Bad news for religious understanding

Category: Europe, Faith & Spirituality Topics: Interfaith, Keith Ellison Views: 7196

I don't know why Pope Benedict XVI sought to quote what could only be described as an anti-Muslim diatribe to open his speech on the unacceptability of using religion to justify violence. It would have been more appropriate for him to choose a quote closer to home. After all the 14th Century source he cited was no angel, and the period in which he ruled, sandwiched, as it was, between the bloody Crusades and the equally bloody Inquisition could have provided Benedict with enough material to make his point-without resorting to a sweeping mischaracterization of Islam.

Of course, the topic needed to be addressed, but in our troubled period, heeding Jesus' injunction to "remove the beam from your own eye" first, before trying to "remove the splinter from your neighbor's eye" and leading by example, would have been the wiser course.

To be sure, religion is being abused, as it has been for millennia. Listening to or reading the poisonous utterances of bin Laden, al Zawahiri and Zarqawi or any of those who are being called "al Qaeda's second generation" makes it clear that there is a problem that Muslims must address. But listening to Christian evangelists like Pat Robertson and a whole host of other preachers or Israel's Rabbi Oveida and that country's other racist ideologues makes it clear that there are problems all around.

If the Pope's remarks didn't help, neither did recent comments by President George W. Bush. In a series of speeches delivered last week culminating with a televised address to the nation on 9/11, the President shamelessly sought to exploit fear and enflame passions to win support for his increasingly unpopular war in Iraq. Putting "flesh on the bones" of his earlier use of the term "Islamic fascism" (an expression first coined by anti-Muslim ideologues), the President repeatedly conflated 9/11 with the Iraq war, blurred differences between Sunni and Shi'a extremists in the Middle East and Iran, ominously warning that should we lose in Iraq a "radical Caliphate" extending across continents would be the outcome.

Bashing Islam and preying on the public's fears is demagoguery at its worst.

Thankfully, the story doesn't end here. There are challenges to those negative currents and they provide hope. On 9/11, for example, the Arab American Institute hosted a commemorative luncheon featuring a Washington-area Imam and an Arab Christian priest, a leading Jewish rabbi and an Episcopal Bishop. Their combined message of understanding and hope stood in stark contrast to the intolerance that is so prevalent.

On the very next day two seemingly unconnected events provided additional evidence that there can be change.

In a powerful address before the Arab American Institute, Senator Russ Feingold (D- WI) took direct aim at the President's use of the term"Islamic fascism" saying,

"We must avoid using misleading and offensive terms that link Islam with those who subvert this great religion or who distort its teachings to justify terrorist activities. I call on the President to stop using the phrase "Islamic Fascists," a label that doesn't make any sense, and certainly doesn't help our effort to fight terrorism... When the President of the United States uses that phrase, he offends peaceful Muslims around the world, and he shows that he doesn't understand the enemies that we are up against... It's obvious that the Administration made a deliberate decision to use this term. I believe that this is a serious mistake. It's time for the President to repudiate this term and instruct people in his Administration to cease using it. What is so hard about referring to the enemy as Al Qaeda, its affiliates, and is sympathizers? "

Feingold's challenge was widely repeated and well received by many.

On the same day, Minnesota's Democrats voting in their state's primary election chose a State Senator Keith Ellison to be their nominee for the US Congress .Because the district he will represent is overwhelmingly Democratic, Ellison is almost certain to win in November. At that point, he will not only become Minnesota's first African American member of Congress, he will also be America's first ever Muslim elected to Federal office. Because Ellison was associated early on with Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam (during the period of the Million Man March), his opponents have waged a relentless campaign against him. Ellison weathered these storms and won-though his intolerant foes have continued their efforts at defamation.

But despite these persistent signs of bigotry and intolerance, Ellison's victory, Feingold's courage and the message of understanding delivered at our 9/11 interfaith gathering should remind us all that there is hope for a change.

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute and can be reached at [email protected]

  Category: Europe, Faith & Spirituality
  Topics: Interfaith, Keith Ellison
Views: 7196

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Older Comments:
I just want to say that the Popes words were badly understood. Of course there are people in catholic religion that had made bad thinks (inquisition) but there are also good poeple that want to serve God and help others (mother Teresa of Calcuta). What the Pope was trying to say is that nobody should use religion to cause terror agains others, nor catholics, nor muslims, nor anybody. He is not saying "catholics are right muslims are wrong". He just want to
The only thing that the Pope requests is that this ideological war stops. Because, at the end, the innocents are those who end up paying the price.

Don Phine, I don't think you are 'doin phine' mentally. Why do you lie so blatantly? You know the truth is like fine sand it will slip through your hands no matter how much you try and contain it. I left Christianity for Islam 30 years ago and have since never regretted it. My only regret is that I was not born into a Muslim family. If Islam were a religion of violence I would have shunned it as I did Judaism and even Buddhism and Hinduism which I did try to understand. It was only in Islam that I found good sense, peace and tranquility. Over the years my brother and my uncles converted too and as recent as 5 years ago so did my mother. I went to a Catholic school and always questioned the barbarism of Christian history. No, Islam is not the problem. Intolerant Christians who lie to protect a facade full of holes, such as you, are the problem.

Its a fair article written by James Zogby.

Christians and muslims have a good friendship in the middle east going back centuries. They have supported each other during many challenging times. The Pope's comments at such a time when many muslims percieve that a war is being raged on Islam is totally wrong, unethical and unchristian like. If he thinks Islam was spread by violence and sword, then why are so many people converting to Islam in America. Nobody is threatening them but they understand the peace in Islam and the oneness of God; the message preached by prophets Adam, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad (may peace be on all)and all others.

All over US there are christian muslim dialogues, interfaith peace vigils, picnics etc are taking place, where people are getting together and talking about faith and love.

The Pope has showed what an irresponsible, hatred filled man he is. What an impression he gives of himself to muslims who are 1.5 billion around the world 1 in 5.

I hope he reads the Quran himself and the biography of the prophet by Martin ling and the book by Michael Hart 'The 100'

Do any of you guys find it ironic that the Muslim worlds reaction to the Pope quoting a 14th century text calling Islam violent was to riot, burn Churches, kill an Italian nun, and three priests are currently missing. Isn't the Muslim world proving the Pope's point? (even though if you actually READ what the Pope said, it's clear the quote is out of context. The Pope is a scholar, and was addressing a scholarly audience). The Muslims world is just looking for another reason to go crazy and validate the murder or Chritians, and further their desire to dominate us and force us to be their good little dhimmis.


"the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them."

Good article. I agree with Chris, if the pope did not intend on offending Muslims, why did he choose to read that quote in the first place? Especially during the week of 9/11. It is very clear what his intentions were.

Salam Alaikum,


The Pope was engaging in a university discussion on the unacceptability of violence in religion. Islam is not without its own share of relgious violence (as are most religions, tragically). But instead of protesting against an academic disucssion, Muslims would be better served by reflecting on the Pope's mesage. Instead, the Muslim response was to burn Christian churches, threaten non-Muslims with death unless they convert to Islam etc. In other words, wasn't the Byzantine emporer right in his assessment of Islam?

The Pope certainly has a lot of time on his hands to write so much 'drivel'. I would love to know what does this man do ? What justifies his slary and his estates and villas or the adoration of millions of people blindly adoring a "Man" ? Who made him God's proxy ? By whose authority ? Does God now find it necessary to conform and succumb to "man's laws" and elect some old coot to represent him on earth? Why is mankind so utterly stupid?

.. Why would he quote from such a biased source if he intends to heal. Like adding salt to the wound. No different from Blair going to Lebanon after assisting in sending American bombs to Israel to bomb Lebanon 20 years back. Its called kiss of Judas. Words show true intentions. He needs to work on that and there is hope for all. Just because he is a pope it doesn't mean he is beyond mistakes. What he really needs to do is remove his own alter ego first, but given his pomp and ceremony that would be an impossibility. "it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of the needle than the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven". Chris p.b.u.h.

Those who want to defend the pope said that we misunderstood that the pope only wants to startup 'diologue' amongst the two major religions! I say to these people a religious leader (if he really befits the title) quotes from his sacred book only, if not for anything but to preach to his subjects. But for the pope to have quote a medieval crusader to make his point shows him in his true color of not deserving to lead the catholics but the product of the nazis that he is.

I should have call for the muslims to dismissed this moron utterances but the fact that my religion abhors tarnishing the image of ANY prophet of God really left me with no choice but join those that say the pope must make a public apology to the muslims. He is lucky not to have been a muslim even we will have been calling for his head by now!

Assalamualaikum wrbt and greetings to the rest of you.

I can truly understand the anger boiling over in the Muslim world and as a Muslim myself, I felt the same anguish. I have the same impulse.

But there must be no display of hatred or imminent retaliation of any kind towards place of worships of any religion. In face of this polemics, Muslims must display that they can raise above hatred and vengeance.

Let me give my rebuttal about this view by the Byzantine emperor that Islam spread by the sword. If we open the pages of the world history on Kings and Emperors, on colonies and empires, we may come across a phrase " The sun never sets in the British empire ". That was to display how vast the old British empire and it's former glory was, it extended across continents, seas aqnd oceans.

Along with their system of government, the British also brought along their gospel to the colonies. Yet, no historians has ever said that the Anglican Christainity was spread by the might of guns ( or goons perhaps ?).

The Spanish came along to the Latin continent and being the conquistadors as they were, how come not a word was ever said that Roman Catholic was spread by the sword and shield or the guns of the conquistadors ?

Why is then Islam is given a different treatment by history ? Why is it that the expansion of the Muslim empire from the Middle East to Europe, Constantinople and Spain being observed in a different light ? What about the incursions of the Dutch and the Portugues to South east Asia before ? Were those not conquest as well, and the gospel that they brought upon to those regions, does it not mean that the Christianity too was spread by force ?

Look, I am not going to jump to those conclusions similarly when the Islamic empire expanded, I can strongly submit that there was no forced conversion to Islam most of the time.

Hence any religious or political leader should be careful and mindful in their speech and conclus

(Quraan-2:146). Those to whom We gave the Scripture (Jews and Christians) recognise him (Muhammad or the Ka'bah at Makkah) as they recongise their sons. But verily, a party of them conceal the truth while they know it - [i.e. the qualities of Muhammad which are written in the Taurt (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)].

(Quraan-2:41). And believe in what I have sent down (this Qur'n), confirming that which is with you, [the Taurt (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)], and be not the first to disbelieve therein, and buy not with My Verses [the Taurt (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] a small price (i.e. getting a small gain by selling My Verses), and fear Me and Me Alone. (Tafsir At-Tabar, Vol. I, Page 253).

42. And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth [i.e. Muhammad Sal-Allaahu 'alayhe Wa Sallam is Allh's Messenger and his qualities are written in your Scriptures, the Taurt (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] while you know (the truth) .

(Quraan-2:10). In their conceal is a disease (of doubt and hypocrisy) and Allh has increased their disease. A painful torment is theirs because they used to tell lies.
11. And when it is said to them: "Make not mischief on the earth," they say: "We are only peacemakers."
12. Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not

The people of the Book (christians & yahoodis) know This As They know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which They themselves know.(Quraan 2:146)

Those unto whom We gave the Scripture recognise (this Revelation) as they recognize their own sons. Those who ruin their own souls will not believe. (Quraan 6:20)

Pope is bland, Christains and Jews must not let .. people become their Popes.
Jewes and christains made changes in their books but we (MULIMS)still repect them, they must respect us.
.. Pope must say sorry otherwaise they it will be dangrouse for all his fellows especialy in strick muslims areas.

Senator Keith Ellison a million congratulations sir on your victory. As the first African American and first ever muslim this is wonderful. God is Great! It should be people who can do the job elected irregardless of thier color or race. Like our prophet said an arab inot better than a none arab white is not better than none white. It is reassuring to see that american people are smarter than Bush believe they are you can't pull the wool over their eyes any more.They are coming out of the darkness that the american administration wants them to be.

It is shocking !!!
How on earth can the leader of the Catholic world made such an irresponsible remark ? He put himself in the same category of BUSH , BLAIR AND SHARON.

Me must be high pn POPE PY

i ask the pope why he is hiding the truth from his people that mohammad peace be upon him.his name is mensioned in bible as AHMED .ALL popes and rabies know this prophet as they know their sons ..and i ask them dont hide the truth for very little money. come on the right path .read quran know the truth . we muslims want to save you from hell fire .and in return what you r giving us.

The Old Crusader habits die hard.

The same strains of bigotry, double standards and moral relativism we see generally in the West so clearly examplified by Bush and Blair run in the veins of this Pope.

He calls for Islamic leaders to 'take responsibility for their communities and teach their young to abhor violence' - will Christian leaders take responsibility for Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the massacre of 250,000 Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq and the subsequent slaughter in Lebanon? What of the on-going slaughter in the Gaza?

Or are 'Chistians' graded on a 'different' scale? Is it alright for Christians to invade muslim lands and FORCE secularism (and Bush-Blair 'Bombed' Again Secular-Christianity) upon us and yet it is forbidden (violence/terrorism) for us to defend our people and lands?

He quotes from a Christian commentary of a Christian king and would not even quote the reply given by the 'Persian' scholar. Would he read the Islamic commentary on the same event? He calls for 'REASON' and yet cannot defend his faith by even bringing a balanced discussion?

Could he not 'reason' that IF Christians or Jews were 'forced' to convert to Islam, would there be Coptic Christians in Egypt? Or Croat or Serb Christians in the Balkans? Or Jews in Turkey and North Africa and even As Shams?

He is mistaken.

FORCED conversions is the speciality of the Christians. As happened to the Muslims and Jews of Al Andalus, during the protracted and Vatican sanctioned Spanish Inquisition - no doubt a moment of great quiet pride for Christiandom

This article is an appeasement of the ideology of hatred that spues from the middle east to the world. Zogby tries to rewrite history talking about the crusades as if they were started on peaceful people. Just for the record they were started to protect the people of Europe and help the Christian brothers and sisters who were being tortured, murdered, and held in slavery by so called peaceful Muslims. I have no doubt that Zogby and others contribute to this mind set of ruling the world by force through their pockebooks and using the pen. May God help us to destroy radical Islam from the face of this earth once and for all. If there is such a thing as peaceful Islam, let them rise up and condemn the murderers and get behind the only President America has had who truly understands the threat.

I believe that the pope was careless in the way he opened his statement. Today I saw where he opologized for it. His overall record has been one of tolerance and dialog. I am sure he will repair the damage his words have done to inter-faith dialog.

When will muslims start caring about what God thinks about them and not about what people think about them. No matter what other people say, they will never hurt purity of islam or the prophet MPBUH. God says in Quoraan reffering to those who used to curse the prophet and muslims and say offending things to them that : No matter what they say, they will not hurt you by their words, so God orders us to ignore them (aa'red a'anhom), not to ask for a pesonal apology and start demonstrations and riots that make islam no good at all. We can pray that Allah saves this ummah from the darkness it is falling in.

Dear Brothers
your article is encouraging. one thing that i see from the popes comments and the president of america and united kingdom is that they are concerned about the growing number of reverts and converts in the west which is a threat to manipulative nature of capitalism which islam purports the reveal and they dont know how to tackle it but to put anger in muslims so that they can react violently inorder for them to justify their claims which we muslims must be careful of.
muslims in the west and around the world should remember one thing: let us not allow anyones actions to deviate us from our religion. we are an example to mandkind just like ALLAH tells the prophet. we should continue to propagate islam and remind our muslim brothers to follow the Quran and sunnah too

This is not the first time this Pope has made such a empty comment. Recently he said, "What was God doing at that time?", while commenting about the killing of Jews in the second world war. As if it was God's problem not the Christian's. Just to relieve the christians from their wrong doing. How long can someone hide their dirt under the carpet? And how long you can hide the truth?

It looks like the second crusade is in the making.The Dazzal is here in its youth.

It is amazing how the future is foretold by the prophet. And the so called civilized leaders of the west making it happen. I love my region!

JAN said:
I know why Pope Benedict XVI showed his true color: anti-Islam diatribe.

It is high time that the Muslims wake up from their clumsy slumber and get their act together. For those still bowing their heads up and down in conformity at the so-called interfaith fare - it is high time they realize they are living in a fantasy island.

The source of the prejudice and hatred of Islam by the Westerners has a very long history.

Surely, there are a FEW outstanding men and women of goodwill and muture understanding like Mr. Zolby and Sen.Fiengold.

Muslims should instead try to build unity among themselves and stop wasting time and energy trying to please the Westerners. They should put their energies and efforts, first at house cleaning and removing all the agents of the West who are the Ruling Elite in their native or erstwhile country. We should get our religious belief in practice, and only then can we begin to deal with the other unfinished business of history.


I think he should monitor and take care of his religion and his people before looking others.
He and his team has lot of homework to do including his connection with Nazis in the past. Do not shift your hatred on muslims now, please.

He should try to unite your people under one SUPREME GOD and one church as many sects beleive differently( Is Jesus god or son of god, Did Mary comitted sin or not). Will Jesus come and marry? and will he have sons- Will they be gods? Will there be other religions?

The churches and priests are busy in child sex abuse(child molesters), having illegal sex and abnormal sex with their disciples,children and colleagues, engaged in fundraisings for their benefit, doing business for themselves.

His people are engaged in lies,incest, multiple sex partners, child offenders, sex with other women, Gays (resulting in deadly diseases like AIDS, Hepatitis),Cheating, Gambling, Nude colonies-Clubs-Orgs., Illegal pregnancies in teens, abortions, drugs and alcohol abuse.

He should stop people to manipulate Bible and Torahs and to be honest the people do not know what was the real message in those books. There are so many controversies and confusions in Bible and about Jesus teachings in different versions.

If he wants a real debate who is right,fine,he can have one with real muslim scholars and see who will win. I will challenge that if he or anybody reads Quran and Hadith with Biography of Prophet Muhammad with good intentions ,they will doubt about their religion and will convert to Islam. You will love Prophet Muhammad more than any person created by God-ALLAH ever.

He is supposed to be a spiritual and peaceful leader. I advice him to read the Biographies of Prophets (Jesus and Muhammad) and follow their paths and unite the the people of different faiths instead of fueling hatred and making it worse.

Do not qoute or he said or she said. Bring with proof and sit down with scholar and have a debate. He will find

As the saying goes birds of the same feather flock together Pope's Benedict's quotation of the 14th Century quotation by another Pope shows they share the same belief.This is why up till now he refused to apologise despite the contro versy generated by the commentcoming at this insensitive time when relations between Islam and the West is at its lowest peak.He should know better the sensitivity surrounding the whole controversy and the subject itself which is very unfortunate.Violence can never replace dialogue.How can a person like Pope chose evil to associate it with the Prophet no wonder the spontenous response from the Muslim World.As Religious leader he has to guide his flocks carefully otherwise they will stray to other people's farm knowingly or unknowingly.A Muslim will never use bad language against Jesus (A.S) as we are forbiden by Allah and his Prophet.We are told to respect all the Prophets failure to do so will take us out from the fold of Islam.Respect begets respect similarly hatred begets the same.So the Pope must learn to guard and use his tongue in a beffiting manner suitable to his Office as the Leader of the whole Roman Catholic.Equally he should remember the Prophet is not only Prophet of this time but 1400 years back and all the subsequent years up to the Day of Judgement.Unlike his rule which will last only few years as long as he remains the Pope up to his death.The Holy Prophet even 1400 after his demise is still the Prophet till doomsday this is why He has such respect which no body can take it away as Allah says "Their intention is to extinguish Allah's light with their mouths but Allah will complete His Light. So please learn to respect others as you want others to respect you.