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The Pope and Multiculturalism

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ummziba View Drop Down
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    Posted: 24 April 2005 at 7:10am
On multiculturalism, Pope takes a European view
Haroon Siddiqui says Pontiff needs

to clarify his past statements


John Paul's papacy was Heaven-sent for the age of television. Also, his funeral, rich in ritual, couldn't have been choreographed any better by Hollywood. Authentic and dignified, it was at once sad and uplifting and not just for Catholics.

Now the media-savvy Vatican is at work sanding down the rough ideological edges of his successor. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the ultimate insider, was elected, swiftly and decisively, to provide continuity to the conservative legacy of the late pope. But, faced with a backlash, the Holy See has been busy changing his image.

He is no rottweiler, it says. He is "collegial," "compassionate" and "kind," even to cats. Give him a chance; the divisive hardline enforcer of orthodoxy may prove to be a unifier.

Pope Benedict XVI himself pledged to "promote ecumenism" and pursue "the promising dialogue with other civilizations." However, this does little to remove the cloud of doubt his earlier pronouncements have cast over the most important of inter-faith dialogues, between the 1.1 billion Catholics and the 1.4 billion Muslims, the two largest faith communities.

His discomfort with Muslims is clear enough; its basis is not.

At one level, he seems to want Catholics to be as solid in their faith as Muslims are in theirs.

At another, he may share the dissident Vatican view, perfectly valid, that John Paul's overtures to the Islamic world have had little or no pay-off beyond generating goodwill.

Saudi Arabia and some other states still ban churches and other non-Muslim places of worship. Even Malaysia recently nixed the idea of an interfaith council. And Christians continue to suffer discrimination in Nigeria and elsewhere.

At yet another level, Ratzinger's views of Muslims seem very Western European, which is to say, confused surprising for someone of his scholarship.

He sounds like those who see Islam as a threat to Europe.

Their fears are based on a complex dynamic, of which religion is only one part.

Unlike North America, Europe has yet to work through its anti-immigrant instincts to a coherent public policy on immigration, let alone multiculturalism.

Muslims, being the largest and most visible percentage of the newcomers, bear the brunt of the continent's nativism.

Post-9/11 security fears, along with the Madrid train bombing and the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, have stoked anti-Islamic feelings that date back to the Crusades.

The Islamophobia shows up in the debate over Turkey's entry into the European Union; in the media glorification of a handful of Muslim dissidents, whose hate-mongering sometimes surpasses that of racists; and in public assertions that European Muslims are getting too uppity, demanding too many basic rights and erecting mosques, even in Rome, "the very heart of Christianity," as the Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica put it.

Most such formulations sit on a glaring contradiction: that Europe is Christian, despite its proclamations of democratic secularism and its concomitant separation of church and state.

Christian Europe is what Ratzinger invoked last year in pronouncing that Muslim Turkey's entry into the EU would be a "huge mistake."

He does not even accept multiculturalism. To him, it is tantamount to "fleeing from what is one's own.''

Such primitive uneasiness with post-modern demographic heterogeneity, which Canadians and Americans take for granted, has created a dichotomy.

While justifiably criticizing Muslim states for being intolerant, some Europeans are promoting an intolerance of their own. Worse, they seem to cite the former to justify the latter.

In doing so, they demean democracy by lowering it to the same level as the autocracies they attack. They also strengthen militant Muslims who already believe the West is waging war on Islam.

It is to this divisive discourse that Ratzinger has contributed, perhaps inadvertently. No amount of Vatican spin can get around that. Only Pope Benedict can address it in a forthright manner.

The issue is not just an internal matter of the Catholic Church. It has geopolitical significance at this precarious time.

From the Toronto Star.

Interesting.  Also scarry!

Peace, ummziba.

Edited by ummziba
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words...they break my soul ~
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