The Pope’s Remarks about Islam: The Joke Too Few Get

The Pope’s recent remarks have set off a particularly revealing firestorm of criticism. Distracted by the Al Durah trial, I haven’t paid close attention until now.

Dismaying is probably putting it mildly. At a distance, one gets the following impression. The Pope expressed disapproval of Jihadi “thinking” in Islam; Muslims the world over expressed vigorous if not violent objection to the Pope’s remarks; and responsible Westerners waxed indignant at the pope’s unnecessary provocation. Under the double pressure of a politically-correct public sphere and a violent or threatening Muslim “street,” the pope apologized.

Of course, the second stage of this story — the Muslim response — is nothing less than a very bad joke. “Call me violent? I’ll show you! I’ll riot and rampage until you stop calling me violent!” This is the kind of silliness even a five-year-old can get.

pope in effigy

But the “adults” are not laughing, at least not in public. So what happened?

Let’s look briefly at what the Pope said.

Here is some of the most relevant material in the speech. He starts with a famous quote from the Koran, and then quotes the late 14th-century Byzantine Emperor, Manuel II:

The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God.

Criticism of the Pope’s Speech: James Stodder’s Decent Response

Now I can certainly understand some people responding to these reflections with a sense of “the pot calling the kettle black.” Granted Christianity does have a long and turbulent love-affair with philosophy — shared for a measure of time by Islam — but this is, after all, the religion one of whose early theologians exclaimed (something akin to) “I believe because it is absurd.” It is also the religion whose great Catholic theologian, Augustine, articulated an elaborate explanation for how coercion is not only legitimate but effective in converting people… a religion that spread much of its dominion by first taking over the sword-weilding institution (Roman Empire) and then spreading the faith further by either the sword, or, after the collapse of “Christian Rome” through “top-down” conversions in which, once the king-bee converted, everyone had better convert “or else.” The good emperor was hardly heir to a kingdom built on sweet reason.

So noted a classmate of mine, Jim Stodder, on our class list. In a thoughtful analysis, he lays out the humane and generous understanding of how the Pope’s words were unfair, one worthy of a modern progressive thinker:

Benedict is clearly CONTRASTING Islam with spiritual-reason in this piece, although Islam is not his major focus. I think the entire context is actually somewhat more damning of Islam than the widely distributed quote, since it archly suggests that

a) the reservations Muhammad had about conversion by force were only emphasized when his new faith was in a position of weakness, but not thereafter, and
b) that Islam maintains a profoundly irrational-transcendent view of god — with the implicit question of whether this is related to its traditions of violence.

[NB: As far as I understand, few historians of Islam would deny the dramatic difference between the early Mecca and later Medina phases of Muhammad's career, that the expressions of tolerance mark the early, a-political phase when Muhammad could only depend on his ability, as a prophet of the imminent Last Judgment to win over followers by appealing to their conscience, and that the violent Jihad corresponds to the later, politically potent phase. As for some operative link in Islam between a meta-rational God (which is something of a "no duh" for any believer) and violence, that strikes me as weak explanation. I would sooner go for honor-shame dynamics -- political dominion as "proof" of true belief, lack of dominion as humiliation -- as an explanation of that violence, but that doesn't mean that such dynamics don't receive their theological garments.

Manuel II was one of the last Byzantine emperors, and his recorded conversations with a Persian Muslim supposedly took place while Constantinople was under siege around 1400 -- and doomed to fall to Turkish arms about 50 years later. So his view of militant Islam must have been colored by the fight for his life and realm. Benedict notes this context.

I don't like sentences like "doomed to x, y, or z, fifty years later," even if they describe events centuries ago. Too deterministic. Moreover, the analogy with today's world faced with an aggressively expansive Islam -- will you accept that possibility, JS? -- may well be significant in just this sense. Is Europe doomed to fall to Islam in the next 50 years as some like Bernard Lewis seem to think? Or can it do something to save itself?

But while justifiably criticizing the use of force in religion in his speech, nowhere does Benedict mention the comparable crimes of Christianity; e.g. the Crusaders massacring Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem, or the Inquisition's persecution of Muslims, Jews, and 'conversos'.

In summary, if he really wanted to open up a wide conversation about the inadmissibility of force in religion -- to not just mention Muslims but to INCLUDE them in the conversation -- I think his words were very badly chosen. It's not that I see anything to disagree with particularly in what he says, as far as it goes. But the speech is startling in its omissions.

I think it is important to have a balanced view of this. I was at a meeting last night where some fellow was complaining about how 'extraordinarily thin-skinned the Muslims are'. I think they have some reason to be pissed about this one....

... [A]s the Pope, he was making a terrible strategic error in being so publicly provocative about the nature of Islam. In the current ‘clash of civilizations’, this error is much more serious than Summers’ provocation [i.e., his remarks about women and science].

As I said, this is a very generous view. “Let’s not accuse them of bad faith… let’s be self-critical if we want them to be so… let’s invite them into a conversation… let’s not pour oil on the fires of religious conflict.” It expresses a characteristic indignation at the Western critic of Islam, and the projection of a good-willed Islamic “dialogue partner” out there whom we are offending with our needlessly “provocative” criticisms.

But under current conditions, no matter how well-intentioned it is, I think it qualifies for candicacy in the “dupes of demopaths” category. I say that not because I think all Muslims who are engaging in dialogues are demopaths, nor because all non-Muslims who think they have sincere friendships with Muslims are dupes. I say it because of the way this kind of thinking “inscribes itself” (to use the pomo term) in a larger public discourse.

Three Muslim Responses

We have two broad Muslim responses to the Pope’s words and one minor one: 1) violent outrage, 2) indignation and 3) a mature criticism and self-criticism. And the pattern follows closely that of the reactions to Danoongate: in the Muslim world, violence — angry demonstration, death threats, attacks on Christians (including a nun!), hate speech and demands for abject apology — and in the Western world, where Islam is not majoritarian, we have indigant expressions of shock and horror at the Pope’s Islamophobia.

Violence

I don’t have to go over the violent reactions in detail They are known to most readers of this blog and can be found listed at the Wikipedia article on Pope Benedict XVI Islam Controversy. Among the more shocking include the burning of churches in many places including Gaza and the West Bank, and most of all, the killing of Christians in Iraq, and the gunning down of an elderly nun in the back in Somalia, shortly after a prominent cleric called for killing the pope:

“We urge you Muslims wherever you are to hunt down the Pope for his barbaric statements as you have pursued Salman Rushdie, the enemy of Allah who offended our religion,” he said in Friday evening prayers.

Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim,” Malin, a prominent cleric in the Somali capital, told worshippers at a mosque in southern Mogadishu.

We call on all Islamic Communities across the world to take revenge on the baseless critic called the pope,” he said.

Self-Criticism and Shame at the Behavior of Fellow Muslims

I will return to this idea that any Muslim anywhere should kill anyone who offends the prophet below. In the meantime, note the language: hunt down, kill, revenge… From the perspective of any apologist for Islam in the larger global community that cannot exist without peaceful co-existence, this is pretty embarrassing and primitive stuff. And yet, rarely among those who try and “explain” Islam to the outside world do we have the one that might match my classmates for maturity, something on the order of:

“I am so mortified by the reaction of my fellow Muslims whose behavior proves how correct the Pope’s words were… indeed, they may be more accurate today than when Manuel II made them over 700 years ago.”

Among the brave few, Irshad Manji takes a strongly self-critical Muslim stance:

(CBS) As a faithful Muslim, I do not believe the pope should have apologized. I’ve read what’s been described as his inflammatory speech. Actually, he called for dialogue with the Muslim world. To ignore that larger context and to focus on a mere few words of the speech is like reducing the Koran, Islam’s holy book, to its most bloodthirsty passages. We Muslims hate it when people do that. The hypocrisy of doing this to the pope stinks to high heaven.

Yet some Muslims have gone further. In the West Bank, churches have been firebombed. During a big protest in London, placards proclaimed “Islam will take Rome.” In Somalia, a Catholic nun was murdered shortly after a Muslim cleric urged violence against the Vatican.

Coincidence? I think not.

And thinking is what the Quran encourages. It asks Muslims to reflect far more than to retaliate. Even if someone mocks your religion, the Koran says, walk away. Later, engage in dialogue. Wasn’t that the pope’s point?

We Muslims should remember that God told the Prophet Muhammad to “read.” My advice to fellow Muslims: Read the pope’s speech — in its entirety — and you’ll see that his message of reason, reconciliation, and conversation would make him a better Muslim than most of us.

But beyond this exceptional woman who’s working on a modern form of Islam, and who does have some brave “followers” and “fellows,” but is largely shunned if not threatened by many Muslims, it’s slim pickings.

We get close to something like restraint if not self-criticism in a news item came from Iraq where, as noted above, at least two Christians were killed in the wake of Muslim call for revenge at the pope’s remarks:

As to the official response from the Iraqi government, Dr. Ali Al-Dabagh, official spokesperson for the government in Iraq called on Iraqis to exercise restraint and act wisely in response to statements by the Vatican Pope, in which he criticized Islam. Al-Dabagh said in a press conference, “The Iraqi government asks all who love God’s prophets and messengers to not act in a way which would harm our Christian brethren. They are our partners in this nation and are not to be judged by the statements of the Pope. The problem is that the Pope attributed behavior of some Islamic leaders of a certain era in history with Islam and its beliefs. If we were to look back in history, we will also find Christian leaders who committed crimes in the name of the cross. We do not hold Christians responsible for these actions since they were crimes of singular deviant leaders. What is needed now is an international agreement to punish all who insult God’s religions.

On the other hand, it was a Christian Iraqi paper that carried the story, not a major Muslim Iraqi paper; and that last line is quite a doozy. Religions of the world unite and punish blasphemers? Ummm, I’m not sure this particular Muslim quite gets it. Modern democracies are civil societies, based on voluntary participation, not coerced subjection.

Maybe Emilio Karim Dabul made some really self-critical remarks… he certainly could have.

But these still lone voices so rarely say publicly what they whisper in private, as Dabul says:

Well, I’m sick of saying the truth only in private – that Arabs around the world, including Arab-Americans like myself, need to start holding our own culture accountable for the insane, violent actions that our extremists have perpetrated on the world at large.

Now that was in the context of a long-overdue apology from Arab-American Muslims for the behavior of their co-religionist on 9-11. But it applies to the rest of the issues from Rushdie to Danoongate to the Pope’s remarks, to all the ways in which Islam tries to bully the West into submission.

Indignation at the Pope’s Words, Apologetics for the Violence

The real problem is not with wild masses ready to get violent whenever their leadership, via their almost irremediably demonizing media, whip them into a frenzy, be it with fake pictures of a Muhammad-as-pig cartoon, or faked pictures of Israelis killing little boy in cold blood.

The real problem lies in the realm of “dialogue,” in the encounter between Muslims who claim to speak for their own community in discourse with the West, on the one hand, and the responsible Western leaders and intellectuals on the other. Here we find something disturbingly close to demopathy.

CAIR, for example, suggests that Muslims and Catholics should use the Pope’s unfortunate remarks as a spur to dialogue. Of course, that dialogue hardly looks at the problems with Islam but insists on an apologetic, missionary Islam in which:

Jihad is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense (e.g. — having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression. ‘Jihad’ should not be translated as ‘holy war.’

Note here an interesting slide. We start out with the apologetic definition of Jihad — inner struggle against evil inclinations, self-improvement and social betterment — but then move quickly into more explicitly violent forms of struggle — self defense (i.e., the Palestinians having a standing army), fighting against tyranny and oppression. Well, if we define tyranny and oppression as the rule of infidels over Muslims, or as modernity with its corrupting mores, then we have an easy slide into global Jihad the violent way. So why shouldn’t Jihad be translated as “holy war”?

The Quran, Islam’s revealed text, condemns forced acceptance of any faith when it states: ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion.’ (2:256)

Muslims are also asked to maintain good relations with people of other faiths, and to engage in constructive dialogue. ‘And dispute not with the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) except with means better (than mere disputation)…but say, ‘We believe in the Revelation that has come down to us and in that which came down to you.’ (29:46)

Never mind that these assertions systematically ignore not only our current urgent problems the West has with an insanely aggressive Islamic Jihadi movement — that claims that everything it does is “defensive” and that makes a mockery of the apparently enlightened principles here expounded — but this statement even ignores the remarks of the medieval Emperor who was responding to the verse about “no compulsion in religion.” It’s hard to imagine a more evasive answer to so serious a problem. CAIR is not calling for dialogue — they have no intention of listening to what non-Muslims think and feel and experience about Islam, certainly anything critical. They just wants to tell us what we should think.

The equivalent organization in Britain, the Muslim Council of Britain made a more indignant remark:

One would expect a religious leader such as the Pope to act and speak with responsibility and repudiate the Byzantine emperor’s views in the interests of truth and harmonious relations between the followers of Islam and Catholicism,” Muhammad Abdul Bari, the council’s secretary-general, said. “Regrettably, the Pope did not do so.”

Now if this is not demopathic discourse, then what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander — the Muslim Council will surely denounce terror threats from Muslims as unacceptable expressions of Islam that cannot lead to harmonious relations between Islam and any non-Muslim group.

Instead, his attitude towards Islamic zealotry and violence is to justify it, indeed use its potential emergence as an open threat to the British:

“Some police officers and sections of the media are demonising Muslims, treating them as if they are all terrorists, and that encourages other people to do the same… If that demonisation continues, then Britain will have to deal with two million Muslim terrorists, 700,000 of them in London. If you attack a whole community, it becomes despondent and aggressive,” he added.

Now this is stunning. Dr. Bari, who so regretted the Pope’s inappropriate behavior is now telling us that if you criticize Muslims — demonize in his terms — then they will all turn into terrorists. Pretty amazing. No Western progressive would ever speak so carelessly about all Muslims being all potential terrorists. And here we have it as a warning. Nothing about how appalling the tendency to get violent among Muslims, no disapproval. On the contrary, any problem with Muslims in Britain is because of the British non-Muslims demonizing this unhappy minority. And these unfairly criticized citizens, reluctantly to be sure, might all become terrorists and seek to kill their fellow Brits because they’ve been…

What? What’s the complaint? What’s the provocation?

Some police officers and sections of the media are demonising Muslims, treating them as if they are all terrorists…

And presumably that makes them “despondent and aggressive.” Again a clue to what “defensive” means. I’m unaware that the two (opposite) emotions are so predictably linked that you have to expect that if you treat people with suspicion and hostility that they will blow you up in suicide attacks. [By the way, by those standards -- demonizing and treating them all as terrorists -- wouldn't the Israelis have the right to wipe out the Palestinians? Or is this only a one-way right of response?]

As Melanie Phillips remarks

What was this ‘demonisation’of Muslims? Peter Clarke, the head of the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist branch, said ‘thousands’ of British Muslims were being watched by police and MI5 over suspected terrorist links. Was Mr Abdul Bari’s reaction to this dismaying news one of shock and shame that his community was harbouring such an enormous threat to Britain, and his earnest pledge to root this out wherever he found it? It was not. It was to threaten Britain that its entire Muslim community of two million would turn into terrorists and attack the country of which they are citizens. Mr Abdul Bari is the head of Britain’s largest Muslim representative institution. What was the response of the British media or politicians to this abuse of his position by threatening violence by an entire minority community against the British state? Silence. If anyone is demonising Britain’s Muslims, is it not Mr Abdul Bari?

[Hopefully. But the rest of them are not really speaking out, are they?]

And this is not a joke; it’s a huge problem. Given that the British non-Muslims don’t have a clue as to what’s going on in their nation’s mosques, that a new survey shows that one out of ten British Muslim students wouldn’t tell the authorities even if they knew of a plot (one has to imagine that the figures in such a poll are, if anything, low) and that 24% of Muslims polled think that under certain circumstances it is legitimate to carry out terror attacks in defense of Islam, it seems understandable that the Brits might be looking askance at their Muslim communities right now. (To paraphrase my classmate, “I think we have some reason to be concerned about this one…”)

I think the real focus here belongs on the terms “demonize” and “Islamophobia.” Both are primarily demopaths terms, used by Muslims who have almost nothing to say about the staggering levels of demonization at work in their own religious and political cultures, while showing the most remarkable incapacity to handle criticism from outside. They are “remarkably thin-skinned,” and contrary to Jim Stodder’s (and Karen Armstrong’s and James Carroll’s) reading of matters, it is not at all appropriate for us non-Muslims, and especially us Westerners with a hard-earned social capital that prizes freedom of speech — and hence of the right to disagree, to criticize, even to accuse — to abdicate our rights here… lest we insult the Muslims.

Honor-Shame: The Intolerability of Insult

Listen to the language of outrage among the Muslims to the Pope’s remarks:

“the result of pitiful ignorance” about Islam or a deliberate distortion of the truth, said Salih Kapusuz, deputy leader of the strongly Islamic party led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister. “He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages,” Mr Kapusuz added. “Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini.”

Apparently, for Mr. Kapusuz, two wrongs do make a right. Insulting language is the order of the day… “pitiful ignorance” [actually not too inaccurate]… “mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages” [which the Turkish Muslims can lay the strongest claim to having left behind... and even that's hardly conclusive]… “unfortunate and insolent remarks… Hitler and Mussolini.”

I find the term “insolent” the most telling. These comments ring true as the angry response of someone who feels he (and his people) have been insulted.

Another Turkish Muslim, an Imam, picked up the same notes:

“The Pope’s aggressive, insolent statement appears to reflect both the hatred within him towards Islam and a Crusader mentality. I hope he apologises, and realises how he has destroyed peace.”

Insolent, again. And the classic demopath’s move: you are responsbile when things go bad; we Muslims bear no responsibility for the destruction of peace, we are only responding to your inexcusable provocations. As Abu Saqer, a Gaza Imam, responding to the violence in Gaza made the classic demopaths claim: my violence (which I condemn) is your fault.

“We are deeply sorry for these acts that we condemn,” [Abu Saqer] said. “But I am sorry that this little racist [the Pope] did not think of the consequences upon the Christians in the Arab world when he insulted our prophet. It is an open war – the Muslims against all the others.”

In Pakistan, the Parliament issued a statement on the issue, again sounding all the same tropes:

“The derogatory remarks of the Pope about the philosophy of jihad and Prophet Muhammad have injured sentiments across the Muslim world and pose the danger of spreading acrimony among the religions”

All this is the language of honor-shame, the language of someone with a very thin skin quick to anger and violence when criticized. And this issue of Muslim honor goes very deep. As one apparently modern Turkish journalist put it, it unites all Muslims behind the extremists:

“Even the most moderate and Westernized Muslims will not tolerate insults to the Prophet Muhammad,” writes Tulin Daloglu, commenting on Pope Rage from the moderate side of Islam, in The Washington Times. “Each offense unites Muslims against Western prejudices and rejection — and the extremists gain more credibility.”

This notion that criticism is insult, unbearable insult, is a classic expression of honor-shame cultures, which give the insulted the right to shed blood to preserve his honor. Thus, Anjem Choudry, an extremist British Muslim explains that Muslims have the right to retaliate:

The Muslims take their religion very seriously and non-Muslims must appreciate that and must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Islam and the prophet. Whoever insults the message of Muhammad is going to be subject to capital punishment.

Hence the profusion of death-threats, declarations of Holy War, assurances that the green flag of Islam would soon fly from the Vatican, days of rage, and attacks on Christians including the murder of an elderly nun, and attacks in the Palestinian territories.

Nor are these specifically pope-related threat and outbursts of violence the only problem. For an example of the astounding a-symmetrical nature of the Muslim attitude, look at the Nigereian case of a Muslim man who accused a Christian woman of worshipping a “useless Jesus” when she refused his sexual advances, but when she returned the insult and spoke of a “useless Muhammad,” the man set off rioting that drove 5000 people from their homes.

The Pope’s “Apology”

Faced with such responses, and roundly denounced by Western intellectuals who faulted him for his provocative remarks, the Pope made something of an apology:

At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a Medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought. Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.

Not surprisingly, no one was happy with the results. Those who had looked to the pope for real leadership in the struggle against global Jihad felt betrayed, especially by his remarks about how this “in no way expresses my personal thought…” while the Muslims knew a weasely excuse — I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings — when they saw one.

Turkish State Minister Mehmet Aydin criticized the pope’s comments before reporters in Istanbul by saying, “you either have to say this ‘I’m sorry’ in a proper way or not say it at all. Are you sorry for saying such a thing or because of its consequences?” A number of other Muslim leaders likewise accused Benedict of evading apology.

As Dry Bones put it quite aptly (hat tip TB):

dry bones on pope's apology

And the story is far from over.

The Western Response: The Magnanimous as Dupes?

The real problem, however, stems less from the response of the Muslim world — at this point fairly predictable — as much as from the responses of the Western intelligentsia, including not only my classmate James Stodder, but public figures like Karen Armstrong and James Carroll. In a Boston Globe column, he writes scathingly of the Pope:

President Bush famously used the word “crusade,” then backed away from it. But playing by bin Laden’s script, Bush launched a catastrophic war that has become a crusade in all but name. Now Benedict has supplied a religious underpinning for that crusade. Claiming to defend rationality and nonviolence in religion, the pope has made irrationality and violence more likely, not less. Bush and Benedict are in sync, and bin Laden is grinning.

Classic liberal spin: the Pope, in denouncing the Muslim tendency to violence, is responsbile for provoking violence. (Never mind that Carroll misquoted the Pope’s citation of Manuel II to make his remarks even worse than they were.) “The pope has made irrationality and violence more likely, not less..” In this very formula lies the rub — as if not talking about Jihad and other forms of (pervasive) Muslim violence would make violence less likely, rather than, by assuring them that no one will object to their bullying, making it just as likely. We Westerners fail to understand that the most likely scenario in either case — whether we’re nice or confrontational — is more Muslim violence. Global Jihad is not anywhere near abating.

Not that Carroll is wrong about his critique of the Pope, which cuts deep into his posture of pontiff of reasoning, non-coercive Christianity. Pointing out how much this is a modern fantasy that does not even recognize the role of secularism in forcing Catholicism kicking and screaming into the modern world and the renunciation of coercion — the last “heretic” executed by the Inquisition was Cayetano Ripoll in 1826! — he emphasizes the way Benedict XVI has whitewashed the Church to the detriment of both the Muslims and the Jews. Notes Carroll:

The pope’s refusal to reckon with historical facts that contradict Catholic moral primacy has been particularly disturbing in relation to the church’s past with Jews. Last year, he said Nazi anti-Semitism was “born of neo-paganism,” as if Christian anti-Judaism was [sic] not central. This year, at Auschwitz, he blamed the Holocaust on a “ring of criminals,” exonerating the German nation. By exterminating Jews, the Nazis were “ultimately” attacking the church. He decried God’s silence, not his predecessor’s. A pattern begins to show itself. Forget church offenses against Jews. Denigrate Islam. Caricature modernity and dismiss it.

All serious matters to contemplate, especially for those cheering on the Pope. But I don’t think it justifies the conclusion which, whether Carroll intends it or not, makes unacceptable concessions to violent Muslim honor.

In all of this, Benedict is defending a hierarchy of truth. Faith is superior to reason. Christian faith is superior to other faiths (especially Islam). Roman Catholicism is superior to other Christian faiths. And the pope is supreme among Catholics. He does not mean to insult when he defends this schema, yet seems ignorant of how inevitably insulting it is. Nor does the pope understand that, today, such narcissism of power comes attached to a fuse.

Let’s shift from a hierarchy of faith — obviously a problem, but possibly an impossible one to solve since most true believers think their faith is the best — to a hierarchy of violence. After all, that’s what really matters. What one privately thinks about his or her religion’s superiority only becomes a serious problem for others when one tries and shove it down their throats.

Granted the Pope’s remarks can be considered insulting from a variety of points of view. But modernity, tolerance, and the renunciation of violence demands a high threshhold of insult before provoking violence. “Narcissism of power” may characterize the Pope’s remarks, but infantile narcissism of violent power characterizes the Muslim world’s vocal leaders.

And while Carroll has no problem tossing out psycho-critiques of the Pope’s and jumping all over his own Catholic Church, he steps on eggshells when it comes to the Muslims. After all, how long would the author of The Sword of Constantine have lived had he been a Muslim writing about the appalling role of Muhammad’s Sword in shaping a religion in desperate need of reform in the 21st century? In 800 words, not a one criticizing the existence of this fuse with which he ends his critique.

Classic Western progressive behavior: lambaste your own tradition, avoid upsetting your enemy. (Does Carroll even understand that a) the “fuse” to which he refers are autonomous moral agents, not objects subject to some kind of “law of physics,” and b) those folks who do respond so predictably and explosively are his enemies?)

The Bad Joke, Dhimmis not Laughing

What’s appalling here is that our bien-pensant intelligentsia don’t understand what’s going on. Immersed in their world of progressive egocentrism, eager to excuse Muslim violence as “understandable responses” to “unfair criticism,” they don’t seem to have any idea of the theater on which these issues are playing out. The New York Times, for example, welcomed the Pope’s apology, complimented the Muslim leaders who accepted it and urged more dialogue, further criticizing “Benedict’s skepticism of dialogue with Muslims.” No, “Muslims and Catholics should put aside the pontiff’s ill-considered comments and move forward in a conciliatory spirit.” As if, on the other side, aside some tiny minority of mad Jihadis, Muslims were just waiting eagerly for open and frank dialogue.

But many Muslims have difficulty with the basic rules of religious dialogue, partly because they see the forum primarily as a theater of missionizing, partly because of Taqiyya, partly because their own insecure certainties (question to James C.: “narcissism”?) make it extremely difficult to adopt the openness required. Imagine the honest reaction of a Muslim to the following “9th Commandment” of religious dialogue:

Persons entering into interreligious, interideological dialogue must be at least minimally self-critical of both themselves and their own religious or ideological traditions. A lack of such self-criticism implies that one’s own tradition already has all the correct answers. Such an attitude makes dialogue not only unnecessary, but even impossible, since we enter into dialogue primarily so we can learn–which obviously is impossible if our tradition has never made a misstep, if it has all the right answers. To be sure, in interreligious, interideological dialogue one must stand within a religious or ideological tradition with integrity and conviction, but such integrity and conviction must include, not exclude, a healthy self-criticism. Without it there can be no dialogue–and, indeed, no integrity.

These are modern demands… precisely those that the honor-shame driven Islamic identity of yore and today find unacceptable, indeed blasphemous. But apparently the good folks at the NYT don’t know about this. Earnest, well intentioned, committed to world peace and understanding, they chide the pope for only wanting it his way.

They don’t get the joke. Cartoonists, and the denizens of the blogosphere do:

So some Muslims are burning churches, murdering nuns, and threatening more war, assassinations and bombings because someone quoted a text that called them violent? It’s kind of a sick joke, and one shouldn’t laugh. But in a nasty way, it’s funny.

As Holding Them Acccountable noted:

In what sounds like a joke by Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show”, Muslims in the Middle East have reacted to the comments last week by the Pope about Islam being too violent by… forming a new terrorist group, burning down churches in the Gaza strip, and targeting Christians for attacks.

kill you for calling me violent

And AskMom:

Besides the obvious and irrefutable logic of the Pope’s remarks, besides the historical truth, there is the deliciously modern irony of the situation. Because he calls the Jihadists butchers, they want to slaughter him. Because he asks for reason, he is the subject of insane threats and hatred. Because he asks them to forsake violence, his imagine is burned and his people are attacked. Because he argues for religion to walk hand in hand with free will, they wish to enslave him. Jihadists are Hell’s own joke for our age, but only the village idiots are laughing. Only the jester’s relatives are pretending to get all the subtle, sophisticated nuances of the prank.

So why are so few laughing and so many urging calm and respect for a religion whose spokesmen consistently and utterly unself-consciously adopt ludicrous positions?

Muslim Bullies, Western Dhimmis: The Islamization of the West

The problem here, as with MSM coverage of the Middle East conflict, emerges from the problem that, no matter how well intentioned, if the Western players are working from a mistaken paradigm and choosing their words according to a therapeutic model — how can I have the “right” effect on these folks? — then this may backfire. Indeed, whether the model is PCP1 — they are just like us and if we’re nice to them they’ll respond in kind — or the model is PCP2 — they are the justifiably aggrieved colonized, we are the guilty colonialists — speaking soft words of confession, concession, and conciliation make sense. Don’t aggravate them. Soothe them. We’ll be generous, lead the way with our self-criticism and openness, and they will join us. So no matter how ludicrously they behave, whatever you do, don’t insult them by pointing it out.

making poster
[Note from me to them: Why Bother? We'll back off anyway.]

But if the proper paradigm is one in which the dominant forces in the Muslim world today — the ones we hope to soothe with our eagerness not to offend — are spreading Islam globally through a combination of “peaceful” means (Itjihad) and violent ones (Jihad) can produce the very violence it aims at disarming. For those dedicated to Islamic expansion, our concessions register not as signs of generosity, but as forms of weakness and susceptibility to intimidation. In Muslim terms, when we go out of our way to avoid upsetting Muslims, when we give up on our hard-earned modern freedoms to criticize, the inquire, to probe, to express our opinions, when we choose not to publish or not to carry books that might offend them, we are acting, voluntarily, as Dhimmi. We are, in their eyes, subject people, protected from death by our submission to their will.

dialogue
For this kind of Islam

“The only dialogue we will accept is when all other religions agree to convert to Islam.”

Dan Pipes has laid out the case for the increasing Dhimmi behavior that lies behind the latest Papal incidence. He lays out six instances, starting with the utterly unexpected attack on Salmon Rushdie in 1989 until this current papal controversy. He sees several patterns:

These six rounds show a near-doubling in frequency: 8 years between the first and second rounds, then 5, then 3, 1, and ½. The first instance – Ayatollah Khomeini’s edict against Mr. Rushdie – came as a complete shock, for no one had hitherto imagined that a Muslim dictator could tell a British citizen living in London what he could not write about. Seventeen years later, calls for the execution of the pope (including one at the Westminster Cathedral in London) had acquired a too-familiar quality. The outrageous had become routine, almost predictable. As Muslim sensibilities grew more excited, Western ones became more phlegmatic.

This routinization of both Muslim violence and Western “backing down” have immense implications. We have increasingly lost our ability to express ourselves, and to some extent we don’t even know it; they have gained great confidence in their ability to intimidate us. Now we do it to ourselves, pre-emptively.

BERLIN, Sept. 26 — A leading German opera house has canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, prompting a storm of protest here about what many see as the surrender of artistic freedom.

In the scene that offended Muslims and led to security fears, a king places the severed heads of religious leaders on chairs. The Deutsche Opera Berlin said Tuesday that it had pulled “Idomeneo” from its fall schedule after the police warned of an “incalculable risk” to the performers and the audience.

The company’s director, Kirsten Harms, said she regretted the decision but felt she had no choice. She said she was told in August that the police had received an anonymous threat, but she acted only after extensive deliberations.

After all, no one would ask an artist to risk his life for mere artistic expression! And since the Islamists have shown a startling willingness, indeed enthusiasm, for destructive suicide, we would do best to pre-empt their wrath.

Nor are these concerns either misplaced, nor exaggerated. A French philosopher who made some derogatory — but not necessarily inaccurate — remarks about Muhammad in an article in the Figaro (also here) on September 19, now lives in police protection, having left his home with his family, because Islamist websites urging that he be killed have posted his home and work address and maps on how to get to his house and photos.

Je suis maintenant dans une situation personnelle catastrophique. De nombreuses menaces de mort très précises m’ont été adressées, et j’ai été condamné à mort par des organisations de la mouvance al-qaïda. L’UCLAT et la DST s’en occupent, mais… je n’ai plus le droit de loger chez moi (sur les sites me condamnant à mort il y a un plan indiquant comment venir à ma maison pour me tuer, il y a ma photo, celle des lieux où je travaille, des numéros de téléphone, et l’acte de condamnation). Mais en même temps on ne me fournit pas d’endroit, je suis obligé de quêmander, deux soirs ici, deux soirs là…Je suis sous protection policière permanente. Je dois annuler toutes les conférences prévues. Et les autorités m’obligent à déménager. Je suis un SDF. Il en suit une situation financière démente, tous les frais sont à ma charge, y compris ceux eventuels d’un loyer d’un mois ou deux éloigné d’ici, de deux déménagements, de frais de notaire, etc… C’est bien triste. J’ai exercé un droit connstitutionnel, et j’en suis puni, sur le territoire même de la République. Cette affaire est aussi une attaque contre la souveraineté nationale: des lois étrangères, décidées par des fanatiques criminophiles, me punissent d’avoir exercé un droit constitutionnel français, et j’en subis, en France même, grand dommage. (Letter to André Glucksmann.)

Similarly, in the USA, we have a publishing firm withdrawing its commitment to publish a book on Suicide Terrorism — no insignificant topic — because of fear of Muslim retaliation, specifically in terms of the response to the Pope’s problems. Phyllis Chesler wrote me the following:

My colleague, the psycho-analyst Dr. Nancy Kobrin, with whom I have written four major articles, wrote an important book about the psycho-analytic roots of Islamic suicide terrorism for which I wrote the Introduction. It was due out in November of this year. Less than 48 hours ago, her publisher, Loose leaf Law, a major publisher of law enforcement and counter-terrorism titles, cancelled her contract. They became quite frightened in the wake of the Muslim mistreatment of the Pope and said that they feared they could not protect their staff people were trouble to arise. Her book is very important, unique, and fills in the missing part of the story about Islamic terrorism. She is the latest casualty of the West’s appeasement of Muslim violence. (Email correspondence from Phyllis Chesler — more on this soon.)

Pipes concludes his survey of waxing Muslim violence and intimidation provisionally:

No conspiracy lies behind these six rounds of inflammation and aggression, but examined in retrospect, they coalesce and form a single, prolonged campaign of intimidation, with surely more to come. The basic message – “You Westerners no longer have the privilege to say what you will about Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, Islamic law rules you too” – will return again and again until Westerners either do submit or Muslims realize their effort has failed.

In other words, the Jihadis are thinking:

“Your behavior — your generous, self-critical, accommodating, appeasing concessions to us — encourage us in our efforts. We will destroy your civilization because you love life and we love death. And you are not willing to sacrifice your lives for your freedoms, and we are willing to sacrifice our lives for your deaths.”

Our problem is that while our ancestors fought to the death for our freedoms of speech and artistic expression, we are not willing to risk our lives to maintain them. We have become so accustomed to the pleasures of a “rational,” positive-sum society, that we cannot imagine why anyone would want to take so zero-sum an attitude as to make a performance of opera a matter of life and death.

Of course in so doing, we both betray those “pleasures” by cheapening them, and we lose touch with our own heroic origins. Opera performances played a powerful role in the revolutionary culture of 19th century Europe, especially in 1848. They were connected to “real life” and civil liberties. Today, we can just pick another tune to perform.

Concession as Provocation

But if we so respond, we should not imagine that those watching our deeds, the very folks who bully us with their contempt for life, are nodding with approval because we’re nice and eager to respond it kind. It’s because we’re submissive. That’s why no matter how many times the pope mumbles clear apologies, the Muslim leaders are not satisfied. These “apologies” are servile ceremonies, public transcripts that clearly delineate hierarchies of dominance and submission. Of course they can’t get enough of them. Every one soothes their wounded pride and tells them that they are winning. So every one encourages the next one. And we underestimate their significance at our own peril.

And were this a mere matter of face — which so many in the West want to believe — then our generosity would be appropriate. But if it is millennial, we are in serious trouble. What if, behind the aggressions and the bullying, the proleptic demands of Dhimmi behavior, the wild fugues of demopathic hysteria and murderous violence, we find gargantuan appetites for religious dominion, messianic dreams of a globalization? And when we become familiar with the appalling contempt for all who do not share the vision — Muslim and infidel — we begin to realize that if there is a suffocatingly hegemonic globalization to fear, it is global Sharia, then we begin to understand that our concessions constitute extremely dangerous provocations.

Hence, terrorism can spread at an astonishing rate in these last years, not only (or even) because of Western armies in Iraq, but because by failing to identify it we unwittingly pour oil on its flames. Thus, shortly after the Economist tells Europeans not to worry overmuch about Eurabia, The London Times lets David Selbourne inform its readers about a struggle we have already lost. On one level, it’s akin to a waking dream — utterly unreal — and, as Margeurite Yourcenar said about the Munster millennial madness, “suddenly, impercebtibly, turning into a living nightmare.”

Dealing with Honor-Shame Cultures in conflict

What to do? We have incredible fire-power and all the bureacratic capacity to rid ourselves of this pest. But despite what our fashionable post-colonial historians tell us, we achieved that fire-power in crucial part by developing a civil society that renounced the kinds of brutal defenses against millennial threats that mark more primitive societies. Unlike the Romans, who executed any popular visionary, whether he was violent or not, or the Qing, who killed tens of millions ridding themselves of the Taiping, or even the Western allies who killed many a civilian German in ridding the world of the Nazis, we don’t want to attack Muslims. We want to get at the really dangerous ones.

Which is why the “apologetics” of demopathic Muslims for the Jihadis — “it’s your fault if our fanatics are upset” — so confuse the situation. If we don’t learn to tell the demopaths from the real moderates in the coming years, the bloodbath will be horrific no matter who wins.

How does a culture, whose ethical imperatives have taken it so far from the open calculus of honor-shame that it gets slapped in the face and thinks that by turning the other cheek it has shown its moral commitment, deal with a demopathic foe that thrives on the logic of honor, shame, and revenge? Moral autism, as good as it may feel, is cowardly — it flees the relationship into a cosmic coffin of self-righteousness. It’s at once condescending to the point of racism — we expect no moral effort from you — and suicidal.

So what do we do? How do we fight a war with an enemy whose very primitivity escapes our notice no matter how insanely violent they get, whose games of territorial expansion and face-offs do not register on our screens even as they accelerate alarmingly? How do we defeat an enemy who would — had they our fire-power — kill us without hesitation (they do the best they can with what they have, like suicide terrorism), without killing them?

The only way out that I can see is not a self-deceiving “magnanimity,” but real verbal courage, not by “sparing” their touchy, thin-skinned egos, but by confronting them and learning to deal with the consequences. For example, the French petition to defend Robert Redeker calls on all the Muslims and Muslim organizations of Europe to denounce this act publicly. That’s a good start, a good way to separate the demopaths — we use “human rights” to advance our agenda and are only interested when it defends our “rights” — from the democrats.

We are all on the front line in this war, and at this point the danger of terrorism is still numerically way below the danger of traffic accidents and even avian flu. But our careers, our reputations, our friendships, and ultimately, our lives are at stake for speaking out. And yet that is precisely what we must risk. The stakes are worth more than any of our personal calculus.

So the next time the Muslims ambassadors, with the full weight of both Jihadi intimidation and politically correct public opinion behind them, come demanding an apology from the pope, let the pope rebuke their outrageous audacity. Instead of expressing his “total and profound respect for all Muslims,” let him say:

How on earth can I have respect for you when you have none for yourselves, when you try and bully people into showing respect and you show none yourself? When you demean others with the basest kind of hate-mongering and demonizing, and yet grow violent at the slightest criticism? When you fail to denounce the mad violence from your own religious leaders and zealots, but denounce any expression of hostility from others? Who do you think you are, demanding apologies and offering none?

anger at?

But in order to say that to our Muslim neighbors who ply us with stories of their religion of peace and bristle at our fair questions about their bloody borders and bloody innards, we would need both self-respect and courage. And in so doing, we might even find that there are decent Muslims who agree with us.

In these darkening days, may we begin to discover that self-respect and courage, and the voice that can save us all from the spreading madness. Who knows, maybe when they perform Opera at risk to their lives, both the artists and the audience will find a dimension to art beyond narcissism and pleasure, begin to get in touch with the heroic dimension of our own past, become heros of civil society.

55 Responses to The Pope’s Remarks about Islam: The Joke Too Few Get

  1. Jim Stodder says:

    thought this was reasonable, even with the ‘canidacy’ in demopathic dupedom that Richard has announced for me. but what i lilked was the balanced recognition that while the pope’s words were expressions of Christian supremacy (what do we expect?), much of the Muslim response has still been pathological. so the pope was being irresponsibly provocative, in my view. But yikes, aren’t those crazy Islamists easy to provoke? but i guess i also must be really crazy about this issue — to read ALL this material!

    i also think that Karen Armstrong’s response is a little too ‘understanding’. i’ve read and admire a couple of her books, but i think what she and many other western authors fail to recognize is that Islam was always oppositional to the West. It arose as an Arab awakening against 1200 years of Hellenistic empire in the near east, the most recent 400 having been Byzantine. As such, it was inherently oppositional and critical of that civilization and its earlier Abrahmic faiths. its conditional respect for them was unavoidable, given that its historical pedigree derived from them. But the conflict between Christendom and Islam was there from the very beginning, and almost immediately expressed in military terms.

    This is not to deny that the Christians were bloodthirsty in their reaction to Muslims, and generally much worse to the Jews until the 20th century (and the founding of the state of Israel). Karen Armstrong notes the fascinating pradox that ‘anti-Western’ Islamists have had to rely so heavily on Western anti-semitic tracts like “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The resolution to this paradox, she suggests, is that prior to the 20th century, there WAS no substantial Islamic anit-semitic literature.

    i conclude that the conflict between the West and Islam is much deeper than some avoidable failure of human understanding, deeper even than the Crusades. this is an ‘existential’ conflict, that is — it unavoidable as long as the two sides continue ‘being’ who they are! so i think Richard Landes is in many ways right about this.

    at the same time, humane mutual understanding is absolutely necessary if those cultures are going to transform themselves and become mutually compatible, and worthy of sharing the globe. (i agree that Islam has a much bigger historic agenda of enlightenment and reformation than Christianity.) But whether through an enlightened sprituality that recognizes the common roots of all the world’s great religions, or a humane rationalism that respectfully interns them all in the realm of ‘culture’, we must encourage dialogue to overcome this murderous parochialism. At the same time, i don’t believe dialogue can do it all — we still have to protect ourselves from the crazies. Richard is right about that too.

    • TruthWFree says:

      (i agree that Islam has a much bigger historic agenda of enlightenment and reformation than Christianity.)

      How can you possibly come to this conclusion? The problem is in the basic texts. There is no violence in the Gospels. Christians have to leave Christ’s teachings to commit violence. With Islam, the later violent texts abrogate the earlier peaceful texts. Any historic agenda of enlightenment was due to ignore the Quran’s call for violence against non believers. This is a major difference.

  2. Phil says:

    Another excellent piece!
    There was one little section that I’m afraid could be capitalized on by your detractors.

    On the quote:
    “What is needed now is an international agreement to punish all who insult God’s religions.”

    You responded with:
    “Religions of the world unite and punish unbelievers?”

    By switching “insult”ers to “unbelievers” you open the door to being accused of misquoting. However, I admit, this is small potatoes. What you then said about “this particular Muslim not quite getting it” still stands true.

    thank you. my mistake. corrected.

  3. Hello RL and all,

    Why do religious leaders and followers so often participate in and support blatant evil?

    The time is long past to stop focusing on symptoms and myriad details and finally seek lasting solutions. Until we address the core causes of the millennia of struggle and suffering that have bedeviled humanity, these repeating cycles of evil will never end.

    History is replete with examples of religious leaders and followers advocating, supporting, and participating in blatant evil. Regardless of attempts to shift or deny blame, history clearly records the widespread crimes of Christianity. Whether we’re talking about the abominations of the Inquisition, Crusades, the greed and genocide of colonizers, slavery in the Americas, or the Bush administration’s recent deeds and results, Christianity has always spawned great evil. The deeds of many Muslims and the state of Israel are also prime examples.

    The paradox of adherents who speak of peace and good deeds contrasted with leaders and willing cohorts knowingly using religion for evil keeps the cycle of violence spinning through time. Why does religion seem to represent good while always serving as a constant source of deception, conflict, and the chosen tool of great deceivers? The answer is simple. The combination of faith and religion is a strong delusion purposely designed to affect one’s ability to reason clearly. Regardless of the current pope’s duplicitous talk about reason, faith and religion are the opposite of truth, wisdom, and justice and completely incompatible with logic.

    Religion, like politics and money, creates a spiritual, conceptual, and karmic endless loop. By their very nature, they always create opponents and losers which leads to a never ending cycle of losers striving to become winners again, ad infinitum. This purposeful logic trap always creates myriad sources of conflict and injustice, regardless of often-stated ideals, which are always diluted by ignorance and delusion. The only way to stop the cycle is to convert or kill off all opponents or to end the systems and concepts that drive it.

    Think it through, would the Creator of all knowledge and wisdom insist that you remain ignorant by simply believing what you have been told by obviously duplicitous religious founders and leaders? Would a compassionate Creator want you to participate in a system that guarantees injustice and suffering to your fellow souls? Isn’t it far more likely that religion is a tool of greedy men seeking to profit from the ignorance of followers and the strife it constantly foments? When you mix religion with the equally destructive delusions of money and politics, injustice, chaos, and the profits they generate are guaranteed.

    Read More…

    …and here…

    Peace…

  4. It seems that the cancellation will be revoked and this opera will be shown after all. What a clever publicity stunt the opera house made by first announcing the cancellation. Usually hardly anybody would be interested in that opera, but now it is the talk of the town.

    I think I am in a very small minority in Germany who approved of the cancellation. That opera is an insult to other religions (since it shows the severed heads of Jesus and Buddha as well) and to Mozart, the composer, himself.

    What benefit would we get if we had this opera? It seems the only reason to defend this stupid opera is to avoid giving the impression of appeasement to the Islamofascists. That’s not enough for me. I think this opera would only strengthen Islamofasicsm since it would help their propaganda. To win the war on terrorism, we need to have moderate Muslims on our side, so that they don’t support the terrorists, but give us information about them. And we want the moderate Muslims to win over their autocratic governments and fundamentalist groups in the Arab world. This opera, however, alienates the moderate Muslims and helps the fundamentalists.

    Greetings from Berlin,
    My blog: The Atlantic Review, A press digest on transatlantic affairs edited by three German Fulbright Alumni

    P.S.: What do you think would happen if this opera (which shows the severed heads of Mohammed and Jesus) would be showed in the American bible belt?

  5. Cynic says:

    They became quite frightened in the wake of the Muslim mistreatment of the Pope and said that they feared they could not protect their staff people were trouble to arise.

    An indictment of the State’s law enforcement on its inability to protect/guarantee the rights of its citizens and so permit the submission of its citizens to foreign dictates; thus further undermining the resolve of a people whose convictions seem of a momentary nature?

    Violence and intimidation from afar seems to be proving an effective weapon.

  6. chevalier de st george says:

    Very thought provoking and much to reread.
    ‘ Our problem is that while our ancestors fought to the death for our freedoms of speech and artistic expression, we are not willing to risk our lives to maintain them’.
    Civilisations are destroyed not from the outside but from within. The Barbarians merely step in and pick up the pieces afterwards.

  7. UpNights says:

    Good analysis, particularly:

    “If we don’t learn to tell the demopaths from the real moderates in the coming years, the bloodbath will be horrific no matter who wins.”

    - a scenario to which self-proclaimed peace activists are blind.

    One small correction: I think you should use the term da’wa for the non-violent spread of Islam. Itjihad is actually the sort of critical re-evaluation of Islam that is advocated by Irshad Manji.

    And to Josh in Berlin: Bible Belters have protested insults to their beliefs, and have tried to cut off government funding for offensive art. I don’t recall any cases of them rioting – let alone killing anyone – to assuage their pride.

  8. Eliyahu says:

    To Jim S,
    the Arab relationship with the Hellenistic and Roman worlds was not so simple. In fact, Arabs had overrun Moab, Ammon, and Edom in the Persian period. And the Arabs settled in those places and elsewhere had to deal with the Hellenistic kingdoms of Ptolemies and Seleucids. and the Nabatean Arab kingdom [capital at Petra] was made part of the Roman empire. There was also a Roman province of Arabia, roughly comprising the former Edom, Moab, and Edom, alongside the Roman province of Judea [IVDAEA] which comprised most of today’s Israel, including the Golan Heights, without the southern Negev. Arab auxiliary forces joined the Roman siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE. A Roman legion was recruited in provincia Arabia during the Bar Kokhba to help the Romans suppress the Jewish uprising. So if Jim thinks that the Roman-Hellenistic world was always suppressing the Arabs in some nasty way, that’s wrong. In fact, Arabs aided Rome against Israel.

  9. Eliyahu says:

    The source on Arab auxiliaries helping Roman forces against Jerusalem in 70 CE is Tacitus, Histories, 5:1:1.
    On the Bar Kokhba revolt, see Aryeh Kasher’s research.

  10. Jim Stodder says:

    Response to Eliyahu:

    My point was not that Greeks or Romans were always nasty or exploitative to the Arabs — although I suppose that as good imperial overlords they were, most of the time. To take an analogy to the Arabs helping the Romans fight the Jews — the European New World colonizers used one Indian tribe to supress another, and enlisted many tribes against other European rivals. But this hardly qualifies them as non-exploitative.

    But the point was not really to weigh the rights and wrongs of the ancient Mediterannean empires. It was just to say that Islam and Arab nationalism grew up in a Middle East that had been RULED by Hellene, Roman, or Byzantine empires for well over a thousand years. And that this context made Islam — innevitably, if it was going to be a liberatory faith and the Word of God in Arabic — a religion of OPPOSITION to that Western rule. So that the opposition between Arab and Western cultures is truly ancient — older than Islam itself.

  11. Eliyahu says:

    Richard and everybody who reads Italian, take a look at this interview with Prof Horst, the Dutch expert on the history of religions, who was “persuaded” to censor his own retirement speech from the university, on account of his discussion of Islamic Judeophobic. The university leadership feared violence from Muslim students [and non-students] if Horst gave his lecture as originally written. Now, if these Muslim fanatics are ready to threaten the pope, then a Dutch professor is a minor challenge.

    http://www.ilfoglio.it/articolo.php?idoggetto=30032

  12. Eliyahu says:

    correction: …judeophobic… should be Islamic Judeophobia

    To Jim,
    the notion of an East-West opposition in ancient times is rather overdrawn. How does one explain Philip the Arab as Roman emperor? Or the emperor Elagabalus, who was born in Syria?

  13. Eliyahu says:

    Today’s Il Foglio has an interview with Pascal Bruckner, a heavy duty French intellectual who signed the petition in favor of the right to free speech of Robert Redeker, the French philosophy teacher who had to flee his home and hide [with his family] on account of an op ed article in LeFigaro that “insulted” Islam.

    http://www.ilfoglio.it/articolo.php?idoggetto=30050

    Now there is a whole series of cases where the Western notion of the right of free speech has been challenged by Muslim fanatics. The pope happens to be the most notable person threatened in these affairs but certainly not the last. It is significant that the first notable threat of this kind was that against Salman Rushdie about 18 years ago. Basically, those in the West who claimed to defend freedom of speech, of the press, etc., failed to defend Rushdie, usually not even paying lip service. This was partly under the influence of Edward Said’s whining over how Islam was maligned in Western thought, the Western media, etc. Actually, Said was lying in my opinion. Islam [and the Arabs] has been very kindly treated –too well treated, if we consider Muslim/Arab conduct– by Western intellectuals, the press, media, diplomats, opinion makers, the Western academic world, etc. Said in my view justified suppressing speech and writing critical of Islam [while exaggerating the volume of such speech and writing]. Now, it is accepted that Muslim fanatics can threaten Danish cartoonists, French teachers, Jews in general, and even the pope –without consequence. Does anyone remember the placatory attitude of javier solana and the EU to the cartoon rage of last February and March?? The EU –pretending [tartey mashma`]– to represent 2,000 years of Western civilization, is allowing a notable feature of that civilization to be destroyed. In the USA, ramsey clark of the American Civil Liberties Union, which pretends to defend freedom of speech and press, helped to promote Khomeini’s cause back in 1979. As far as I know, Ramsey Clark failed to defend Rushdie’s rights when Khomeini threatened him in the late 1980s.

  14. Ken says:

    “Who knows, maybe when they perform Opera at risk to their lives, both the artists and the audience will find a dimension to art beyond narcissism and pleasure, begin to get in touch with the heroic dimension of our own past, become heros of civil society.”

    That is a very large “maybe.” Narcissism and pleasure are not merely the product of cheap entertainment, they are the staple of so many lifestyle choices in the modern world. The very reason that people in the West remain blinded to Islam is because squarely confronting such a strong set of beliefs would necessarily mean being able to construct one of your own. Sadly, such habits of critical thinking are not encouraged in the age of TV and fast-food. And, concerning more recent technology, most of my peers would prefer to use their free-time surfing the web for games, sex, and gossip, rather than ever contemplating a dip into the wide rushing rivers of intellectual discourse that make up the better parts of the Internet. In my opinion, the problem is not ignorance, it is willful ignorance.

    Keep cleaning the stables, maybe someday you won’t need to.

  15. chevalier de st george says:

    Elyahu
    In fact although Salman was to a certain degree abandoned ,by intellectuals, “to the wolves” even back then, the British governmant did at that time go to extrordinary lengths to protect him.
    I doubt that today such protection would have been afforded him for fear of angering the various Muslim organisations.
    One only has to read Melanie Philip’s Londonistan, to understand the awful changes from within and without over the last twenty years in GB.

  16. Eliyahu says:

    Chevalier,
    there is one disturbing development in Britain that I think too little has been made of. That is the appointment by Tony B of Chris Patten to some high administrative job at Oxford or Cambridge. Now, if this slimey diplomat, ex-EU poobah, and general ignoramus is somehow put in a position of influence at one part of Oxbridge, Britain’s most distinguished universities, then I really do see a danger for their academic independence, their standards, their free pursuit of knowledge, etc. Patten is known as a partisan of the Arabs.

  17. chevalier de st george says:

    Yes and I believe Tariq Ramadan has also received such “elevation”, if such an anti nihilistic term can still be used today to signify academic achievement.
    However it seems hard to believe the idea that we were spoonfed as school children, that Britons stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight against nazi idelogy and aggression.
    For Six years Winston Churchill shouted from the rooftops about the terrible threat of nazism in Britain.
    between 1933 and 39 they gave him the cold shoulder, almost sent him to coventry, and called him a war mongerer!The Queen mother herself. so loved by the public joined the fray. He was ostracised and when he came to power as England realised its treacherous appeasement policies had totally failed, he remarked on his own failure! The failure to get the British to listen and heed his warnings! Warning which would have resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives being saved.
    How easy it is to rewrite history and pretend the whole of England stood shoulder to shoulder against Hitler.
    How History repeats itself!
    Today, the Moselys, Mitfords siters, Redesdales have been replaced by the new aristocracy of Red Kens, Galloways, Jenny Tongues, Booth sisters, who would sue for peace and submission to Islam.
    But as in 1939, will it be the common ordinary man who will rise up and defend his country whilst the idiots of the new upper classes and intellectual elites look on with scorn and superiority?
    And will a new CHurchill will arise from the ashes?

    • martin j.malliet says:

      Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874 – 1965) (British politician)

      “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.”

      “The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities – but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

      “Fanaticism is not a cause of war. It is the means which helps savage peoples to fight. It is the spirit which enables them to combine–the great common object before which all personal or tribal disputes become insignificant. What the horn is to the rhinoceros, what the sting is to the wasp, the Mohammedan faith was to the Arabs of the Soudan–a faculty of offence or defence.”

      “It is, thank heaven, difficult if not impossible for the modern European to fully appreciate the force which fanaticism exercises among an ignorant, warlike and Oriental population. Several generations have elapsed since the nations of the West have drawn the sword in religious controversy, and the evil memories of the gloomy past have soon faded in the strong, clear light of Rationalism and human sympathy. Indeed it is evident that Christianity, however degraded and distorted by cruelty and intolerance, must always exert a modifying influence on men’s passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever, as we are protected from smallpox by vaccination. But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness. In a moment the fruits of patient toil, the prospects of material prosperity, the fear of death itself, are flung aside. The more emotional Pathans are powerless to resist. All rational considerations are forgotten. Seizing their weapons, they become Ghazis–as dangerous and as sensible as mad dogs: fit only to be treated as such. While the more generous spirits among the tribesmen become convulsed in an ecstasy of religious bloodthirstiness, poorer and more material souls derive additional impulses from the influence of others, the hopes of plunder and the joy of fighting. Thus whole nations are roused to arms. Thus the Turks repel their enemies, the Arabs of the Soudan break the British squares, and the rising on the Indian frontier spreads far and wide. In each case civilisation is confronted with militant Mahommedanism. The forces of progress clash with those of reaction. The religion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace. Luckily the religion of peace is usually the better armed.”

      Culled from:

      http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Quotations_on_Islam_from_the_Noteworthy

  18. Michael B says:

    “Today, the Moselys, Mitfords siters, Redesdales have been replaced by the new aristocracy of Red Kens, Galloways, Jenny Tongues, Booth sisters, who would sue for peace and submission to Islam.”

    VDH, Traitors to the Enlightenment

  19. Gourney says:

    You’re bordering on conspiracy theories with your demopaths and demopathy etc etc. I don’t buy it. Does that make me a dupe? I don’t think so.

    So let me understand… you don’t think there are demopaths? and you don’t think they fool people? let’s start with that. who on my list of demopaths do you not think belongs there?

    • martin j.malliet says:

      On demopaths and demodupes, and on how it looks a bit like another conspiracy theory

      In Richard Landes’s explanations it may look a bit like a conspiracy theory – all those aggressive islamists following a conscious design of submitting the West to sharia by smart demopathic tactics.

      I nevertheless think that Richard Landes is right (and that it is only his way of explaining things that can suggest such an interpretation), because you don’t need that assumption of conscious design to understand what is going on. It’s enough to see how the breakdown of civil society in the islamic world corresponds to a similar breakdown of Western civil society (big words, I know, but bear me out).

      There is a logical similarity between islamist claims to submit civil society in the West to sharia by the use of political power (or force), and all sorts of Western claims to enact ‘rights to something’ through legislation designed at restricting property rights and freedom of contract in our own civil society, such as anti-discrimination legislation in the labour market for instance (and all the other claims already enacted through labour and social legislation and all sorts of other things at least since the middle of the 19th century). They all move away from the original Western natural law foundation of civil society (natural rights – life, liberty, property – freedom of contract) to a political enforcement of ‘distributive justice’ superseding ‘commutative justice’. (With everybody trying to live at the expense of everybody else, as Frédéric Bastiat put it in 1850.)

      The interests and values behind these Western attempts at regulating people’s lives and businesses are of course different from the interests and values defended by islamists, and quite naturally we like ours and they like theirs. But all this talk about opposing ‘values’ does not disprove the fact that the mode of operation is the same. Quite to the contrary, it reveals that the mode of operation is the same. And in both cases its effect is the weakening of civil society.

      I would think that a progressive social scientist could simply use the same concepts he uses to ‘analyse’ social movements, such as the labour movement or the feminist movement or the green movement, to ‘analyse’ the islamist movement in our Muslim communities (pointing out differences as well, of course, such as the unregulated use of street violence for instance, wich could be compared to the more regulated use of street violence by traditional social movements as terrorism compares to dissuasion in regular warfare).

  20. The Pope’s Remarks about Islam: The Joke Too Few Get

    After Israel kicked the snot our of Hezbollah in their recent conflict, the United Nations got involved and drew up resolutions. Those resolutions required Israel to cease hostilities and for Hezbollah to return the soldier they kidnapped. Hezbollah …

  21. [...] (2) Breaking News (10) Cognitive Egocentrism (65) Conspiracy and Hidden Hands (20) Danish Cartoon Scandal [...]

  22. [...] b world against the hegemonic American colossus with Israel as collateral damage fear and appeasement of Islam, the Judeophobic attraction [...]

  23. [...] ce — is classic “esprit de Munich.” It gave us a similar assault on the Pope for “provoking” the violence with [...]

  24. Ringtones.

    Free ringtones. Make ringtones. Ringtones.

  25. [...] #8217;t help but smile. Just what were they thinking? That we handled Danoongate and the Pope’s Remarks so well that, well, things ar [...]

  26. [...] s talent. I couldn’t be more delighted for him. Can we get it right this time. Time to get the joke. « The Courage of th [...]

  27. mo says:

    this was so disrespectfull
    you only see radical muslims and their ill behavior, then you think that all muslim are like that

    well i dont think that all chritians are crusaders or all jew are zionests………….but you insist that all muslims are terrorists

    thank you for the disrespect
    that is how you return the favor of the majority of muslims who actually respects other relligions and cultures

  28. [...] previous, global events like the Muhammad Cartoon affair, the Kuran in the toilet, and the Pope’s criticism… all occuring on the world stage, all great victories for Islamic rage [...]

  29. [...] In other words, we are dealing with a dogmatic commitment to rejecting information that troubles our paradigm. Nor is this a particularly well thought-out position — the responses from the stations that refused the ads make that clear — but really a desperate attempt to cling to a world view that permits us to imagine that a “peaceful solution” is within reach, if only we don’t upset the belligerent side with criticism. [...]

  30. [...] as well as in response to such intolerable provocations as the Muhammad Cartoons and the Pope’s outrageous comments about a violent [...]

  31. [...] its ally the US, and even non-Israeli Jews. Like the thinking of Europeans with Danoongate and the Pope’s remarks, those who provoke Muslim hostility with their resistance, are responsible for that [...]

  32. Tobacco Epidemic in China…

    All kind of cigarette is dangerous, no matter how it is manufactured, said scientists. For example they found that smoking tobacco described as ‘light’ and ‘mild’ is not better than regular tobacco. doctors stated that the tobacco companies have pr…

  33. [...] I find this fascinating. The Muslims want an apology from the pope for saying that Islam spread by the sword, when it did in virtually every place for its first three generations, and many (most?) Muslims [...]

  34. [...] succeeded. The two most striking came in the 21st century: the Muhammad Cartoon Affair, and the Pope’s comments on violent Islam, both of which provoked violence intended to silence the critics of Islam. As the signs carried in [...]

  35. mohamad salehi says:

    i dont writting english but i writting some thing for you
    islam is a love with god
    you reading ghoran you found this com of god
    if you dont accept you writting one pag like ghoran
    if you can writting one pag like ghoran i com to your ideology but if you dont can you be mosalman

    • martin j.malliet says:

      “You claim that the evidentiary miracle is present and available, namely, the Koran. You say: “Whoever denies it, let him produce a similar one.” Indeed, we shall produce a thousand similar, from the works of rhetoricians, eloquent speakers and valiant poets, which are more appropriately phrased and state the issues more succinctly. They convey the meaning better and their rhymed prose is in better meter. … By God what you say astonishes us! You are talking about a work which recounts ancient myths, and which at the same time is full of contradictions and does not contain any useful information or explanation. Then you say: “Produce something like it”?!” — Abu Bakr Muhammad al-Razi (Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi) (865 – 925 AD) (Persian physician, alchemist, chemist, philosopher, and scholar.)

      Culled from:

      http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Quotations_on_Islam_from_the_Noteworthy

  36. ErisGuy says:

    I dunno. The Church may have renounced coercion, but I don’t see anyone else doing it. I’ve had way too many conversations about Christian persecution with people who seem unaware of the 100 million murdered by socialism in the 20th century (and the count still increasing in the 21st century) for being insufficiently socialist (that is, heretics). I also don’t see that modern democracies have renounced coercion: a glance at the modern democracy of the EU reads otherwise; the primary example being all the laws against xenophobic speech (or in Britain, self-defense). I could point out other “rights” movements whose sole plan for triumph is coercion, but here I will avoid being too inflammatory.

  37. [...] and belligerence – has been overwhelmingly placatory towards touchy Muslims. Repeatedly, as in the case of Pope Benedict, they step in to prevent anyone (fellow infidels), whom they smear as Islamophobes, from saying [...]

  38. [...] as in the case of Pope Benedict, they step in to prevent anyone (fellow infidels), whom they smear as Islamophobes, from saying [...]

  39. [...] and belligerence – has been overwhelmingly placatory towards touchy Muslims. Repeatedly, as in the case of Pope Benedict, they step in to prevent anyone (fellow infidels), whom they smear as Islamophobes, from saying [...]

  40. [...] even when “everyone knows” they have behaved shamefully, then you don’t understand why the Western press blamed the Pope for “provoking” Muslims to violence by calling Islam a violent religion. If so, the joke is on [...]

  41. [...] you say I’m violent.” When the Western intelligentsia blamed the Pope for “provoking them,” the joke was on us. It’s time to get a sense of humor. Crumley, lighten up; and Muslims, grow up. Just because [...]

  42. Doodie says:

    Due the to current Burqa ban in France, Various Ninja clans throughout the country are complaining that their traditional garb(similar to a burqa) is now under fire. It’s really causing some issues there!!!

    http://doodiepants.com/2011/04/12/ninja-clans-in-france-protest-burqa-ban/

  43. martin j.malliet says:

    On Pope Benedict’s Regensburg lecture on faith, reason and violence

    Conversion by violent means wasn’t the central subject of the lecture, it was only contrasted with conversion by logos or reason. The Pope then went on to contrast reason with faith and doubted whether faith could be contrary to reason. All this seems to suggest that he thinks that reason could be the common ground for a dialogue between faiths. On the important condition that reason is first restored to its full extent and freed from the methodological confinement to positive science (‘scientism’).

    All this is very Voegelinian, although I find it striking that the Pope nowhere mentions (natural) law as the first science to be rescued by reason from its descent into the abyss of positive law. After all, Eric Voegelin (following Max Weber) thought that that was the way to go: natural law understood as the natural order of people insofar as it is accessible to reason.

    Not being familiar with theological reasoning, I ask myself the following question: if reason (logos) is the common ground between faiths, which seems a natural way to think, because we can only conduct a dialogue with our reason, can faith then be more than just ‘faith in reason’? The Pope seems to doubt it: faith cannot be unreasonable.

    All different manifestations of faith would then be nothing else but historically and culturally imperfect expressions of the same reason. That at least seems to be the most reasonable way of understanding the fact that there are different faiths.

    Saying that reason is the common ground (or equating faiths with imperfect expressions of reason) doesn’t solve the problem, though, of contradictions between these various imperfect expressions of reason, or faiths. It only says that these contradictions must be resolved by reason. Which is indeed an entirely reasonable thing to say.

    But it reasonably implies that all the various faiths admit the possibility of their own imperfection, and also admit that the contradictions between these imperfections cannot be solved by violence, with violence being understood as the negation of the reason as it is expressed by the victim of the violence, e.g. in the words “I do not want to be murdered for not converting to your faith”.

    In summary: taking reason as the common ground for a dialogue between faiths (because reason is the only means we have to conduct a dialogue) requires a commitment by all faiths to reason, and that commitment implies the double admission of perfectibility and non-violence (because otherwise there is no reason for having a dialogue).

    ‘Conversion by violent means’, which wasn’t the central subject of the lecture, is so nevertheless clearly excluded by the conclusions one can draw from the rest of the lecture. So that in truth non-violence becomes the central subject of the lecture, because a commitment to reason is the same as a commitment to non-violence.

    Unfortunately, there still is a big question: what do you do with the rabble that won’t have any of this? But that difficult question, which is not addressed by the lecture at all, is in itself no reason for not calling everybody to reason. Although one might also wonder why that should not also go without saying.

    At last. All this is my interpretation of Pope Benedict’s lecture. The Pope did not say what I am saying here. But if my interpretation of the Pope’s lecture is not the result of defective reasoning, I would pray that Pope Benedict in future explains his reasoning more clearly and understandably, especially for the rabble that won’t have any of this.

  44. martin j.malliet says:

    Afterthoughts.

    The Pope not only expressed doubts whether faith could be unreasonable. He actually said much more. He foresaw a great problem for the dialogue between faiths if this assumption (that faith could not be unreasonable) were to be explicitly denied by some faiths. And he pointed to Ibn Hazm to illustrate how far the idea of the absolute transcendency of God could be driven in Muslim teaching. He didn’t elaborate any further, but the implication seems clear: if God is moved so far out that some humans (those sharing that faith) cannot be in his image anymore when using their reason, we cannot reason with them anymore. Which implies that when their faith brings them into conflict with ours, only war can solve the conflict.

    At least in theory. Because is is never impossible to compromise in practice while being at war in theory. One could even say that the so-called “clash of civilisations” in our times very much resembles that situation.

  45. martin j.malliet says:

    More afterthoughs.

    The Pope then talks about similar tendencies in Christianity to acknowledge God’s freedom beyond the logos of revelation (Duns Scotus), but as this absolute transcendency can only be perceived in love and not in thought, faith remains in harmony with our reason.

    He further discusses three movements of dehellenisation of Christianity. The first two (Reformation, positivism) he describes as ambiguous movements, in which fundamentalist attempts to liberate faith from philosophical thoughts occur together with scientistic attempts to deny rationality to metaphysical thoughts. The third movement of dehellenisation, which is the comtemporary relativist rejection of Greek rationality in Christianity as a mere cultural accident, he qualifies as coarse and lacking in precision.

    More afterthoughts on absolute transcendency.

    This idea of the freedom of God beyond reason opens up some quite surprising possibilities, of which Pope Benedict only indicated a few, such as a “capricious God”, or a “God not bound by his own word”.

    He didn’t elaborate, but it seems obvious that one could argue that believing in an absolutely transcendent God reasonably implies the possibility that even his litteral revelation is incomplete. And that some proviso was left out of it, such as: “it goes without saying that you humans with your surprising creativity will inevitably create complications for which my litteral teaching can be no more than a guideline, and you will have to do your best to interpret it accordingly.”

    Will a reason like this be enough for a believer in absolute transcendency to overcome his fear? Because fear is the inevitable counterpart of such an absolutist belief. Fear not only for his soul, but also terror inspired by his fellow believers. How can a society of absolutist believers liberate itself from the oppression caused by its own absolutist beliefs? Maybe Flaubert is right in thinking that to release the fear you must give them a tangible proof of the falsehood of their godforsaken absolutist belief.

    Disclaimer: I must point out to the reader that all interpretations he gives to my words are his, and not mine.

  46. [...] was a similar moment, oft repeated, when the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor (who had good experiential evidence for the remark) that Islam was inherently violent. The Muslim [...]

  47. […] actors, and we can all move forward in familiar, sensible ways. So, when the Pope Benedict’s remark about an “inherently violent Islam” set off riots of protest throughout the Muslim world, the […]

  48. […] actors, and we can all move forward in familiar, sensible ways. So, when the Pope Benedict’s remark about an “inherently violent Islam” set off riots of protest throughout the Muslim world, the […]

  49. […] actors, and we can all move forward in familiar, sensible ways. So, when the Pope Benedict’s remark about an “inherently violent Islam” set off riots of protest throughout the Muslim world, the […]

  50. […] Wegen weiter machen. So war es, als Papst Benedikt von der „im Islam innewohnenden Gewalt“ sprach, was in der gesamten islamischen Welt zu gewaltsamen Aufständen führte, die den Papst in die […]

  51. […] actors, and we can all move forward in familiar, sensible ways. So, when the Pope Benedict’s remark about an “inherently violent Islam” set off riots of protest throughout the Muslim world, the […]

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