Friday, September 15, 2006

The Pope and Islam

I'm a little late in getting to this discussion, but it demands some comment.

In case you aren't familiar with the controversy, Pope Benedict XVI quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor, "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." The Pope's lecture can be read in full here. (PDF)

Predictably the Muslim world is up in arms. The Muslim Brotherhood and others have organized protests. The protests have been violent and some churches in Gaza have been firebombed. (which ironically proves the Pope's point, doesn't it?)

The Pope is upset that Muslims were offended because he didn't mean to offend them. However, he stopped short of a complete apology.

Andrew Sullivan has some very good and interesting analysis of Benedict's analysis of reason in the Islamic faith and of the subsequent controversy.

I don't have much to add on the analysis of Islam, but I do want to support the Pope in his effort to bring the use of violence inside and outside of Islam to the forefront. Christians don't have a clean record on this, but we do have a strong history of internal critique that has pushed Christianity away from the Crusades and Inquisition toward Mother Teresa and Bishop Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Islam desperately needs to have a discussion about the role of violence as it relates to the internal Islamic world (fighting in Iraq between Shia and Sunni and capital punishment for people that convert from Islam) and how it relates to the outside world (Al-Qaeda/Hezbollah/'homegrown' terrorists).

Pope Benedict shouldn't apologize. He should challenge the Islamic world to make him a liar.

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