Friday, September 15, 2006

Well, Bless Benedict! A New Crusade?

Well, now the Pope has stepped in, theologically speaking.

Benedict XVI, at a meeting in at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday, September 12 at a conference on Faith, Reason and the University, Memories and Reflections
had this to say about Islam:-

...I was reminded of...part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both...The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an... I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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 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...".

(Kippah tip: IMRA)

So, does the Pope believe Islam incapable of reform? Or was he just inviting Muslims to join a dialogue of cultures based on the premise that the concept of an Islamic "holy war" is unreasonable and against God's nature?

Or was he "full of enmity and grudge" against Islam?

And since we're on the general topic, read on:-

Islam History Professor Moshe Sharon of Hebrew University told a counter-terrorism conference Thursday that, "There is no possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians whatsoever - ever.”

Sharon, speaking at the annual conference of Herzliya’s Counter Terrorism Institute, said that Iran is dead serious about obtaining and using nuclear weapons in order to bring about its vision of an Islamic End of Days.

The veteran expert on Islam says that Western officials fail to grasp that the Arab and Islamic world truly see Israel’s establishment as a “reversal of history” and are therefore unable to ever accept peaceful relations with it. From Moslems’ perspective, “Islamic territory was taken away from Islam by Jews. You know by now that this can never be accepted, not even one meter. So everyone who thinks Tel Aviv is safe is making a grave mistake. Territory, which at one time was dominated by Islamic rule, now has become non-Moslem. Non-Moslems are independent of Islamic rule and Jews have created their own independent state. It is anathema. Worse, Israel, a non-Moslem state, is ruling over Moslems. It is unthinkable that non-Moslems should rule over Moslems.”

And as usual, there's a unique (perverse?) Israeli academic take on this type of theological argument:-

The principal contemporary significance of German-Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig is in his theories of a Judeo-Christian alliance that reduced Islam to idolatry, according to Dr. Yossi Schwartz.

"In Rosenzweig's book 'The Star of Redemption,' he develops what he considered religious perfection. The first part is devoted to removing Eastern and idolatrous religions from the game. The second part is devoted to opposing Islam, and the third part further develops his stance, combining the basic assumptions of both Christianity and Judaism," says Schwartz, a professor at the Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University.

"His argument is that a serious religion needs internal tension among various interpretations. In Judaism this is the tension between the written law and the oral law, and in Christianity it is the tension between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Whereas in Islam, he claims there is no such tension, and therefore it is an atrophied religion - idolatry camouflaged as monotheism."

Schwartz believes that not only was Rosenzweig mistaken about the facts, but his mistake is also liable to be very dangerous now, of all times: "He ignored the Hadith [the narrations of the life of Mohammed, and his sayings and customs] interpretative texts that exist in Islam exactly as in Judaism. But more than that, his mistake is particularly dangerous in our times, when we see the tendency in Israel and the Jewish world to once again link Judaism and Christianity in a common struggle against Islam. That is one of the more dangerous steps a Jew can take at present [because of the location of the State of Israel - Y.S.], certainly much more dangerous now than in Rosenzweig's time."

Dangerous? Well, that's what Islam is right now to Israel and Judaism. So, do we dialgoue or what?


“I do not think any good will come from the visit to the Muslim world of a person who has such ideas about Islam’s prophet,” Ali Bardakoglu, a cleric and chief of the Turkish government’s directorate of religious affairs, said in a television interview there. “He should first of all replace the grudge in his heart with moral values and respect for the other.”

...the Vatican...issued a statement saying the Roman Catholic Church sought to “cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward other religions and cultures, and obviously also toward Islam.” The statement, from the pope’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said, “It should be said that what is important to the pope is a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation of violence.” He added, “It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to do an in-depth study of jihad and Muslim thinking in this field and still less so to hurt the feelings of Muslim believers.”

...Father Lombardi said Tuesday that the pope did not intend to insult Islam. But many experts on Islam warned that Benedict ran the risk of offense in using such strong language, especially with tensions between religions so high.

...“I don’t think the church should point a finger at extremist activities in other religions,” Aiman Mazyek, president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, was quoted as saying in the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday, pointedly recalling the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Vatican’s relations with Nazi Germany.

The French Council for the Muslim Religion demanded that Benedict clarify his remarks. “We hope that the church will very quickly give us its opinion and clarify its position so that it does not confuse Islam, which is a revealed religion, with Islamism, which is not a religion but a political ideology,” Dalil Boubakeur, the council’s president, told Agence France-Press.

...“The pope’s statement is highly irresponsible,” said Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, another ranking Muslim, and an Islamic scholar, in Pakistan. “The concept of jihad is not to spread Islam with the sword.”

...In Morocco, the newspaper Aujourd’hui le Maroc questioned whether Benedict’s call for dialogue between religions was made in good faith. “Pope Benedict XVI has a strange approach to the dialogue between religions,” an editorial said. “He is being provocative.”

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