Reason Flies Right Out the Window (Again)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Islamic world is in an uproar about comments made by Pope Benedict XVI concerning the prophet Mohammad and Islam, and are calling for an apology. The Pope quoted a book recounting a conversation between 14th Century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian interlocutor during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402. In the book, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The following portion of the speech is what has many Muslims so inflamed.

The emperor must have known that surah 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", 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.

How shall I address this? First of all, allow me the disclaimer of saying that the Pope and his position as "the highest and most sacred Christian reference in the World" (as some have put it) is absolute rubbish. I don’t buy the idea that this man is any more holy than I am, let alone the lead spokesperson for the “Christian” world.

Secondly, based on many of the statements that are issued from the Catholic Church, I sometimes highly doubt the "divine wisdom" of Catholicism, including its knowledge of the Bible. I have met too many Catholics who don’t know a whit about their own belief system, which really doesn’t make a bit of sense when you begin to think about it logically. (To be fair, I have met just as many Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus that don’t have much of an idea about their own religious beliefs, apart from what religious leaders have force-fed them.) In short, I generally have very little respect for the Catholic Church.

Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, I believe that the Pope used a historically factual conversation in a tactless example about the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is contrary to God's nature. After all, if anyone should be completely aware of the sins of the past, especially in light of the abominable religious fiasco that were the Crusades, it is the Pope. While I believe the Pope's intentions were honorable and not malicious, I believe he was unaware of the response from easily outraged Muslim clerics that are constantly on the watch for yet another issue to light up the fires of hate and violence throughout the Muslim world.

The premise of the speech—the spreading of religion by peaceful means and not by violence and threats—can be agreed upon by both most Christians and Muslims (I say "most" because there are plenty of nut jobs on both sides that can prove otherwise). Those of the Muslim faith, however, have a big problem with anything negative spoken against the prophet Mohammad (I refer you to the reaction against the prophet Mohammad cartoons). The response to the inference that Islam is a religion that encourages violence towards "non-believers" is that Muslims around the world are proving the point!

Does this make any sense? Muslims around the world are reacting violently to a lecture on faith, reason, and the condemnation of violence. If one is truly peaceful and tolerant and condemns violence, how can one respond violently? Where's the logic in that? (The Black Iris takes a similar position, not really seeing the sense in protesting against an accusation of violence by using violence.)

Media sources aren’t helping to quell the issue. Today's Jordan Times headline states Pope's Attack on Islam Sparks Anger, with a callout that insinuates that the Pope personally made the quote rather than repeating a portion of a 600-year-old conversation. Most media sources will skew the story; most people will receive—and base their actions—on a small portion of the information; many Muslim clerics will take advantage of ignorance in an effort to use this lack of information to fuel their modern-day crusade against "the West".

The end result will be that the Vatican offers an "official apology" towards Islam which will go largely ignored by radical Muslim clerics who will continue to encourage actions against the "infidels". CNN will continue to broadcast the public outcry by Muslims, including violence and rioting by "peace-loving Arabs", at which point Europeans and Americans will shrug their shoulders and admit that it appears that the Pope’s comments weren't too far off base, after all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started to read your blog today. I'm also a foreigner in Jordan and tips from any source are always welcome...

But finally I found your article about traffic jams in 4th Circle and...

Perhaps I'm too "Spanish" and I'm wrong when considering that King Juan Carlos the First played a crucial role in Spain's democratic development... and I'm wrong because I do not consider him a "stinkin'king"...

Am I so wrong?.

Please, help.

9/18/2006 11:51 AM  
Blogger Dave said...


I'm not sure I'm following your train of thought. I don't much about Juan Carlos I, whether his reign was "stinkin'" or not.

I do know a bit about democracy, however. "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

9/18/2006 12:21 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

As a follow up, it appears that the Pope has apologized and "is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers".

Worldwide reaction to the apology has been varried, ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood's indignance that the Pope did not apologize in person, to the murdering of a 70-year old nun in Somalia, and now the Mujahedeen Army in Iraq is threatening attacks on the Vatican City.

So much for "religion of peace".

9/18/2006 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am bewildered by your postings for one reason. You seem to be quite rational, logical, and express thoughts based on knowledge that are articulate. I am new to his website and new to Jordan all together. What I find bewildering is that you seem to tie actions with religion. It seems to blend at times, but perception is reality for most. Its a matter of where you are standing. With you being in Jordan I would expect that you have met at least one or two Muslims whom you may have befriended. Have they not shown you anything that creates a division between negatives actions as humans and religion. To me it just seems Islam is an easy target these days. I lived in the US for ten years just about and the Christians, Jews, or Athiests I have met that took knowledge a step further, looked into the religion to create a better sense of understanding of their perception. Interestingly enough, their respect for Islam either grew, they converted (or reverted), or they just added historical knowledge of truth to their database. They were in better position and sparked the most interesting conversations whether for or against. I think you have that potential, however you seem to base your knowledge on media rather than your enviroment or actual knowledge (books perhaps).
I don't want to offend you for it is the last thing I wish to do, but truely you seem much more intelligent than critizing based on ignorance.
So much for "intellectual conversation."

9/28/2006 12:51 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

You are correct; I do tie action with religion. Religion in its most basic form, after all, is supposed to result in action in the lives of its followers. However, I believe that man is inherently evil. As such, there will always be opportunity for man to twist religion to support his corruption and desires. Both organized Christianity and organized Islam were both in the wrong in this situation. As you can see, I supported neither the Pope’s foolish comments nor the reaction of much of the Muslim world in this post.

The point I was trying to make was that media sensationalism, no matter how incorrect, makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the world’s perception of Islam. Moderate Muslims have a big problem before them: extremist Islam. It’s easy enough to say one thing, but the actions of the loudest and most posturing party are going to do the most talking. If Muslims want to convince the world that Islam is a religion of peace, they are going to have to take care of the skeletons in the closet first.

I have to say that I highly respect King Abdullah and his stance on the subject of the Pope’s comments. The reaction I experienced in Jordan and among Jordanians was calm and rational. I am grateful to be living in a country where cooler heads prevailed.

9/28/2006 7:14 AM  

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