Ahmad Iravani - President - Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East
When Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech in September 2006 suggesting that Islam condones violence, Western media homed in on the angry responses and fevered demonstrations by some Muslims. One year later, when 138 prominent Muslim clerics and scholars issued a letter asking for a dialogue between Muslims and Christians—partly in response to the Pope's address and the ensuing uproar—they got scant attention.
The press and many religious Americans have long considered interfaith discussions to be public-relations ploys or feel-good gabfests. But the October 2007 letter, "A Common Word between Us and You," brought together leaders from around the world and across Islam's often-fractious sects, many with millions of followers, and it countered those who assert that moderate Muslims are silent about violence. At the Yale Divinity School's Center for Faith and Culture, director Miroslav Volf and others immediately understood that the letter was a breakthrough invitation that had to be seized.