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Jennifer Fields

Subject area and speciality

Religious Studies specialists:

Questioning the Promotion of Friendship in Interfaith Dialogue: Interfaith Friendship in Light of the Emphasis on Particularity in Scriptural Reasoning

‘Friendship’ is among the buzzwords such as ‘peace’, ‘tolerance’, and ‘understanding’, that are part of a shared vocabulary in the interfaith world. In discussions of the goals and benefits of interfaith dialogue, buzzwords such as ‘friendship’ are often implicitly presented as a common currency, and there is little attempt to explore how people within each religious tradition might define, shape, and describe them differently. How might, for example, Christians and Muslims differ in their opinions on the nature, possibilities, and limits of interfaith friendship? Looking at general interfaith dialogue material and at material for a specific type of interfaith dialogue, ‘Scriptural Reasoning’, I consider Christian and Muslim discourse, including promotional material for charities, speeches by religious leaders, religious documents, non-academic material (e.g. online forums, magazines), and academic material. I also look at discussions regarding the Qur’ānic verses about friendship with the religious other, which are one source of a specifically Muslim approach to the idea of interfaith friendship. My data shows that Christians tend to depict friendship as an obvious goal or benefit of interfaith dialogue, typically without explaining what interfaith friendship entails. Muslims tend to use friendship language much more sparingly in the context of interfaith dialogue, and when they do use it, it is with caveats. I note how the generic use of friendship language creates tension with the efforts to pay 'attention to the particularities of the traditions and scriptures' that the founders and practitioners of Scriptural Reasoning, among others, advocate. What questions does this analysis raise about how we frame and promote interfaith dialogue, and what other approaches to naming the goals or benefits of dialogue may be available, once attention to the particularities has made the appeal to friendship more complex?

Islamic studies specialists:

Scriptural Reasoning from the Perspective of the Islamic Tradition

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