Sep 15, 2006

On Papal Rhetoric and Muslim Anger

Muslim activists burn an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI during a protest in Srinagar, IndiaMuslim activists burn an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI during a protest in Srinagar, India, courtesy AP

As a Catholic I read with chagrin the ill-conceived and regrettable comments made Pope Benedict XVI at an address in Germany yesterday. The Pope read quotations from a book that documented a conversation between 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and a Persian scholar on the respective 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.'"

Pope Benedict evidently believed that by merely repeating a derogatory quote about Islam that he would not be misinterpreted.

He could not have been more wrong.

Muslim leaders around the world are expressing outrage over the perceived offensive comments. Mohamed Mahdi Akef, head of the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, argued that Islamic countries should break ties with the Vatican if the Pope does not apologize.

"The Pope has aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world and strengthened the argument of those who say that the West is hostile to everything Islamic," he told reporters.

Federico Lombardi, the Vatican Press Office Manager, said that the Pope did not intend to offend Muslims.

Pope Benedict XVI
Left: Pope Benedict XVI

Lombardi added that Benedict wanted to “cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, obviously also toward Islam. It is opportune to note that that which is at the pope's heart is a clear and radical refusal of the religious motivation of violence."

Unlike Pope John Paul II, the current Pope has not demonstrated the sort of media savvy necessary to excel as a 21st-century world leader. His comments, while probably not meant in a spirit of attack, nonetheless demonstrate that His Holiness continues to struggle with public relations on the world stage.

During a May visit to Auschwitz, he seemed to minimize the role of ordinary Germans in the horrors of the Holocaust in the following comments:
"As a son of the German nation over which a band of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people were used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power (…) I have come here today to implore the grace of reconciliation, first of all from God, who alone can open and purify our hearts, and from the men and women who suffered here."
Certainly some of the Muslim criticisms have been a bit overblown, especially the comments of Salih Kapusuz, a deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party, who said that Benedict will go "down in history in the same category as leaders such as (Adolf) Hitler and (Benito) Mussolini," and that the Pope has a "dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages."

Still, one would expect that a leader as authoritative and powerful as the Pope would exercise greater tact.


Mark said...

Cannot agree more. Good post.

Dariush said...

I think the anger against the Pope is largely misplaced. The Context of his words, taken within the current world situation, is important... but as I said, the anger directed at this Pope is misplaced.

Lombardi added that Benedict wanted to "cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, obviously also toward Islam. It is opportune to note that that which is at the pope's heart is a clear and radical refusal of the religious motivation of violence."

Based on everything I've read by and about this Pope, I'd say that the above is pretty much accurate.

I remember when he was first appointed reading a column by a self-appointed "expert" on "militant Islam" (quoted here approvingly by posters in a previous thread) which expressed the fervent desire that this be the Pope to lead Europe into a much-desired (by certain parties, at least) "Clash of Civilizations" against "Islam".

It was a crock then, as it is now. Here's hoping he issues an apology and acquires some of that "media savvy" which, as you rightly pointed out, he seems to be lacking.

Here's also hoping that the other side blows off steam and settles down and that no Muslim nation actually takes the foolhardy step of breaking ties with the Vatican over this.

Certainly some of the Muslim criticisms have been a bit overblown, especially the comments of Salih Kapusuz, a deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party, who said that Benedict will go "down in history in the same category as leaders such as (Adolf) Hitler and (Benito) Mussolini," and that the Pope has a "dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages."

Yeah, I agree. Hyperbolic nonsense. Frankly, I think that Godwin's Law should become an actual law with public figures having to pay a stiff fine every time they invoke the spectre of Hitler in order to make some point, or (worse) rouse the passions of the mob on a particular target.

Just imagine pundits and politicos having to force themselves to refrain from Hitler/WWII analogies...

Metal said...

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microdot said...

It was a little bizarre to see the quote of one of the last Byzantine Emperors used by the Pope in a speech relating to the modern world.
I can understand the extreme Turkish reation in relationship to the fact that as a Cardinal who was the defacto Secretary of State of the Vatican, he very vocally opposed the entry of Turkey into the European Economic Union.
These statements at this time can only put the Catholics Church in Islamic countries in higher risk.

kooz said...

Someone has to tell the truth. Thank God the Pope had the courage to...The muslims need no reason to gather by the thousands and chant against christianity...its what they do best.

Where is their outcry when thousands around the world by muslim terrorists? The rest of the world should be demanding an apology from them.

microdot said...

Kooz, another thing the Pope has done with his irresponsible statement is that he has empowered bigots all over the world to feel justified in smearing all Moslems with the same broad brush of hate.

Anonymous said...

Holding them captive?
The grip of the Majlis-e-ittehadul Muslimeen on the community remains strong, despite minor dents.
WITH A Member representing Hyderabad in the Lok Sabha, four members in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, 36 corporators in Hyderabad and 75-plus members elected to various municipal bodies in Andhra Pradesh, the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen is one of the foremost representatives of the city's Muslims.
The Majlis was formed in 1927 "for educational and social uplift of Muslims". But it articulated the position that "the ruler and throne (Nizam) are symbols of the political and cultural rights of the Muslim community... (and) this status must continue forever".
The Majlis pitted itself against the Andhra Mahasabha and the communists who questioned the feudal order that sustained the Nizam's rule. It also bitterly opposed the Arya Samaj, which gave social and cultural expression to the aspirations of the urban Hindu population in the Hyderabad State of those days.
By the mid-1940s, the Majlis had come to represent a remarkably aggressive and violent face of Muslim communal politics as it organised the razakars (volunteers) to defend the "independence" of this "Muslim" State from merger with the Indian Union.
According to historians, over 1,50,000 such `volunteers' were organised by the Majlis for the Nizam State's defence but they are remembered for unleashing unparalleled violence against Hindu populations, the communists and all those who opposed the Nizam's "go it alone" policy. It is estimated that during the height of the razakar `agitation', over 30,000 people had taken shelter in the Secunderabad cantonment alone to protect themselves from these `volunteers'.
But the razakars could do little against the Indian Army and did not even put up a fight. Kasim Rizvi, the Majlis leader, was imprisoned and the organisation banned in 1948. Rizvi was released in 1957 on the undertaking that he would leave for Pakistan in 48 hours. Before he left though, Rizvi met some of the erstwhile activists of the Majlis and passed on the presidentship to Abdul Waheb Owaisi, a lawyer.
Owaisi is credited with having "re-written" the Majlis constitution according to the provisions of the Indian Constitution and "the realities of Muslim minority in independent India", according to a former journalist, Chander Srivastava. For the first decade-and-a-half after this "reinvention", the Majlis remained, at best, a marginal player in Hyderabad politics and even though every election saw a rise in its vote share, it could not win more than one Assembly seat.
The 1970s saw an upswing in Majlis' political fortunes. In 1969, it won back its party headquarters, Dar-us-Salaam — a sprawling 4.5-acre compound in the heart of the Old City. It also won compensation which was used to set up an ITI on the premises and a women's degree college in Nizamabad town. In 1976, Salahuddin Owaisi took over the presidentship of the Majlis after his father's demise.
This started an important phase in the history of the Majlis as it continued expanding its educational institutions, including the first Muslim minority Engineering College and Medical College. Courses in MBA, MCA and other professional degrees followed. The 1970s were also a watershed in Majlis' history as after a long period of 31 years, Hyderabad witnessed large-scale communal rioting in 1979. The Majlis came to the forefront in "defending" Muslim life and property.
Salahuddin Owaisi, also known as "Salar-e-Millat" (commander of the community), has repeatedly alleged in his speeches that the Indian state has "abandoned" the Muslims to their fate. Therefore, "Muslims should stand on their own feet, rather than look to the State for help'', he argues.
This policy has been an unambiguous success in leveraging the Majlis today to its position of being practically the "sole spokesman" of the Muslims in Hyderabad and its environs.
Voting figures show this clearly. From 58,000 votes in the 1962 Lok Sabha elections for the Hyderabad seat, Majlis votes rose to 1,12,000 in 1980. The clear articulation of this "stand on one's feet" policy in education and `protection' during riots doubled its vote-share by 1984. Salahuddin Owaisi won the seat for the first time, polling 2.22 lakh votes. This vote-share doubled in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections to over four lakhs.
The Majlis has since continued its hold on the Hyderabad seat winning about four-and-a-half lakh votes each time.
Despite remarkable economic prosperity and negligible communal violence in the past decade, the hold of the Majlis on the Muslims of Hyderabad remains, despite minor dents. And despite widespread allegations of Majlis leaders having "made money", most ordinary Muslims continue to support them because, as one bank executive put it "they represent our issues clearly and unambiguously''.
A university teacher says that the Majlis helped Muslims live with dignity and security at a time when they were under attack.
Asaduddin Owaisi, the articulate barrister son of Salahuddin Owaisi and leader of the Majlis' Legislature party, compares the Majlis to the Black Power movement of America.
The Majlis that emerged after 1957 is a completely different entity from its pre-independence edition, he says adding that comparisons with that bloody past are "misleading and mischievous". "That Majlis was fighting for state power, while we have no such ambitions or illusions".
He stoutly defends the need for "an independent political voice" for the minorities, which is willing to defend them and project their issues "firmly".
"How can an independent articulation of minority interests and aspirations be termed communal," he asks and contests any definition of democracy which questions the loyalty of minorities if they assert their independent political identity. "We are a threat not only to the BJP and Hindu communalism, but also to Muslim extremism," Asaduddin claims. "By providing a legitimate political vent for Muslims to voice their aspirations and fears, we are preventing the rise of political extremism and religious obscurantism when the community is under unprecedented attack from Hindu communalists and the state''.


(1) ISLAMIC TERRORISM IS EVIL & INHUMAN: 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. Pope Benedict XVI is right. It is Evil and Inhuman to propagate Islam by sword. John Paul II's Pontificate was largely defined by his relationship with a global conflict between West and East, and he implicitly supported the Islamic terrorists that bombed on 9/11, by defending the rights of Islamic terrorism and opposing President Bush’s war on Islamic terrorism. In 1391 AD in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. With a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Muhammad 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." Pope Benedict XVI in a speech in Germany quotes the fourteenth-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who challenged a Muslim correspondent to name anything not "evil and inhuman" spawned by the Prophet Mohammed. "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," was part of an historic dialogue between the emperor, whose throne in Constantinople was then under siege by a Muslim army. Yet some question the wisdom of his decision to use a besieged emperor's depiction of Islam as a faith, which condones "acting unreasonably. Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and Algeria might not have fallen to Islam had Persia, Byzantium and Rome militarily supported Gnostic Christians of Syria and Egypt. Persia would not have fallen to Islam had Byzantium supported Persia against Islam. Turkey would not have fallen to Islam had Papacy and Rome supported Byzantium. Europe and India has a moral obligation to win back the lands of Asia Minor and North Africa back into the fold of Christian Civilization before 2050 AD. During Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI Hindu-Christian Pact of Civilization is possible and Christian lands stolen by Islam would return back to Christian fold in 21st Century, because the religions that expand by sword die by the sword.

(2) CHRISTIAN-HINDU PACT OF CIVILIZATIONS: Hindu-Christian Pact of Civilizations to launch Christian Crusades on Islam and Crusades of Democracy in the Middle East. Hindus can provide 10 million soldiers to back it up. Pope John Paul II supported Wahhabi terrorists that bombed on 9/11. Pope Benedict XVI is wisely launching Crusades on Islam. The 900 million Hindus of India wholeheartedly support new Christian Crusades on Islam and new Crusades of Democracy on Islamic Middle East. Pope Benedict XVI is right that Mohammad taught nothing new except Evil and Inhuman. Hindus support all what Pope Benedict said. Hindu India wants to have a Hindu-Christianity Pact of civilizations to tame Islamic barbarism. Hindu India is willing to provide 10 million Hindu soldiers to new Christian Crusades in the Middle East and on Crusades of Democracy to the Middle East.

(3) RECLAIM MEDITERANEAN AFRICA FOR CHRISTIANITY: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco were thriving Christian civilizations, before they fell for Arab Muslim Bedouin invaders after 630 AD, and Arab Muslim killed all Christian men and took over Christian women by sword. The Christian Manifest destiny in 21st Century is to regain Christian Lands of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco for Christianity again before 2050 AD. Hindu India is willing to join Christian Crusades on Mediterranean Islam and provide 10 million Hindu volunteers soldiers for this noble cause in the name of Jesus to regain Mediterranean Africa and Asia Minor back to the folds of Christian Civilization, to help Pope Benedict XVI realize his Christian Dream in first quarter of 21st Century Age of Aquarius. If Jews can return to Israel after 2100 years, there is no reason that Christians cannot return to North Africa after 1300 years and Turkey after 700 years. Victory of Christian-Hindu Alliance is predestined. Jesus shall rule over Turkey, Asia Minor and North Africa again before 2050, with the blessing of Hindus.

Kalki Gaur, “GLOBAL CLASH OF RELIGIONS” ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;

microdot said...

You must check out the blog page of Third World War! A complete mish mosh of bizarro/history and totally violent race hate. I was fascinated. He must be monitoring any mention of this subject and sending his message all over the world!
The first piece advocated that Morales expell all pure blood Spaniards from Bolivia and send them to Spain so they can fight the rapid mongrelization of the Spanish population and prepare them for the great war of civilizations to come. You have to thank him for his comment because it gives a window into the depth of dangerously bizarre individuals who are actively trying to provoke chaos on this planet!

Mark said...

Yeah, I was gonna make another post here and found...weird, combative Islamic and Christian postings.

Why can't we just do away with fundamentalism?


Peahippo said...

Ooh, what a shock. One evangelical extremist ticks off other evangelical extremists. Now the Western media is postioning all this as some sort of attack on Christianity ... whereas the truth of the matter is that Christianity like Islam has NO proper function in the modern world, where we clearly have NO EVIDENCE of divine beings of any kind.

I say we empty out Australia and ship all evangelical extremists there, where they can kill each other to their twisted little content. The rest of the rational world (read: SECULARS governed by SCIENCE and RATIONALITY) can get on with living the only lives we'll ever get.

(And yes, as if you couldn't tell, all this religious-based bullshit in the media is more than tiring to me now. Anyone who really believes that a large bearded Jew sits in the sky saying "oy vey" and listens to prayers is simply going to have to produce proof of this silly entity or else shut the fuck up. I'm now too tired of this nonsense; it's like dealing with children dressed up as grown adults. Religion is a mental illness. Yes, if you believe in any god, you're mentally ill, since you believe in something that not only has no evidence for its existence, but should be producing existence-evidence in asteroid-bucket sizes.

It's time to expose it and then issue the appropriate medication to those affected ... either that, or they'll be moved to Jesusland (one of the sectors of Australia that I mentioned before).)

Now it's time for all the holy rollers to act all appalled and get so fucking angry at me for telling the truth. Tough ... and grow up. It doesn't matter what some pope or imam says since both are equally mentally ill. For a change, start caring about things that actually matter, like feeding your kids good food instead of corporate-farm-produced chemfood.

Dariush said...


That "Kalki Gaur" guy is actually Hindu, not Christian.

Great column today by Justin Raimondo, "In Defense of Pope Benedict".

Western secularists have long hated the Pope and the Catholic Church, so peahippo's comments above don't come as a surprise.

At the very least, he's brutally honest about his sentiments, no matter how much I personally (and probably others) find them offensive.

wjohnson said...

I am enjoying the stimulating debate that this subject has spawned. Tough subjects beget tough comments which are a good thing. From religious leaders of fundamentalist Islam and Christian, political leaders of the Middle East and our own Bush administration, I see all having no other desire but to eventually indulge in an all out war.

There was an exposé on 60 minutes last night dealing with a Fundamentalist Christian group in North Dakota holding “Jesus Camp.” It showed them teaching (indoctrinating) young children much like we are shown as the bad example from the Fundamentalist Islam schools. They were even praying to a large photo of Pres. Bush. Scary stuff. Other Fundamentalist Christian groups started the old, “Liberal Media Bias” song of “Editing them in a bad light,” but the group that was on tape said it was, “spot on and the message they wanted to send out.” This negated the argument of the like minded Fundamentalist whom tried to provide damage control knowing it did not play well under the light of scrutiny.

I just see people from both sides talking at each other instead of with each other. Spout out your rhetoric, shut off listening to the response waiting for the blah, blah noise to stop so you can spout out more rhetoric.

My last addition to this is a quote from Marie Arouet de Voltaire:
“I detest what you say, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to say it.”

A wise statement that many need to adhere to before it’s too late.

wjohnson said...

I just had another thought and it maybe a good story for you to elaborate on.

The Turkish Prime Minister cannot take any high moral standard if you look into the historical aspect of the Armenian Death March done by the Turkish Empire during the turn of the century. Hitler used this example to justify his own extermination of the Jewish population. To compare the Pope’s comments to Hitler; maybe they should start by admitting their own history?

I have a good friend who is Armenian. His mother as a small child of five years old saw her father and uncles taken from their village never to be seen again. Her mother was passed around the Turkish army camp like a bottle of whiskey in a labor camp. Her little sister died with her head in her lap from starvation. They marched the Armenians from what are now Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, in the name of trying to rebuild the Turkish Empire. The march spread out the dead instead of mass graves. The Christian ethnic cleansing from an Islam nation.

Still it was man killing man in the name of God.

kooz said...


Show me where Christians are killing in the name of God. It time to get out of your fantasy world where everyone gets along and deal with real life.

bernie said...

I suppose it makes idiots feel comfortable to say things like we have no right to condemn Nazis, after all Christians killed Jews 500 years ago.

Christians have become civilized in the past 1400 years, Muslims have not. This has nothing to do with racism, but mathematics. If you make a rule that says make 4 rights you will end up where you started - it has nothing to do with race or culture. Likewise, you follow the rules laid down by Mohammed and you will either convert, kill, or dhimmify the world; there is no other mathematical outcome. It has nothing to do with race, Arabs are semitic just as are Jews, yet I have no problem wanting Islam wiped off the Earth.

And please, no handwringing about tolerance of others' religion, Islam is no more a religion than butchering meats is a religion.

Dariush said...

"It has nothing to do with race, Arabs are semitic just as are Jews, yet I have no problem wanting Islam wiped off the Earth."

(sniff, sniff) peeuuw... what the hell is that smell? Corned beef?

Hooda Thunkit said...


Benny (The Enforcer) XVI may not have the social acumen, as shown by quoting a 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor, especially today, to a group of hyper-sensitive Muslim extremists, just itching to be offended, but puhleeze, if the comments were truly offensive, they should have still been fuming about them since they were first made. However, they chose to conveniently forget about old “offenses” until they were reminded of them by.., Benny.

That said, it seems to me that extremists are particularly selective with their delayed (or conveniently suspended) outrage.

Still, Benny could use a booster-shot of uncommon sense. And, he should probably get out a little more.


Anonymous said...

sniff, sniff) peeuuw... what the hell is that smell? Corned beef?

Nope, it's the camel you rode in on.