The first meetings were held earlier this week at the Vatican to prepare for the visit of representatives of the 138 Muslim scholars who have offered to conduct an inter-religious dialogue. The first meetings at the Vatican will take place in March at the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and will be presided over by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. The Muslim representatives will meet with Pope Benedict and other Church officials, and hold study sessions at institutes like the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.
The Institute of Islamic Studies and the Middle East of Aragon (IEIOP)is in collaborative works with the University of Zaragoza and the Superior Center for Investigative Sciences to create three research ares related to Arab studies. The three projects include: Humanities (centered on Arab and Islamic studies), Middle East research, and Islamic Art History. The IEIOP saw a change in leadership this week, from Gonzalo Borras to Francisco Pina, signaling a new chapter in the organization’s history and new endeavors on Islam and Arab studies in Spain.
Christian clerics from Italy’s top Islamic Studies institute praised the letter sent to the Pope earlier this month, written and signed by 138 Muslim scholars. Citing its broad scope, intent to actively seek peace, and believability of intention, the Christian clerics have high hopes that the letter will heal some of the divide between Muslims and Christians.
By Stephen Bates and James Meikle — PM says politicians should listen to moderate voices — Report calls for more UK-trained Muslim clerics Tony Blair yesterday pledged to spend _1m improving the teaching of Islamic studies at universities, as Downing Street said more imams should be trained in Britain to reduce reliance on foreign-trained clerics. In a speech to a conference of moderate Muslims in London, the prime minister accepted that British politicians should listen more carefully to the views of “the calm voice of moderation and reason” within the community. He insisted that his government’s foreign interventions had not been based on religion. Mr Blair said: “The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use in times gone by of torture to force conversion to Christianity represented the teachings of Christ.” Among those invited by the Cambridge inter-faith programme were the grand muftis of Egypt and Bosnia, but not representatives of more extreme or politicised lobbying groups. The guest list was criticised by the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and also by the Labour peer Lord Ahmed, who told the BBC: “The conference is fronted by Cambridge University but organised by Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the communities department, who have deliberately chosen to exclude those Muslims who disagree with Government policy … It’s a colonial style of governing.”