1. What happened was that the media wrote headlines like "Pope takes private time after slamming Islam."
Considering that none of those protesting a presumed association between Islam and violence by burning the Pope in effigy, attacking churches or fighting each other have read the address in Regensburg, we can only assume that this has been fomented by those using the sloppy reporting of the press to stir up hatred.
But this, of course, is not what the NYTimes would have you believe. It would have you believe somehow, a Pope giving a rather dense (in a good way) lecture in German is responsible for hurt.
I would ask you to stop, just for a moment and consider this:
How can someone's words be responsible for hurting others, when the others in question have not read the words or understood them?
What did he say that was wrong? He said, if you want to bring it all down to Islam, that in Islamic texts, there are passages that forbid compulsion in religion, but that historically, Islam has used violence to force conversions. This, the Pope said, leads to a conclusion about the image of God borne of holding these two realities as one: that God is not bound by his own Word. Such a belief would leave one beyond/outside of reason, for this God would then be totally unknowable.
There are many approaches to discussing this, aren't there? Let's collect them under "A" and "B"
1) One could discuss the various pertinent passages within the Koran and try to understand how, indeed, they have been understood historically within Islam.
2) One could look at the role of compulsion and violence within Islam, historically and today - this has many implications beyond what happened to those FoxNews reporters, by the way. When a country with a Islam-based system of law forbids or limits the practice on non-Muslim faiths and punishes Muslims for converting to non-Muslim faiths, that is compulsion.
3) One could even get all philosophical and debate whether the Pope is right - whether or or such a system does, indeed leave reason outside in the cold. And one could, as discussed in some of our comboxes right here, look at the impact of Hellenistic thinking of medieval Islam.
Or, one could do this:
And you could fight, throw things, and burn stuff.
What would A say about the truth of the Pope's words?
What would B say?
What is astonishing about this - or perhaps not, to those who have been paying attention - is that critical thinking, discussions of history, and philosophical analysis is not allowed, apparently, when it comes to Islam. We will wait a few days to pass final judgment on this, but we are waiting for Muslim scholars - and for scholars of Islam to weigh in on this. Will they come to the Pope's defense, as a fellow intellectual, one who has been quite friendly to and open to dialogue with various viewpoints in the past, as friends and colleagues for decades have acknowledged? Will they see this as one more dangerous threat to freedom of speech and intellectual inquiry in the face of barbarians?
Or will they sit quietly, watching?
Note the text of Cardinal Bertone's statement, in case you are feeling that it might represent a backing down. It doesn't. I think Thomas at American Papist gets it pretty well in his quick take:
Actually, I'm fairly impressed with Bertone's choice of words. It's no surprise, after all, that Pope Benedict would be "extremely upset" that "some portions of his speech were able to sound offensive" to Muslims - their response being, of course, completely unreasonable. I'd be upset too.
Sure the church "esteems Muslims, who adore the only God." It's just the ones that firebomb churches (see below) that we have an immediate and pressing problem with...
And no, he didn't apologize for the words. He expressed esteem for Muslims and certain of their beliefs, he regrets that part of the talk could have "sounded offensive." He said of the offending quote:
As for the opinion of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come. On this point, it is worth recalling what Benedict XVI himself recently affirmed in his commemorative Message for the 20th anniversary of the Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, initiated by his predecessor John Paul II at Assisi in October 1986: " ... demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time. ... In fact, attestations of the close bond that exists between the relationship with God and the ethics of love are recorded in all great religious traditions".
My take is this: the point is still made. Religiously-motivated violence is not of God. He's rejecting it. Are Muslims?
I have much more to say, but have to go do things. I simply think that in some way, this represents a breaking point - a point of clarity which I can't but think is not completely unintentional.
It is a point of clarity for the Muslim world: Can you discuss the presumption out of which you operate? Can you explain how the expressions of Muslim law, as lived out in your societies, are consistent with other teachings of your own religion, not to speak of thinking about basic human rights, which the rest of the world has arrived as via...you know...centuries of...reasoned thinking?
Or can you not do this? Do the assumptions out of which you operated make this impossible? Then how are we to dialogue with you? Or is that even not what you want?
And it is a point of clarity for the West - we are rooted in a tradition of discovery, exploration, reason, learning and dialogue.
Is this who we are....or not?
Because if not...there's a force of dhimmitude that's quite willing and ready to absorb you, shut down the voices of those who so unkindly "foment" discord by simply exploring a little history and philosophy.