Dear Dr Williams,
We write to you from the city of Norwich in response to your desire to see a dialogue developing with Islam about the question of interest rates. However, before focusing our attention on the treacherous subject of usury, our position on which you might understand from previous communications2, we must first draw your attention to certain matters pertaining to the nature and purpose of dialogue itself.
Dialogue presupposes that there are two parties, presumably with different points of view. That makes it a very challenging affair, the most everyday example of which is the relationship between men and women, particularly within the family. It is, of course, a truism to say that men and women see things very differently, and for one or the other to deny their own or the other’s very different view of existence is the end of dialogue and the beginning of some other process with some other purpose, whose consequences for the relationship between them will invariably turn out to be unjust or unbalanced.
The same considerations must apply to any potential dialogue between Islam and Christianity. If you expect from us some mirror image of yourself who will quickly absorb Christian values, but perhaps continue to wear the turban on ceremonial occasions, then we are the first to confirm, with regret, that your desire is eminently achievable as there is no end of Muslim scholars and clerics who are only too eager to respond to you, but just as regretfully, you will still not be holding a dialogue with Islam. How can that be?