Friday, September 15, 2006

Pope's Remark Upsets Muslims

Pope Benedict XVI is in big trouble with the Muslim world.


Because he quotes a guy who puts down Mohammed, the founder of Islam.

Remember the fall out from the European editorial cartoon scandal?

All the hysteria? All the misinformation?

Here we go again.

But his time, the stakes are much higher.

The lecture (see the Vatican link here) was given Tuesday, September 12th at the University of Regensburg in Germany, where the Pope once taught years ago. The subject of the talk was the role reason plays in conceptualizing the Christian God.

But everyone is focusing on this quote:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

This remark was first made in 1391 by Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, as he was debating a Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.

Susan Frazer in an AP report writes: "Benedict did not explicitly agree with the statement nor repudiate it."

I'm not an expert on the history of Mohammed, so if you know, please tell me:

Did Mohammed command his followers to use the sword to spread Islam? Yes or no?

If Mohammed did not advocate the sword, then I can sympathize with Muslims' anger. I don't like my religious figure--Jesus Christ--being grossly misrepresented either.

But if Mohammed did, then why are Muslims so upset? It's history. And sometimes, history hurts. Christians certainly have plenty in theirs to be embarrassed about.

No matter the answer to the above question, isn't it obvious that a few well publicized Muslims are using the sword today in the name of Allah--and in turn labeling Islam as violent? Are such deeds evil and inhuman?

Nobody however is focusing on these essential questions. Instead, all the attention is focused on condemning the Pope.

Here's one example from Frazer's report:

Salih Kapusuz, a deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party, said Benedict's remarks were either "the result of pitiful ignorance" about Islam and its prophet, or a deliberate distortion.

"He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world," Kapusuz was quoted as saying by the state-owned Anatolia news agency. "It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades."

"Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words," he said. "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as (Adolf) Hitler and (Benito) Mussolini."

Revive the mentality of the crusades?

In the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini?

Mr. Kapusuz, read the Pope's lecture. He clearly condemns religious violence. He clearly condemns forced religious conversions. Do you?

After the now infamous quote, the Pope continues to cites the Emperor:

"The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 'God', he says, 'is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...'".

And then the Pope says this. Here is what he believes:

"The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. "

The Pope's lecture is very philosophical.

The reaction to it is not.

UPDATE: Ted Olsen at Christianity Today provides a load of links to this story.
UPDATE 2: The Anchoress provides commentary and lots of good links.
UPDATE 3: has an excellent editorial that summarizes the Pope's original address and the "reasonable" invitation to dialogue he makes to Muslims.
UPDATE 4: Columinist Kathleen Parker summarizes well the Pope's point.

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