Never mind that the thrust of the pope's address at the University of Regensburg in Germany was on reason and faith and he condemned all religious violence.
As Glenn Reynolds astutely put it Instapundit:
"Any intelligent human being understands that one does not - in the 21st century - publicly touch on the subject of Islamic jihad and religious compulsion, no matter how delicately or distinctively, unless one wants to deal with a reaction that is both primitive and intimidating, by a group demonstrably closed to dialogue.I will again take pains to stress that Islam is a peaceful religion, but in the hands of the jihadists and compulsives, to borrow from Glenn, it is a vehicle for violence and hatred. The distinction between that vast majority of peaceful adherents and the lunatic fringe is, of course, quickly lost in the slugfest that inevitably ensues in any "discussion" about Islam.
"And yet Benedict, clearly an intelligent man, has done so. He has, in essence, dared to say to Islam, 'Is this really what you want to be doing, in this century? The rest of the world’s religions have put away the swords . . . how about we talk?'
"Up to now, no one has come out and said that to Islam. The Pope is the first."
Even a wee blog like Kiko's House got slammed for stating the obvious the other day: That there is no other religion today where its most fanatical adherents are on a crusade to kill people. There is no other religion today whose holy book contains an albeit passing reference to sanctioning violence in the advancement of the faith. There is no other religion today where adherents who choose to renounce their faith are subject to officially sanctioned death.
I concluded the other day that:
These issues needs to be addressed, but it is so much easier -- and utterly mindless -- to turn the historically accurate remarks of a prelate who had no intention of insulting his Muslim brothers and sisters into another Danish cartoon incident.Fat chance.
Nevertheless, there is much food for thought behind the stridency, and the controversy reminds me of how thin skinned many of us are in the West when someone from outside the neighborhood tries to tell us how screwed up we are about some things. And how knee-jerk liberals automatically assume that we must be doing something wrong if people from outside the neighborhood say they don't like us.
* * * * *Abul Rahman Hilmi is a Muslim visitor to Kiko's House(from Iraq, I think) who took umbrage at my earlier remarks about the jihadists and compulsives. I challenged him to explain how he can justify these behaviors and he suggested, in so many words, that I try walking in his shoes:
"If your children were already dead and those who killed them are still slaughtering and butchering your people in their hundreds, robbing your land and its resources and supporting tyrants and dictators who rule you with corruption and an iron first, would you cry when their children and people die?
"However much ethically and morally wrong it is to kill innocent civilians and however much I am against the killing of Western civilians . . . I still cannot bring myself personally to attack Muslims who are protecting their lands and homes from aggressors. Granted their method of doing so is controversial, yet still, how can I watch my own son's dead body and then attack the fathers and sons who lost their own relatives when they take their revenge in the means that they . . . see fit?
"What do you want me to tell a son who saw his own father being beaten up by Israeli soldiers in the street? Should I tell the mother whose home has been bulldozed down about the human rights convention and the UN? Should I give them lessons in ethics and that we are all one brotherhood, us and the Zionists and the Americans and then leave her sleeping in the street next to the ruins of a century old olives and dates farm that was her only source of income? What do you want me to say to the mother whose newborn son died of the cold weather because she had to give birth to him in the street at an Israeli checkpoint because they wouldn't let her pass to go to the hospital?
"Next time you see a hungry man in the subway or in the park, why don't you start lecturing him about the hungry people in Africa and tell him to give something to them. . . . Either he'll ignore you or he'll start chasing you with a stick. It is your country's men and women who came to our land holding guns, not ours. The militants amongst the Muslims are only people who reacted to the environment the West created in our lands. If we had any form of security or prosperity or even a hope for a better future, things would have been a lot different."
WHY CAN'T MUSLIMS ACCEPT CRITICISM?
That is the question Mohammed asks -- and tries to answer -- in a thoughtful post at Iraq the Model.
"Are those who demand an apology from the pope ready to apologize for some of their own mistakes? Or have they never made any mistakes?More here.
"Regardless of what the pope said, the Arab and Muslim world, through the tense and offensive reactions, showed once again how incapable its leaders are to respond to criticism in a civilized way.
"Here we always insist that the greatest miracle of the prophet is the words he was sent with, the same words that tell Muslims to use logic and kindness in their attempts to invite others to the Islamic faith, the same words that discourage them from using a rude or repulsive tone in their conversations.
"The sad thing is that in spite of all these advices, most of the common people and the elites choose offensive, rude if not violent reactions as a first measure to counter criticism."
THE MORAL HIGH GROUND
I know that Pope Benedict's Roman Catholic Church certainly cannot given its own myriad sins of the distant past (Spanish Inquisition), near past (coddling Hitler and not speaking out forcefully about the Holocaust) and present (pedophile priest scandal cover-ups).
I'm not suggesting that Benedict was trying to teach his Muslim brothers and sisters and thing or two. He wasn't. Nevertheless, he did trip Christopher Hitchens' trigger.
Hitch, who famously defrocked Mother Theresa "as a fantatic, a fundamentalist and fraud" in wonderfully provocative commentary upon her 2003 beatification and an earlier book, notes in a Salon commentary that:
[The pope] has managed to do a moderate amount of harm—and absolutely no good—to the very tense and distraught discussion now in progress between Europe and Islam.More here.
As well as the full text of the pope's address here.