September 16, 2006

Pope's lecture creates disturbance

I’m sure everyone will have seen the reaction to the remarks by the pope which have been continuing since he made an academic speech to a limited audience in Germany on Thursday. What has amazed me has been the sheer idiocy of the reaction by many people, and especially by some extremist Muslims. According to the BBC ( ) there have already been fire bombs on Orthodox and Anglican churches in the West Bank city of Nablus. Great. A double whammy of idiocy; firstly neither Orthodox or Anglican churches accept the authority of the pope, secondly this is tantamount to them saying “I’ll show you that Islam isn’t a violent religion by threatening you and committing acts of terrorism”.

Other worrying things which have been said included comments from the chief cleric of New Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. The cleric claimed Muslims should “respond in a manner which forces the Pope to apologize”. I do sincerely hope that this doesn’t lead to any more violence than has already happened.

I’ve not heard the whole lecture and what has been reported were not the pope’s words. On Channel 4 news an Islamic scholar claimed that he had not been offended by what was said so I can only assume that when the whole lecture was heard it was perfectly reasonable.

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  1. Joe

    You can read the whole speech through this BBC web page; . It has key extracts and a link to a pdf with the whole lot… might be worth a read.

    The Pope has also said sorry with regard to the offense caused, although as I understand it not for the speech itself. Maybe this will clam things down.

    16 Sep 2006, 13:20

  2. Hamid Sirhan

    What has amazed me has been the sheer idiocy of the reaction by many people, and especially by some extremist Muslims.

    When the US has invaded two Muslim countries in five years and fully supports another state occupying and repressing the people of Palestine and invading yet another nation, targetting mainly Muslims… it doesn’t necessarily take much to annoy some groups of Muslims especially when the words spoken are by the Pope of all people, trying to cite an Emperor looking down upon conversion by the sword in the early 14th Century… just after the crusades of all events! Well done!

    It was very stupid to attack the (Eastern) Orthodox Church, considering the friendly terms on which E. Orthodox and Palestinian Muslims tend to be.

    16 Sep 2006, 18:19

  3. Joe

    Hamid, although I take your point on board as a point of view which I’ve heard quite a few people advance, I fail to see how the US actions in the Middle East would have much bearing on what the Pope said. The US president, as far as I am aware, is not a Catholic and neither is Blair (officially). I also don’t see the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan having anything to do with religion… I can’t see the connection really, unless there is a feeling that the Pope speaks for all Christians, which is wrong but might be more defensible if they know nothing of Christianity’s history and have had no access to the lecture itself independent of the media (which could be turning it any which way)

    16 Sep 2006, 20:36

  4. Hamid Sirhan

    The US president, as far as I am aware, is not a Catholic and neither is Blair (officially)

    That’s true.

    I also don’t see the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan having anything to do with religion… I can’t see the connection really

    The population of Iraq and Afghanistan is predominently:

    a) Muslim
    b) Christian
    c) Waffles

    The population of Iran is predominently:

    a) Muslim
    b) Christian
    c) Desk Lamps

    The population of American (at least nominally) is predominently:

    a) Muslim
    b) Christian
    c) Frosties

    Now it may not seem like a clear cut religious thing to you, but to the people who are on the receiving end of the bombs made in the US and Britain the distinction can be quite clear. And it is not just the physical actions that make it seem so, but all the rhetoric within America. For every Bush speech proclaiming “Islam to be a great religion, hijacked by these evil terrorists!” there’s a speech inciting the general public to vote Republican to fight against Muslims in general who are backward, evil, smelly women-oppressors. For every John Stewart, there’s one or two Coulters or Malkins…

    The point is, you might not be able to see it. Others do and it’s the Muslims bearing the brunt of the attack and the Christians who believe that Muslims should be attacked.

    unless there is a feeling that the Pope speaks for all Christians, which is wrong but might be more defensible if they know nothing of Christianity’s history and have had no access to the lecture itself independent of the media

    The Pope attempts to speak for all Catholics. I’ve read the whole lecture. And the Pope cites an Emperor who basically says “show me anything Islam brought that was new, and I’ll show you violence and evil” and then uses that as a basis to promote Christian (or, oops, Hellenic) values of non-violent conversion (ai if only that were true of the European Wars of Religion, the ethnic cleansing of the Iberian Peninsula, the Americas etc. etc.), whereas Muslims just want to run around everywhere forcing everyone to convert.

    When the Pope is speaking like that, it sounds somewhat like the Protestant rhetoric in the States and part of a general Christian war launched against Islam.

    17 Sep 2006, 08:38

  5. James

    The pope, in his speech, was arguing the case for religious tolerance. There was nothing in his speech that justifies the crazy reactions of many muslims across the globe.

    When people of other religions living in muslim countries enjoy the same freedoms as muslims living in the west enjoy then I will sit down and listen to what muslims have to say.

    17 Sep 2006, 12:58

  6. Hamid Sirhan

    So you listen to what people say on the basis of their religion?

    17 Sep 2006, 14:52

  7. Hamid Sirhan

    Oh and James, I’ve read what Pope Panzer had to say and despite your interpretation, if he had cited a discussion from the 14th century that followed:

    “Emperor X said that all the Jews had ever brought to the world was violence. Look at Jericho! Heck, look at Jesus – he preached peace and tolerance and bam, they strung him up on a cross. .. This shows that now that violence has no place in society!”

    You’d bet that there’d be an outcry against this German Pope – Hitler in disguise.

    17 Sep 2006, 14:58

  8. Joe

    James, I’m going to agree with Hamid on the bit about listening to people based on religion… it seems a bit silly (at least)... not all muslims are violent and I think there is always a lot which can be learnt from discussion.

    Still, I must disagree with you, Hamid, I doubt that there could be anything said which should provoke that kind of reaction. I understand your point about the feelings of these people, but it seems that the actions that some decided to take up (violence and criminal damage) are crime which cannot justifiably be attributed to mear words said – no matter the subject matter.

    17 Sep 2006, 16:23

  9. Hamid Sirhan

    Oh don’t get me wrong – I don’t agree with the actions – especially the apparent attacking of churches… it’s not really something worth even getting hot about… but I can see why some are getting excited over the issue. It’s not something that can be dismissed as the Pope merely speaking out against violence. Anyone can accept that kind of message. But he wasn’t just saying that, he was quoting something that wasn’t really so appropriate for the message unless his message was “Muslims are vicious savages”.

    Now, personally I don’t think the Pope should be apologising for his comments. He’s not just a Catholic but the head of the Catholic Church. I may feel his comments were unjustified and ignorant but he’s a Catholic and for him there is no religious plurality (and by that I mean the equal validity of many and differing religious ideologies, not the right for different religious ideologies to be propounded), much as for a Muslim or a Protestant there is no such religious plurality. So to expect him to sugar-coat every anti-Muslim message when his is a competing ideology isn’t realistic.

    17 Sep 2006, 17:06

  10. Hamid Sirhan

    Just came across this article in Ha’aretz and thought it rather neatly applied to our current conversation and, as the author is Jewish (as opposed to Muslim), perhaps even James can appreciate his opinion!:

    The pope’s speech is an embarrassment. He is mistaken on the factual level when he says the Koranic injunction against forced conversions appears in an early sura, when every beginning scholar of Islam knows it appears in a late one, whose prescriptive force is greater. He also erred by selecting, of all Christian comments made during Islam’s 1,500-year history, the particularly harsh and insulting statements of a 14th-century Byzantine emperor. No Muslim (or Jew) could forget that the Byzantines had taken part in the Crusades 200 years earlier. The very term “holy war” was coined by Pope Urban II, who sent his Christian soldiers off to massacre Muslims and Jews simply for refusing to convert to Christianity.

    18 Sep 2006, 10:26

  11. Joe

    I went back and read over sections from the speech which the pope gave (and the part which has caused so much trouble). I actually find the comments acceptable in the context. I don’t know whether or not there was an order to try and spread Islam through violence and know pretty much nothing of the rules so I shall not comment on them (I’ll assume from Hamid’s comments that if such a rule existed it has been lapsed – although to the discussion I find it a little irrelevant).

    The Pope talks about Manuel II at least 3 times through out the lecture, indeed he seems to be one of the central themes of it, and to me it seems that the point he was assessing was Manuel II’s idea*(1) that logos is central to the idea of God and is evidence that violence is not compatible with God. This is no doubt an important idea to any religion (with, apparently, logos being reason and word).
    This makes the point of Manuel II relevant – Manuel II thought that Muslims were practising violent ideas and that these were the central part of their faith, which he disagreed with. The quote was just making that point. It doesn’t matter if Manuel II was wrong, insensitive or ignorant*(2). It also doesn’t matter if he himself was violent, or a killer, or any number of other things. This was his example based on what I assume he believed to be true (or what he thought would be politically advantageous to be true). It doesn’t invalidate his point which is that violence and faith are not compatible as an idea.

    The point is one which is internal to us all about how we should live our lives, and seems relevant to the Catholic Church to the extent that they have through-out history used violence. This point could have been driven home further with a reflection on that specific issue and what could be done to correct that (and no doubt have avoided a lot of this trouble). Even so it seems the Pope was just using the back argument provided at the time, much in the same way that if I wanted explain one of Descartes meditations I might make reference to the arguments that he made.

    .* (1) I believe that this point was his originally, although this is the first I’ve heard of it so can’t say for sure.
    .* (2) I would like to add that I personally consider Manuel II’s views on Islam to be all of these things and especially, as has been pointed out, so soon after the Holy Wars his point might have been better made with reference to the massacres carried out in the Crusades which used Christianity as a cover for murder.

    18 Sep 2006, 19:22

  12. Looks like I’m a bit late on this one.. ho hum..

    I’d just would really like it if the next time some international figure or western media outlet makes any point about the aspect of the fringes of the Muslim faith (let’s face it, it’s bound to happen again sooner or later), the Muslim community proves them wrong.

    Even if the Pope’s comments were taken out of context (which no doubt they were), the reaction across the world will only validate to some that very point that the Pope alledgedly inferred.

    22 Sep 2006, 10:02

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