Many commentators have noted the apparent irony: The Pope suggests Islam encourages violence – and Muslims riot in protest.
Many commentators have pointed out the apparent hypocrisy: Muslims are outraged by cartoons satirizing Islamic extremism while in Muslim countries Christianity and Judaism are attacked viciously and routinely.
Many commentators are missing the point: These protestors – and those who incite them -- are not asking for mutual respect and equality. They are not saying: “It's wrong to speak ill of a religion.” They are saying: “It's wrong to speak ill of our religion.” They are not standing up for a principle. They are laying down the law. They are making it as clear as they can that they will not tolerate “infidels” criticizing Muslims. They also are making it clear that infidels should expect criticism – and much worse – from Muslims.
They are attempting nothing less than the establishment of a new world order in which the supremacy of what they call the Nation of Islam is acknowledged, and “unbelievers” submit – or die. Call it an offer you can't refuse.
If you don't understand this, listen harder. In London, Anjem Choudary – a Muslim Fascist if ever there was one -- told demonstrators that Pope Benedict XVI deserves to be killed – for daring to quote a Byzantine emperor's description of Islam as a religion “spread by the sword.”
"The Muslims take their religion very seriously,” Choudary explained as if to a disobedient child, “and non-Muslims must appreciate that and must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Islam and the Prophet. Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment."
Iraqi insurgents – some Europeans admiringly call them “the resistance” -- posted on the internet a video of a scimitar, a symbol of Islam, slicing a cross in half. It would be a stretch to interpret this as a plea for interfaith understanding.
In Iran, the powerful imam Ahmad Khatami said the Pope “should fall on his knees in front of a senior Muslim cleric." In no culture of which I am aware is that a posture from which brother addresses brother.
Dr. Imad Hamto, a Palestinian religious leader, said: "We want to use the words of the Prophet Muhammad and tell the Pope: 'Aslim Taslam'" The Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh explained: “Aslim Taslam is a phrase that was taken from the letters sent by the Prophet Muhammad to the chiefs of tribes in his times in which he reportedly urged them to convert to Islam to spare their lives.”