Saturday, September 16, 2006

the Pope's attack on Islam (another chapter in the war on Islam)

September 16, 2006

Pope’s attack on Islam was no casual slip

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Pope Benedict has hit out at Islam and its concept of holy war. The thinly veiled attack on Islam came during a theological lecture on Sept. 12, 2006 to the staff and students at the University of Regensburg, where he taught theology in the 1970s.

Just like a cheap shot against Islam - packaged in western free speech clichés and marketed as innocent satire – launched in the form of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad printed by a Danish daily and republished by European newspapers, Pope’s anti-Islam remarks are touted as an invitation to open dialogue with Muslims. Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, insists Muslims must learn to enter into dialogue without "crying 'foul"'. The Guardian says: “There cannot be dialogue without rigor and openness. The Muslim world should also take pains to be thoughtful in its response, and perhaps less quick to take offence.”

However, this was no casual slip. Beneath his scholarly rhetoric, the Pope's logic seemed to be that Islam is dangerous and godless. Though many are inclined to see this debate as a fresh maneuver to keep the Muslims engaged in controversies.

Using the words, "jihad" and "holy war", the Pope quoted criticisms of the prophet Mohammed by a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II, during a debate with a learned Persian. "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," Benedict quoted the emperor as saying. "The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable, " the Pope said and added: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.”

Manuel II (1350-1425) was the second-to-last emperor of the East-Roman (Byzantine) Empire. As a boy, he had been held prisoner by the Turks, and his dialogues took place as his inheritance lay in jeopardy to the Ottoman empire, and his capital under siege. Only 28 years after his death, Constantinople, the capital of Byzantine empire fell to the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed II.

Giles Fraser, a lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford, - quoting Christopher Tyerman's latest book on the Crusades,”God' s War” - argues that analogies between the Crusades and the present global conflict are often overdrawn and historically dubious. After all, it was one of Benedict's predecessors, Urban II, who first summoned a Christian jihad against Islam. And it is born-again Christians who have been at the forefront of support for the invasion of Iraq, the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel, and the whole "reorganization" of the Middle East - a catastrophe in which many thousands of Muslims have lost their lives.

But what makes his comments from Bavaria doubly insensitive is that Munich and its surrounding towns are home to thousands of Gastarbeiter, many from Turkey, who are often badly treated by local Germans and frequently subjected to racism, Fraser pointed out. “It won't be lost on them that Manuel II ran his Christian empire from what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul. And reference to that time, in circumstances such as these, has the unmistakable whiff of Christian triumphalism,” he concluded.

Another report in the Guardian gives some insight into the thinking of Vatican about Islam. John Hooper of Guardian reports from Rome that Pope believes his church should take tougher line on Islam. Writing under the title, After a quiet first year as pontiff, God's Rottweiler shows his teeth, Hooper says the key word in the Vatican now is "reciprocity" . The leadership of the Roman Catholic church is increasingly of the opinion that a meaningful dialogue with the Muslim world is not possible while Christians are denied religious freedom in Muslim states.

As a cardinal in the Holy See, he was known to be skeptical of John Paul II's pursuit of conversation. One of his earliest decisions as pope was to move Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, one of the Catholic Church's leading experts on Islam, and head of its council on inter-religious dialogue, away from the centre of influence in Rome, and send him to Egypt as papal nuncio.

Benedict has spoken publicly of Christianity as the cornerstone of Europe and against the admission of Turkey into the European Council. He said Turkey should seek its future in an association of Islamic nations, not with the EU, which has Christian roots. His scheduled visit Turkey in November may now be at risk.

Renzo Guolo, a professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Padua, believes that this is maybe the strongest criticism because he doesn't speak of “fundamentalist Islam” but of Islam generally.

Marco Politi, the Vatican expert for the Italian daily La Repubblica, said: "Certainly he closes the door to an idea which was very dear to John Paul II - the idea that Christians, Jews and Muslims have the same God and have to pray together to the same God."

The Rev. Daniel A. Madigan, rector of the Institute for the Study of Religions and Cultures at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, said the central p! oint was that “if we are really going into a serious dialogue with Muslims we need to take faith seriously.”

Unlike late Pope John Paul, Cardinal Ratzinger, who took the name of Benedict after his election as Pope, does not approve of joint prayers with Muslims. He is also skeptical of the value of inter-religious dialogue. In the summer of 2005, Pope Benedict devoted an annual weekend of study with former graduate students to Islam. During the meeting, and since, he has reportedly expressed skepticism about Islam's openness to change given the conviction that the Noble Quran is the unchangeable word of God.

Giles Fraser believes that John Paul II's pontificate was largely defined by his relationship with a global conflict between west and east and his speech before a home crowd of Bavarian academics, Benedict XVI may well have set the parameters of his own period as Pope.

Not surprisingly, Pope Benedict’s attack on Islam drew sharp reaction from the Muslim world. The 57-member-state Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) while condemning the pope’s statement expressed hope” that such surprising comments are not part of a new campaign against Islam by the Vatican, especially after decades of dialogue that brought scholars from the Muslims world together with scholars from the Vatican.”

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine, American Muslim Perspective: www.amperspective. com

7 comment(s):

  • i want to know how much these statements reflect anti-immigrant panic compared with bad blood and/or concern over religious tolerance. there's too little material presented in the quotes and background info... which comes first, turks or their faith?

    By Blogger hapa, at 9/16/2006 03:23:00 PM  

  • you could travel to turkey or to germany, and meet with turkish immigrants and have a profound discussion about this...

    when you have the answer - please do let us all know, inshallah.

    Could i suggest that, in your travels, you don't just say " i want to know" - say, "I demand to know, and I demand to know from you right now - and if you don't meet my demands, I will bring democracy and liberty to you." This formula has been known to bring all kinds of answers very quickly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/16/2006 03:28:00 PM  

  • i wrote my note too quickly. with "which comes first, turks or their faith," i was asking people to read the mind of the pope, not the minds of everyone of turkish descent, relation, or sympathy.

    the economic and social situation in europe is too complicated to follow in detail from here in the united states, if one is also trying to follow and influence events in the americas. i wanted to know if this reactionary religious leader reflects more the economic or spiritual concerns of "native" europeans. it can't be a coincidence that the european press is complaining about external economic pressure at the same time that "foreign" faiths are being challenged heavily (again).

    i suppose what i really wanted to ask i may already have answered. with turkey trying to enter the EU, this is an excellent time for an opportunistic religious leader to rely on festering bigotry to increase his church's power.

    By Blogger hapa, at 9/16/2006 10:49:00 PM  

  • Why is the dialogue so one sided whenever the Christian/Muslim subject is raised? A quote of a medieval Pope raises a demand for numerous apologies from the "accursed Infidel, the Vatican." Why does a label like this not necessitate apology? For that matter, doesn't the random hate killing of a nun in Somalia who is doing God's work in a hospital for the poor reinforce the medieval notion of "the sword of Islam"? People who have been labelled "accursed infidels" don't tend to want to apologize for anything.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/19/2006 09:21:00 AM  

  • Anon. which internationally recognized, and respected Muslim leader has called the pope an "accursed infidel, the Vatican" - could you provide some quotes and references?

    Which internationally recognized, and respected Muslim leader has called for killing of people of other faiths? Again, references please.

    Random Christians and Zionist Jews say all kinds of trash about Muslims all the time. Just look at some of their blogs. No one is demanding apologies from them. BUT when a pope - spouts such garbage, he has to be taken to task at an international level because of his stature. If he is not interested in building bridges etc. then , frankly, all this talk about interfaith dialogue is nothing more than farce. (Personally, I don't care much for "interfaith" dialogue groups - they don't lead to much except for some tea and cookies).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/19/2006 10:08:00 AM  

  • Altaf, you have a good point. Random acts of hatred know no one home. Respected and recognized leaders, though, should not participate, and the pope did. He took on Protestants twice in the same speech, so he got me, too. It appears to me that many of the extremist leaders in the Muslim faith ARE recognized and respected by many, many people. These leaders have ignored the bulk of the Quran, which professes and encourages a peaceful life, in favor of a few passages that, when taken out of context, can encourage violence. But no internationally respected and recognized leader in the faith denounces their speech and actions. That puzzles me.

    By Blogger hopeful, at 9/20/2006 10:01:00 AM  

  • hopeful, you did not provide me with any references regarding your comments about Muslims.

    The internationally recognized repected leaders of the Zionists are some of the most extreme when it comes to so-called "religious groups" - All kind of trash gets published in the NYT and other mainstream newspapers and are considered "scholarly" and/or "high brow."

    Yet, when they are called to task for their terrorist activities - people are branded as "anti-semitics" - that is what really puzzels me. Why does "israel" have even a seat at the UN? What are its borders? Does it have any?

    There are a whole host of Christian Zionists who have supported that terror activities of "Israel" Why? Is support for stealing people's lands, holding an entire people hostage, is that what Christianity teaches? I know that is not the teaching. But why are these people respected? How come there is no scrutiny of Pat Robertson who calls for assassination of Pres. Chavez? How come the Christian network, the 700 club, can spew all kinds of garbage - bordering on hate speech - How come they are allowed to have their very own TV station brining in hundreds of millions of $$$ if not more?

    The American AM airwaves are filled with hate speech against Muslims and Islam - and much of it is done in the name of Christianity. How come there is no outcry from the vast majority of Christians, and Jews? Where is the condemnation? Where is the boycott? Yeah, there are some isolated condemnations from a handful of Christian and Jewish groups - but that is really it. Why? America although supposedly "secular" is very much of a Christian country, and look at what this country is doing all over the world in the name of not only "democracy" - but also being aided and abeted by so many Christians. Why?

    That is what really puzzels me.

    As President Ahemdinejad pointed out:

    What afflicts humanity today is certainly not compatible with human dignity; the Almighty has not created human beings so that they could transgress against others and oppress them.

    By causing war and conflict, some are fast expanding their domination, accumulating greater wealth and usurping all the resources, while others endure the resulting poverty, suffering and misery.

    The fundamental question is that under such conditions, where should the oppressed seek justice? Who, or what organization defends the rights of the oppressed, and suppresses acts of aggression and oppression? Where is the seat of global justice?

    By Blogger redwood, at 9/20/2006 10:29:00 AM  

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