Pope, Islam and the Sword
Since the days when Roman Emperors threw Christians to the lions, the relations between the emperors and the heads of the church have undergone many changes.
Constantine the Great, who became Emperor in the year 306 - exactly 1700 years ago - encouraged the practice of Christianity in the empire, which included Palestine. Centuries later, the church split into an Eastern (Orthodox) and a Western (Catholic) part. In the West, the Bishop of Rome, who acquired the title of Pope, demanded that the Emperor accept his superiority.
The struggle between the Emperors and the Popes played a central role in European history and divided the peoples. It knew ups and downs. Some Emperors dismissed or expelled a Pope, some Popes dismissed or excommunicated an Emperor. One of the Emperors, Henry IV, "walked to Canossa", standing for three days barefoot in the snow in front of the Pope's castle, until the Pope deigned to annul his excommunication.
But there were times when Emperors and Popes lived in peace with each other. We are witnessing such a period today. Between the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and the present Emperor, George Bush II, there exists a wonderful harmony. Last week's speech by the Pope, which aroused a world-wide storm, went well with Bush's crusade against "Islamofascism", in the context of the "Clash of Civilizations".
In his lecture at a German university, the 265th Pope described what he sees as a huge difference between Christianity and Islam: while Christianity is based on reason, Islam denies it. While Christians see the logic of God's actions, Muslims deny that there is any such logic in the actions of Allah.
As a Jewish atheist, I do not intend to enter the fray of this debate. It is much beyond my humble abilities to understand the logic of the Pope. But I cannot overlook one passage, which concerns me too, as an Israeli living near the fault-line of this "war of civilizations".
In order to prove the lack of reason in Islam, the Pope asserts that the prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to spread their religion by the sword. According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can the sword influence the soul?
To support his case, the Pope quoted - of all people - a Byzantine Emperor, who belonged, of course, to the competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th century, the Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus told of a debate he had - or so he said (its occurrence is in doubt) - with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In the heat of the argument, the Emperor (according to himself) flung the following words at his adversary:
"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".
These words give rise to three questions: (a) Why did the Emperor say them? (b) Are they true? (c) Why did the present Pope quote them?
When Manuel II wrote his treatise, he was the head of a dying empire. He assumed power in 1391, when only a few provinces of the once illustrious empire remained. These, too, were already under Turkish threat.
At that point in time, the Ottoman Turks had reached the banks of the Danube. They had conquered Bulgaria and the north of Greece, and had twice defeated relieving armies sent by Europe to save the Eastern Empire. On May 29, 1453, only a few years after Manuel's death, his capital, Constantinople (the present Istanbul) fell to the Turks, putting an end to the Empire that had lasted for more than a thousand years.
During his reign, Manuel made the rounds of the capitals of Europe in an attempt to drum up support. He promised to reunite the church. There is no doubt that he wrote his religious treatise in order to incite the Christian countries against the Turks and convince them to start a new crusade. The aim was practical, theology was serving politics.
In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil". Moreover, the Turks are again knocking on the doors of Europe, this time peacefully. It is well known that the Pope supports the forces that object to the entry of Turkey into the European Union.
Is There any truth in Manuel's argument?
The pope himself threw in a word of caution. As a serious and renowned theologian, he could not afford to falsify written texts. Therefore, he admitted that the Qur'an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, verse 256 which says: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith".
How can one ignore such an unequivocal statement? The Pope simply argues that this commandment was laid down by the prophet when he was at the beginning of his career, still weak and powerless, but that later on he ordered the use of the sword in the service of the faith. Such an order does not exist in the Qur'an.
Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"?
Well, they just did not.
For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.
True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits.
In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.
There is no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?
What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.
Why? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll-tax, but were exempted from military service - a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion - because it entailed the loss of taxes.
Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.
The story about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims - the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions.
Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?
There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "Global War on Terrorism" - when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.
The speech of the Pope blends into this effort. Who can foretell the dire consequences?
Uri Avnery is a journalist, peace activist, former member of the Knesset, and leader of Gush Shalom
Topics: Christianity, Interfaith, Roman Emperor
Dear Brad, what is this lie that you are talking about here ? There are no lies in what the author wrote. These are history which can never be erased.
Look, i have Christians and Jewish friends, I don't make enemies out of them. Enemity are born out of greed, lust for power and dominations and these happens all over the globe.
Can you tell me a single lie that Mr. Uri Avnery wrote in his article ? Are you denying the happenings and events of the crusade ? I also do not deny of the holocausts and I condemned the killing of innocent Jews.
The real and thruthful Islam condemns the killing of innocent lives. Similarly the IRA murdered more than 20,000 innocent lives. But I won't be quick to conclude that these are Christian acts. Similarly too, the colonial powers spread their gospel by means of force centuries ago. That's what the Spanish did to the Incans and the mayans in Latin America. And that's what the Dutch did to the east. And the Bristish to some extent.
Why is it that when the truth in the chapters of history are told and unfold, then there would be tendencies for some people to throw barrage of criticisms on facts which are unpleasant to them.
Please tell me now, what is or are the lies that this article or author presented.
Please say the truth ... you know it.
But are there Jews that still feel this way?
Furthermore, if one wants to criticize something, it is curtail to understand the foundation and characteristics of such subject.
I really doubt that the pope understands Islam.
I think you need to get your head out of the sand. You don't seem to be too adept at handling the truth.
Read books by Karen Armstrong and Murad Hoffman. Get a grip on reality.
Thank you for your unbiased piece, and the truthfulness of it's content. It is not ackward for me to adddress a Jew before, because I have a Jewish pal in my school days, yes he had been living harmoniously in this Muslim country and he and his family are never complaining !!.
Your article is a master piece, not only it depicts the truthful side of history but it is evidenced that Muslims and Jews can live side by side as they did during the hey days of the Muslim empire. I also speak of the good Christians as well. It would be wrong to consider one another as sworn enemies, and yet what have we today ?
I agree with your point that what we have now is a territorial dispute. The real wager of war on Islam are not the true religious people. Instead those must be the creed and the greed of the capitalist groups, the oil cartels, the selfish conglomerates, the banking giants of the world, ( because Islam prohibits usury ), and the trade expansionist, Economic Unions, the moguls of industries, etc. These groups pitted followers of different faith, under the pretext of being appointed by GOD in order that whatever they do, at least whenever anything goes wrong, there is a theological justification for it. It doesn't need any wishful thinking to understand such.
In all my e-mails, I had always ( when occasion requires it ) put the need to distinguish between the ordinary American people and the US administration. At the same time, violence such as the bombing of churches and killing of nuns are and should be condemned as well. What I am saying here is that we should speak with the right conscience upon the guidance of our respective faith.
Islam honours lives and the dignity of individuals and on that score any violence on anybody should be condemned.
The Soviet Union is gone, and now the only "other" evil in their way is, you know it, Islam!! Read the Council on Foreign Relations documents and you will see it written there with their own hands. It's all planned for, and all governments have plans. It's all business. A true Muslim believer HAS to speak the Truth, and this is why Islam is a problem for "them"
Your perception of Islam is through your ill contacts that you had, many other people of different faiths could say about Christianity, especially if they met Christians at Abu Ghraib prisons or Guantanamo Bay concentration camps,some to mention.
It is as Imam Hamza Yusuf would put it, "A fresh of breath air..." that most Americans will unfortunately never get to read or see due to the corporate right-wing, Rupert Murdoch influenced media.
How very ironic it is to read an article such as this, written by a "self confessed Jewish Atheist", to have that person point out the political and historical backdrop.
Thank you, and God Bless. You may not believe in him, but evidently He still believes in you.
"My first visit to your website. You don't seem to care that this writer is a self-professed Jewish Atheist? Only that he seems eloquent, learned, and that his opinion agrees with yours. Like the rest of your public professions of "tolerance", he makes no mention as to why people within the Islamic countries kill so many of each other?"
You know, Mike, in Islam we look at the truth as truth not as truth by who said it. Contrary to your religion, if the truth is said by your enamy then it is a lie, while if a lie was said by your master then is truth. Sorry pal, we are not of that ilk. Oh, will you tell us why so many Muslims in Islamic countries kill so many Muslims? I burn to hear to your explanation. Like any whiteman, you believe that you alone can think and nobody else, as well that only you are capable of reasoning since other races and cultures are inferior to WASP's. So,please,Mike,illuminate us with your precious thoughts!!!
"Bush is an elected President, not any Emperor. His "reign" ends Jan 1, 2008. Anyone who calls him an Emperor and hints of any collusion between him and the Pope, loses all credibility in the eyes of anyone thinking logically."
Mike,Mike,Mike, the resemblence of Bush to an emperor is a metaphore as much of the debate in the article, did you finish your high school, Mikey? Thinking logically? Do you? Give me a break pal, what logics is in that that Jesus Christ is God and still he could die and leave the world to Satan for three days? Well, if you found the articles on this site as gibberish, what keeps you here? So long! Bye bye! Adios!
one of the biggest mistakes of moslems is considering those who carry crosses on them has anything to do with Aissa(jesus) peace be on him. anyone who read the bible carefuly can agree that the pharisees practiced the message of Aissa(jesus), peace be on him, more than anyone who gives glory and respect to a symbol of death "cross". I wonder if jesus called the pharisees "Vipers" according to the bible, condemned them of people of the hell, what should he call those who practiced less than them?
I never considered any pope to be anything but a fool. all of them claim to have holy spirit by them or jesus visits them everyday, at the end they die from flu or they rely on comercials to make their bank accounts get bigger...pope wear nike and sing rape to get closer to the greek logos... I recall the last pope died from the flu( come on! the flu can't be healed by jesus or the holy spirit? while disabled people get healed every year by "them" :) ) Yeah! you can call that, the logos of the greeks!!! while I can always argue that the Greeks were smarter! especialy when you know the word "bible" meant nothing but book in the old Greek's language.
sometimes you have to shock the people with the truth inorder they can wake up. the life is short and our test on Earth doesn't get time out. satan knows well that and his game is to make people take more time in understanding the life. which gonna raise the number of the people who die missguided.
It is clear war on Islam, everybody sees it. of course anyone who took advantage from what the empire offers, has to be rallying behind the Emperors plans... the story of pharaoun repeat itself! only bright people who realize that Moses was right but he was not representing the powerful side in his time. pharaoun related on his magicians to play the mind of his people and this new pharaoun Ideology depend on the magicians of the 21 century (Idols, celebrities, popes...)
thanks to the author for being honest.
On the other hand, the last two articles by Pakistani Muslim writers (Khaja/Husain) are nothing more than a product of "brown-sahib" old colonial mentality. Similarly, the two clowns recently on the U.S. circuits - a drug mafia from the poppy-fields of Afghanistan and an autobiography-pusher from Pakistan are not only are a disgrace for their country men and women but represent the worst amongst the Ummah. They use the power and resources of their poor countries for the maximization of their personal ego and personal gain. This is the kind of corrupt, opportunistic folks the Muslim Ummah can do without.
Bush is an elected President, not any Emperor. His "reign" ends Jan 1, 2008. Anyone who calls him an Emperor and hints of any collusion between him and the Pope, loses all credibility in the eyes of anyone thinking logically. The rest of this article becomes "gibberish".
Bravo! You have succinctly expressed an opinion which offers commonsense to those who dare to search for the truth!
The Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, did not resort to fighting on his on accord. He was commanded by Allah (Quran) to fight for the religion of Islam. He was commanded to deliver the message to the people! The Jews knew of this Prophet and were awaiting his debut. The Prophet Isa had foretold of his coming.
The Prophet Muhamnmd did not fight for any reason except as commanded by Allah even though several atrocities were commited against him, his family, and his companions. Allah even sent angels to accomplish this task! Thus, how can anyone say that he forcibly spread a religion with his sword? Yes, in order to defend the religion, to defend his family, and his companions, to defend the people, and by his Lord's command, he had to take up the sword. Yet, did he not forgive the entire Mecca?
The Prophet sent emissaries to all parts of the world inviting them to Islam. He even told them the consquences of refusing to accept Allah's final message. There was no compulsion! The Jews refused to accept Islam simply because the Prophet they were expecting did not arise from their lot! What? Can anyone embargo the favors of Allah?
The Pope clearly has not studied the Quran. Thus, his comments can be translated as ignorance of the fact! However, this does not escape the naked truth that people have now become more knowledgable of the Quran and have found it to be the complete truth! And yes, many a Pope, have not studied other religions! They are completely ignorant of what transpiries within another religion except as given to them by the scribes.
For over fourteen hundred years the religion of Islam has remained the master of all texts! Did we succumb because of the sword at our necks? Nonsense!
Muhammad was just a messenger who was guided by Allah!
Thank you such an artic
MAY THE BLESSINGS OF THE GOD OF ANYBODY WHOSE READIND THIS BE WITH YOU
Thank you for the truth.
We are a part of Adam's children. Anyone speak about the truth, it moves to the listener's heart. So listener starts to propagate because it becomes their part of truth.Today I am enjoying by reading your article. I feel it is also my article because it is truth. It does not matter who said it as long as it is truth.
Purpose is to love God and not to demoralize any bodies faith how they love their God because our ultimate goal is to return to him.
But many of our religious leader work as a Camafaluge for emperor instead of turning off the fire , they turning on the fire.
As a muslim, if you kill one person, you kill the huminity(in most case)
In india still three fourth of a Billion are Hidu. Muslim rule india for thousnad year. Islam never force people against thier will. That is why it becomes universal.
Today our American brothers are dying in the foreign land for corporation
We need person like you to speak the truth so human being can think.
Islam represents a golden age yesterday, it is representing today and it will represent tomorrow because it is truth.
There is no system providing justice like islam
Thank you for your time and educating our Adam's family
With great respect to you
Now Christians are uneasy about the muslims growing population in the west.
And are becoming more discriminating against muslims. as a policy.
As we all know there is no problem in being black or white etc and whites should not be afraid of blacks, they mean no harm.
I would like to tell them the same they need not to be afraid, of muslims. They mean no harm.
Religion is not the strongest point in the west.
This is the reason why they are having so many problems within their western society.
Being Liberal, they have been removing the differences of male and female.
Man is different from woman. they dont realize.
women needs to be taken care of.
she cannot serve in an army or work as a firefighter while she is pregnant. while man can do the above as he does not have to feed his children with his breast milk.
Here the word is being UNNATURAL in the name of Liberalism. This is sad, very sad.
women are not being women any more. it is sad to be a woman these days.
soviet union was led to believe that so many muslims states within USSR will not be good to the communist cause. And thus went ahead with the breaking of the USSR.
Only afterwards they realized that it is not the case.
When East looks at West, west seems to be very confused. scared. and scary.
Just like before during the white and non white era.
I was reading the articles of Mr. Uri Avnery since I was an undergraduate student and I respected his courage and his oppenness.
I pray for such a special heart like Uri to join us, the believers, in bearing witness to the truth of our creator - Allah. I do pray to Allah for Uri to be guided to the true faith and to the light of the truth that only believers can sense it and see it in their hearts. His truthful heart is already prepared for THE TRUTH as he always defended the truth to the best of his knowledge.
The historical facts are an important reminder these days to what true Islam is about despite and in face of the loud voices of the enemies of Islam. The literature of the Middle Ages, or as they refer to them as the dark ages, that circulated in Europe is full with poisonous lies about Islam. Using such references from such a dark period reflects the heart of those who are trying to revive such animosity of blinded followers against Islam.
Muslims, as always, should not as much be concerned about their enemies as they should care for the true Muslim believers everywhere. That is the way to keep constructing the Muslim nation all over the world. The true victory is not the one attained in the battle field because such victory is meaningless if the nation is not healthy and functional. Truethfulness starts in the heart of each individual and the outcome is that such peaceful hearts extend their peace and kindness to all. Therefore, the Muslims should continue focusing their energy and efforts in educating our children, which is a great responsibility to be entrusted on such beautiful creatures of their creator, and offer the best we can for their journey in discovering the truth for themselves. One Muslim generation is not the main goal - but, a continuation of the knowledge of the faith is the goal that should be sought.
May Allah guide all his righteous servants to his true faith. Ameen.
Learn to say a
So the attributes of Jesus was he was the son of Mary (not Allah) therefore a human being they used to eat food he and his mother.However he was the Word of God which both Christians and we the Muslims accepted.He was also Messenger of God like other Prophets such as Moses Abraham,Noah and Muhammad. A spirit from God which the Quran has confirmed.So therefore we should love Jesus,respect him as a Prophet,revere him follow him but not worship him or his mother.For worship is only due to God
Since the population of Muslims was on the rise, christians and Jews were getting afraid of what will happen to tehri religion.
Bravo Uri Avnery
Look at what Attaturk did to Turkey , changed their script from Arabic to English, changed people last names to names of nature, plants etc.,killed many imams, changed concept of belief, prayer etc. But did it remove Islam from the heart of Turks . No! That reason was enough for the Pope to say "No" to Turkey for inclusion in European Union.
It would be nice if all faiths could would work together on some levels. If not, the day is not far off when we would be having Christian Union, Islamic Union, Jewish Union etc.
Muslims as rulers, during their golden era had always maintained good relations with jews and christians. It is wrong to quote kings and emperors on any religion. Everyone knows how many people were murdered during the crusades. Did the Pope apologize for that?
The pope should quote what the prophet Muhammad(S) said. Similarly muslims should quote what Jesus or Moses said(peace be on them).
It is true emperors and priests take help from each other especially during wars. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia the goverment needs the help of muslim clergy and imams of Kaaba and Medina to maintain their autocratic rule and their kingdom. As long as that relationship lasts on good terms they can supress the voice of millions for free speech and democracy.
Everybody needs to think and reason where do we want to go? Towards a world of peaceful coexistence where all faiths can live without emotionally,verbally and physically hurting others or towards a world split into groups fighted with each another, one trying to control another for total global power.