Baghdad and felt what he was teaching was a lot of nonsense.  And he developed a speech defect.  He couldn't speak anymore.  But he was a great professor.  And he went into the desert and had mystical experiences.  But when he came back and incorporated -- tried to incorporate these experiences in his system of thought, there's one line which I love -- I don't know if I can quote it verbatim -- but he said that, "The basic mystical experience is ineffable.  It cannot be put into words.  But then we have to try."

And then he had this wonderful sentence -- "because reason is God's scale on Earth."  If you recognize reason as being God's scale on Earth -- the gift of God to human beings, then that reason cannot be confined to this area or that area.  It moves and I think this has theological, religious implications.

MOGAHED:  I was just going to -- I think the distinction you're making, Walter, is extremely important.  To believe that the Koran is divine is a principle of faith.  And so to ask Muslims to stop believing that is really asking them to stop being Muslim.  It's a very central part of being a Muslim.  But that isn't the same as believing that anyone's opinion on what the Koran is saying is divine -- that there is this distinction between the divine word of God and our human understanding of that word, which will differ.  And there's a huge amount of diversity in terms of how people are interpreting the Koran.  And that human element -- reason informed by revelation -- is the story of humanity, is the story of time, is the story of diversity across geography.  So that second piece is really the human story, and ishtihad actually means, literally, "human effort" or "human reason" in the -- in -- applied to the understanding of revelation.

AKYOL:  You made a very good point, Walter.  And yes, there is an -- there is this Islamic idea that your commentary is much lesser of a value than the -- you know, source itself.  And actually, Islamic scholars have the tradition of ending their comments by saying "Alahua alem," which means "Only God knows the best."  So he says something he knows.  And there's also a like a tradition in -- especially in Turkey, when they start a book, they say, "If there's anything which is right in this book, that is from God. Is there is any mistake, that is from me."  So this, like -- this modesty -- this tradition of modesty is well, you know, versed in the -- in Koran and that -- that's why you have an Islamic pluralism in -- actually.  I mean, there are different scholars.  They say, "This is my opinion, but I'm humble.  I'm not imposing it."

Unfortunately, this has become a little bit diluted in the modern times when different religious opinions are trying to gain political ascendance over each other and they have to claim perfect -- claim to be perfect.  And I think a good example of this is the Vilayat-el-Faqi idea in Iran.  I mean, before Khomeini, the idea that an imam can guide -- an ayatollah can guide the whole society and state without any mistake -- any sin was not known.  I mean, that was the idea of Vilayat-el-Faqi, but Khomeini made this a political doctrine.  But today some Shi'ites like Ayatollah Sistani, for example, doesn't accept it.  So the politicization of the whole -- (inaudible) -- also made this pluralism go down a little bit because if you're into politics, you should say you're perfect.  I mean, you can't say, "I'm wrong, but I want your support."  So that -- you know, messed things all -- messed things a little bit.

RUPP:  Since we're going to continue to have discussions about similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, I would -- I'd like to underscore a point that Peter made earlier almost in passing.  Namely, if we want to look at comparisons between Islam and Christianity, for Christians or westerners -- Christians or Jews -- almost immediately, the analog to the Koran that comes to mind is the Bible.  And that's only a very imperfect analogy.  If we look at traditional Christology, much of what it said about the Christ is also what is said about the Koran.

And this is not just a -- for someone like me who happens to be interested in comparative religion and arcane fact.  It also has real bearing on our understanding because those who are not fundamentalist Christians -- that is, they who don't literally absolutize the Scriptures -- can have an easier relationship to the Bible than can easily be then projected onto Muslims because the status of the Koran is more than the status of the Bible in Christian and Jewish traditions.  And I think it's important in the ongoing discussions of similarities and differences among these traditions to bear that mind.

Well, sorry. We're a couple of minutes over.  I thank you all very much for joining us and those of you on the Web as well.  And this conference will continue after a 15-minute break?

MR.    :  Correct.

RUPP:  Fifteen-minute break.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)










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