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THE rise of interfaith relations over 30 years has depended on letting
different religious voices "hear others as you would wish to be heard yourself"
. This could be a variation of the Golden Rule devised for the
Peter Riddell has spent many years in encounter with Muslims, and he feels
passionately that Christians should work hard to overcome stereotypical images
of Islam, and find ways of co-operating for the good of inclusive society. To
this end, he surveys diverse Muslim approaches to British society, analysing
various postures according to separatist or participatory tendencies.
He also tackles Muslim responses to 9/11, globalisation, relations with
Christians, and a host of wide-ranging social and political issues. His
tone is one of realism - valuing what is impressive about Islam, but not
minimising the negativity of its anti-Western ideological wings - and that tone
is good to have.
The theology underpinning Riddell's Christian engagement with Islam is,
broadly speaking, inclusivist: Christians have things to learn from Islam
because of God's universal blessing, but the necessity for faith in Jesus
Christ as God's act of redemption leads to absolutism, however attenuated, in
the Christian cause. How this squares with respect for Islam and the fruits of
interfaith relations is not fully examined.
Riddell is happier responding to Muslims as people than he is with Islam as
a system of cumulative tradition. But dialogue does have consequences in the
theology of religions, and Riddell's biblical theology does not allow him to
take the sovereign freedom of God with the total seriousness that alternative
readings of the biblical literature give permission for.
This shows in his failure to analyse pluralist positions with any degree of
attentiveness. He compounds the failure by citing Clinton Bennett, who is
said to be an Anglican scholar with pluralist tendencies, though he is actually
Riddell's call for greater encounter and exchange between Christians and
Muslims is commendable in terms of building social cohesion. But, at the
theological level, can the hard-won trust needed for shouldering the burden of
this task be sustained if the Christians hold the final trump card in Jesus? Is
the value of respect at the heart of the interfaith-relations industry
The Revd Alan Race is Rector of St Andrew's, Aylestone,
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