Muslim anger grows at Pope speech
The Pope’s comments came on a visit to Germany
A statement from the Vatican has failed to quell criticism of Pope Benedict XVI from Muslim leaders, after he made a speech about the concept of holy war. Speaking in Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said Muhammad had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things.
Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution on Friday criticising the Pope for making “derogatory” comments.
The Vatican said the Pope had not intended to offend Muslims.
HAVE YOUR SAY
I think the Pope’s comments weren’t anti-Islamic, they were used to prove a point
“It is clear that the Holy Father’s intention is to cultivate a position of respect and dialogue towards other religions and cultures, and that clearly includes Islam,” said chief Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi in a statement.
But in spite of the statement, the pontiff returned to Rome to face a barrage of criticism, reports the BBC’s David Willey in Rome.
The head of the Muslim Brotherhood said the Pope’s remarks “aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world”.
Violence and faith
In his speech at Regensburg University, the German-born Pope explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity, and the relationship between violence and faith.
The remarks do not express correct understanding of Islam
Mohammed Mahdi Akef
Stressing that they were not his own words, he quoted Emperor Manual II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Christian empire which had its capital in what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul.
The emperor’s words were, he said: “Show me just what Muhammad 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.”
Benedict said “I quote” twice to stress the words were not his and added that violence was “incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul”.
“The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application,” he added in the concluding part of his speech.
“Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.”
‘Angry and hurt’
Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution demanding that the Pope retract his remarks “in the interest of harmony between religions”.
READ THE SPEECH
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“The derogatory remarks of the Pope about the philosophy of jihad and Prophet Mohammed have injured sentiments across the Muslim world and pose the danger of spreading acrimony among the religions,” the AFP news agency quoted the resolution by the country’s national assembly as saying.
In India, which has a sizeable Muslim population, Minority Commission Chairman Hamid Ansari said: “The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12th-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades…
“It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world.”
The remarks prompted fears of unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir, as a result of which two separatist leaders were put under house arrest.
Meanwhile, the “hostile” remarks drew a demand for an apology from a top religious official in Turkey – where the Pope is due in November on his first papal visit to a Muslim country.
Ali Bardakoglu recalled atrocities committed by Roman Catholic Crusaders against Orthodox Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims, in the Middle Ages.
In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Mahdi Akef said the Pope’s words “do not express correct understanding of Islam and are merely wrong and distorted beliefs being repeated in the West”.
In a statement, he was “astonished that such remarks come from someone who sits on top of the Catholic Church which has its influence on the public opinion in the West”.
Sheikh Youssef al-Qardawi, a prominent Muslim cleric in Qatar, rejected the Pope’s comments, in remarks reported by Reuters.
“Muslims have the right to be angry and hurt by these comments from the highest cleric in Christianity,” Mr Qardawi reportedly said.
“We ask the Pope to apologise to the Muslim nation for insulting its religion, its Prophet and its beliefs.”
The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference also said it regretted the Pope’s remarks.
Key excerpts: The Pope’s speech
The Pope’s address explored the nature of religion and reason
Remarks by Pope Benedict XVI in a speech in Germany have provoked outrage in the Muslim world and led to demands that the pontiff apologise for “insulting” Islam. Below are some key excerpts from the Pope’s speech at the University of Regensburg, entitled Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections.
ON UNIVERSITY LIFE
It is a moving experience for me to be back again in the university and to be able once again to give a lecture at this podium.
The university [of Bonn, where the Pope taught for a period from 1959] was also very proud of its two theological faculties. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university – it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God.
That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.
ON HOLY WAR
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read… 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.
READ THE WHOLE SPEECH
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In the seventh conversation…the emperor touches on the theme of the 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 Muhammad 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.”
ON RELIGION AND REASON
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.
At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?
ON THEOLOGY AND SCIENCE
The liberal theology of the 19th and 20th Centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of dehellenisation, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative.
The intention here is… of broadening our concept of reason… Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today
Pope Benedict XVI
Jesus was said to have put an end to worship in favour of morality. In the end he was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message. Fundamentally, Harnack’s goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason.
[But]…any attempt to maintain theology’s claim to be “scientific” would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self… This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that… religion or ethics no longer concern it.
The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application… Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.
In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.