THE SPINE SEPTEMBER 17, 2006
It's really quite amazing to see so many Muslims having a temper fit about the Pope locating a propensity toward violence in Islam and then watching as its militants proceed to firebomb Christian churches in revenge. As of Sunday a.m., at least seven churches had been firebombed in what's called Palestine alone. Five of these were not even Catholic, which reflects Islam's sloppy and undiscerning conception of the other. A non-believer is a non-believer. You don't have to know anything else. (The other churches were Greek Orthodox and Anglican, and the fact that the episcopates of these churches habitually dissembled--no, lied--for the Arab cause did not protect them at all.) Is there anything the Palestinians don't like to which they fail to react with violence, as if violence refutes the Pope's words? But the outrage about Bendict XVI was not at all limited to feverish Palestine. In fact, its incoherent frenzy quickly went round the world, from Pakistan and Indonesia to Morocco and Turkey and Egypt. And, of course, also into Iraq from where the Mujahadeen Army (a Sunni terrorist group) addressed the Vicar of Christ as "you dog of Rome." Even if the Pope had been totally in error in his remarks and given what high Muslims habitually say about Christians and Jews, doesn't this hatred aimed at him and his religion somehow confirm that he is right?
Actually, I am not sure that the Holy Father is the ideal person to grade other religions with regard to their violent habits. After all, the Church of St. Peter doesn't exactly have a splendid record on this matter itself. And as late as the 14th Century, from which Benedict adduced an acerbic statement about Islam from among the last Byzantine Christian emperors, was not yet an era when the Crusader had been spent. The Church had stopped killing Jews, however, on account of faith. It was killing them for their responsibility for the Black Death. But Muslims were still putting to the sword in wars of religion against the Turks. Moreover, "evil and inhuman" are not words one should use glibly--even between quotations marks--against a textured religion. Didn't Moses also do some things that were evil and inhuman? Still, if what the Pope says about Islam is not entirely true, it is also not simply false.
Since we are all talking about the present, moreover, we do not have to quibble over history. Now, Rome has said that Benedict is sorry that so many Muslims have taken so much offense. Prelates close to him in the Holy See also insist that his critics are taking his remarks out of context and away from his intentions. And even he has given his mea culpa and made something of a tactical retreat. If he were to crumble, however, he'd be giving yet another victory to the jihad, which, despite the blather about it being a spiritual quest, is for our time more like relentless murder. Islam is still mired in a vortex of sordid, vengeful, and brutal habits affecting others, as anyone can tell simply by reading the newspapers. That there are many, even millions upon millions of peaceful Muslims is self-evident. It's just that these faithful don't count for very much in Islamic politics, where Muslims have power or want power. For starters, just contemplate the relentless hatred between Shia and Sunni Islam wherever the two meet.
Of course, The New York Times wants Benedict on his knees
begging pardon. What this really means is that the Times actually wants him to lie and deceive. For whatever it is worth, I find it refreshing that this theologian and spiritual leader isn't into the mush about Islam of his predecessor, John Paul II. For an analysis of the last pope's mischief on Islam, please read Joseph Braude's learned article in TNR Online.