Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Immaturity of the Islamists

Four days ago Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address to some of the3 scientists at the University of Regensburg, Germany. The Pope, then Joseph Alois Ratzinger was a professor and vice rector at the University from 1969 to 1971. The title of the speech was "Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization", and it's main focus was just that. The subject matter is very esoteric and academic, and I do not have the knowledge to understand most of what he is saying. The Pope is quite clearly very learned, as must be anyone who hopes to understand his address without doing additional research.

But there was a part of his address which has stirred up much trouble in the Muslim world. Rather than just quote that part of the third paragrap, which has given so much offence, following are the two preceeding and one following
In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point -- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself -- which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason," I found interesting and which can serve as the starting point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation ("diálesis" -- controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It 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 Koran, concerning holy war.

Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "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 goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably ("syn logo") is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."
Much of the Muslim world has reacted like this

Here we go again. This past January and February we had the "Cartoon Jihad", during which several of us here in Washington DC, sponsored by, felt obliged to go down to the Danish Embassy to act as "human shields" against radical Muslims. In July Muslims were outraged! when Israel had the audacity to respond to Hezbollah rocket attacks by striking targets in Lebanon.

Now it's starting up again. From various news reports
NABLUS, West Bank — Palestinians wielding guns and firebombs attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, following remarks by Pope Benedict XVI that angered many Muslims.

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Pakistan's legislature unanimously condemned Pope Benedict XVI. Lebanon's top Shiite cleric demanded an apology. And in Turkey, the ruling party likened the pontiff to Hitler and Mussolini and accused him of reviving the mentality of the Crusades

On Friday, Pakistan's parliament adopted a resolution condemning Benedict for making what it called "derogatory" comments about Islam, and seeking an apology.

ISTANBUL -- Across the Islamic world yesterday, Benedict's remarks on Islam and jihad in a speech in Germany unleashed a torrent of rage that united Shi'ites and Sunnis and threatened to burst into violent protests like those that followed publication of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

ANKARA Turkey - "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence," (Turkish) Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

BEIRUT, Sept. 15 -- A medieval reference in an academic lecture by Pope Benedict XVI unleashed a wave of denunciations, outrage and frustration across the Muslim world Friday, with officials in Turkey and Pakistan condemning the pontiff, Islamic activist groups organizing protests and a leading religious figure in Lebanon demanding that he personally apologize.

LONDON United Kingdom - From the AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT newspaper - If the new Pope's manners remain the same, the Catholic church will be subject to upheavals that it has never seen before...

Palestinian Hamas supporters wave party flags as they shout slogans against Pope Benedict XVI during a demonstration in Gaza City, Friday.

The University of Virginia Cavalier Daily Incident by Comparison

Last week The Cavalier Daily, the student news paper at the University of Virginia, published some cartoons that were insulting to Christianity. From a CNSNews story on the incident

The Catholic League contacted editors of The Cavalier Daily about two cartoons published in August. One of the cartoons, printed Aug. 23, depicts Jesus crucified on a graph with the caption "Christ on a Cartesian Coordinate Plane."

The other, printed Aug. 24, shows Joseph asking Mary, "How did you get that bumpy rash?" Mary replies, "I swear, it was Immaculately Transmitted."

Another cartoon printed Aug. 24 depicts Jesus driving a woman in a car that presumably crashes. As they wait in line at Heaven's pearly gates, the woman curses at Jesus, who responds, "B****, I ain't never drove!"
Christians responded by sending letters and email to The Cavalier, and in the end the newspaper removed the cartoons. I cannot find them on the Internet and right now do not have time for an exhaustive search. The newspaper has replaced the cartoons with this message from their author

Whether you think the Cavalier should have removed the cartoons and apologized or not is beside the point. There have not been any riots by Christians nor will there be. No one is going to bomb anything at the University of Virginia.

In the West we have learned how to handle these things peacefully. In most of the Islamic world they have not.

Was the Pope Right?

Someone appearing to be a genuine moderate Muslim wrote in to The Corner about the Pope's address and raised an excellent point
The problem with Benedict's speech, and it's illustrated perfectly by the quotation I cited above ("...evil and inhuman..."), is that it gives moderate Muslims no option other than to renounce our faith. When Benedict approvingly cites a source who says that Islam is "evil and inhuman", he's not offering a bold challenge to moderate Muslims, he's alienating them. There is a profound difference between, on the one hand, endorsing what Benedict said, and on the other, calling the enemy "militant Islamists", "Islamofascists", "Islamobolsheviks" (my personal favorite), or whatever. It's the difference, I suppose, between Robert Spencer and National Review, JihadWatch and AEI.

Just because the Muslim street is, in all its hypersensitivity, reacting like a woman who's just been told her pants make her look fat doesn't mean that Benedict was correct to say what he said, certainly not from the perspective of history and theology, nor I believe from that of the best way to win the GWOT.

I have to think that Pope Benedict shouldn't have quoted that sentence about "things only evil and inhuman, such as his(Mohammed's) command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." He could have made his point more delicately.

Professor Bainbridge (via Michelle Malkin) sees the Pope's address more as " a shot across the bow of post-Christian Europe", telling them that they have lost their way and as such "the tools demanded to meet the threats of the day" see this speech solely in terms of a clash of civilizations between Christianity and Islam would be error. Instead, the Pope is staking out a set of claims about the relationship of man and God that stand in opposition not only to the Islam of Ibn Hazn, but also that of the Protestant Reformers, the Jesus of History crowd, and (an area of particular concern for this pope) post-Christian Europe. The Pope is also renewing the claims of the Church Universal to have a truth that is transcendent, rather than culturally-bound.
The Bottom Line

But the inclusion of that sentence by the Pope is also not that big of a deal. And unlike Jesus, Mohammed did spread his faith through the sword. This is a central fact that many Muslims like to ignore.

The West, on the other hand, self-flaggelates all the time over it's history. We wash our dirtly laundry ad nauseum, usually for the better. Other cultures have not faced up to their historical misdeeds, and not doing so results in a fantasy view whereby they are perfect and the West evil.

Further, President Bush and other Western leaders need to speak out on this matter, not to defend the Pope, but more to defend free speech from violence and threats of violence. They should denounce the actions of the Turkish and Pakistani parliaments.

What we do not need are idiotic statements like the one we got from the editorial page of the New York Times (via LGF)

There is more than enough religious anger in the world. So it is particularly disturbing that Pope Benedict XVI has insulted Muslims, quoting a 14th-century description of Islam as “evil and inhuman.”

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 sort of nonsense from the Times only encourages the Islamists to riot and carry on like this. We can't become "insult free" here in the West. The real world doesn't work that way. We can't go on with these riots every time some Muslims feel they have been offended, which seems to occur and more and more frequent intervals. The best way to stamp this down is not to pander to it, but to tell those engaged in such "outrage" to grow up and handle their offendedness in a more appropriate manner.

As Michelle Malkin points out, "there is always an insult to be manufactured"

When will any Muslim cleric apologize to Christians or Jews over the ant-Christian and anti-Semitism that is a regular feature of the Middle East?

I am sick of "Muslim rage" over this or that. No doubt there are Muslims who are disgusted by their brethren who act in this manner. I suspect the main reason we don't hear from them like we should is that they are afraid of violence directed at them.