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One Muslim organization has declined an invitation to meet Pope Benedict XVI at next Thursday’s Interfaith Meeting in Washington, the Associated Press reports , and another will attend out of respect for the Catholic Church, but not for Benedict. The Muslim Public Affairs Council, which will not attend the April 17 event, stated on its website:

Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born writer in Italy, was one of seven people chosen by the Pope to be baptized before millions on Easter Sunday. This move by the Pope revived memories of the Regensburg speech in 2006, which sought to brand Islam as inherently violent.

While there is no compulsion in matters of faith, and people have the right to follow any religion they choose, the Pope made the conversion out to be a victory for Catholicism. The act of conversion itself was not offensive, but rather, the high-profile nature of how the conversion was carried out was insulting to Muslims. The fact that the conversion took place at St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the most sacred locations for Christians, and on the holiest day of the Christian calendar carried a negative message of competition and superiority. Unfortunately, these recent events are neither constructive, nor conducive to effective interfaith dialogue.

Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, told the AP that the April 17 meeting was “more ceremonial than substantive” and that MPAC had declined the invitation.

Another Muslim organization, the Fiqh Council of North America, will attend, but “Our going there is more out of respect for the Catholic Church itself,” the AP quotes its chairman, Muzammil H. Siddiqi. “Popes come and go, but the church is there,” Mr. Siddiqi added, in an apparent snub at the Pope.



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