But the next paragraph was worse, demanding that Benedict confess his offense to the secular and Islamic worlds: "The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal."
This is rich from The New York Times, whose editor, Bill Keller, has deliberately and carelessly handed out the "pain" to reverent Roman Catholics in a 2002 column by comparing John Paul the Great to a communist despot. Deep apologies did not follow. Hypocrite, heal thyself.
But the networks followed that incompetent example, setting up the debate as Victimized Muslims vs. The Pope Who Needs to Apologize -- immediately and abjectly. On NBC, Brian Williams said, "The pope says he's sorry, but is his apology enough?" On CBS, reporter Mark Phillips said, among Muslims, "even moderates ... say the pope's words make their job much harder." ABC brought on professor Fawaz Gerges to predict, "I think it's gonna take years for the damage done to Christian-Muslim relations to be repaired."
I wonder what Gerges said about those "tone deaf" radical Muslims in the days after 9-11.
From their secular standpoint, the media's view of the highest point of religion is not the grasp of a true God, but the maintenance of an interfaith dialogue. Conflicts over serious issues, such as whether one religion is true and another false, or whether one religion is compatible with liberal democratic cultures and another is not, are annoying, unnecessary squabbles.
Pope Benedict has long noted that majority-Christian countries tolerate the free exercise of Islam, but Muslim-dominated countries often do not tolerate the free exercise of anything but Islam. The reaction to his address reveals that Western journalists don't care about this. They have elevated Islam to a special standard, an unofficial Victim Religion, which is only the victimized and never the victimizer. Even the forced Islamic conversion of American journalists taken hostage does not stir their ardor.
As I file this piece, I've read that a Palestinian cleric in Gaza, Dr. Imad Hamto, has declared "Aslim Taslam" on Pope Benedict XVI. It is a phrase taken from the letters of the prophet Muhammad to rival tribal chiefs -- urging them to convert to Islam to spare their lives.