Friday, September 15, 2006

Benedict XVI and Muslim Rage

You may have read that the Pope "made inflamatory remarks" about the Islamic concept of Jihad.

I've yet to see very many accurate reports. The whole speech is available here.

The relevent portion will be reproduced below, but this summary by Stephen Bates of The Guardian is quite apt:

Benedict's offence, of course, was recklessly to quote this 600 year-old expression of the point of view of a medieval Middle Eastern potentate. He didn't endorse it, didn't say that it was his own view, attributed it in context. And is now told that he has "aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world." Most of which, probably, had never heard of Manuel II Paleologue before this morning. Perhaps the pope should be careful of bringing such subversive ancient texts to light.
On the other hand, if you cannot, as part of a lengthy and profound academic lecture, cite a 600 year-old text for fear of stirring the aggravation of noisy politicians half way around the world, what CAN you do? We might as well all retreat into obscurantism. And keep our mouths shut, for otherwise, who knows who we might offend. And if, as a result of the outrage, some Catholics get killed or their churches burned down by offended scholars and textual exegesists it might be thought that Manuel's original point had rather been made.

The furor came based on (in a sense to be discussed below) comments in a lecture entitled "Faith, reason and the university: memories and reflections" dilevered at the University of Regensburg in Germany where he had previously been a professor.

He illustrates a point by making reference to a dialog involving Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus. Benedict records that

"he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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". 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..." (emphasis added).

You now see the force of Bates's summary.

This is close to a paradigmatic case of quoting someone out of context, but it goes way beyond that. The small problem is that domestic news sources will not say what needs saying: that the Pope was quoted out of context and the comments are being used by radicals to whip the masses into a frenzy. That is what is happening, it is evil, and they ought to, but largely will not, say it. This, as I say, is the small problem.

The big problem is the information lockdown in the Mid East. It's irresponsible of Western intellectuals who will--I have absolutely no doubt--unfairly use this as a scourge on the Pope. It's mean and illiberal as well. However, at least they have the *opportunity* to exercise their vice, which is not the case, largely, for most in the "hotspots" of the Mid East. It took me all of five minutes to find the full speach, the key passage, and the bottom of the story.

But the masses in the Mid East don't have this luxury. They are held subject to the flood of misinformation they are fed by their "government"-controlled "news" sources.

I could go into much more detail, but the documentation has already been done by the Middle East Media Research Institue. They have a host of programs which are worth checking out on a regular basis. Here are some worthy links:

Anti-Semitism Documentation Project:

Recent Headlines: "The Mufti of Egypt: The True Face of the Blood-Sucking Hebrew Entity has Been Exposed"

Former Pakistan Intelligence Chief on Al-Jazeera: ‘Israel is Our Main Enemy’

Syrian Deputy Minister of Religious Endowment Muhammad 'Abd Al-Sattar Calls for Jihad and States Jews ‘are the Descendants of Apes and Pigs’

There is also a website which has full streaming video of Mid East TV shows.

Recent Clips: Lebanese Shiite Leader Muhammad Hussein Fadhlallah: The Jews and Some American Powers May Be Behind 9/11

Iranian TV 9/11 Special: Western Experts Say Both 9/11 and Pearl Harbor Were Planned by the American Administration

I don't know how we can possibly overcome such radical misinformation. I suppose a start would be holding those who know better fully accountable. Once upon a time that was a service of the News Media.

There is a full documentary available online here:

PS - I composed this online, so sorry for spelling and grammatical errors.


Blogger Daniel D. Novotný (editor) said...

Thanks, Trent!

I am surprised at the "outrage" in the U.S. The Germans, who are otherwise so "oversensitive" accepted the Pope superbly. But then, I guess, they understood what he says.

B-16 is frank about the essential requirement for a peaceful co-existence with Islam: it must reform itself. ALSO, it is the only good thing to do for the ISLAM itself.

There is a series of excellent articles by Fr. Samir on AsiaNews:

This one is directly on the alleged "offense":

Saturday, September 16, 2006 3:01:00 AM  
Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

Nice links, it's good to have a report from Europe.

Saturday, September 16, 2006 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger oxi_b said...

I think that the Pope could have chosen a different quotation to make his point, and it is sad that the reaction was so violent (Christian Churches destroyed). However, I see something providential here. Benedict XVI did not want this story to develope this way, but he raised a very deep question. In the news some individuals claim that the Pope said the truth. I believe that even if it was a mistake, it wasn't without meaning that it was made. May be God wanted this to happen.

The important question that has been brought to the light here is the source of the violence in the Middle East. In my opinion, the underlying values in the Middle East countries do not respect the human life on the same level as it is valued in the Western civilization (oops, I've just thought of abortion... I meant violence and war). Also, the principles of just war are very different. The suicidal bombers are called martyrs. As much as it sounds insane for us, it is more tolerable within that culture.

I think that there can not be peace in the Middle East without conversion of the culture to more human values. It may be conversion to true Islam, revisiting the interpretations. As long as suicidal bombing is considered OK in the minds and hearts of those people, the problems will remain. I don't mean to say that the West is right, the West needs conversion as well... But this is a topic for another discussion.


Thursday, September 21, 2006 4:42:00 PM  
Blogger oxi_b said...

I haven't even read the last post till it's end. I find it insulting, one can attack Christianity in a similar way (and one of the purposes of this Blog is to answer those attacks). We can discuss our points of view, but expressions like the ones in the last post are not going to bring any more peace. We ought to respect other religions, and not to call names their prophets. I want to express my respect to all the Muslims and to all people who seek God with a sincere heart.

Friday, September 22, 2006 7:02:00 PM  
Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

I've deleted the comment between Oksana's last two. It was irrational and hateful.

Monday, September 25, 2006 8:29:00 PM  

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