Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More hypocrisy over the Pope

The NY Times reported yesterday that the foreign ministers of 56 Muslim-majority states making up the Organisation of Islamic Conference expressed their “believe that it is befitting to the Vatican to retract or redress the said statement, in demonstration of the correct spirit of Christianity in dealing with Islamic issues.”

The ministers went onto say that they had “profound regrets” over the Pope’s remarks, fearing the pope’s language “might engender a situation of tension between the Muslim world and the Vatican, to the detriment of the real interests of the two parties.”

The OIC represents some great bastions of democracy, countries known for their commitment to liberty and religious freedom. Countries like: a) Saudi Arabia (where women are banned from driving and churches are forbidden); b) Turkey (where Australian Treasurer Peter Costello’s Kemalist friends are busy prosecuting authors for insulting “Turkish nationality”); and c) Turkmenistan (ruled by ex-Communist President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov who has most enlightened views on the arts).

The ruling families of so many of these governments are living it up while their people suffer abject poverty. The Prophet Muhammad said: “The greatest jihad (struggle) is to speak the truth to a tyrannical ruler”. Yet the jails of so many OIC states are filled with political prisoners who dared to follow this religious imperative.

And so we have farcical situation of despotic governments of Muslim-majority states exploiting their citizens and plundering the wealth of their countries while accusing the Vatican of insulting Muslims. One has to wonder whether these foreign ministers have even read the Pope’s speech and understood its content and context.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom in the Muslim world. Our closest neighbour and the world’s largest Muslim country continues its steady journey to full democracy with an open and civil dialogue between Catholic and Muslim commentators in major newspapers such as the English-language daily Jakarta Post. Then again, Indonesia’s most popular native-language broadsheet Kompas is owned by a private Catholic foundation.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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