WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for a stepped-up dialogue between Muslims and Catholics.
The CAIR statement was issued Friday following the public controversy over Pope Benedict XVI's remarks last week that were criticized by various Muslim groups and activists as insulting to the Prophet Mohammed. The pope's comments were followed by some attacks against Catholics around the world. CAIR said it also wanted to arrange a meeting with the Vatican's representative in Washington to discuss the pope's comments.
CAIR is a Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group. In its statement Friday, it said, "The proper response to the Pope's inaccurate and divisive remarks is for Muslims and Catholics worldwide to increase dialogue and outreach efforts aimed at building better relations between Christianity and Islam. This unfortunate episode also offers an opportunity for Christians to learn more about Islam, the Prophet Mohammad and the Islamic concept of jihad."
"Jihad is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense ... (having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression. 'Jihad' should not be translated as 'holy war,'" the CAIR statement said.
"Muslims are also asked to maintain good relations with people of other faiths, and to engage in constructive dialogue," the group said.