What was the Pope thinking? (II)
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Following along from the previous article, what point was Pope Benedict XVI trying to achieve with that particular quotation that ended up offending Muslims worldwide.
Put it into context.
- It was written "during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402." And the besieging Islamic army had made it clear that in the case of victory, it was convert or die.
- The writer was aware of the early Sura, "There is no compulsion in religion." but also aware of later Suras concerning Holy War which seemed to supercede this instruction.
- Faced with a faith that was currently using force to convert, is it any wonder he called the teachings of Mohammed evil?
The point I think the Pope was making is that if the followers of a religion use violence in the name of that religion, then it is not surprising that an individual might ignore the good elements of that religion and regard it as inherently evil.
Unfortunately, it was the quotation that was reported around the world, and not the context. In my view, given the earlier outbursts over the Danish Mohammed cartoon, the response was remarkably restrained, consisting largely of vocal demonstrations. That should not be of concern. Protest is legitimate.
However there were four Christians killed in the aftermath including a nun including a nun and an Italian diplomat. These killings may have been a response, but that is not certain. The destruction of half a dozen churches can safely be considered part of the overall protest. The violence of murder and the destruction of property go beyond the bounds of legitimate protest.
In addition to this violence, there were at least two fatwas issued calling for the Pope's death and then there was the Al Qaeda response, with a total lack of irony, calling for a worldwide Islamic caliphate, and the forcible conversion of everyone; those refusing to convert would be executed.
Is this not the very issue the Pope was addressing? In the face of threats of violence from a few in the name of Islam how can we see it as other than evil, notwithstanding the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world who only want to live in peace?
The Pope owes no apology for his remarks, even though he apologized several times. Muslims need to consider the remarks in context and denounce those who offer violence in their religion's name.