The Muslim world is aghast once again at another seeming ‘low-blow’ to the faith by none other than Pope Benedict. Upon reading the Pope’s speech itself rather than relying on press accounts, the Pope makes reference to a dialogue carried on in 1391 by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, as mentioned in an obscure book written by one Thomas Khoury. In reading the Pope’s words in the context of his full speech, it appears that his only crime is in his choice of using Thomas Khoury’s book and the weak and obtuse arguments presented in it to make a broader scholarly argument about the incompatibility of violence and faith across all religious traditions. Though it is unclear why he chose Khoury’s book and its provocative language as a reference, his arguments can be easily refuted with even basic knowledge of the role of reason in faith from the perspective of Islamic thought. That being said, the Pope’s speech is evidently being manipulated once again by those that aim to benefit from more hatred and violence between the Western and the Muslim worlds, in step with the Danish cartoon incident. Unfortunately, many Muslim leaders and groups are falling for the trap and making irresponsible comments, even after admitting they did not read the speech but based their reactions entirely on what the press had written. Instead of asking for apologies and protests, perhaps the response should come in like form to the Pope’s original statements; that of a scholarly dialogue on the issues discussed in his speech. In so doing, perhaps we could turn another potentially disastrous incident into a positive one by moving toward a dialogue of civilizations rather than a clash of civilizations.
Read the speech here: http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=94748