Vox Rodentae

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I think Islam needs a lengthy "time out"

Greetings, all! I am back after my lengthy hiatus from the 'net. During this time, I've tried (as much as one can in our digital age) to ignore the Mass Media and all on-goings not directly related to friends and family. It's been quite peaceful. But I can't live in an acorn; it's a big world out there and it's time to get back into the swing of things.

One issue which has captured my interest lately is the tempest in a teapot stirred up in the muslim community (where else? you might well ask) over the address made by the Holy Father at the University of Regensberg during his visit to Bavaria. Now, I'll admit it at the outset: I'm a big fan of the Holy Father. He's a traditionalist, a conservative, an extremely knowledgeable theologian and a scholar of immense (and well-deserved) renown. When he speaks, even if you don't agree with what he says, you can bet that a good deal of thought has gone into his words and he's said them for a reason. So knowing only that the muslim community was miffed with remarks made by Il Papa, I resolved first to study his address in its entirety, and then read about the controversy and defense.

Having done so, I must say it was all pretty much as expected, excepting only that the Vicar of Christ maintained greater circumspection in his remarks than would have a man of less grandeur of spirit. And as have many before me I say the muslim response completely proves and justifies his words. Oh, he released the demanded apology, but thankfully it was merely to say he was sorry people decided to be offended at his words; the only apology merited under the circumstances. I enjoyed both his steadfastness of opinion and refusal to bow to popular (appeasement) pressure, as well as his subtle re-emphasis of his right to free speech - popularly enjoyed in the West, but greatly suppressed in Islamic countries.

One of the most illuminating articles I've read about it is the transcript of an interview from the Jim Lehrer news hour on PBS. It features Moderator Gwen Ifill, Senior Fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center George Weigel, and Council on American-Islamic Relations apologist Nihid Awad (yes - this sounds biased, but it's what the man does - he doesn't answer questions directly, but turns his answers into "Western-Oppression of Islam" being the cause of all misery and evil in the world). My impression is that Ifill was more kindly disposed toward Awad (whether through belief or appeasement mode, I don't know), but all he does is trot out the usual exhausted tropes about Islam being the religion of peace, and that it's Western (deliberate) misunderstanding of Islam that perpetuates the violence in the world. Weigel, on the other hand, is stunningly eloquent and to-the-point in his answers, presenting a well-thought out and reasoned theory as to the Pope's motivation in his address. An example of the exchanges:

GEORGE WEIGEL, Ethics and Public Policy Center: Pope Benedict XVI is a world-class scholar, a gentleman, who says what he means and means what he says, so this was not an offhand remark at all. I think he was trying to make three critical points, Gwen. The first is that, in a religious dialogue, genuine dialogue between people of different religious convictions must be based on reason. It can't be based on passion. Secondly, attempts to justify violence in the name of God are themselves irrational and, therefore, impede that kind of dialogue. And, therefore, the challenge I think he was trying to pose to Islamic leaders throughout the world -- some of whom have accepted that challenge -- is to discipline and correct those within their own community who would make the case that God commands the murder of innocents. That's not a basis on which genuine religious dialogue can go forward, and I think it's very important to recognize that, until Islamic religious leaders, scholars, legal authorities develop the capacity to chastise, to discipline their own extremists, every Muslim in the world -- indeed, everyone in the world -- is hostage to the most extreme elements which would claim that violence against innocents is doing the will of God.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Awad, in listening to the pope's remark and now listening to Mr. Weigel's interpretation, is that the way it struck you?

NIHAD AWAD, Council on American-Islamic Relations: Well, actually, there is a gross misunderstanding of Islam. Dialogue should be based on knowledge, and that knowledge will produce a correct understanding, a mutual respect. And the unfortunate fact is the pope is a top-notch theologian on Catholicism, but he's no expert on Islam. And therefore most of the quotations, if not all, that he cited in his academic presentation were historically inaccurate. I'll just go through them very quickly. Number one, he said that Muhammad commanded his followers to spread the faith by the sword. This was never happened. In fact, historically, it cannot be proven that Muhammad commanded any of his followers to spread the faith with the sword. In fact, it contradicts the second sentence or phrase that the pope has cited, which is a verse in the Koran, chapter two, verse number 256, and it says there should be no compulsion of religion. That's a direct command from the Koran, God's (inaudible) text, that you cannot spread faith with force and it has to be on conviction and reason. So these are historic inaccuracies that the pope has cited, and that's what upsets Muslims and those who know about Islam. The third and last thing is holy war. This is a mistranslation. Although this network and many networks sometimes use the term "holy war," it is inaccurate. There is no term in Islamic text, whether the Koran or the prophetic tradition, the sayings and these of the prophet, that the word "jihad" means holy war.


Okay. Now you can take your chest waders off, and I'll let you pause for a moment or so and absorb the wonderful obfuscations and misdirections of Mr. Awad's reply. I guess he figures no one has or can read the Koran to read those words for themselves. Honestly -- how long will breathing, thinking people keep swallowing this ordure? All evidence presented by the muslim community has shown that the Pope's words were, if anything, not strong enough. And despite AQ bigwig Az-Zawahiri's comments about ignoring Il Papa's words, and "killing him with kindness" (rather ominous sounding, given their source), there have been a disturbing number of violent riots, burnings of the Pope in effigy, anti-Catholic and anti-Christian acts throughout the muslim world (all of which the press coyly reports as "not known whether or not [they] are related to the Pope's words") to support them.

As I've said repeatedly, Islam is a religion that seems to inspire extremely childish and dangerous behaviour in its adherents. Few reasonable people would deny that the worst way to respond to a perceived insult is by behaving in the exact way the insult says you behave. Yet there they were in their thousands, exercising the one "free speech" option available in the mullahcracies of the muslim world: protesting against the West in general, and Christianity in specific, hurling their death threats, burning their effigies and the like. In Somalia a 65-year old nun was shot, but of course the jury's still out in the West as to whether or not it was "related" to the Pope's address. Of course, in Somalia it could just have been for sport, or because she was a woman who knew how to read, but you get the point.

I guess most of us really have taken leave of our senses: either people swallow the tripe hook, line and sinker, or they withdraw in resignation, exhausted by the utter moral depravity and mental gymnastics necessary to live alongside the dhimmi manner of thinking (I'm kind of ashamed to say I'll have to include myself in this second batch). But sooner or later, we'll have to get up and deal with this; I know I'm all the more brutal when roused out to reluctantly deal with aggressive and persistent stupidity -- I suspect I'll be in good company.

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