Getting past the Popes comments and demonstrations

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: Pope Views: 6264

In a speech during a visit to Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th century Emperor who said that the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things by implication that that Islam incites violence. And sure enough the Muslim response has fulfilled the expectation.

Two years ago the Pope warned against Turkey a Muslim country be allowed to join the European Union because its Muslim values were, according to him, incompatible with "Christian Europe's values". He forgot at that time that two Muslim nations Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania are already a part of Europe. This time again his remarks are creating worldwide anger among Muslims. It is unfortunate that given the state of turmoil in world politics the Pope should have chosen the example that he did to be included in his scholarly and useful discussion on the interaction of Faith and Reason the day after the fifth anniversary of the tragedy of 11th September. These remarks further provide fodder to religious radicals who subscribe to "clash of civilization" between Islam and the West.

It is useful to remind ourselves that there is a great difference between Islam and Islamic history just like there is a great difference between the message of Jesus and the history of Christianity. This His Holiness knows well. In reading the full article one may infer that unlike Muslims the Catholics are rational. One needs only to look at the history of the Catholic Church persecuting a number of scientists. Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for only trying to prove that the earth was not flat! And the history or Inquisition surely is not a rejection of the use of force or violence in a religious discourse or interaction. 

If the poorly chosen example of the Pope assumes that violence was the exclusive domain of the Muslims, it is not only unhelpful currently but also historically inaccurate. Christian rulers were certainly not more gentle or generous than their Muslim counterparts on the battlefield. Spain and Anatolia changed hands at about the same time between Christians and Muslims. In Spain all Muslims and Jews were forcibly converted or killed or driven out; the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch still remains in Istanbul, which the Pope chose to refer by its pervious name Constantinople! Yet all this recounting of historical events does not by itself constitute the true sum and substance of Christ's Message nor should it cast any aspersions on it.

Enough said about Faith, now let us turn to the role of Reason which the Pope as a Theologian reflects upon. This is useful for the Muslims as a timely reminder of their past heritage and also a necessary requirement in dealing with modernity and the challenges they face. 

The unrest, the demonstrations, the burning of flags and effigies-a common street scene in the Muslim world, is only an indication of the deep rooted anger and frustrations of the masses who feel powerless and betrayed by their own leaders and the West. Poverty stricken and with a high level of illiteracy among them, the Muslim masses are greatly vulnerable to manipulation especially in the name of religion. Because of this it is emotions through which they react rather than reason. Offended by anything critical of Islam Muslims seek to censor these critics. However this need not take violent expressions, which are against Islam's true teachings, as Muslims would argue. Yet again we have the Muslims expressing their outrage at another affront to their sensitivities. Riots and death accompanied the printing of cartoons in the Danish newspaper; a Dutch film director was killed because of a film offensive to Muslims. Is this how Muslims want to assure the rest of the world that they are non-violent and peaceable people? Being outraged every time one's religion is perceived to be slighted only perpetuates the differences between people, preventing reasonable and civilized discourse and tacitly promoting violent reaction. Also it shows a lack of self-confidence and maturity. Muslims can do well to remind themselves of how the Prophet Muhammad himself reacted with dignity, compassion and forgiveness towards his sworn enemies.

The stakes are high for Muslims and Islam. There is deep and growing feeling that indeed there is an unbridgeable chasm between Islam and the norms that govern most modern states and societies. Different toxic brands of what is claimed to be "True Islam" are currently being perceived as the sum total of the true faith itself. The "Sunni-Wahabi_Shia-Talibanised" version with its emphasis on authenticity of its own brand at the expense of rejecting all others is causing major upheavals within Islam and also in its encounter with others.

Muslims have long given-up the openness with which they in their own history have discussed matters and differences regarding Faith and Religion. The record of the debates between the Mutazailites and the Asharites during the 12th. Century on these and other issues holds no parallel in the history of that era or for that matter any till Europe and Christianity woke up with the Enlightenment and Reformation. At the time of Islam's rise and spread to distant parts of the world, the people understood and accepted Islam through the conduct of the Muslims of that time. Why should it be any different now?

Muslims now must re-engage with that same spirit of free inquiry and attitude in order to move forward from total adherence to an over-ritualized process that they have come to understand as Islam. Without the infusion of Reason the desired change is not obtainable for their own society or for the Global community that they interact with. 

In the Pope's lecture there are points with which Muslims can agree. He has attempted a Catholic critique of modern reason which he emphasizes "is not about turning the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age" with the progress it has brought humanity. His attempt at broadening the concept of reason is a call for reason and faith to come together in a new way, The Pope makes a point about the exclusion of religion from reason with which Muslims can only agree. He says, "Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures." He is making a call to listen to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity as a source of knowledge which should not be ignored and must be shared.

The Pope has already apologized to the Muslims and they now must go past their hurt. They must meet the his call to dialogue not through demonstrations, violence or vehement reactions but through the cultivation of a civilized discourse based on the moral and ethical demands of Qur'anic universalism and the Islamic conscience that it engenders.

Dr.Nazir Khaja, is the Chairman of Islamic Information Service based in California., U.S.A

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society
  Topics: Pope
Views: 6264

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Older Comments:
Assalam Alaikum
I think the Pope feels threatened by the fact that his native Germany is on the verge of accenting Islam, the rate of reversion to Islam is astronomical. Six Europeans a day revert to Islam (average figure). So naturally the Pope feels the church is going to lose its tax revenue be in fact wiped out altogether. He knows the fact that swords can't win hearts...

Dr. Khaja's article epitomizes a prudent, studied response to the unwitting bigoted statements of someone who ought to have known that his attempt at triumphalism and prevarication would not go unnoticed by people of rationality and righteousness.

It seems strange that the Popes comments got so much publicity in the media. The fact that they did tells me one thing. The Jews think they gain from the story. How do they gain?
1. This says that even the Pope thinks the Muslims are violent. Helps Christians become anti-Muslim and blame them for all the Middle East problems.
2. This shows that the pope is a biggot, and invalid as a person. This helps to attack Christianity, which it is also their goal to destroy.

Dear Friends,

Please take few moments to view the presentation; An objective analysis of the Pope's recent remarks on Islam in the light of historical evidence.

We hope you will find the conclusions very useful.

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You addressed the pope as 'His Holiness'....I looked for a hint of sarcasm in the latter part of the sentence and the ones which followed it but didn't see any. Adressing him as 'his holiness' on an islamic website means you really consider him to be holy...Good for you, Doctor.
Or maybe you were trying to reach out to the non muslims who might stumble upon this website. You want them to know we 'respect' their religion and religious figures..even to the point of committing shirq.
We are not living in the era of the Rasool (saw)...His task was greater for he had to convince people of a change and change is always frightening. We live in the twenty first century. All the information you need on any given subject is right at your fingertips. When those 'gentlemen' in Denmark kindly printed those insulting pictures they knew very well what kind of a reaction to expect from the muslim world. One such reaction is people like you trying to make peace because it bothers you watching all those riots from your cosy living room.
This is the last time for me here..Won't come to this website again.Allah ihdeena ...salaam.

Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for only trying to prove that the earth was not flat! (Your quote)
This is not true. Bruno was burnt at the stake for the hypotheses of parallel universes (he named pluriverse this entity) and for the negation of the necessity of creation from One God.

The article really serves us Muslims right and time has come that people start behaving rationally and be willing to listen as well.

This is the most open minded unbiased criticism of both sides involved i.e.the Pope and the muslim world reaction to his ignorant remarks about Islam.
A religious authority of the level of a Pope is not expected to commit such a grave mistake of trying to attribute all the wrongs and violence in the world to Islam besides trying to avoid an example of the past and current evil deeds and violence of the followers of his own religion.

The controversial quotation of the Pope quoting the Byzantine Greek Emperor Manuel whom the Pope calls erudite unfortunately was said to have lost his throne in 1376 to his brother.Now how did he get it back by calling the Muslims turks for help which was reasonable in 1379.Acting in accordance with logos naturally he had to pay tribute to the Turkish Sultan.According to Encyclopedia Britannica " A treaty in 1403 kept peace with the Turks until in 1421 when Manuel's son the Coemperor John V111 meddled in Turkish Affairs.Therefore the Turks beseiged Istanbul or Constantinople in 1422 so Manuel had no choice but forced to sign a humiliating treaty forcing him to Monestry which the Pope refused to elaborate or might have forgotten or ignored it totally.So in 1391 the Emperor in his war camp provoking what was to be a disatrous war with the Muslims at the same time insulting their religion while debating with a persian on the subject Christianity and Islam and the truth of both.It was during that debate The Emperor Manuel 11 during the dialogue might have cited the quotation "Show me just What Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman".So the Good Emperor Manuel regarded Islam as irrational and the Pope also wanted to echo the saying of the Emperor so this is why he quoted that quotation not realising the political implications as a leader of religious body criticising another Religious Leader for that matter a Prophet.So it is no wonder when the Pope was still Cardinal Ratzinger he was quoted as telling the French Newspaper Le figaro that Turkey should not be admitted into the European Union on the ground that it is a Muslim Nation which has always represented another continent during history always in contrast with Europe.So this hype or the unfortunate quotation by the Pope is not new even though he said he did not mean it.We have all given him benefit of doubt but next time he has to be careful not be seen as prejudiced.

Pope had already appoligised for all his remarks,Ur article were a piece of good information,i praise it.And I may want to convey my msg to all muslim ummah,When Salman rushdi Published his TSV,84 muslims died,When cartons about Our beloved many more died.I could see more blood and that in the muslim countries,I couldnt see more property damaged and that of a muslim nation.Ok brothers

I say I'm indifferent because the article assumes that Pope Benedict XVI claimed in his speach "that violence was the exclusive domain of the Muslims". Pope Benedict's speach claimed no such thing. In fact the more I read these artciles the more I'm convinced that the people protesting, buring churches and murdering nuns, and creating an uproar on the subject haven't actually read the Pope's speach at all. If they did they would see the Pope pointing out that violence is opposition to God's will. he quoted the Byzantine Emperor because his city was destroyed by Muslim invaders, his Churches burnt and looted and he was fed up with people claiming to be doing the will of God but causing death and destruction, it was an example of religion going against what it claims, something which Muslims and Christians are both guilty of. The Pope was calling on ALL RELIGIONS to abandon violence.

Muslims do not need any lectures beyond what are already explaine in the Holy Quran. Our prophet had already said that after I have left, hold tightly the rope of Allah, and that rope is the Holy Quran