Isn't it ironic that the protests against the statement made recently by Pope Benedict XVI in the Moselm world are accompanied by violence? The Associated Press, in an article dated today from Cairo, Egypt, reports,
Al-Qaida in Iraq warned Pope Benedict XVI on Monday that its war against Christianity and the West will go on until Islam takes over the world, and Iran's supreme leader called for more protests over the pontiff's remarks on Islam.
Pope Benedict XVI made reference to an observation reportedly offered in (or around) the year 1391 by Manuel II Paleologos, Emperor of Byzantium, in a dispute with a Persian scholar:
Show me just what Muhammad 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.Now, Muslims around the world have taken exception to having had the leader of the Roman Catholic Church describe their religion in this way; and are protesting against his use of this observation, despite his later backing away from this, saying that the quotation was not his position, but rather an illustration of how Islam is perceived. The "spin control" efforts, among others, have led to a followup article in today's Jerusalem Post:
God 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...
The pope's intent, amply expressed during his Bavarian journey, was to stress two points concerning the role of reason.
First, reason - in the form of Western civilization's heritage from the Enlightenment - not moderated by faith leads to a Godless and amoral society that frightens the believers of other religions (including Islam). This point, praised by those who believe in strengthening the role of religion in public life, has alarmed freethinkers and those who hold that only strict separation of religion and state can guarantee progress in democracy. Some observers have expressed concern over a prospective mingling of theology and politics.
Second, faith that is not moderated by reason leads to fundamentalist extremism. The medieval quote chosen by Benedict was meant to communicate this thought.
According to a report in Frontpage Magazine,
Besides numerous demonstrations accompanied by demands for an apology, an Italian nun has been shot dead in Somalia and three churches have been firebombed in the West Bank and Gaza.
Don't violent protests and death threats, in fact, show that the Emperor's observation, as cited by the Pope, are an aspect of the Islamic faith? That's the ironic part of all this.
Far more significant, however, is the use of the remarks by a group within al-Qaida to call for a jihad:
"We say to the servant of the cross (the Pope): wait for defeat ... We say to infidels and tyrants: wait for what will afflict you.
"We continue our jihad. We will not stop until the banner of unicity flies throughout the world," said the statement attributed to the Mujahideen consultative council.
"We will smash the cross ... (you will have no choice but) Islam or death," the statement added, citing a hadith (saying of the Prophet Mohammed) promising Muslims they would "conquer Rome ... as they conquered Constantinople".
The question for the West is this: Do we understand the fervor that drives these types of threats? Do we understand the mentality that will not rest until the entire world has been brought into submission (or conversion) to the Islamic faith? The Orthodox countries of the world do know (and should remember) what is was like to be under the Islamic yoke. The rest of the West would be well served by learning from their experience...