Muslims accuse Pope of ‘bigotry’
Not the words of the Pope, but his quotation of a relatively obscure 14th-century Byzantine Christian emperor, in a speech given in Freising Cathedral. Pope Benedict twice said ‘I quote’, emphasising that the words were not his own, and added that violence was ‘incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul’. He also admitted that the words were ‘brusque’.
But none of this has placated the wrath of Muslims all over the world. The problem is that if one is quoting someone else’s words to make one’s point, the inference is that they accord with one’s belief, and the Pope neither affirmed nor repudiated the words. Anger is particularly acute in Turkey, where the Pope is due to make a visit next year. It was a Turk who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II (or was it a Soviet plot?). Will history repeat itself?
The head of the Muslim Brotherhood thinks it may. He has asked how the Pope ‘the highest authority in the West’ – could issue statements which could ‘trigger wars among the followers of religions and threaten international peace’. The Pope's remarks ‘have aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world’ because they are, apparently, a ‘distortion’, and reflect his ‘ignorance’. Certainly, surah 2:256 says: ‘There is no compulsion in religion’. But it is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was powerless and under threat. Later, as he gained political power and military strength, it is written in Islam’s most sacred writings that he advocated spreading Islam by the sword.
Instead of hurling insults, therefore, it would be more illuminating if Muslim leaders could enlighten the kafir of the justifiable reasons for Mohammed’s murderous and violent actions, or tell us why the Pope has misunderstood the Islamic concept of ‘holy war’. They might even consider a little restraint, since their own words are now edging towards justification of violence against ‘the West’, on whose behalf they seem to think the Pope speaks. They might even consider reading the entire speech.
Given the histrionics, hyperbole, partial quotation, wilful misinterpretation, threats of violence, and allusions to more ‘holy war’, it may be that the ‘religion of peace’ is not so tolerant of other faiths or contrary theologies at all. This being the case, the Emperor’s 14th-century assessment of Islam may just have been spot on.