Raise your hand if you're tired of Muslim "outrage."
First, in case you're very late to the party, here is the English text, from the Vatican website, of the Pope's address to the faculty at the Univeristy of Regensburg.
We've been talking about this talk in a couple of blog posts over the past week (scroll down for that), but now the global conversation is heating up.
Kapusuz told the state-owned Anatolia news agency that Benedict’s remarks looked “like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades”.
“Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks is going down in history for his words. However ... he is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini,” he said.
Pakistan's parliament on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Pope Benedict XVI for making what it called "derogatory" comments about Islam, and seeking an apology from him for hurting the sentiments of Muslims.
The resolution, moved by hardline lawmaker Fazal Karim, was supported by both government and opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament.
Chaudhry Ameer Hussain, speaker of the National Assembly, allowed Karim to move the resolution after Karim said the pope had insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, and hurt the sentiments of the entire Muslim world by making "derogatory remarks."
A reminder of how the Pope spoke of Islam in the speech:
was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) 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. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here 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 (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, 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 (F×< 8`(T) 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...".
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. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
As Professor Bainbridge noted yesterday, the speech was, of course, much broader than Islam, and took many contemporary intellectual assumptions to task, essentially asking wheter real, substantive dialogue is possible in a world untethered from Logos.
But what of his words on Islam? I have maintained that it wasn't an idle historical reference. It was a challenge - on the level of an intellectual query - to the assumptions driving much of contemporary Islam. Violence, jihad, hatred of non-Muslims, and a restriction of their rights to worship in Muslim countries are inarguably elements of contemporary Islam to varying extents, in various parts of the globe. Six hundred years ago, this came up in a dialogue - the answer pointed to a dilemma: the Muslim said that God was greater than any of his own precepts.
The question becomes then - what basis for "dialogue" can there be in this context?
Just as, the Pope proceeds to ask, what basis for dialogue can there be in the modern world when religious questions and sensibilities are deleted from the discussion even before we start?
Since there are, indeed, many ways of thinking under the umbrella of "Islam" and there is no central magisterium, we always issue caveats about proclaiming what Islam teaches or the way of Islam in the modern world. But I think it's safe to say that the drumbeat is getting terrifically tedious. It's the drumbeat of constant offense coupled with a Muslim world in which Christians and Jews and the West in general are vilified, in which, for the most part in Muslim states, there is either very little or no freedom of religion for non-Muslims or the threat of violence by Muslims against non-Muslims, in which the most destructive acts of terror are committed explictly in the name of Allah - they are offended?
The Pope held up an interesting question for us to contemplate: Who is God? How can we talk about God? What does God's existence and nature then imply about the way human beings are to live together on this planet? When true reason is abandoned as an attribute and expression of God, what hope is there for dialogue and peace?
The "Muslim" response to the Pope ironically and unwittingly answers his question, don't you think?