Yes, the embattled Pope deserves impassioned support from all people of decency and good will and, yes, the pathetically predictable Islamic over-reaction to his recent words demonstrates once again the primitive, tribal, insecure essence of the so-called "Religion of Peace." Muslim crazies, always searching for some new basis to encourage fanatical hostility toward the West, distorted the Pontiff's substantive, thoughtful address at the University of Regensburg by ripping a single quotation wholly out of context and imputing to Benedict himself some incidental sentiments communicated by his Medieval source. Nevertheless, by choosing to cite that source in the first place, Pope Benedict made one crucial mistake: by discussing the conflict between Islam and Christianity in a fourteenth century context he provided the nostalgic perspective that the Islamists relish, and that all "infidels" (Christians, Jews and others) should scrupulously avoid.
To come to terms with the nature of the Pope's error one must first understand the true message of his scholarly lecture, which made only the briefest reference to the long-standing struggle between Christianity and Islam. His speech attempted to affirm the necessary connection between faith and reason, declaring that "not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature." In this regard, he quoted the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus who declared in 1391: "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 smeone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, wihtout violence and threats."
These sentiments hardly sound controversial, but the Holy Father preceded them with another citation that provoked the rage of the Islamic world. "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new," said the Emperor more than six hundred years ago, "and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."