Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hell Hath No Fury Like Islam Scorned

Even after all of the rioting, demonstrations and hair pulling over the so-called Danish cartoon controversy last year, I was not prepared for the outpouring of hatred and bile that followed a scholarly lecture by Pope Benedict XVI that included a reference to the "evil and inhuman" elements of Islam.

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.

"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."
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.

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."
That is the question Mohammed asks -- and tries to answer -- in a thoughtful post at Iraq the Model.

He asks:
"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?

"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."
More here.


I'm not sure that any traditional religion (as opposed to one that somebody started in a storefront church last week) can claim 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.


Cassidy said...

As for getting slammed, I think you're missing the point.

Even though you dismiss us as knee-jerk liberals, I believe the objection I and others had was that people such as yourself have equated criticism of the Pope's remarks with an endorement of Islamic violence or whatever the phrase of the day is." Just like in the Danish thingie, if I were to say something like "you know the Danish cartoons were offensive, I get labeled as a bin Laden apologist.

As Kevin Drum said today, there really aren't any good guys on the Pope's side or in the Arab streets. The Pope's comments were sick, and stupid and wrong. And so was the reaction of the Arab/Muslim/whatever world.

And Glenn's comment about the Pope being the first... I guess he ignored everyone who has written a book or been on TV in the last twenty years about saying that Islam has problems.

Shaun Mullen said...

I'm wracking my brain to recall the last time a Southern Baptist blew himself up in a crowded marketplace or an Episcopalian shot up a clinic or a Catholic flew a jetliner into an office tower. Maybe you can refresh my memory.

Please put away that big brush. I take great pains to note that the vast majority of Muslims are peace loving people and that the Catholic Church, among others, has lots of blood on its hands.

What the pope said was appropriately and historically accurate. You're doing a pretty good imitation of being soft on terrorism because you bridle at any criticism of it that does not perfectly fit your intellectual, political, moral and emotional parameters.

And the ultimate tragedy of thinking that way is . . . guess what? It stiffles discussion and dissent.

Cassidy said...

Well, how about the last time a Christian fanatic blew up an abortion clinic...

But regardless, you still miss the point... I didn't even talk about terror, but you equate me saying the Pope's remarks were stupid with me defending terrorism. I even put in the little nugget that I thought the Muslim reaction was equally sick.

The Pope's remarks were shameful. He didn't just say that violence in the name of religion was bad, he said what Mohammad created was an evil. That sets people off. They were bad comments. That's all I and others are saying. But let me go through this one last time:

(1) Pope's comments are bad.
(2) Terrorism is bad.
(3) Islam has issues with terrorism.
(4) The Pope's comments doesn't give Osama bin Laden and his pals a blank check to do whatever.

I hope you can understand that.

And great way to stifle dissent... by saying that I am stifling dissent. A comment like that is usually the last resort of someone who is backed into a corner and can't engage in a reasonable debate.

Shaun Mullen said...

Saying that "Islam has some issues with terrorism" is like saying some dogs have fleas.

Cassidy said...

If you want to quote me, do it correctly. I said "Islam has issues with terrorism." You watered it down by inserting the word "some."

Shaun Mullen said...

Apologies. My error.

However, my original statement stands.

Why do you soft pedal what -- along with AIDS, global warming and the failure of globalism to pull poor nations up -- is the single greatest challenge facing the world today, and arguably the greatest?

I repeat: Saying that Islam has issues with terrorism is like saying some dogs have fleas.

Cassidy said...

I agree, terrorism is arguably the greatest problem in our world today.

But still. You... don't... get... it. All I was doing from the outset was criticize the Pope's remarks. Somehow, that meant that I didn't take terrorism seriously. I have yet to be given a reason my. Name one line where I said terrorists were misunderstood, or should be given amnesty, or that it is our fault that they attacked us.

Seriously, what do I need to do to convince you that I am not soft-peddling terrorism? Kill and Arab? Write a post about how terrorism is bad? Really, what? Obviously the fact that I took issue with your support of the Pope's statements made me soft on terror. Maybe you can finally address the problem withe equating one with the other instead of pretending that I don't take terrorism seriously.

Shaun Mullen said...

Okay, okay. You're not soft on terrorism.

That leaves one big difference between where we are: I absolutely back the Pope. (It does help to read his entire address for context, as boring as most of it was to this layman.)

Without ruffling more feathers, can I presume you do not believe the Cardinal of Rome should speak out on such an issue as he has spoken out on AIDS and globalization? Or is it the manner in which he spoke out?

Cassidy said...

Well, I did read his full text. But the part that got me was when he said that everything that came from Mohammad was "evil and unhuman." A bad and stupid comment in my book.

And as for your second question about whether the Pope "should speak out," I don't even know why you ask things like that. He's the head of the Catholic Church, of course he should. I just disagreed with his comment.