Fightin' Words: Pope Speaks Out on Islam and Violence

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 15, 2006 8:26 AM

Muslim students burn an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI at a protest rally in Allahabad, India, Friday, Sept. 15, 2006. A growing chorus of Muslim leaders has called on the Pope to apologize for the alleged derogatory comments made by him about Islam. 
 
Aren' t they always fightin' words when it comes to speaking out about violence and Islam?

Pope Benedict gave a speech in Germany this week that included this:

The German Roman Catholic Pope quoted from a book recounting a conversation between a 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and an educated Persian on the truths of Christianity and Islam.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the Pope said.

"He said, I quote, '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,' " he quoted the emperor as saying.

Clearly aware of the delicacy of the issue, Benedict added, "I quote," twice before pronouncing the phrases on Islam and described them as "brusque," while neither explicitly agreeing with nor repudiating them.

"The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable," Benedict said. He did not relate the Persian scholar's response to the emperor.

"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul," the pontiff said.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Pope was not giving an interpretation of Islam as "something violent" although the spokesman said the religion contains both violent and non-violent strains.

Benedict: Conversion at gunpoint-- maybe not the best move.

Pretty reasonable, right? Ahh, but it also runs the greatest risk of all. The risk of offense:

Several experts on the Catholic Church and Islam agreed that the speech - in which Benedict made clear he was quoting other sources on Islam - did not appear to be a major statement on, or condemnation of, Islam. The chief concern, they said, was the West's exclusion of religion from the realm of reason.

Still, they said that the strong words he used in describing Islam, even that of the 14th century, ran the risk of offense.

Unfortunately, as we have seen before, offense in the Muslim world can manifest itself in some very violent ways.

 

Let's check the headlines, just three days after his statement, which consisted, mind you, of three paragraphs of a much longer speech:

The Pope Must Apologize, Demand Indian Muslims

Muslims Link Pope to 'Racists and Bigots' Over Islam speech

Pope's Critique of Jihad Angers Muslims

Pakistan's Parliament Condemns Pope Benedict

Muslim Anger Grows Over Pope's Remarks

Pope's Comment on Islam Sparks Outrage

Uh-oh:

"The remark is more derogatory than the Danish cartoonist's blasphemous sketches on the Prophet. This was the last thing we could have expected from the Pope," said Rasheed, who is a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Uh-oh:

A wave of Muslim outrage swept the globe after Pope Benedict XVI linked Islam with violence, with the Pakistani parliament demanding that he retract the statement.

And, the Pope is making his first visit to a Muslim country in November. He's traveling to Turkey, where this week, "Turkish Officials Compare Pope to Hitler."

Given that radical Danish imams ginned up outrage by distributing faked photos of a pig-snouted Mohammed, I wonder what the imams are telling Muslims about Benedict's speech right now. You know, aside from that fact that he's a "medieval crusader" and a new "Hitler."

Will the map look like this again? Is this the inevitable consequence of speaking out against gunpoint conversions?

Update: Speaking of fightin' words, Michelle Malkin pays tribute to Oriana Fallaci, a writer put on trial for her unflinching critiques of Islam and violence. She has died of cancer, but her writings live on as a testament that she wasn't backing down.