Saturday, September 16, 2006

A little Papal perspective

The Pope has issued a limited apology for any offense his words may have caused, CNN:
Pope Benedict XVI has said he is "very upset" that his speech on Islam offended Muslims and expressed his respect for their faith, according to the Vatican.

Vatican spokesman Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a statement on Saturday the pope's position on Islam was unmistakably in line with Vatican teaching that the Church "esteems Muslims, who adore the only God."

The pope is "very upset that some parts of his speech could have sounded offensive to the sensibility of the Muslim faithful and were interpreted in a way that does not correspond at all to his intentions," Bertone added.

The worst crisis since Benedict was elected in April 2005 was sparked by a speech in Germany Tuesday that appeared to endorse a Christian view, contested by most Muslims, that early Muslims spread their religion by violence.

In his speech, the pope quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who said: "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 backlash has cast doubt on a planned visit to Turkey by the German-born Pope in November. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said the Vatican's statement was insufficient and they wanted "a personal apology."

"We feel he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will only be removed through a personal apology," the Brotherhood's deputy leader Mohammed Habib told Reuters.
Here is a Harvard International Review article on the Brotherhood from 2003:
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood provides an example of the goals and methods of centrist Islamism. This group and Egypt’s radicals share the long-term goal of implementing shari’a (Qu’ranic law) as the basis of national law. The Brotherhood, however, has committed itself to working within the current Egyptian system to achieve this objective and renounces—at least in its official statements—the violent tactics of militant splinter groups such as al-Gama’at al-Islamiyyah and al-Jihad.
If you'd like to read the Pope's speech in full, the Vatican has it available. Here is a passage that is not often quoted in the media:
The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".
I caution against the moral equivalence that the CNN story implies. The Muslim Brotherhood is at best a recent addition to non-violent movements. Its organization has inspired violent action. There is ample evidence, on an almost daily basis, for violence supplanting reason among some political Islamist movements. How is a speech more offensive than a car bomb? Perhaps this is a good time for the Brotherhood to reassert its non-violent pledge, as a further response to the Pope's words.


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