The words spoken there by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 were transformative in terms of the dialogue between Islam and Catholicism, as this article from Catholic Culture indicates.
The effort to interpret Islam in a manner consistent with our natural understanding of human dignity has been underway for some time. It is a feature of American policy, of course, which is hardly rooted in a respect for truth. But a challenge to Muslims to find ways to blend reason into Islam was issued by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2006 address at the University of Regensburg (Faith, Reason and the University—Memories and Reflections). This initiated a dialogue which has led Muslim intellectuals not only to take issue with the Pope’s understanding of Islam on the neuralgic points but also to more closely examine the questions Pope Benedict raised.
The first statement from the Islamic side came in an Open Letter to Pope Benedict a month after his address. In the ten years since, there has been continuing dialogue among “experts” as well as an increased willingness among Muslims to condemn religious violence. As can only be expected, this is most noticeable among Islamic leaders in Western nations and least noticeable, as yet, in the Islamic states themselves. But in late March, the process accelerated markedly in the remarkable petition against terrorism signed by 1.5 million Indian Muslims, combined with the fatwa (a religious judgment) condemning ISIS issued by some 70,000 Indian Muslim clerics (India: 1.5 million Muslims join in condemnation of Islamic State).
It is probably relevant that Muslims in India share minority status with Christians, and often experience violence at the hands of Hindus, who constitute the vast majority of Indians in most regions. We Christians are historically familiar with the tendency of religious dominance to reinforce the abuse of power, and the tendency of weakness to occasion deeper reflections about the use of force. Of course, there must be a basis for such reflection and change in the sources of one’s own religion for this to be more than a predictably convenient and momentary shift. Only an intellectually legitimate reflection can create a logical development which will stand the test of time.
In February, I wrote about the lack of an authority principle in Islam which, as with Protestantism, makes an illogical malleability not only possible but likely (see The meaning of Islam, and the deeper problem we must face). Either way, an Islamic self-understanding which includes the light available through the natural law is critical to the reduction and elimination of terrorism. While it is true that the Islamic scholars who responded to Benedict XVI insisted that reason and natural moral principles have an important place in Islamic thought, there remains a significant gap between Catholicism and Islam on this score. Catholicism emphasizes the supreme rationality of God, perceiving truth as the mind’s conformity to reality; but Islam emphasizes the essentially arbitrary character of the Divine will, as a pre-requisite for the Islamic understanding of Divine freedom.